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Zapp Branniglenn

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I recently fell back into the rabbit hole of Dragalia Lost (I blame @Shadow Mir for reminding me this game exists).

Overall I’m having fun just screwing around and building the characters I want to build, though I’m hitting a bit of a snag in terms of progressing to harder content- the new endgame fights, Sindom, kick my butt since they dispel buffs and my strongest character relies on buffing himself. So I’ll have to build someone else if I wanna attempt that lol.

I’m also continuing a replay of Tokyo Mirage Sessions on Ng+. Just finished the chapter where you unlock Mamori and now I have like 5 side stories to do lmao.

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Well, I've been playing Metroid Dread. There's a separate thread for discussing that game, so I'll just say here that it's certainly interesting game, and that I'm saying this as someone whose first experience with the Metroidvania genre was playing Super Metroid a few weeks ago.

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In a few weeks I will buy a new gaming laptop and I want to go through games that have been in my collection for a long time, but I could not play the rules in them. These are Batman: Arham Knight, Metro Exodus and the last parts of Battlefield.

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Beaten Hollow Knight yesterday.

It was pretty much the first real classic Metroidvania I have beaten (if I exclude Kirby And The Amazing Mirror). It was also one of the most melancholic videogames I have played yet, even if not the most melancholic. The music was very atmospheric and matched to the enviroment and story at any time. Exploring was very fun. Backtracking was required very often to get certain items which were not possible to obtain in the first time the area was visited. The difficulty was rough. Some bosses were really challenging and I skipped a lot of optional ones, but at least the forced bosses were all managable with the given resources and by learning their attack pattern. At the end I needed 35 h despite not having much optional stuff, a pretty solid length, much more than I expected for a Metroidvania. However I also died A LOT which increased my playtime by a lot. Overall it was wonderful experience to play this game. The end made me a bit cry. 

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I recently decided to replay Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, since I figured it had been long enough that I would've forgotten a lot of the levels and thus would have a semi-fresh experience.

Overall, it's a good game with some really good puzzles to solve. It's very impressive that they were able to take a game where you mainly can only walk/run and manage to make it a fun game. Other than that, there really isn't much to say about it.

One thing that I will say is that it would be really cool to see a sequel to it. And, if they do make a sequel, it would be cool to see it involve a more fleshed-out and cohesive journey/adventure, rather than just a series of disconnected levels.

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To christen the Halloween season, I wanted to finally play Resident Evil VIILAGE, among other survival horror games. I invited some friends to watch me stream it over discord like I did for 7, but it was surprisingly tough getting the gang together, and Village also went on much longer than the previous three RE games. So instead of a Halloween wrap up, this is more of a "here's what I've been playing since the last week of October" round-up. (All of these are spoilered for length, not because of plot spoilers)

Starting off with Resident Evil 8.

Spoiler

The action's a lot more fast paced. You shouldn't ever have to worry about inventory space unlike any previous RE game, and your movement speed is about double that of the previous game. The enemies are fast enough to match too. I was hoping that this would make firing rate and reload speed modifications more relevant, but the individual increases are so incredibly miniscule that they still don't seem worth it when your money has so much value elsewhere. It really feels like you should be carrying a machine gun in a game like this, but there is no machine gun. Being able to buy ammunition (at least up to a point) made me much more trigger happy. I was fully loaded for the whole playthrough on Normal difficulty, and had plenty more to craft with materials if I needed to. The magical map of RE2 Remake and RE3 Remake makes a return so that a room will turn from red to blue when you've picked up the last item inside. The magical map doesn't cover treasures found in outdoors areas, but I wouldn't have minded the psychostimulants of RE7 instead. That was a particularly elegant solution to the "how can we help the player find items in a first person environment" question. Instead, most items just seem to be in plain view on a waist high desk rather than hidden behind terrain and objects.

There's a lot I would like to say about the game's plot and the future of the series, but that is obviously spoiler territory. All I will say is that I don't care for the game's opening sequence. There is technically an explanation for everything that happens, but the player doesn't get any of it until the game is pretty much over. And even then it feels like they cared more about delivering shock value than a carefully crafted story. As a lifetime Resident Evil fan, I will not argue that this series is characteristically strong on story telling, but I'm not against having better writing and nuanced characters. Village seems like it tries the hardest yet still misses the mark. If they just pushed forward the delivery of key information, it would make the game feel much less like a pointless rollercoaster of set pieces.

