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know_naim

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  1. Astalon: Tears of the Earth Folks, try the demo. It's so good that I turned it off after 20 minutes and bought the full version right away. It's this kind of neo-retro game build upon proven ideas but gives them its own twist. It's a metroidvania. If you like that genre, give it a shot. You will find a lot of save points on the map, where you choose one of the three characters, each with a different skillset needed to discover new rooms. Think of save rooms as peculiar hubs, from which you set off with each hero to check different sides of the map and lick those walls. I don't know how to describe it very well. It's not like in classic Igavanias that every save spot is a relief and then you can plan your next moves. Instead save points are so densely scattered that when I come across one, I feel "yeah! There will probably be some rooms that use that particular hero, but for now I'm going with what I have and come back later". This game does some key points differently. First of all, a save point doesn't heal without food (which I'm not sure how to get atm). After losing your life you starts at the very beginning of the map. BUT - after each death you also end up in a shop. Let's say it's a kind of Styx in which a terrible being brings one of the heroes back to life and gives you the option to buy the upgrades. Aside from obvious ones like adding HP or individual characters' skills, most of these upgrades are unclear. I had no idea what I was buying when I spent 200 crystals on some "book of wisdom". It turned out after the purchase that I got item descriptions in menus. I love how many things are unclear here! This is the one point in metroidvania design where Astalon absolutely rocks. Scratches the itch with this one platform hanging too high, this elevator leading probably to the last level but "no-o, not now!", with these doors, which always require a different key than the one you have. This keys tho, they remind me of the first Legend of Zelda. You can mess up your exploration quite a bit by using some of the keys to open the doors that are not really needed for progressing. For example, there are some doors behind which there is only +1 life. There are more, er, key places that would be handy to open up. The map layout is another example of thoughtful game design, consistent with the above-mentioned theme of "ambiguity." It can be irritating, because not always is a passage properly marked within a given block / room. You have to remember that there is some roadblock there. Then again, later on this is solved y buying an upgrade showing e.g. a closed door. It provides tons of fun from the exploration itself and works great in tandem with the fact that dying doesn't really hurt so much, because you can always quickly go back wherever you want and the worst that will happen is that you have more crystals for upgrades. That's a delicious pick-up-and-play gameplay loop for me. Now maybe a little bit about heroes. There's a typical swordsman with short range that can cut through vines blocking roads. There's an archery girl who is light and has a single wall-jump enabling her to climb into otherwise inaccessible places. Mechanically she's great when you master the pulsating pattern of jumping and stamping arrows. There is also a wizard who has a shorter range than the girl, but shoots more often. Some passages can only be opened by his magic. The game is constructed in such a way that often one of the characters has a segment at the end of which a shortcut is unlocked for the rest of the cast, giving you the opportunity to repeat that segment and potentially find a secret. I'm gushing over this game. The music is great too (although it should still play when you pause the game imo). I was expecting this to be a good game after watching some trailers, but not that good!
  2. Ori is the most approachable game and imo control-wise the most fluid and innovative. I don't get the hype around Hollow Knight. To me it felt oppressive just for oppressiveness sake and didn't respect the player's time much. Messenger is a different kind of beast. Yeah, you can categorize it as a metroidvania if you want but it's much more straightforward and has it's signature 8- to 16-bit gimmick to boot. It's more akin to games like Shovel Knight in my book but maybe I get the impression because of the similar pixel art style. I'd consider also the recently released Astalon over Messenger if you like Igavania-styled explorational games. Really, really fantastic map design on that one.
  3. What I want? Crystal Shards. Criminally underrated Kirby entry. What I suspect we'll get? Dreamland again. Dumping the Wii Dreamland collection with some extras on eShop as a limited time release on Switch in vein of the Mario and Fire Emblem classics would be very Nintendo thing to do in 2022.
  4. Sacred Stones. I fell in love with strategy RPGs after Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and looked for similar games. After picking up Advance Wars it was a straight road to Fire Emblem. Around 2006-2007 Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance were the ones most easily available but since I didn't have a Gamecube I started with SS.
