Linda Cube Again

released on Sep 25, 1997

A remake of Linda Cube

Linda 3 Again is a remake of a PC-Engine CD RPG which was titled Linda³ from 1995. The remake features several gameplay improvements as well as a completely redone presentation with new animated cut-scenes and updated character designs by Tatsuyuki Tanaka. The game is based around the adventures of a man and woman who attempt to capture creatures while an asteroid hurdles towards the planet Neo Kenya.

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The definitive Noah's Ark game. To think this was originally released a year after Super 3-D Noah's Ark, and three years after Noah's Ark for the NES.
But enough joking, this translation patch was a long time coming after ivantod's fan translation, and I'm truly thankful to be able to experience this game in a way that's not just gazing at the illustrations by Cannabis (Tatsuyuki Tanaka).
There's three scenarios – and an extra Scenario D that's a time trial mode. Scenario A and B are essentially tutorials that serve to familiarise you with the story and characters, and let you explore ⅔ of the planet. The true game begins in Scenario C.
The first thing you want to do is get a free dog, buy a second dog and off you go. You have more than enough time to rescue all the cute, weird and ugly animals before the Grim Reaper comes. Everything else you can ask the NPCs. They will explain some of the many esoteric game mechanics, and others have dialogue that reinforces the game's primal theme of life (sex) and death (the meteor). I appreciate the raunchy humour. It's very human. The whole game is. Makes me want to know more about the PC Engine version, and how much it differs from the remake besides the audio-visuals.
Linda, of course, is the main attraction. I like Linda. Though I must say I prefer her pink hair to turquoise. I also like that you help her through her mental and physical impediment in Scenarios A and B respectively. She's more of a main character than Ken, who has the personality of a punching bag. He makes more in-depth comments about furniture than 90% of the story, despite being a voiced protagonist. Too wishy-washy for my liking.
Ken and Linda's relationship – at first glance – can be summarised by the concept art where Linda yells, "SUFFER BABY!!" to a Ken locked in her Cobra Twist, screaming, "MORE POWER! MORE FREEDOM! THEY'RE GOIN' WILD BABY!! HELP!!!" But their camping scenes are much more intimate, and the pay-off at the end is fantastic.
Linda³ Linda³ Linda³ Again is absolutely worth playing, even if you find yourself lost in this heavenly zoo.

This is a game I’ve been hoping to play for a long time and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity thanks to the Eight Mansions team.

The premise was fantastic - a sci-fi futuristic monster hunting game with truly outlandish monsters. Additionally the world you’re hunting on is in the midst of a multi-year evacuation plan.

The monster hunting itself was very rewarding in that in order to find all monsters you have to be very thorough in exploring and talking to everyone. Adding on top of that, entire planet is evacuating, so NPCs are slowly disappearing entirely. This added for some really unique gameplay I probably will never see in another rpg.

The combat itself was honestly pretty boring, full of skills that I had no need for and many I never even used. The only thing you really have to worry about is accidentally exploding animals instead of catching them, but 95% of combat was me just mashing attacks.

The game being split into 3 different scenarios was also interesting. This means you have to collect 30, 50, then 100 animals starting from 0 each time. By the end I was pretty worn out, but it was well worth the final payoff after collecting all animals and finishing the story!

I would recommend this for any JRPG enjoyer looking for a unique experience.

Linda Cube is divided into 3 main scenarios and a bonus scenario. The first two scenarios are story based shorter scenarios that can be completed in about 2 in-game years, the 3rd one is an open world scenario with very little in terms of required story, primarily revealing events through NPC dialogue and sidequests. The first two kind of function as tutorials to get you used to the world before you really get into exploring Neo Kenya to rescue every animal in the 3rd. This 3rd scenario is a very enjoyable open world game. Small compared to modern games, but quite dense compared to them as well. Many questions are raised about the nature of the world, but often we are just left with implications rather than answers. There’s lots of themes to be seen from the game too. There's the obvious fact that the indigenous people of Neo Kenya are a lower class than the earth humans, but scenario A takes this further with the Christmas themed pharmaceutical company and indigenous villages being slaughtered on Christmas in the past.

Linda Cube’s battle mechanics are mostly straightforward RPG mechanics, but the fact that animals need to be captured, not killed creates its distinctions. Rather than worrying about grinding, often you need to worry about causing too much damage and killing an animal. I was often using skills to make sure I don’t deal heavy damage. Sometimes there's a weak animal that's best killed by throwing fresh poop at it till it's captured. But don't keep it in your inventory for more than a season or it will dry and only do one damage at a time. Actually there is one specific use for that too. Knowing each animal's behavior and how to encounter it can be a challenge too. Only female anglerfish are found in the wild, like real life. So the easy way to get a male is to capture a few and dissect them for eggs to hatch into males. Sometimes you don't need to battle though. You can buy animals, capture them in traps, and buy them in illegal auctions.