Despite the emphasis on action, this game has killer environmental exploration and puzzle solving (except for those damned torch puzzles). Every enemy ambush is lovingly considered. The sound design of this game, just like in RE7 is stellar and combines the curious sounds that dilapidated buildings will make with the still ambience of the outdoors. Repeated trips into the village are often very rewarding, yet also dangerous when the game is populating it with new enemies. I'm a little annoyed that you can't go back to some areas once you exit them. Especially when there is usually no in-universe reason why you can't just take the same route as before. It may seem like I'm nitpicking, so let me be clear that this is surely one of the best games I played this year and I did enjoy every second. There's also a certain delight when I saw the suite of unlockables similar to RE3 Remake. Encouraging repeat playthroughs. I'll have to dip my toe into the Mercenaries mode as well. 

I also played the original Silent Hill.

Spoiler

I had played it before, but this is the first time I finished it. I was a Resident Evil kid growing up, and Silent Hill really got to me back then. The gross blood-rusted aesthetic of environments, the respawning enemies, having to rely on a flashlight. It's no wonder I found Resident Evil more approachable. I bet I would have caught on quicker if I relied on the map rather than trying to commit Silent Hill 1's areas to memory like I would the Arklay Mansion. And the game's disorienting camera can further turn you around. Seriously, the map is extremely detailed. Keeping track of doors you've already tried and noting road blocks that you haven't even seen for yourself yet. It's takes a lot of the guesswork out of where to go. Most of the game's environments are featureless, furniture-less, and have no landmarks to look out for, so relying on your eyes is a bad idea.

In Silent Hill 1, the rooms in which you solve puzzles don't always provide hints on what you need or what to do. One room has a hole in the ground that you're supposed to plug with a rubber ball. When you examine the hole, with or without the ball in your inventory, it just says "nothing special". C'mon Konami. I'm also not a fan of the game's sound design. Yeah, that's a diss on Akira Yamaoka. This track especially wore out its welcome. It's blasting on every enemy encounter in the school, the first "dungeon" you could say. And they're not even threatening beyond the player trying to negotiate the camera so they can actually see them. Even after you've taken care of the enemies it might still be clanging away until you leave the room. The entire school section is just oppressive - and there's a stark lack of save points compared to later areas. I was pretty peeved when I died to the first boss' instant kill move, but when I hit continue on the main menu I was able to restart the fight right there. Checkpoints? That's unexpected. The game difficulty is quite laid back. All enemy types are easy to run from, and you're loaded up with far more health drinks and ammo than you could reasonably consume on the Normal difficulty. On top of having equally functional melee weapons if you did want to conserve ammo. The handgun doesn't even have a reload animation so there's no need to count your shots or reload from the inventory like in RE. Come to think of it, of the three wildly different survival horror games I've played...none of them have any inventory management worth noting.

I suppose what strikes me most about Silent Hill 1 is its ambitions toward a realistic 3D game. The pre-rendered graphics of Resident Evil or Final Fantasy have aged better, certainly. But Silent Hill is the rare PS1 game that renders a 3D environment fully with no compromises beyond it's short fog boundary draw distance. The dynamic lighting with the flashlight is particularly impressive to me. Harry Mason is a fairly believable protagonist to control. He's doesn't have the stop and go agility of other video game protagonists, but also doesn't adhere to their limitations. He doesn't even have to worry about inventory space. Sure he's awkward swinging a sledgehammer, but he clowns on your average RE protagonist by being able to move and fire a gun simultaneously. I've heard many Silent Hill fans online split the Survival Horror genre into "Action Horror" and "Psychological Horror" to describe the key difference between Silent Hill and Resident Evil, but this feels far more action oriented than any RE game before 4. 

While playing Resident Evil 8, my friends asked me what the scariest game I ever played was. Probably Fatal Frame, I answered.