  5. That said, ever so often Nintendo likes to not stick with their own guidelines. I mean, BotW2 was announced on a E3 direct "focused on games coming out in 2019". I'm hoping for a May release date for the SMT III remake and a surprise game for June. Preferable more Fire Emblem 😉
  6. Haphduzn: Knew him through an Atmosphere feature, checked out his album "Visceral LP" and instantly became a fan. Pure fire. One of my AOTY from 2020.
  7. The demo has been out on the EU PSN Store for quite some time now. Finally played it and well... my hype deflated a bit. I don't mind the new movement options and the characters but the two dungeons introduced in the demo were just dull. Moreover, capping the demo to 10min? What were they thinking. Smh.
  8. I started the year with the Switch port of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, the forgotten WiiU crossover between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei. It didn't blow up on Switch either, but it still has imo one of the best combat systems in jRPGs + it is basically Persona Lite ™, meaning it has everything that's good in modern Personas but without those laborious social links! Since I already mentioned Fire Emblem (well, hi Fire Emblem forum! :P), I cannot fail to mention the excellent expansion Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Cindered Shadows. Loved the new character, they fit perfectly. Loved how the gameplay has been slightly remodeled and you have to deal with a predefined team and limited resources. A treat for die hard fans of the series. Then, in March I think, I tackled Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Way better than the first entry. Looked prettier, gave Ori a sword that improves the combat a lot and had shorter escape sequences. Definitely one of the highlights of 2020 for me. Hoping to get more metroidvania fun like this in 2021. Classic metroidvania was also a theme of 2020. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night got ported to smartphone and to my surprise this worked very well. Transformations and special attacks have been assigned to hotkeys on the touch screen, which makes sense because no one wants to make a quarter turn on a virtual stick. There were also hot saves, or rather suspend save, allowing you to postpone the game at any time. Minor changes that contributed to a well adapted the game. Bloodstained has recently been released in a similar format, might give that a go. The first dud of 2020 was Darksiders Genesis for me. I did finish it, so in retrospect I may be a bit too harsh, but I have a love/hate relationship with the series and like to scold it for not using its huge potential. Runs like shit on the switch and the shifting perspective ruins the fun of an otherwise quite ok combat system. After that dissapointment i got to play Resident Evil 3. Due to the 1st wave of the pandemic (covid, not zombies), Capcom couldn't deliver enough green boxes to the stores, so I played RE3 on my PS4. I was very surprised by the low review scores, 'cause I expected an 11/10 after RE2R. Fortunately, it only turned out that the game is only "short". After 4 runs, I don't doubt this is in any way a disadvantage. Being more focused on action and shorter lifts the replay value and Jill is absolutely the best character this year. After that came Final Fantasy VII Remake. I have played the original for the first time this year in February and it did not make a particularly big impression on me. The remake though? Loved it. Had some slower parts, like the Shinra building but in general I liked the direction Square is going for. After an excellent first quarter, there was some drought, which I used to play some indie games and older backlog stuff. The next big 2020 game in line for me was Trials of Mana. I like such mid-tier remakes and I think Square should release those more often. The Mana series is slightly overrated series by old school fans. The only thing that stood out on the SNES was the multiplayer and the remake gets completely rid of this function. Being strictly single player probably turned off a lot of folks, but if you go for it you'll find that this plays like a slower Ys entry. I enjoy that kind of stuff. A colorful adventure with a simple battle system and nice music (kudos for allowing to choose between the old and the remade ost). The biggest surprise of 2020 was Streets of Rage 4. I didn't like the look from the trailer and still think the drawn art style and character portraits are not doing justice to the legacy of SoR but once I played it i was charmed. It moves so smooth! This game has everything a good beat 'em up should be. I love that beat em ups have had a little revival in recent years, and Streets of Rage 4 is the pinnacle of that. Lizardcube have already been properly praised for Monster Boy, but SoR4 has proven their position as one of the best neo-retro devs. 2020 was a year of long jRPGs for me.Why? In these trying times the best you can do is spend over 100h killing slimes and such. That's why my GOTY is probably Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. It came out at the perfect time, I loved the first XC since the