The Return of Talking Time

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  #31  
Old 09-24-2015, 10:15 AM
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Oh hey, it turns out the walker can swim! Chalk up another reason for why this thing is totally better than the Landmaster (and add "aquatic missions" to the list of things Star Fox 2 did first). It can be a little tough to get the hang of, using the jump button to do frog kicks and move up and/or forward with speed, but it's surprisingly fast and maneuverable once you master it.



Fortuna Inside

With the ocean view giving way to cold, metallic, enclosed spaces, the soothing portions of the tune give way to an up-tempo march. It's a nice transition! Also, I think the goofy walker frog-kicking past the camera as the dramatic march plays is my favorite part of the entire game.




We pop up inside the base, and though there's still a pool of water, we can't swim back down the path.

This room is really chaotic. There are a couple more pools of water, columns, ramps, and upraised platforms, and turrets mounted in the walls and columns. The door forward is locked, and we need to defeat the boss known as Kick Gunner to advance.

The Kick Gunner will hop across the room, heading toward one of the water pools. It will pepper us with ring blasts in the meantime. When it reaches a pool, it will jump in with a splash and vanish off radar. It can come flying out of the same one, or the one on the opposite side of the room. Of course, even though the pool is deep enough to conceal it, and apparently connects to the other one, we can only wade in them. Maybe this base's tech crew is opening a hatch to let the Kick Gunner in and out. That would be a dramatic change of tactics for them: actively opening/shutting their own doors strategically to hinder their enemy.

This is perhaps the most intriguing boss battle yet. There's a lot to think about with our positioning, and the layout of the room offers plenty of potential cover for both us and our foes. Meanwhile, we also have to mind the turrets scattered all over. The Gunner itself is a moving, elusive target. While most base interiors are divorced from the elements of the planet surfaces, water continues to play a role here. The radar's importance is also stressed, helping us pinpoint turrets (which aren't always obvious to the naked eye) and letting us know when the Gunner surfaces.

So yeah, Andross saw Star Fox's bipedal mech that could run, jump, shoot, and swim, and created his own version. This is the Metal Gear REX vs. RAY of Star Fox.



The Kick Gunner has movement that's actually difficult to pin down, a complex room layout, support, and tying into the overall planet theme on its side, but like most of 2's bosses, it's extremely frail and will go down fast once you actually land some hits.




That brings us to the typical core battle, where...what? There's a shield around the core, and we need to destroy turrets in the far corners of the room to get rid of it? Fortuna is setting a new standard here!



This still isn't terribly difficult, but combined with learning swimming controls and battling the Kick Gunner, this can be a very time-consuming mission. Fortunately, as Pepper mentioned a few screens back, the satellite took out the missile from Meteor.



For the "base destruction" sequence, our duo frog-kicks to safety, tries a somersault, then transforms and shoots to the surface. It's truly wonderful to behold, and Miyu's clearly enjoying every moment of it.



Returning to the map, we see that not only did the satellite take care of one missile, but we destroyed the base quickly enough to prevent Fortuna's missile launch. Awesome!
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  #32  
Old 09-24-2015, 10:34 AM
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Let's take a look at the things we breezed by in Fortuna.



There's a better look at the water skimmer (and it shooting the crap out of me).



I guess we got a pretty thorough tour of the surface the first time around. Going down!



The missiles here actually launch from the ocean floor.



There are a few rocks down here, and a twin blaster upgrade that I'm kicking myself for missing in the actual run behind one of them.



I just love seeing where they think to put medals. This one sits outside the stage boundaries, in a quadrant with nothing else of interest. If you haven't figured out that you can go out of bounds until your partner comes to collect you, here's the hint.




There's only one secret that I know of inside. I'm just getting a better look at the Kick Gunner, its splashing, and its crazy vertical in the meantime.



The map reveals that there's a bit more to this corner of the room.



Presto! Invisible wall with a medal!

If you haven't picked up on it, I like Fortuna. The water gives it a totally different feel than the other planets, and it's present even inside the base. You get a really well-constructed boss fight, a new ability, a slightly more challenging core, a couple more great medal locations, and cool sights like water bugs and naval vessels. I would guess that the swimming is the reason this world isn't available on Normal, which is understandable.

Next Time: We've made a sizable dent in the enemy forces, but there's a lot more to do.
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  #33  
Old 09-25-2015, 06:09 AM
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Alright, I have a bit of time, so let's strike while the iron is hot!



After liberating Fortuna, we can cruise straight to Meteor without interruption. We have some good mojo this run.



Pigma's here to try to throw a wrench into this smooth run.



Please insert your jokes, quotes, and memes here (again, props to Aeon Genesis for not taking the obvious liberty with this line).




Pigma fails to even scratch Miyu, but he does stall us long enough for the battleship to launch two squadrons. Taking out two consecutive bases just couldn't be that easy.



We have Night Fangs and Hal Birds in these groups, the two easiest fighter types.




Their large numbers do force us to take some time, which allows Venom's guardian to leave it and catch up to us.

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  #34  
Old 09-28-2015, 06:26 AM
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Surprise! It's the final Star Wolf member, Andrew! He never appears on Normal, though he's not any trickier than his comrades. I guess they just want to tone down the quantity of threats on the easiest difficulty.



This guy was called Algy in the Japanese text. Translating it as Andrew is the game's most obvious "translators worked in material from later games," and the one that really makes me wonder what other instances of this there are. Again, this is not a bad thing, just curiosity on my part. In this case, since he's a primate (I think? It's kind of hard to identify the species here) and the fourth member of Star Wolf, retconning him as Andrew really does no harm and supplies some series consistency, so it's fine in my book.



With a point-blank blast, Miyu takes out Andrew's ship, and he vows to remember this...for the remaining two seconds that he's alive. I mean, they make a point to show Wolf retreating in contrast to his wingmen blowing up, but the dialogue implies Andrew will live to fight again. Is it just a generic bad guy line?



Andross is greatly amused by the possible death of his possible nephew.



So this is the base/missile equivalent of the "battleship decides to launch two squadrons at once" tactic. Andross can just order up a missile launch from every active base, regardless of where they are in their cycle. In fact, if they're in the middle of a countdown, that will continue uninterrupted after the surprise missile launch, so you can quickly have a lot on your hands. I don't think this ever happens on Normal.