Spoiler

That might be recency bias, but I can definitely feel a sense of dread when you make a camera integral to a horror game. Perhaps it's my brain losing the metaphysical sense of where my character is as I switch between first person and fixed camera angle views. I also feel like the low graphical fidelity and lacking animations of these ghosts make them much more unsettling than later games where they just look like dead people. Not only do you need to stare at the ghost for the camera to charge its shot, but there are also action shots to go for as the ghost lunges. The ghost's weakpoint also has to be centered in frame, and I'd swear the game's hit detection is off. On top of that, Ghosts become invulnerable to attack at unpredictable periods, so you can easily waste a max charge shot through seemingly no fault of your own. And since the ghosts are, in fact, ghosts, they can camp totally out of bounds, undetectable with your camera until they decide to get close enough to be in the same room as you. The random/respawning ones sometimes follow you room to room. Even into a save room.

The controls add further tension to encounters. With the camera held up, left stick aims, while the right stick moves. No, that's not a typo. It's literally the inverse of any modern shooter game. Outside of viewfinder mode, the left stick or D-pad is used for movement, while the right stick aims the flashlight. So your brain has to "switch modes" on the fly. I may have made it harder on myself by choosing Resident Evil-style tank controls, since the viewfinder mode still maintains 360 degree movement. And you don't want to be second guessing how everything works by the time a ghost lunges at you. Even a successful shot at max power has no guarantee it will stagger a ghost out of its attack. I also got caught up on invisible walls in the environment constantly. For how claustrophobic these rooms get, the actual play area you can move in is always considerably smaller. You have to keep a watchful eye of potential obstructions, because when you're in the viewfinder you won't be able to guess what's halting you from backing up or what direction is best for moving around it. Perhaps Fatal Frame is so unsettling to me because of its overflowing jank. I was so caught up with the gameplay's technical shortcomings that I couldn't appreciate its atmosphere which I do think is the game's greatest strength. But it's not like the series ended here. it just goes to show that a concept can go so much farther than it's execution. "What if Resident evil, but Pokemon Snap?". Heck yeah I'd greenlight that sequel.

While I'm on my soapbox, the game is also kind of hard? I died a lot, even after adjusting to the game's controls. I was low on health items for much of the latter half, and felt the need to backtrack for a safety save very often when I thought a fight went well. Running from the ghost into the next room worked a couple of times but even so I ended up light on ammo. Especially since you use the same film for fighting as you do puzzle solving or scoring points off non-hostile ghosts. The game takes place across three nights, so I expected some respawning item drops in previous rooms, but Night Three is bone dry with only respawned enemies in those rooms. It's a brutal double standard, and I think one of those revival items I left behind on Night Two got despawned as well. There's one puzzle that really irks me on some doors. The lock is arranged kind of like a clock and you need to select the right kanji symbol in a four digit combination. Getting the document that tells you the numerical combination is easy, but there are no numbers on the door to know what represents what. It turns out the top symbol represents zero, and it's 1-9 going counterclockwise (instead of clockwise like...a clock). The guides I read online suggest that the kanji symbols represent 1-9 in Japanese. They don't. But even if that were true, how would an English speaker solve this puzzle? Heck, how can anybody solve this puzzle? I just don't get it.

It's not a horror game but I also found time for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

Spoiler

There are a lot of reasons why people sleep on a game like this. There's the backlash against Marvel's Avengers, even though this is not a live service game. There's the fact that it took up most of the runtime of Square's E3 presentation, as if it "took the place of" something else with 'Final Fantasy' in the title. And then there's just the fact that it's a licensed property which for many players might immediately indicate a low quality experience. But sometimes a game like this just doesn't care about your biases and overcomes the odds. Kind of like Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order. The internet seemed ill equipped to reconcile a mechanically solid single player experience with not a single microtransaction that was developed and published by EA of all people.

There's really not a whole lot going on in this game, and I think that works to its credit. There's no open world with checkmark collection quests. There's no random drop gear to collect and manage. When you tell Rocket to hack something, there's no repetitive hacking minigame, he just does it. The highlight of the game is its environments and NPCs, and I'm grateful that I can get straight to that stuff at my own pace. When it was announced that Peter Quill was the only person you played as, I was upset since he seemed like the least enticing member of the team to fight enemies as. However it makes sense that this narrative driven game would also focus on your role as a leader, directing the Guardians to use their special moves for crowd control, staggering, etc. I'm not saying the game is necessarily better because of this choice, just that it works better than expected in terms of gameplay experience while also selling the occasional role playing moment. 