Wii release (one of the few instances where Nintendo of Europe actually did something good). Although the expansion wasn't so hot, the base is still a 10/10 and one of my favorite games of all time. Epic music, epic storyline, epic combat system. None of the frills introduced in X2. Another series I love is Shantae. Therefore Shantae and the Seven Sirens got played as soon as it was out on consoles. Wasn't as good as Half-Genie Hero or Pirate's Curse, but still a top notch 2D platformer. Can't shake the feeling that releasing first on apple arcade hardly contributed to the quality. The biggest controversy this year was The Last of Us Part II. I don't get what the fuss is about. It's a very good game, trying something new things in terms of narration and solidly building upon the gameplay of the first part. Plus it looks insanely good even on the basic PS4! New, exciting releases dried down after TLoU, so I soaked up some nice neo-retro indies: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 and Panzer Paladin were my higjlights and showed that pixel art in 2020 is still holding tight. The first is a classicvania done right, the second is a mix of vania with mega man and a blaster master. I'm sad the 3DS is not here anymore, cause these two would have benefited from stereoscopic 3D. Surprise of the year no. 2 is 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Mindfuckery worthy of Zero Escape plus nice tower-defensive-like gameplay. I was hating Vanillaware prior for style over substance but after this game I changed my mind. Their best so far, thoroughly Japanese, with mechs, with time travel and everything you would want from such productions. I will definitely consider it in my GOTY top list. And suddenly it was November, which marked the release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV late October. Spent over 160h and loved every second. Longest single player game I ever played. Worldbuilding in Falcom games is second to none, so the climax of uniting the heroes introduced over the course of 16 years does a great deal if one follows the series long enough. Another GOTY contender in my book. December I will pass while playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Yakuza I have clocked almost 20 hours and it finally clicked, because I got to the point where I can choose my professions freely. I am into gardening and golf, works splendid as a time-sink. I can now swing around the Yokohama, grinding aimlessly for money for eternity it seems. Hyrule Warriors on the other hand, became tedious after 25 hours or so. More characters = less money for everything if you want to level up the chars equally and missions are more of the same standard warriors stuff. If you can see a "Nintendo bonus" somewhere in the review scores it is in Hyrule Warrios. That game is a 7/10 at most, and that comes from someone who generally enjoys musou. Ok, I'll call this a wrap. Last game I will play this year is (of course) Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light. In that regard 2020 is perfect. Started with Fire Emblem, finished with Fire Emblem. I hope I will get to play even more Fire Emblem in 2021!
  9. https://sa-roc.bandcamp.com/album/the-sharecroppers-daughter
  10. the whole OST was recently made available to stream on spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX2niMzbAczXW
  11. Recently Atelier Ryza. I bought the game more as a collectors' item, since it was pretty hard to get on Switch. In general I didn't have a good opinion about games developed by Gust but Ryza changed my mind. Fell in love with the crafting system, was surprised how layered the battle system turned out to be. Now I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel. Shadow Warrior, the 2013 reimagining is another one. I'm not a FPS person but thoroughly enjoyed the straightforward level design and katana-action. The biggest one was definitely Final Fantasy XIV though. I got it around the time the Heavensward expansion came out because my friend, a huge WoW fan, wanted to check it out. I never played an MMO, so I was very sceptical and honestly without my friends guidance through all the genre-specific quirks I probably would have dropped it after the trial. Glad I didn't, cause story-wise it's the best FF game imo.
  12. I just finished 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, the latest game from Vanillaware. Fantastic sci-fi storytelling mixed with light, fun tower defense RTS gameplay. If you like crazy stories like Steins;Gate, Virtue's Last Reward and such, you'll love this. The way the narration is structured makes me gush.
  13. know_naim

    Katana ZERO

    Katana Zero plays like if Hotline Miami would be a sidescroller. Soundtrack and the general "acidic" mood also remind me of HM. And that's a good thing. The only gripe I have with KZ it's that it is a bit on the short side and the story feels like it's cut off, leaving you craving for more. I really hope we'll get a sequel someday,
  14. just a reminder that the Edelgard figma finally shipped and is as awesome as one would expect: I'd like Yuri next.
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