The animals themselves have quite odd designs. All are named after earth animals, though their familiarity varies from wolves being very similar to reindeer only being vaguely similar. Compared to the original Turbografx designs, the PS1 versions maintain weirdness, thought they are less creepy. I prefer the Turbografx designs, though the PS1 has improvements such as only keeping a single palette swap (Frog and tree frog). The small amount of Turbografx exclusive animals seem to be odd and generally a mismatch from the appeal of a somewhat familiar animal. The Stand may be disturbing, but it’s not disturbing in the way that I appreciate the other animals are. Even with these animals being so weird, they still need to be saved.

Speaking of Turbografx differences, the summer theme there is a lot better. Hope that gets translated too eventually.

Prolly a lot more fun if you just play the first scenario and call it a day. 3 times progressively longer of non-stop grinding wears you out.

[Like Dating Someone Unafraid of Being Themselves]

"'[Linda] has this combination, this dangerous combination, of being an anime girl with capable skills who also knows exactly how hot she is. That is not- uh, that is just not a good scenario for any mediocre dude to get himself into." - Tim Rogers [1]

There is no one perfect, attractive person that can attract every other single person. And yet, for every person, there does exist a match, somewhere out there in this universe. What might be considered a physically attractive feature to one person might be an absolute turn off for another. But what matters is that for a given human, there exists someone out there on this weird, strange, wacky planet of ours that will be a compatible match, someone who loves every single little imperfection and curious trait owned by another, that makes a complete pair. They just have to be found.

Linda Cube Again defies genre both in story and in gameplay. Its story is broken up into three primary Scenarios, each with its own story beats and retellings of potential events that could take place. Scenario A involves rescuing Linda from Ken's evil twin brother, Nek who is clad in a Santa suit, Scenario B, features an unfortunately designed mad scientist who really really wants you to like his daughter, and Scenario C throws all of that character-driven drama to the wayside and tells you the tales of the planet of Neo Kenya (yes, the planet is called Neo Kenya) itself. By the end of Scenario C, you'll be rolling at just how many self-indulgent reference the game makes at its own stories. The gameplay is also one that that defies classification. At points it's an animal collecting game with an open world (eat your heart out Palworld and Pokemon), the point of the game after all is to collect a certain number of animals (one of each sex) on a giant Ark that can travel the cosmos sent by GOD HIMSELF. At other points it's a traditional turn-based menu-focused, Dragon Quest-y-Shin Megami Tensei-y puzzle role playing game with a half baked set of attacks. Yet still it is a psychological horror game with thrilling moments of suspense, disgusting body horror, considerations of life in the shadow of a looming apocalypse, and traumatic themes and events that constantly leave the player on their toes. But in full, this game is about Linda.

Linda! Linda! Linda!

Linda Cube Again is not a game for everyone in the same way that Linda herself is not for everyone. Linda is zany and crude, but utterly confident in herself and her ability to do what must be done. Likewise, Linda Cube Again is a game that wears its own quirks and design decisions with such confidence, that one cannot help but be attracted to it even if only for a moment. Linda defies a classification of a person. She is a wholly deep, fascinating human character, with her fair share of flaws.

The player's relationship with Linda over the three story scenarios is one of a blossoming relationship. While Ken knows Linda from their childhood experiences, the player has no context of who this "Linda" character is, or what she's supposed to mean. Therefore, her amnesia in Scenario A allows us, the player, to develop a more organic relationship with her. By the end of the scenario when we rescue her from Nek, the Santa Claus costume-garbed antagonist of the scenario, the player and Linda have had the opportunities to each mutually write upon their otherwise blank slates. In Scenario B, now Linda is your (read Ken's) fiancee, complete with a simulated marriage ceremony. But again Linda is taken away by intruders, and is physically deformed. In parallel, the game and the antagonist of the scenario introduces a second, more submissive and traditionally appealing, lady, Sachiko. Sachiko is a temptation for the player, but the player quickly realizes that Sachiko, both in the story and in combat, pales in comparison to Linda. The scenario continues on with Ken and Linda reaffirming their relationship to fix Linda by whatever means necessary, and continue their promises made as children to be together. By the third Scenario, Ken and Linda are married (albeit with some slipping-on-banana-peel-blacking-out-and-entering-a-coma-and-getting-married-during-this-period hijinks), and the gameplay reflects this union through a consistently powerful party both in combat, and through playful and friendly dialogue options throughout various gameplay circumstances. You're supposed to fall in love with Linda.

But maybe you don't like Linda that much. Maybe she doesn't appeal to you. Maybe her bombastic declarations of emotion and passion are a bit too much for you. That's okay, she appeals to Ken at the very least. But at the very least, Linda is a reliable party member in whom you can place your trust over the course of the gameplay. You can trust her to be exciting, yet rational when it counts. You can trust her to hit you on the back of the head with a two-by-four by then nurse you back to health.

Linda Cube Again is a lot like Linda. Linda cube Again is a wholly deep, fascinating game with its fair share of flaws.