Because everything in this game is so laser focused and curated, I was surprised when it successfully flexed its expectations of the player. In a game like this, the player will naturally identify the way forward, and then deliberately go down the "wrong" path in search of secrets. When this happens, your fellow teammates occasionally call you out. Rocket in particular roasts you hard for picking up junk off the ground at inappropriate times. And there's several other easter eggs if you go looking for them. Tell a Guardian to handle a task they're not equipped to deal with and they'll usually have a unique line of dialogue for that situation. A lot of them nudge you toward the right answer if you didn't already know, but some of these are needlessly hilarious. I started habitually making ludicrous suggestions just to get a reaction out of my teammates. There was a similar glibness when I discovered that if you tap the shoot button in a non combat area, Peter will pull up finger guns and make pew pew laser noises as he fires.

The story also proves adept at nailing both comedic and emotional scenes. This game is set in a different universe with a different lore than what you may expect from the MCU. It gives you enough details to satiate your curiosity on this or that character or plotline from the movies, but always stops short of retreading that story arc. It's a perfect middle ground. This game has a ludicrous amount of dialogue. It does feel unfortunate when you interrupt an interesting conversation by walking too close to the next room. Many conversations are programmed to continue after an interruption, but not all of them. Meanwhile several battle quotes tied to that character's abilities get repeated several times over your playthrough. I wish I could say Guardians of the Galaxy is well polished, but I ran into more than a few bugs. Not the cute this object clips into the environment kind of thing but the I cannot progress until I reload the last checkpoint kind of bug. I was on the PC version and no matter how much I adjusted the mouse sensitivity, it would never increase, prompting me to switch to a controller. But when I used a controller, most of the onscreen button prompts were flat out incorrect. Some of the issues I ran into were updated in the middle of my playthrough. And there's been several updates in the weeks since too. I imagine a lot of people playing this game in the future will do so on some big steam sale, and by then the game might be completely ironed out.

 

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So, because of the black Friday sale, the Mega Man Legacy Collection Part 2 became available for around $10, so I bought it, since I liked the first part of the Legacy Collection.

I was able to play Mega Man 7 for about 20 minutes before I grew extremely frustrated with it. The first part of the collection had rewind and save states, which made revisiting the classic Mega Man titles as a relative newcomer to the series a lot more tolerable, and also meant that I could save at any time and never had to worry about losing progress. The best that this version seems to have is "checkpoint saves"; what it does is that, if you use it, it records how much health and how many screws and such you have at a given point in a level and then, if you load that save, you're taken right back to the beginning of the level with all those items. I grew frustrated and shut it off, figuring that I could just start back at the beginning of the mission thanks to the save. Guess what: it's not a permanent save; it's more temporary than a suspend-save, so I lost what little progress I had actually made.

How did they think that "checkpoint saves" were a good idea? This is ridiculous.

 

Anyway, I recently plugged in my Wii U, so, since I liked Super Metroid and Metroid Dread, I thought I might buy the Metroid Prime Trilogy and give those games a try. Basically, now that I've tried 2D Metroid, I thought I might try 3D Metroid, though FPS games aren't normally my cup of tea. Is there anything I should know about these three games in advance before I purchase/play them?

Edited by vanguard333

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58 minutes ago, vanguard333 said:

I thought I might try 3D Metroid, though FPS games aren't normally my cup of tea. Is there anything I should know about these three games in advance before I purchase/play them?

Actually yeah, there is something up with the Wii versions. In Metroid Prime 1 and 2, you can go into the options and switch the Free Aim setting to the lock on that was in the gamecube originals. This isn't switched on by default, but I recommend switching for an early boss in Prime 1, called the Hive Mecha. This boss was designed to teach you to use your lock on. But with Free Aim, the game simply gives up if you try to lock on to the targets. I don't know how this got past QA. Once you're past him, use whichever setting you prefer. 