There's also a weird squiggly thing emerging from Astropolis. Let's size up the danger here.



Okay, we have a pair of Spreaders, a trio of Planet Missiles, and three enemies labelled "viruses." At least we know the missiles are easy pickings.

I'm confident we can take out the missiles quickly and easily, and we're right next to a battleship, which is only going to get closer to Corneria and launch more squadrons, so I opt to just take it out now. Peppy currently has three times' Miyu's health, so he gets the nod.




The initial corridor has a few obstructions and basic enemies.




The main room is a small labyrinth, with enemies trying to hide and snipe us from behind cover. We need to destroy them all to open the door to the core. A medal is tucked into one of the many nooks here.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 09-28-2015 at 06:56 AM.
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  #35  
Old 09-28-2015, 06:55 AM
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Trashing the core is no problem.




We covered just about all there was to see here, so I thought I'd just spotlight a few visuals like what the closed hatch looks like and some more shadow play.



We have plenty of time and room to clean up!



These missiles pose no threat to the Arwings (unless you were to ram straight into them), so we can enjoy the benefits of Miyu's twin laser and quick draw without worrying about her low health.



Now for the viruses. They're extremely frail (one ordinary single laser blast will destroy one), but they're the fastest enemy we have to deal with, and they often take off in separate directions. We have to be boosting constantly and tracking them on radar if we want a chance at taking out all three before one escapes. Even then, Fay and Miyu are the only ones I can reliably succeed with. At this distance, there's still a chance to catch the stragglers on the map, but you don't want to leave that to chance, especially if there are other dangers around.

As for what they do, I figure we'll see if that happens naturally over the course of this LP. In fact, that's my intended approach for the various bad things that can happen. There's a very good chance of some of them occurring in Expert mode. If not, I definitely plan to put up a highlight reel of the many ways Corneria can get messed up.



Just the Planet Missiles now, and the satellite's ready to fire. But when they're that close to the satellite, sometimes they manage to just slip by, and we're right here anyway. There will be other things for the satellite to shoot, and it has a charge ready.



The missiles go down effortlessly, and that relieves a lot of pressure. Andross is slacking on sending in his remaining ships for some reason, so we're free to turn our attention to the unguarded planets.

Next Time: We aim to liberate Meteor.
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  #36  
Old 10-02-2015, 05:16 AM
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This time on Meteor, we have a whopping three targets that fall under the "Unknown" banner. What can that mean?



It means there are three bizarre mechanisms attached to the base entrance. They move as if they're scanning or something. They're also completely nonthreatening and will shatter under the slightest duress. It's cool to see machines that seem to have functions other than "destroy Arwings," but these things make terrible base guardians. They're stationary, easy to find, all grouped together, and easy to fight. The Queen Dragoon on Normal mode was more involved.




Regardless, we make it inside. This is just the "unusual mechanism" mission. The switch is simultaneously spinning and being raised and lowered. Meanwhile, a few enemies patrol. Puzzles like this really feel like "early 3D tech demo." I can't really fault it for that, being a fully 3D game on a 16-bit console in 1995.




The next room requires us to kill two of those goofy wall-crawling enemies to unlock the core door. They're durable, and spacing them out like this wastes some of our time, but they're so far apart that they can't offer any support for each other. The walker can easily sidestep one's attacks while keeping a bead on it. If we were also getting shot at from behind, it could be tricky to minimize damage, but this is functionally just the same engagement twice in a row.



Unlike on Fortuna, the core here has no extra defenses, and is as simple to destroy as the ones found on Normal.



Pepper, I want to hear what Miyu has to say. Quit butting in!

Strangely, Meteor is even easier than its Normal incarnation. But maybe it has really cool secrets and stuff. Let's take a closer look off the clock.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:08 AM.
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  #37  
Old 10-02-2015, 05:19 AM
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There's a healing pad I missed the first time, which meant Miyu would have been fine taking this on instead of Peppy.




The most interesting landmark is this collection of buildings in the corner. It seems designed for us to be able to make our way to the top of them with the walker, and it's hard enough to seem like it would be worth something (especially with Generi-Fighters buzzing around). But I can't find any reward related to them. At the very least, it helps show that the former amusement park did indeed have some infrastructure.



From a gameplay standpoint, turrets on both ground level and mounted on buildings prove disruptive for us in either form. They also contribute to the narrative of a population center taken over and militarized.



Come on, Meteor! You don't get any harder and you recycle a medal location from your Normal self?



It even retains the "blaster upgrade under the bridge" (which I again missed in the actual run). At least it's a totally different bridge, and much harder to spot. You have to approach this from an exact angle to find it, and may not even realize there's an underpass, especially from the air.



Inside the base, a medal is tucked in a corner of the first room, obscured by a wall. It's nothing special, but at least enemies are distributed throughout, so you'll be hassled wherever you look unless you deal with the problem.

Man, after Fortuna elevated expectations, this version of Meteor is a real letdown. It feels like one of the very first areas developed, with enemies and setups that seem designed to test the basic concepts of the game. At least there are some interesting features among the landscape.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:09 AM.
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  #38  
Old 10-02-2015, 05:41 AM
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Just like old (and newer) times, Venom is the last planet Andross has influence on. He's holding back his remaining ships for some reason, so I use the quiet time to fetch the Mother Ship and advance it toward enemy territory. It burns some clock, but having the healing/warping in more convenient reach for the latter stages of the run is worth it.



Three switches to stomp on Venom! A freshly healed Miyu goes into action!




After immediately being assaulted by a flower, we find the first switch on this little island.



Sadly, the water here is too shallow to swim in. It would've been a good spot for a secret.



We pass a strange, but passive life form on the way to the second switch. It's guarded by this tentacled creature, which is extremely durable and (naturally) has a very long reach. It's interesting for a minor encounter, because you're best off just avoiding confrontation, hitting the switch, and getting out, but sometimes it doesn't give you that option unless you're willing to wait it out, and antagonizing it makes it much more aggressive. In a game with a ticking clock and consequences happening elsewhere, this is a great setup.