The process of collecting animals takes on a variety of forms which range from mindlessly mashing the O button to do a basic attack to chip down an animal's HP to under 10% of its maximum HP to capture it, to carefully executing a plan so as to not do damage that exceeds 150% of an animals health, lest you destroy the animal, fail to capture it and gain no experience points. This mechanic of essentially destroying the enemy is unique to Linda Cube Again, and forces the player to be considerate of their strength and how it compares to the world around them. For example, animals like Monkeys might chase after you in the first hour of play and pose a significant threat, but after Ken's level surpasses 7, these monkeys will now pose minimal threat, and by level 15 the player has to take care that Ken doesn't just annihilate these monkeys with a basic slash of a weapon. While there are no other mechanical changes from what is otherwise a pretty standard turn-based RPG, the game presents a constantly changing gameplay loop on a micro level that forces that player to think about what they want to do on an encounter-to-encounter basis. Remember: the goal of the game is to RESCUE animals, not kill them. The game is about preserving life. If you want to kill the animals, just leave; there's a giant meteor coming to wipe out any forms of life in about eight years. But hey, if you find this gameplay loop of hunting down animals boring, I don't blame you. The game is essentially turning grinding into its core gameplay focus.

But that diminishes one of Linda Cube Again's greatest strengths: its unpredictability. I promise no spoilers in this review, but the quantity and quality of depth of exploration I've encountered in this game rivals almost no game I've played before. Capturing each animal is its own puzzle: some animals are basic and found on the overworld, but others are a bit more tricky. One species of animal only appears when Ken's HP is below half of its maximum. another only shows up once you've exterminated 20 different from of a different species during a specific season. Even more complex, one species of animal is thought to be extinct , but as it turns out there's an old man who collects endangered species and has them cryogenically frozen but he's also on his deathbed and craves turtle egg soup to recover, and then will also ask you to somehow find eggs of a protected species, and then after that will accidentally BOIL the animals, forcing you to find a flower that revives any animal, but can only be obtained from completing a DIFFERENT sidequest which involves finding "Hot Dung" (not Warm Dung, mind you), yes HOT DUNG to act as a fertilizer to revive a garden of wilted Cherry Blossoms so that a young girl can help convince her grandpa that he should leave the planet with her and not die alone on the planet when the meteor crashes in eight years. Then, and only then, can you obtain this species of animal (assuming you can't find it anywhere else on the planet), oh and by the way you'll need to somehow find a second set of this specific species to unlock access to ANOTHER HIDDEN ANIMAL. For what its worth, you can figure all of this out just from talking to NPCs and playing with every skill in Ken's arsenal, but hoo boy. Let me tell you, 100% completing this game is not for the faint of heart. But this all returns to the idea of exploration and unpredictability. It is the player's duty to explore the world placed before them to save the lives of at least a pair of every animal, no matter how big, small, useful, dangerous, cute, or ugly, and the game has to make this process feel exciting and surprising when and where possible so as to not make a task of this magnitude not feel overwhelming nor boring. And really, it's best to play this game without guide, as scary as that might seem in the year 2024. You're supposed to fall in love with Linda Cube Again.

(also it's important to note that there is a dogfighting area but actually doing dog fights is entirely optional and I did not partake in any myself. If dogfighting is against your morals even in video games, the game respectfully allows you to abstain, thanks Linda Cube Again, very cool).

I'd be remiss if I did not compliment the fan-translation team for their efforts on adapting everything in this game into English. It is clear from my near fifty hours in my initial playthrough that Cargodin, Esperkinght, Mr. Nobody, Mono, Gwendolyn, MatatabiMitsu and Radicaldreamerr but an incredible amount of care into translating presenting the game's absolutely bananas textual presentation. NPCs are as informative as they are hilarious to talk with (that is to say they actually made me have to pause the game from regular fits of laughter), and that's not something that any uncaring translation team could dream of accomplishing. Beyond the work of the original creators, this team's efforts help propel an otherwise menial game about collecting animals to new unhinged heights, and I must applaud everyone involved.

So take Linda out on date, see if you're compatible. Play Scenario A, it takes no more than 10 to 12 hours to play if you play with intention (you might even want to take notes while you play). See if it's for you, and if it is, play through Scenario B and C while keeping track of what you find in the world, and where you found it. And if you decide the game's not for you, that's okay. There is no truly perfect game that will appeal to every single gamer on the planet, so it falls to the gamers of the world to find the right game for them. If you're not compatible with a game or a person, it's better not to force it. I know this game will not appeal to everyone, but it doesn't need to. But with all of its inspired design choices and imperfections, I found myself absolutely obsessed with and devoted to this game. And to that end, I'm lucky enough to declare I've found a new favorite game.

Linda! Linda! Linda!

[1]: This is where I'd link to the source of the quote, but Mr. Action Button said he'd yell at me if he ever saw me if I did link the source and I don't want that to happen. So I'll just say that this comes from a Patreon-specific backer reward and leave it at that. Maybe you can make like Ken and go exploring for yourself, maybe see what you can find.