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5 hours ago, vanguard333 said:

So, because of the black Friday sale, the Mega Man Legacy Collection Part 2 became available for around $10, so I bought it, since I liked the first part of the Legacy Collection.

I was able to play Mega Man 7 for about 20 minutes before I grew extremely frustrated with it. The first part of the collection had rewind and save states, which made revisiting the classic Mega Man titles as a relative newcomer to the series a lot more tolerable, and also meant that I could save at any time and never had to worry about losing progress. The best that this version seems to have is "checkpoint saves"; what it does is that, if you use it, it records how much health and how many screws and such you have at a given point in a level and then, if you load that save, you're taken right back to the beginning of the level with all those items. I grew frustrated and shut it off, figuring that I could just start back at the beginning of the mission thanks to the save. Guess what: it's not a permanent save; it's more temporary than a suspend-save, so I lost what little progress I had actually made.

How did they think that "checkpoint saves" were a good idea? This is ridiculous.

Oof. Sorry to hear your first experience with MM7 was so poor. I could have sworn MLCP2 used save states as well. How far into the game did you get? Which Robot Masters did you try fighting first? I personally start with Burst Man, though as a kid I used to tackle Cloud Man first.

Is X Legacy Collection Part 1 on sale? I know for sure that one has save states, and it has the majority of the good MMX titles to boot.

If you intend to pick up the Zero/ZX Legacy collection, that one lets you use "save assists", basically mid-stage checkpoints where you respawn if you die, without losing lives or rank (the deaths won't count against your end-of-level score). And take it from someone who played through most of Zero 1 without save assists: use them.

Edited by Lord_Brand

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9 hours ago, Zapp Branniglenn said:

Actually yeah, there is something up with the Wii versions. In Metroid Prime 1 and 2, you can go into the options and switch the Free Aim setting to the lock on that was in the gamecube originals. This isn't switched on by default, but I recommend switching for an early boss in Prime 1, called the Hive Mecha. This boss was designed to teach you to use your lock on. But with Free Aim, the game simply gives up if you try to lock on to the targets. I don't know how this got past QA. Once you're past him, use whichever setting you prefer. 

I see. Thanks for letting me know.

 

4 hours ago, Lord_Brand said:

Oof. Sorry to hear your first experience with MM7 was so poor. I could have sworn MLCP2 used save states as well. How far into the game did you get? Which Robot Masters did you try fighting first? I personally start with Burst Man, though as a kid I used to tackle Cloud Man first.

Is X Legacy Collection Part 1 on sale? I know for sure that one has save states, and it has the majority of the good MMX titles to boot.

If you intend to pick up the Zero/ZX Legacy collection, that one lets you use "save assists", basically mid-stage checkpoints where you respawn if you die, without losing lives or rank (the deaths won't count against your end-of-level score). And take it from someone who played through most of Zero 1 without save assists: use them.

It might have save states, but if it does have save states, I have yet to find them. I tried fighting Burst Man first since what I saw online recommended fighting him first. Navigating all the bombs was easy enough, but, without rewind, I lost to a miniboss: this robot that shoots energy blasts and bubbles.

Yes; it is on sale as well. I went with Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 because it was priced so low that I was able to purchase it just using gold points that I had saved up.

I probably won't be getting the Zero/ZX Legacy Collection. I got the Mega Man Legacy Collection because I wanted to see how the series began, but I am more of a Battle Network/Star Force fan.

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4 hours ago, vanguard333 said:

It might have save states, but if it does have save states, I have yet to find them. I tried fighting Burst Man first since what I saw online recommended fighting him first. Navigating all the bombs was easy enough, but, without rewind, I lost to a miniboss: this robot that shoots energy blasts and bubbles.

Yes; it is on sale as well. I went with Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 because it was priced so low that I was able to purchase it just using gold points that I had saved up.

I probably won't be getting the Zero/ZX Legacy Collection. I got the Mega Man Legacy Collection because I wanted to see how the series began, but I am more of a Battle Network/Star Force fan.