The third switch is in another interesting location: right beneath the missile. It's not tricky to access once you realize it's there, but it's a good tip-off to search for valuables around the silos if you haven't been.



Inside, we're greeted with some minor enemies and a line of...objects that swings around the central pillar, making walking or flying low dangerous.



The door to the next room is another one of those "alternates between shooting you and deflecting your shots."



In the next room, we have to defeat another of these retracting/emerging orange stalks. Keep an eye on that radar!



That gives way to the core. But what about that other room on the map? We'll have to come back to that.



With a routine core demolition, all of Lylat's planets are freed! That is indeed this planet, Peppy. Also, I'm intrigued by the understated, but alien look of Venom's sky.
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  #39  
Old 10-02-2015, 07:09 AM
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On our scenic tour of Venom, we see more surprisingly tough attack flowers.



We can pick up nova bombs if we want them.



Once again, actually paying attention to the radar helps us out. This thing isn't even labeled as an enemy.



Shoot it and it will open, revealing yet another blaster upgrade that I missed (both characters would be maxed out by now if I actually looked for these in the run). It's accompanied with goofy sparkles and sound effects for some reason.



Another medal found in the exact same way as the Normal version of the planet. But Venom's more interesting overall, so I cut it a bit of slack.



Inside, the main point of interest is this extra room that we can just waltz into.



We fight another stalk, but this one moves around the walls instead of the floor. This makes it tougher to just pile on damage with the walker (and the water in the middle of the room can make it hard to quickly get to another wall). The ship mode can't stay still long enough to do a lot of damage at once, so this is a reasonably tricky enemy. Too bad it's completely optional and has no support. Defeating it triggers a medal.

Venom's surface is very visually striking and has a nice variety of enemies, terrain, and switch locations. The tentacle monster and the switch make a nice situation that forces you to weigh your options, while the weird eyeball flower is an unexpected power-up container. Inside, things are less intriguing. The spinning objects are a strange, but trivial obstacle. The battle with the wall turret is the most complex part, though its "secret" room isn't very secret. Again, the core is just a formality.



Now that his invasion has lost almost all momentum, Andross finally launches his remaining two battleships. I'm not sure what triggers their launch; I know he's done it when he still had planetary bases active. It could have actually been a bit of a struggle, managing the last two bases and two more battleships. But now the ships are our only concern, and we have a convenient parking spot right between them. Let's go to work!



To the right are the same old Night Fang grunts we've seen plenty of. The left squadron is something new: Metal Boomerangs and the Metal Boomerang Core. Fortunately, the satellite is charged up and ready to gun something down.




These guys start out clustered in a tight formation. Once we attack, the Boomerangs scatter and start careening wildly across the battlefield. The Core moves more slowly, but will take part in massive loops and elevation changes, while peppering us with plasma balls. It's durable, and we can't lock onto it until the smaller components are destroyed. They will come to a stop momentarily, but we have to be very quick on the draw to shoot them down before they take off again.

These are very different from the typical fighters, and make for a good challenge that tests a wide range of our abilities. We have to be quick, precise, make use of the braking turn, and watch our radar to deal with them efficiently. This is also a situation that Nova Bombs can really help in, taking out multiple targets when they're initially grouped together.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:13 AM.
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  #40  
Old 10-02-2015, 07:44 AM
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We're right next to one of the Cannon Betrayers, and the satellite is about to draw a bead on the remaining squad, so I feel safe taking this out now.



The initial corridor has nothing we haven't seen before.



The main room of the ship is another "enemies scattered throughout and shooting from behind cover," but mixing that with the spinning wall panels is a nice decision that makes things more interesting.

We also get confirmation that we don't have to worry about the remaining squadron.



The medal is just tucked into a corner, but getting past enemies, stationary walls, and spinning walls at least takes some effort.




What the heck is this?! A completely different core?

Yes, this thing will regularly rise out of the ground (always in the same spot, unlike some of the turrets we've fought). We have to attack the four nodes when they're exposed. Meanwhile, two hatches in the ground will release drones to attack us and get in the way of our shots. It's a big step up from most of the cores we've fought.



Andross is in real trouble now!



Well, another set of viruses will slow us down a bit. Fortunately, Meteor continues to prove a great parking spot, because we can stop and heal in prime position to intercept them.



I take out two, but even Miyu's high-octane engine and quick draw don't guarantee success against these guys.



Fortunately, hunting down the straggler doesn't take long.



It's not a long trip to the remaining Cannon Betrayer, but we have a Mother Ship and an entire solar system of free planets. May as well use our advantages.

Next Time: We engage the remainder of Andross's forces.
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  #41  
Old 10-04-2015, 11:53 AM
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There's some debris to avoid en route to the fourth and final battleship.



Peppy dodges some fire streams with style.



Surprise! The last battleship core is guarded by a boss!



The Heavy Chariot will alternate between rolling around the room in a closed, invulnerable state and opening up to lob bombs at us.

It's a simple moveset, and we can pile on damage as long as we have its vulnerable body in our sights. But the bombs can disrupt our shots, so we have to keep track of their trajectories and dodge accordingly. When rolling, the Chariot can turn from evasive to aggressive without warning, and will bounce off walls. We ideally want to be close when it opens up, but we also don't want to get run over. This is a battle of watching all the moving parts, predicting their paths, and positioning ourselves in response. We also have to be accustomed to the walker's acceleration and pivoting abilities. It's a well-made fight all around.



The core, on the other hand, is its boring self. There's a medal placed behind it, which we should see unless we wipe out the core with a Nova Bomb or circle very close to it.



That basically ends the threat to Corneria. We just have to finish the job now.



...Star Fox!"




Oh yeah, Andross has a Hunter up his sleeve. We saw the Mirage Dragon on Normal, and now we contend with Tektron (or sometimes Tectron). On Normal, the Mirage Dragon will always be the only Hunter sent out. On Hard, it will be one of four potential candidates, including Tektron and the Dragon.
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Old 10-04-2015, 12:33 PM
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Tektron is sort of a space-bound Heavy Chariot: It will send a volley of shots our way from an open, stationary position, then close up and move quickly while invulnerable. But while the Chariot's all about reading angles, Tektron will careen wildly throughout the area. The radar's the most reliable way of keeping track of it, especially if it decides to open up behind you.

