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June 6th 2014, 09:33 PM
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
133: Lyna's Story Author: Paul Pliska Release Date: September 13, 2002

"Dink wasn't available."
"And the knights?"

REPUTATION NOTE: This DMOD is one of the select group to have a score of 9.0 or higher (9.6) on The Dink Network.

Twice in a row! Like "Cycles of Evil," this DMOD uses palette-switching, and is incompatible with true color mode, so I couldn't take usable screenshots. Which suuuuucks.

"Lyna's Story" is the second highest-rated DMOD on The Dink Network, so it kind of goes without saying that it won the Alternative Hero Contest. In fact, it won with an impressive 58% of the vote. I'm guessing that most of the remaining votes went to "Cycles of Evil." Not to put down "Quest for the Golden Nut" or anything, but... yeah.

130 DMODs. Over four years. How did it take so long for somebody to make one about a female protagonist? It might have something to do with the fact that for quite a while, the treatment of female characters in DMODs was... simple at best, let's say, to put it nicely. I don't really feel like dragging those mods over the coals again; suffice to say that if you've been reading these or even if you've played a lot of DMODs, you probably know what I'm talking about.

Lyna was Milder's main squeeze (and quite briefly his wife) in the original game. Paul had shown interest in developing her character before; way back in "Crosslink" (which isn't in continuity with this DMOD or anything), she tells Dink that she's been practicing with a sword. Now, he's given her her own adventure.

In the familiar-sounding setup, the King has sent off a group of knights and they haven't returned. This time, when the call for a hero comes, Dink isn't around. Very amusingly, this occurs during "Valley of the Talking Trees," which means that while this serious stuff is going on, Dink is off trying to catch the duck from Friends. King Dan's remaining knights are content to wait for Dink to show up, so Lyna takes it upon herself to go on a rescue mission. This is especially bold and more than a bit foolish of her, since, as she immediately realizes, she hasn't actually brought a weapon. A bow may be found reasonably early on, and this will be your weapon for the DMOD. Of course, there aren't actually graphics for Lyna drawing the bow, but a colored arrow indicator works well enough for gameplay purposes.

While you can certainly do plenty of fighting if that floats your boat, combat really isn't the focus in this DMOD; exploration is. You can leave the map the way you came in at any time, and the game will end. The ending will change based on how much you have achieved before leaving. If you want the perfect ending, there are a LOT of things to do and find. There are ten knights to find, only one of whom is still alive, but you have to find a scroll of Last Rites and read it over the corpses in order to receive the best ending. You should make sure to loot the corpses when you find them, as each has something that will make your quest easier. As for the tenth knight, Stanley will join you and fight monsters quite well, but you need to be careful he doesn't die before you get back.

The many helpful items you can find have an impressive variety over the usual powerups. Of course you can get Bow Lore, but there are also special "triple arrows." There's a pendant that, just by being in your possession, causes your health to regenerate very slowly, which is unlike anything I've seen before. There's no magic except for a few scrolls. One of them summons a being of living flame to attack your enemies, which is a wild effect.

Like "Cycles of Evil," "Lyna's Story" gets the most out of the contest's 60-screen limit by reusing the same environment. Half of the DMOD takes place in the "Shadow Realm," where the colors are inverted and all the objects are placed differently. It's kind of like the second world in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo. The effect is a little bit hard on the eyes here, though. The Shadow world features very dangerous enemies, like boncas that spew acidic blood at you.

The world of "Lyna's Story" is better-designed than any other DMOD so far, period. I don't mean graphically, although there are some rather nice new "winding mountain path" tiles that made me a bit nostalgic for King's Quest III. What I mean is that DMODs typically treat the screen as a box that you put things in. You can put a lot of nice things in the box, but in the end what you've got is still a series of boxes. The original game is very much like this. You might not be hyper-aware of this while playing, but there is a certain base awareness that you have of screens basically being squares of grass. "Lyna's Story" is nothing like this, not at any point. The mountainous area of Sojourn Heights is thoughtfully constructed. The tiers wind around and connect in ways that make sense, and after you've been wandering around for a while, each screen you come to makes you think, "Oh, THIS screen." Each screen has its own identity, its own feel. The sense of elevation, always rather precarious in Dink games, is handled very well. It's possible to slip and fall off of cliffs, and this is even used to reach certain areas.

The plot is connected to what has come before. The problems are caused by another Cult of the Dead Dragon Carcass, led by Henry, the priest (thought dead) from Mystery Island. You'll have to defeat Henry and spare the other cultists if you want the best ending. Another thread that runs through the plot involves the deceased Milder FlatStomp. It seems like all that anybody ever remembers about Milder is what a jerk he was, and it's fun to remember that. But I was young and impressionable when I played Dink Smallwood, and Milder's final, noble words before his death got to me. Playing through the DMODs up until now, whenever somebody mentioned Milder I thought I might have been the only one. This DMOD treats Milder very differently. Lyna can meet his ghost, and it is the spirit of a man who learned important lessons too late. I'm glad somebody paid respect to Milder.

After reporting back to the incredibly useless King (Dink Smallwood is in the "Dragon Quest" school of Kings - their butts are glued to those thrones), Lyna visits Milder's tomb and wonders how she can go on with life as it was. Filled with determination, she thinks to herself, "who says I have to?" and takes up Milder's sword. It's a fantastic ending. Her journey to becoming the strong female character this universe always needed is complete. Why aren't there more Lyna DMODs? Arghible!

At this point it's almost with a sense of dread that I go back into the Great Big pile of DMODs. I feel spoiled by these last two. I'm afraid I'll forget how to enjoy the more pedestrian, run of the mill, stuff. Then again, Pilgrim's Quest is coming right up. Man, 2002, you are really making your case here at the end.