Oh, the crab robot? Best advice I can offer on that is to practice sliding under its dash and jumping over its other attacks. Burst Man himself has a tactic that feels rather cheap until you learn the trick to overcoming it: he can trap you with his Danger Wrap bubbles which will carry you up towards the spikes on the ceiling in his room. To get out of the bubble, you're supposed to shoot like mad, but doing that proved almost impossible for me. I found sliding helps you get out faster, or perhaps helps you avoid the spikes as they pop the bubble. Overall though, Burst Man isn't as tough as Freeze Man, speaking from experience taking on the buster-only boss rush challenge.

You could try Cloud Man first, as his stage doesn't have any minibosses in it.

Ooh, then I recommend picking it up! Mega Man X makes a much better impression than Mega Man 7 as far as SNES games go, and it has both save states and password saving.

I see. You might want to check out One Step From Eden then, as it plays very much like Battle Network.

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4 hours ago, Lord_Brand said:

Oh, the crab robot? Best advice I can offer on that is to practice sliding under its dash and jumping over its other attacks. Burst Man himself has a tactic that feels rather cheap until you learn the trick to overcoming it: he can trap you with his Danger Wrap bubbles which will carry you up towards the spikes on the ceiling in his room. To get out of the bubble, you're supposed to shoot like mad, but doing that proved almost impossible for me. I found sliding helps you get out faster, or perhaps helps you avoid the spikes as they pop the bubble. Overall though, Burst Man isn't as tough as Freeze Man, speaking from experience taking on the buster-only boss rush challenge. You could try Cloud Man first, as his stage doesn't have any minibosses in it.

Ooh, then I recommend picking it up! Mega Man X makes a much better impression than Mega Man 7 as far as SNES games go, and it has both save states and password saving.

I see. You might want to check out One Step From Eden then, as it plays very much like Battle Network.

I think so? I didn't play the game for very long. Thanks for the advice.

Maybe. That might not be a bad idea.

I heard about that game. I might try it.

 

So, funny story. I purchased the Metroid Prime Trilogy from the Wii U e-shop, only to discover that I can't find any of my Wii remotes. So, I'll have to search for one before I can actually play it. So I bought one game collection that I grew frustrated with and one that I couldn't play when I bought it. At this rate, next week I'll try to buy a classic game collection and accidentally buy a completely different game entirely.

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Whoops, this one should have been in the last post, since it is also survival horror. Although I didn't expect to finish it anytime soon, and I needed a few more days to ruminate on Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise. Deadly Premonition is a guilty pleasure for me and a friend of mine, so I bought the sequel and we'd meet up in person to play it together in lieu of our usual co-op games and Smash Bros. According to my backlog record, it took us at least three whole months to meet up and finish it. Maybe finishing it at all is a small miracle, because the game itself put up quite some resistance. (spoilered for length, not because of plot spoilers)

Spoiler

This is a hard game to write about. Mostly because it was a pretty big disappointment. The internet would ask me what I expected from a sequel to Deadly Premonition, if not a bad game. Listen, the original wasn't great, but for a 2010 Xbox 360 game that retailed at 20 dollars, there were worse sinks for your money at the time. It's only as the years went on and the quality of the game degraded over its many shoddy ports did it truly become a bad game rather than just a bizarre one. Deadly Premonition 2 wears its shortcomings on its sleeve. Everything about the game's presentation seems to be targeting clip-worthy meme status. The frame rate is never stable - not even in an indoors dialogue sequence. The audio balancing is atrocious. The game freezes to load each enemy spawn or item drop. NPCs walk cleanly through buildings on their way to pre-ordained destinations. There are constant fourth wall breaks to point out how awful the quests are or how cliched the writing is. One of the least understood truths about game development is that nobody sets out to make a bad game. But Deadly Premonition 2 certainly feels like what that sort of project might be like if it ever happened. Especially since they didn't seem to make much effort to patch out the technical flaws after release. 

Believe me, I wanted to laugh with the game at its self-deprecating jokes. But the way DP2 deliberately frustrates the player can seem mean spirited at times. Quests are time sensitive, and the in-game clock progresses at a glacial pace. You can use cigarettes and sleeping to pass the time, but ideally you'd have a wealth of side content to do instead. But the open world is lifeless, with only a half dozen NPCs you could potentially interact with. All the side quests are different flavors of fetch quest or kill x amount of this enemy. The quests also don't offer any tangible reward that the player will care about. So the player is likely going to head back to the hotel and sleep to the next appointment instead. You're going to be doing that a lot on the way through the main questline. These time windows for quests don't correlate with the previous at all. Sometimes you'll only be able to do one step of a quest before you have to sleep again for the next step. The most egregious is having to return to the diner on one specific day of the week. We just slept for five days in order to get there.