Taking hits from Tektron can interrupt your charge, and the Arwing's normal shots lack the auto-targeting of the walker, so getting hit can throw off your manual aim as well. This, along with her sharper braking turn, gives Miyu the edge in this fight. Even if he doesn't get hit, Peppy will be lucky to charge up and fire a homing shot before Tektron closes up again.



Despite the "Hunter" designation, Tektron plays surprisingly defensive and evasive. Much of its battle plan revolves around disorienting us and shielding itself from our attacks. That strategy, aspects of its appearance, and its name all recall Phantron, an awesome boss from the original game:



Tektron's most annoying tactic is to simply bail on the fight. If it does that, we have to clash with it on the map again, and it will be fully healed. It only seems to do this if you fail to damage it during a vulnerable period, so there's that at least.

"Hunter" isn't totally inappropriate here; it's just that Tektron is like a nimble, agile predator trying to confuse and wear down larger, stronger prey. It's an unusual dynamic for a game boss, which often go with the "large, overwhelming" presentation (and Tektron is indeed larger than an Arwing), but it's kind of refreshing. It also works very well within the gameplay. Tektron may not be very good at trying to kill the player, but it can waste a lot of time, interrupt us when we're trying to intercept missiles, prevent us from going after battleships or bases, and cause small amounts of damage that can add up, forcing us to seek healing. It can also turn its assault on Corneria itself if we get too close to the planet.

Tektron is a professional staller, which meshes beautifully with the whole "timed planetary defense" setup. We saw a bit of this out of the Kick Gunner, but in this case it's even more thoroughly integrated with the gameplay, since it applies to map navigation as well.

Of course, all of this makes Andross's decision to use it as a last-ditch effort look really goofy. Unless we let Tektron get closer to Corneria than to us, the clock's just there to contribute to our finish time. The professional staller has nothing to stall for. I really don't know what's up with his timing in releasing new forces this run. It's normally all about forcing us to multitask, but he's politely let us deal with one wave at a time and made this run very stress-free.




We engage Wolf with a slightly battle-damaged Miyu, but we still have three Shields at our disposal.




On Hard, you have to roll against Wolf pretty much constantly. He'll have charged shots coming our way on a regular basis. He'll also shrug off most of our own firepower. Still, with some patience and the high-powered, fast-shooting Miyu, I win this and only get tagged once.




We really get a good view (both directly and on radar) of Wolf fleeing the scene.



Next Time: Andross can't believe utter mismanagement of his forces failed so badly, and we prepare our strike on Astropolis!
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  #43  
Old 10-06-2015, 06:38 AM
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As in Normal, the full team assaults Andross's stronghold. Miyu charges inside.



Fire bars and spinning walls get in our way in the first corridor. I could've handled them better.



The basic layout is very similar to the easier difficulty. We have branching paths, with a turret guarding the intersection.



Down the left path, we once again have to stomp on a switch in a precarious position.



A few walls to shoot out of the way, and we're in the final stretch to Andross. It's just so weird how much content you miss when you're shooting for good scores and times.



The last corridor does have these indestructible blue wrecking balls that will fly toward us at high speeds, but only on set paths. And that wraps up the stage and begins the final boss fight!



Andross's chatter changes depending on difficulty, and he leans on the fourth wall to acknowledge our skill. He made similar distinctions in the original Star Fox as well.



The early stages of the battle have no appreciable differences, and soon we're back in the trippy zone.



As the aggressor of every conflict, Andross's position to demand revenge is questionable, but calling the team "Pepper's dogs!" is hilarious, so I'll let it go.



Andross masks up, and there's still nothing new to see here. We shoot his eyes, he shoots fire streams back, he'll sometimes teleport around and be annoying... He may be more durable than before, but it's hard to keep track of what hits are actually landing.



Finally, we get a fresh trick! Rather than burst and reveal the cube, the mask smoothly draws back...



...and we can glimpse Andross's shadowy face! Behold, the first incarnation of the "floating hands and monkey head" Andross fight!



All we have to do is shoot the head, and all Andross will do is shoot plasma balls back at us. He also makes different gestures (including the obligatory "evilly plotting finger clasp, perfect with his "hooded, shadowed figure" look), but his hands don't take an active role in the fight.



It's a simple process, but he still takes a lot of abuse, and only seems to take damage when we strike a visible part of his face (the shadows advance and recede erratically). I start dipping into shields to prolong Miyu's tiny health bar.



After taking enough damage, he's reduced to "tile-shedding cube" form, and all that's left is to finish him off.
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Old 10-06-2015, 08:51 AM
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Unfortunately, the cube actually threw me off the scent with its tiles, and it managed to re-form the mask.



If we expose the cube but fail to destroy it, we only need to deal with the mask on subsequent cycles. No cloaked cult leader Andross in Round 2. The damage dealt to the cube persists, so I just need to land a few more shots to end the battle and the run. I was in the middle of the last shield and down to the last bubble of health, but it's a win!



Peppy and Miyu communicate better than Falco and Slippy did, and succinctly sum up their personalities.

The changes to the Andross fight are interesting, essentially retaining the same fight and adding a new form to it. It's an effective transformation, flowing smoothly from the previous form, but still capable of taking newcomers by surprise. It's a nice way to tease at the appearance that would be iconic for the character (it did appear in the original's Game Over screen), but it's also a unique look on its own. Creepy, hooded Andross is just strange enough for me to like.

The rest of the ending proceeds as before, but the credits showcase some different enemies:



"Brain Spoiler" is truly a wonderful name. We still haven't experienced what they actually do, have we? My plan for that (and the assorted other misfortunes that can occur), is to play through Expert, trying for as good a run as possible. If the Brain Spoilers get to do their thing, the Cannon Betrayers get to use their cannons, etc., I'll show it as it happens. If I get lucky, I'll show it off as post-game stuff.




There's just something so appealing about Tektron's design. I don't know what it is.

The Hard Mode credits also spoil one of the other two Hunters that we haven't encountered yet, so we'll save that for later.



