As I said last time, this game does have a linear progression that you have to do in order to win the game -- there aren't any alternate routes or endings. However, the number of things you actually have to do to win is fairly small, and the game doesn't always make it clear where you're supposed to go next. So the "non-linear" part comes from wandering around seeing what you can find. I find this frustrating because sometimes when you get to a place and can't progress, you're not sure whether it's because you're not supposed to be here yet, you just aren't figuring out the puzzle to move on, or whether there really is nothing there because it's just an optional area.
So while I am enjoying this game, it's not one of my favorites -- but I can definitely imagine other people enjoying this a lot more.
I left off last time after I had gotten another tank. The tank upgrade system is something else that I found a little more frustrating the more I played -- you have a lot of control over your tanks but it also means that you have to spend a lot of time fiddling with various items and settings, and since no town offers everything, you often have to warp around to multiple places to get everything filled up, bought, or upgraded. I also think they put it some unnecessary complications, like random "bird crap" showing up in your tank's inventory which then needs to be washed off at the first town. The interface is not as clean as I would like.
After getting the tank I went through the Dark Canal southeast of the big lake, which opens a new area. There's also the second of the Four Kings of the Grapplers, but I bypassed him for now.
|The Dark Canal|
|The gymnasts are taking over the world|
After beating the tank, Cagliostro himself appears.
|The man himself|
A brief trip to the wind farm up north brings the next wanted monster, the Dust Caveman:
|What is truth?|
Next up is Devil Island, where (I think) the next of the Four Kings, Bull Frog, is. The dungeon has no enemies until you meet him at the top of the tower. He turns on defense systems and then runs away, but once I caught up with him he fell pretty easily.
One odd thing in this game is the "love machine". You find various chips around the world that spell out LOVE with numbers from 1-3. By delivering these to some scientists they will configure the "love machine" for you. Depending on the configuration it has various effects, like damaging the enemies, healing you, playing music, or defending against various types of attacks.
The next area I visited was Death Cross town, where they trick us into putting on mind control helmets. We get the important work of pushing oil drums across the ground.
|We can't run this place without you!|
I killed a few more wanted monsters and visited some other optional places to upgrade my stuff, but at this point I'm ready to go to the final dungeon. Ted Broiler and Bias Brad await. I've gone in a few times but the enemies are very hard, especially on foot. The random encounters do a ton of damage and it's hard to flee. If you get a game over you don't lose anything, but you have to make your way back to where your tanks were to get them back. It's possible to rent tanks, but then you have to report back to the rental agency once you've recovered your original tanks or most of the money you get from each battle will be taken by them. It's easier to reset, but the encounters are so deadly that it seems like I might have to do some grinding just to survive.
Incidentally, the DS remake of this game seems (from what I've seen) to have fixed some of the interface and balance issues this game has so that might be the better choice?