There are some improvements on the original, but they also highlight some flaws elsewhere. Fast travel for one. In the first game, fast travel was locked behind a missable side quest that you can only do at a certain hour of the day when it's raining, so of course most players missed it. In the sequel, fast travel is forced upon you. But the major shortcoming is the game's load times. Especially if you initiate the feature from your hotel. The game will load the entire open world for one line of dialogue from the fast travel lady, only for you to hit another loading screen after choosing your destination. Fast Travel is often slower than your skateboard until you're traveling from one side of the town to the other. I would also offer the compliment that the dialogue writing is (intentionally) funnier. However, dialogue scenes can go on for literally 30 minutes. Just three characters chatting, recapping plot details, making wrong guesses about what's going on, all in a static location. I don't care if you have Quentin Tarantino as a guest writer, you can't make this exciting. Especially when the player has to tap the a button to advance every line of dialogue.

I'm also disappointed in the story, though naturally I won't spoil what I take issue with. It's just that most of the mystery is solved for you before York ever gets to any investigating. And his investigation is driven entirely by cryptic oracles that tell him where to go and what to expect. This is separate from his criminal "profiling" super power of the last game (which this game now refers to as Deadly Premonitions). York never makes any decisions of his own or deduces key information like an investigator would. And for a game that is aiming to be both a prequel and sequel to the original, DP2 doesn't seem to present any meaningful progression of the original's story, themes, or character development. It's a very meandering, low-stakes story with dubious long term repercussions. Even at 15-20 hours playtime, it feels like nothing happens in this game. About the only thing we were pleased with were the new conversations with Zach and the assistant character Patti when traveling around. They're very charming. But unfortunately if you bump into something with your skateboard, aim a weapon, pick up an item, or do virtually anything, the remainder of that conversation will be skipped. And you can't hear it again for the whole playthrough. Whenever this happened to us, it was devastating. 

 

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Gatcha Force - apparently a cult classic on gamecube didn't like it

I adored the visuals, and I really liked the PROMISE of a kitchen sink approach to variety - really letting you use anything, including the 50 foot tall dragons, ICBM Launchers, Time Stopping Samurai, a choice of going with 4-5 good charathers or upwards of 15 cheapos. 

The game has the surface level downside of having bad audio/story (Having recently played the Might and magic:Clash of Heroes puzzle game spinoff, that is a GOOD example of barebones, while this is considerably below that.... Being Barebones is FINE, but giving players 0~ish feedback for doing this is NOT fine. 

The actual things holding the game down are that basically,circle strafing takes over HARD. You are free to try out the newest thing for the first half of the game, but the Chapter 4/5 missions simply give the enemy 2X to 3X as many points worth of robots to work with, and the horde cannot be beaten without digging in for attrition..  This is fair enough with the gimmick charathers, but all but the very best melee archetypes have this problem - melee in this game works "fine" in the versus mode (which is 2 on 2) but the main story mode is typically 2 on 4, so you can simply be hit out of any combo when "at best" ... but often you don't even get to hitstun that first guy, because the "melee arc tracking" is pretty atrocious on most guys... only the ones with the widest swords or who have automatic lunges built into their melee attacks really stand a hope, while most ninjas,samurais,martilal artist, etc are stuck in horrendous endlag while whiffing air. Even when you do "confirm" the game is WAY overgenerous with knockdown invulnerbility, so you can't afford to remain for the 2nd finishing 60-70 damage melee string without leting them hit you first and/or backing off to get in clean again. The game's true random new part requirement is also bthe first time I got to chapter 3 and restarting)affling (and I got to experience it in full by losing my save file--- I got expensive things like vampireknight/chainsaw knight before ever getting normal knight. The bigger problem is "elite" parts that must be obtained as data capsules - on paper you have to obtain them "twice" but it's not based on the # of data you have, but specifilly having all letters.... My biggest sore was Drill Robot who requires an A data and a B data. I did two full playtrhoughs and ended up with 5 A datas and 0 B datas, so I never got to experience him. The storage system is not optimized and guranteed to fill up (about halfway in second playthrough) this would be okay with gen 3+ pokemon's box system, but thinfa in the "HARD storage" must be manually moved into the active 200 box, which must have empty slots BEFORE confirmation. .... Looking online many players complain about HP sponging but I found this minimal as a sideeffect of mostly sticking to only good parts (after the first 6 hours of free experimentation wore off)