Andross's credits appearance matches his final form for the corresponding difficulty, which I appreciate. In the original, even after fighting the demon/wolf/bull Andross on the hardest route, the boss recap reel still shows plain old human tile face.



As I've mentioned, Andross was extremely cooperative this run, and things went very well. We even got three stars instead of just two! (I'm guessing the threshold is 150,000 points.) Of course, even if it had been more troublesome, a successful Hard run is just naturally inclined to score more than a Normal run, by virtue of having more stuff to blow up.

Next Time: We have some more sightseeing to do on Hard. We're going to take a closer look at Astropolis, and visit Titania and Eladard. Macbeth can show up on this difficulty, but I want to save it for Expert, so there's something brand-new to look forward to.
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Old 10-06-2015, 09:37 AM
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The timer is still rolling in the last battle. Is it possible to beat Andross and lose? Is it possible to get a Corneria game over during the last battle?
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:53 PM
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I don't want to say no outright, because I haven't really tested it, but as far as I can tell, there is no time-based death for Corneria. It's just that enemy forces are taking action any time the clock's moving. But it seems that Wolf only appears when all other enemies (that are capable of attacking Corneria or of producing enemies that can) are wiped out, and from that point on, there's simply nothing left to damage Corneria. The game records each run's total time, and for the endgame, it seems like the clock is only visible so you know how you're doing in that regard. Again, I could be wrong. I'll do some experimenting.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-07-2015 at 08:34 AM.
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Old 10-07-2015, 09:01 AM
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Alright, time to stop and smell the brown, ring-shooting flowers of Hard Mode! First, the rest of Astropolis.



Both Normal and Hard have a fork in the road guarded by an enemy on a raised platform at the end of the first straightaway. But Hard has a little more going on here, as the ever-handy map reveals.



Behind the false wall, we get a medal and a healing pad. Just in case you were foolish enough to set yourself on fire within the first three seconds of the level or something.



Down the left path, we've seen the switch over lava and retracting wall panels. When we're directed right to rejoin the other path...



Closer inspection reveals another medal. This is a nice pair here. We have to look for discrepancies between the map and our surroundings with the first, while the map gives no clues to the second, and we simply have to be thorough explorers.



To the right from the initial fork, there's...a medal just sitting out in the open. Okay then.



We have to battle one of those attack doors to advance, then fight through enemies hiding behind cover, then the wall turrets that can retreat and reappear. Not as interesting as the left path.




The cache directly south of the final boss room is still here, though it's not nearly as valuable as before, containing only two Nova Bomb upgrades. Considering we need to destroy the orange turret (supported by a turret inside the column) to get back out, this room may actually be a net loss (especially if you're like me and don't especially care for the bombs in this game. I sure wouldn't trade away four repair units for six bombs). It's fair enough, I suppose. The room is really easy to both find and reach, and it's not like the preceding level is especially grueling. We're allegedly on Hard Mode, so why should we get totally topped off right before the big finale?

Astropolis still isn't the most thrilling or challenging final area (looking especially weak if you compare it to any of the original's Venom stages), but I do like the subtle changes from Normal to Hard, and the locations of two of the medals.



Moving on, let's take a peek at Eladard.



There's only one target other than the base entrance, and it's a mystery.



This is pretty cool. On Normal, we saw a lot of construction, with robots hauling around crates roughly as tall as our walker, and a few one-story structures visible. Here, we see a collection of larger buildings. It doesn't necessarily make sense, since it's not like the different difficulties are supposed to be "sequels" to each other (are they?), but it's still interesting to see a location in different states of development/activity.



A medal's up on the roof of one of the buildings, and we can make our way up there with the walker (or just fly into it. At least the buildings obscure it from view at certain angles).



There's nothing special about the missile platform, but they're always satisfying to trash.



We see some smaller structures, and can grab a repair unit.

Of course, there's the matter of that name and health bar that appeared as soon as we arrived...



Ah.
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Old 10-07-2015, 09:46 AM
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King Dodora here has some connection to Monarch Dodora, mentioned back when we first visited Fortuna. The original Dodora, as pictured:



It's an awesome boss, and was really built up in the manual. The Itoh comic gives it a pretty impressive role, and a more satisfying end.

Anyway, how the King relates to the Monarch is unclear. It's on a different planet than the original, and has traded the extra head and egg-producing abilities for genuine flight (the original could only make massive leaps). The first game's manual gave a surprising amount of background to the planets and their inhabitants, so perhaps we would have gotten more details if Star Fox 2 had been released and a manual produced. With Andross's love of bio-weapons, I could see him creating King based on samples from Monarch.



In any case, King Dodora does a very good impression of the Godzilla villain that inspired it, flying around and sweeping the landscape with its breath weapon. The cityscape feels like a very appropriate setting right about now.



For actual combat, the King is a pale shadow of its brutal predecessor. It's a shame, because it has the tools for a satisfying fight: It's durable, and seems only vulnerable from front, which puts you in the sights of its long-range, high-damaging weapon (that can set you on fire). It changes between walking and flying at the drop of a hat, which matches the Arwing's transformation abilities very nicely. But it's just not aggressive at all, and never seems to actively target the player.

It's a really striking creation, and the color scheme, talons, and plumage are a clear improvement on the original. But functionally, it just doesn't compare.

The Dodora lineage wouldn't end here. Monarch Dodora would return in Star Fox Command, sporting two heads again, and using the interesting technique of sticking heads in the sand and popping out at unpredictable places. It's a neat combination of the original's "extendo-neck" attribute and its general ostrich-like appearance. It's still a pushover compared to the original, but you can't have everything.

There was also the boss of Titania in Star Fox 64, which seemed to channel the gameplay/"spirit" of the Dodora fight rather than the creature's visual design. It brought back the Monarch's regrowing limbs, nasty breath weapon, and long tail that Fox had to dodge.

This has been your Star Fox history lesson for the day. We now return to our level currently in progress.



Inside, things feel even more "development test room" than Meteor's interior. We start with another spinning, elevating switch, but with absolutely nothing else in the room.



There are fire bars and spinning walls, but no enemies to hassle us as we approach them.



This final hazard is somewhat interesting, as it seems like we have to tank our way through. The map doesn't reveal any secret rooms.



Instead, there's a switch in the floor that deactivates the flames. We can't see it if we're flying down the corridor; only if we descend at the right spot or investigate with the walker. The "puzzle" seems like it would hold most players up for a few seconds at best, but I have to keep reminding myself that this would have been one of the first 3D experiences for a lot of players. The developers love to play with perspective like this, and it's a clever use of the format.



We take care of one of these guys, then it's a basic core, with the medal stuffed in the back.

Eladard's all about standout presentation. The actual challenge is lacking, but it sure looks and sounds cool.
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Old 10-07-2015, 01:01 PM
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Hey there, Titania. It's been a while.



Nothing has changed with the weird stalk thing or the missile platform.



We can heal in the northwest corner if needed.



Here are some new sights: a very distinct rock formation and a big bird carrying one of our essential MacGuffins across the desert. Anyone else getting Super Mario 64 vibes right now?



The bird is even more unusual, because it's one of the few things we can shoot, but not blow up. After a few hits, it will simply drop the switch and leave. This is somewhat reminiscent of the power-up dropping birds that could be triggered in certain places in the original Star Fox.



As seen above. And you're welcome, Slippy.



If you play Titania on Hard after playing it on Normal, you'll probably notice right away that things are quieter and a lot less...stompy. That's because all of the Moais are gathered in formation in a corner! It's an almost eerie moment, with them just sitting silently when we know how much chaos they can cause.

It can also make players cautious to approach them, which would mean missing out on the power-up they conceal (and if you try flying overhead, you may not see it). I mean, you'd probably imagine there's some reason for them, but it's definitely an unusual setup.



One of the heads will get aggressive and bounce after us if we shoot at it, but only one. These things are just made to play on our psyche.



I can't figure out if this bird crime scene has an actual function or is just here for more flavor. It points toward the tall rock spire, which is where the bird with the switch seems to hang out, so maybe it's meant to be some sort of tribute to the bird that also serves to point it out to the players?



The parade of the bizarre continues, as we find the second switch in the claw of some subterranean tendril. We can track it on radar, and dust follows it when it's breaking the surface. It just flails the switch around, but it takes a lot of hits. It's also impressively fluid in its motion. Like the bird, it simply retreats when forced to drop the switch. Like Dodora, this feels like another inspiration for Star Fox 64's Titania boss (tendrils and claws, initially hiding underground, first found holding something very important and required to progress).



We still haven't found a medal on the surface, and we've covered just about everything. The only loose end is a dot on the radar behaving much like the subterranean claw. If we follow that around...




This giant centipede bursts out of the ground! It's just as durable as the claw, but it will actually shoot at us.
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Old 10-07-2015, 01:25 PM
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There's our medal!

Titania has a lot going on. Like Eladard, there are a lot of intriguing sights that really help give the area an identity. But it just feels more "active" here, probably because the boss is the only mobile thing on Eladard. Titania is a mysterious desert with all kinds of critters ready to crawl up from below, vultures stealing valuables, and unreadable stone foes ready to spring to life and crush us.

We could use a break. Let's step inside.



The initial corridor uses the same "hide a medal behind the arrow" trick that we saw at Astropolis (I caught the coin spinning at a tough-to-see angle. It's by the walker's left leg).



The door to the core is locked, and we have chambers on the left and right to choose from.



Both rooms contain a rolling bomber enemy, but one room is open, while the other wraps around a central wall. We need to destroy one of them to open the way to the core (which is as unremarkable as most).



Next Time: Hard mode is at an end! Time to get serious and take everything the game can throw at us.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 12-31-2015 at 07:59 AM.
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Old 10-07-2015, 02:17 PM
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Just wanted to check in to say this LP is rad, I just don't have anything to add to the conversation.
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Old 10-09-2015, 06:48 AM
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^That's always good to hear! Well, the first part anyway. I mean, not that you should feel bad for having nothing else to say...I'm moving on now.

But seriously, thanks!



Okay, it's time for Serious Business. If it didn't come across, the difficulty names are a little...generous. With Normal missing a surprising amount of features (viruses, Andrew, Hunters that aren't the Mirage Dragon, Fortuna, Macbeth, Sith Lord Andross) and having Pepper explain a lot more to you, it's more of a tutorial than the default mode that "normal" implies. Hard offers a more complete experience, but it still feels like Andross is pulling punches.

The random number generator can help you out on Expert (like it did on Hard), but you can also get very, very nasty rolls. While I'm reasonably confident I can have a successful run, I honestly have no idea what kind of damage Corneria will take or if both pilots will make it out alive.

I will say right off the bat that I'm glad I have Fay for this run. I plan to talk more about balance and characters later, but in my experience, the ladies are just completely superior. Their extra speed is essential in preventing foes from escaping and wasting time, and their super-fast homing shot is great for both survival and for managing crises efficiently. And while I appreciate having Slippy or Peppy for longer base missions, the dirty secret is that Fay and Miyu's superior speed and ability to dish out damage faster really adds up over those long hauls. You have to be a bit more careful, but you can save so much time that there's wiggle room to snag a health drop or healing pad.

The kicker is that their Arwings come standard with twin lasers. It's a temporary advantage, but it just looks comical. If all craft types have the same laser, I still give the edge to Fay and Miyu, but it's somewhat reasonable at least. Their laser advantage makes me think that someone at Argonaut looked at the cast and somehow drew the conclusion that they were at a disadvantage, and I just can't comprehend that. If this were the original Star Fox, things may be more even, but fast, efficient play is extremely valuable in Star Fox 2, and Fay and Miyu just hold all the cards in that department. Again, I have more thoughts about the game's balance, so we'll come back to that later.



The initial situation is similar to Hard. We have three planetary bases and four battleships (with only two active) to take care of. Our bases this time around are on Titania, Fortuna, and Eladard. I mentioned before that the position of Titania and Fortuna makes them extra annoying to contend with, so having them both right off the bat is just a lovely sight! And they finally put a stop to my "warp to Eladard immediately to clean up the fighters on the right" tactic.



The fox and the hound are up to the challenge!




Alright, let's size up the immediate concerns.



The missiles only pose a minimal concern. We have a pair of Spiral Kites in both squadrons, accompanied by a Prison Bow in the left group and Escort Fighters in the right.



With Eladard occupied, I warp to Meteor to shorten the distance to the Kites and Bow.



Fox makes his debut, taking care of business without much trouble.



Yikes, that missile's getting close! Time to warp back and take care of that. Luckily, objects don't damage Corneria until they're a ways "into" its image on the map. The square in the second image is a good guideline for the outer boundaries of its hitbox.



Fay puts the missiles down with a single charged shot. Man, a no-damage run on Expert is asking a lot, but I sure don't need to cut things this close right out of the gate.



A quick warp back to Meteor, and Fay just wreaks havoc on this foursome.
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Old 10-09-2015, 07:16 AM
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I forgot how much easier it is for foes to escape on Expert, and the last fighter gets away. On the plus side, chasing and bringing it down doesn't take long, and puts us right next to Fortuna.



Only one target other than the entrance, and it's unknown. I think you can guess what that means...



The surface is strangely quiet, and our radar points us beneath the waves, so let's take the plunge!



Oh, hi!

Meet the giant octopus, Queen Dioray. This fight revolves around juggling aquatic and aerial combat. We can't harm her from the air if she's underwater, and if she surfaces, our shots can't reach her vulnerable head from beneath the waves. Taking some shots underwater will flush her upward:



At this point, we can transform and take the battle upstairs.



Hey, her tentacles actually have suckers! Look at that texture!



Dioray will lead us up and down throughout the battle. She'll bombard us with plasma balls from a distance, and smack us with tentacles if we get too close.



When she goes down, she drops the switch, which sinks to the ocean floor.

Like most Star Fox 2 bosses, she's extremely allergic to our lasers, but Dioray is one of the game's more demanding and interesting opponents. Constantly switching environments prevents us from establishing an easy rhythm, and an unblockable melee attack with great reach dissuades spamming at point-blank range. We don't have the luxury of simply standing or strafing with the walker. The Arwing can't come to a complete stop, so we actually have to plan our attack runs to deal decent damage. We can get effective positioning while swimming, but it requires mastery of controls that are only used on this planet. We have to be actively fighting for favorable position throughout this battle.




The Kick Gunner's still here on Expert, and aside from a health boost, it now has four pools of water to move between. It's always within one leap of water, and it can be extremely stall-happy. Or it can use them to attack us from behind.
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Old 10-09-2015, 07:50 AM
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The Gunner bites it, but consecutive bosses take a toll on Fay's light and speedy craft, and I bust out a Shield for some insurance. In an unusual execution of the phrase, the dying boss drops the bomb, and I'm ambushed with a weapon swap. Fay's durability just got even more questionable.




Fortuna still has one of the rare cores with actual defense, and now there's a turret in every corner to destroy, rather than just the two far ones.



Fay blows things up, Fox offers about as bland a summation as possible, and we enjoy the glorious sight of swimming Arwings once more!

Welcome to Expert! Fay nearly went down, and a lot of activity was going on where we were busy. Let's see what we missed on Fortuna before confronting that.



First, some more shots of Dioray, including her actually using the plasma ball attack. I've said it before, but even with primitive models, the SNES Star Fox games manage to create some dynamic, impressive creatures and war machines. They make a nice sample of what 3D gaming could offer.



With Dioray gone, Fortuna's rather empty on Expert. I shouldn't be surprised. I've seen enough kaiju movies to know what giant octopus + ship leads to. In fact, I think I know how Dioray came to possess that switch...



Things aren't much busier under the sea, with a healing pad and a few pickups strewn around. Even the missile platform seems to be gone.



What?



That is new levels of devious!

I have to tip my hat to this one. It's so far outside the boundaries that it doesn't even show on radar unless you're in the very corner (which has no items or landmarks to draw you in). But there's still a line of logic to it, at least assuming you've explored Fortuna on Hard. You know that things can be placed outside of the boundaries, and if you go to where the medal was on Hard, you'll spot the red dot on the radar or the missile itself, if you're looking in the right direction. It's also safe to assume the missile launcher has to be somewhere on the sea bed.



There's nothing here because I just grabbed it. Give me two seconds! Though now I wonder if your partner will say that if you haven't picked up the medal. I'll add that to the list of experiments.



In the base, the map indicates a protrusion in one of the walls. It's on the opposite end of the core entrance, far from the Kick Gunner and anything else of interest.



Stroll inside and we get our medal, not to mention a nice opportunity to heal in this combat-heavy area. I like that the healing pad doesn't appear on radar until we actually enter the area. I mean, maybe that's obvious, but it would be a total giveaway if it was there, while it can be easy to ignore the map otherwise.

With two bosses and the most intense core encounter yet, it would be easy to assume that Fortuna's all about straightforward combat. But Dioray and the Gunner are about positioning just as much as quick trigger fingers, and both medals require literal outside-the-box thinking. The exterior's a bit more bland than Expert mode, but it's a worthy sacrifice for a fun fight. Fortuna continues to set the game's standard.

Next Time: We leave Corneria alone for 7.5 space seconds...
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Old 10-09-2015, 09:11 AM
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Hold on. Dying renders a pilot unusable for the rest of the game? So you effectively get two lives for the whole game?
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Old 10-13-2015, 05:54 PM
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Well...yes. It's really not as punishing as it sounds, though. You can bail on any mission at any point, you can fully heal at the Mother Ship, and every base and battleship has at least one healing pad that can fully restore you (in addition to partial health drops from enemies). If one pilot gets heavily damaged, you can also keep them in reserve until you get the opportunity to stop by the Mother Ship. Between all of that, it's not so bad.




Alright, two missiles and a squadron on the table, including some new types. Fortunately, the satellite's charged up.



Station Missiles aren't so bad. They're always found by their lonesome, and they fall very quickly to charged shots. Ordinary blasts are extremely inefficient against them, which is about all they have going for them. We need to destroy two points at the top, then two at the bottom before we can finish it off with one more charged shot. If you get lucky, one shot will destroy two vulnerable points at once.



The satellite takes care of the other missile, but the battleship replaces it with some more fighters. Fox takes out the nearby group in a flash.



We have some time before that remaining group will be a problem, and the Mother Ship's nearby if we need to intercept it. It's a good time to try to do some permanent damage.




I break in with style and grace!



Unless you take a certain angle or explore carefully, this is an easy medal to breeze right by.



This is a very combat-heavy room for this game. We have to destroy a rolling bomber and both wall crawlers to open the door. We're also favored with a very nice drop that evens the weapons playing field.



It sure will, Fay!



Okay, we still have that squadron creeping closer to Corneria, and now viruses enter the mix. They have no direct weapons and work harder than any other enemy to flee from you as fast as possible, so I'm not worried about sending Fay in, even with her craft this badly damaged. Her quick draw and speed offer the best chance to take down a trio of Brain Spoilers in one sequence.



She succeeds (with help from "the X boost"!) and we get much-needed repairs with the Mother Ship.
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Old 10-13-2015, 06:30 PM
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I will indeed recover and warp, heading off the fighters.



The Cannon Bomber and its spiky cannonballs mix well with the more agile, smaller fighters. This can be a chaotic group if you're not prepared.



Eladard's preparing a missile, but the Satellite's ready to fire, so I decide it's high time to take out the annoyingly positioned Titania base.



In addition to the perfectly normal switch, we have a very strange one waiting for us.



A Moai is active again on Expert, baiting us into range with a bomb pickup. We see the typical missile platform, learn that the Satellite did its job, and see a structure that looks like a squashed pyramid. Maybe the Moai sat on it.



The trick to this is very simple, but still feels so bizarre in a Star Fox game. We have to use the walker to push the two pieces together.



Even the ordinary-looking switch isn't so normal. We have to ram this block at a high enough point to topple it, so we can give it the traditional stomp.

It's rudimentary stuff, but it's interesting to see experiments with object manipulation in 3D space. We can even add Star Fox Adventures' sliding block puzzles to the list of things SF2 did first!



Our only opposition left before the core is the boss Tal Kong. As you can see, I took some hefty damage and got desperate, so I didn't get more shots of it before I put it down with bombs. So we'll use some shots from the scenic playthrough:




Tal Kong's whole deal is to run away while throwing obstacles at pursuers, so this is about as good as it gets, image-wise. We see the inspiration for the name when it chucks large, bouncing, cylindrical objects at us. It also attacks with shotgun bursts of lasers from its face, all while retreating along the "track" that makes up this room. There's a balance to getting close enough to land hits on the Kong, but having enough distance to react to its own attacks. The best bet is tearing into it as it rounds a corner. The barrel makes an especially interesting obstacle, as it bounces toward us and stretches across the width of our airspace. That helps distinguish it from other evasive bosses like the Gunner or Tektron.
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Old 10-13-2015, 06:44 PM
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The surface has the typical assortment of power-ups.



The first medal is very strange: It appears as we climb our way up the "pyramid" with the walker. It's a notable landmark, so it makes sense to explore it, but some more encouragement may be helpful.



It should be routine to check for discrepancies between the map and the visible base layout at this point. It's a shame I didn't check for this on the actual run. It's a nice opportunity to heal up after the surface and boss fight.



We're down to just one ship and one planet, but Andross orders the vessel to accelerate. And of course it starts pumping out fighters before I can reach it.



Fox takes care of the first squad easily and then...



Oh come on, Andross, nothing's happened since the last time you micromanaged. What do you want now?




...I am not entertained!
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Old 10-14-2015, 10:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beta Metroid View Post
Well...yes. It's really not as punishing as it sounds, though. You can bail on any mission at any point, you can fully heal at the Mother Ship, and every base and battleship has at least one healing pad that can fully restore you (in addition to partial health drops from enemies). If one pilot gets heavily damaged, you can also keep them in reserve until you get the opportunity to stop by the Mother Ship. Between all of that, it's not so bad.
You said you can't change pilots during the endgame. Does that mean you only have one shot at Andross?
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Old 10-16-2015, 06:00 AM
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I just meant that you can't choose to swap immediately before Wolf/Andross. So if I was playing as Fox when destroying the last target before Wolf, I couldn't go to the map and switch to Fay, but if Fox died, I'd start the Wolf fight or the Astropolis run from the beginning as Fay.



In Expert, Andross ends up conquering all six possible planets. It starts out with three, then at some point (again, I'm not sure if there's a specific event that triggers it), he establishes bases on the remaining three. I've had this happen before I'd liberated any of the original planets (not fun!) and after I've freed them all.

Star Wolf has been conspicuously absent up to this point, and if you look closely, you'll see additional dots on Meteor, Macbeth, and Venom.

If you have the Mother Ship parked near a planet that gets taken over mid-run, it automatically warps back to Corneria.

With four sets of missiles, a squadron, and viruses coming in...I decide to go for the Cannon Betrayer. We're right next to it, and it's only going to get closer to Corneria, launch more fighters, and start bombing it personally. Having this luxury is a direct result of cleaning out the troublesome Fortuna and Titania first. All of the missiles have some distance to travel before becoming emergencies.



Fire streams and wall panels make up the first corridor.



To reach the core, we have to destroy a pair of orange stalks. There are a few turrets in the room as well, and some platforms to give the stalks some cover.



There are a couple wall turrets protecting the core, but they're not connected to a shield or anything, so they can be easily ignored. The medal was behind the core, but I must have collected it previously.



Turtle Missiles are extremely annoying. We need to destroy every appendage before the main body becomes vulnerable, and each one can soak up a few shots before breaking. It also spins like mad and moves erratically, making it difficult to destroy the last couple appendages. They're always found alone, so they'll only deal 3 percent of damage to Corneria. If you're not attempting a no-damage run, it's not so bad to just let these things go.



Since our duo has nothing but bombs, I use one to end the battle in one shot.



Next up is a spread, which is beaten easily.



Fay takes out the viruses and missiles near the Satellite, which returns the favor by shooting down the last missile set. Just one squad to go and we have some breathing room!




Whew! Okay, let's heal up.



Ah. Someone wants to play.
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