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On 11/28/2021 at 6:57 PM, vanguard333 said:

Maybe. That might not be a bad idea.

Here's a video of Chill Penguin's stage by PinkKittyRose, if that helps give you an idea of what the game's like:

 

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8 hours ago, Lord_Brand said:

Here's a video of Chill Penguin's stage by PinkKittyRose, if that helps give you an idea of what the game's like:

Um, thanks.

Interesting. So, it's classic Mega Man with a dash instead of a slide, and a wall jump?

I might get it. Might; I'm still not sure.

 

Anyway, what did you think about my little joke regarding the various woes I've had recently with purchasing game collections?

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1 hour ago, vanguard333 said:

Um, thanks.

Interesting. So, it's classic Mega Man with a dash instead of a slide, and a wall jump?

I might get it. Might; I'm still not sure.

Anyway, what did you think about my little joke regarding the various woes I've had recently with purchasing game collections?

Sorry if I'm getting annoying about the MMX shilling. It's my favorite iteration of the franchise, so I'm extra eager to promote it.

That, and armor capsules, Sub Tanks, chargeable Special Weapons, and overall more streamlined level design that makes the MMX series much breezier than the Classic series, at least most of the time. The ability to dash and wall kick adds a lot to the feeling of control and movement flow. Ever had trouble avoiding a boss in the Classic games because you just couldn't jump high enough? Wall kicking solves that problem by giving you much more control over your vertical location in the majority of boss fights. Dash jumps retain momentum, allowing you to speed through areas faster by dash jumping repeatedly. The sequels introduce air dashes, giving you even more control over your jumps.

In short, MMX is Classic but better. At least until you get to X6 and X7. Maybe X5. X8 is pretty good though not quite the level of the SNES games but certainly a great deal better than the train wreck that was X7. I'd even call it a bit better than X5, since you don't have a time limit breathing down your neck nor the stupidity of how X5 handled its armors.

For the record, Part 1 has X1-4 (aka the good ones) while Part 2 has X5-8 (half okay, half bad). Part 1 I recommend for sure. Part 2, only if you want to experience the whole series, highs and lows.

Tough break on the Metroid Prime collection, there. They need to bring that to the Switch, especially with Prime 4 still being in development.

Edited by Lord_Brand

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11 hours ago, Lord_Brand said:

Sorry if I'm getting annoying about the MMX shilling. It's my favorite iteration of the franchise, so I'm extra eager to promote it.

That, and armor capsules, Sub Tanks, chargeable Special Weapons, and overall more streamlined level design that makes the MMX series much breezier than the Classic series, at least most of the time. The ability to dash and wall kick adds a lot to the feeling of control and movement flow. Ever had trouble avoiding a boss in the Classic games because you just couldn't jump high enough? Wall kicking solves that problem by giving you much more control over your vertical location in the majority of boss fights. Dash jumps retain momentum, allowing you to speed through areas faster by dash jumping repeatedly. The sequels introduce air dashes, giving you even more control over your jumps.

In short, MMX is Classic but better. At least until you get to X6 and X7. Maybe X5. X8 is pretty good though not quite the level of the SNES games but certainly a great deal better than the train wreck that was X7. I'd even call it a bit better than X5, since you don't have a time limit breathing down your neck nor the stupidity of how X5 handled its armors.

For the record, Part 1 has X1-4 (aka the good ones) while Part 2 has X5-8 (half okay, half bad). Part 1 I recommend for sure. Part 2, only if you want to experience the whole series, highs and lows.

Tough break on the Metroid Prime collection, there. They need to bring that to the Switch, especially with Prime 4 still being in development.

No need to apologize.

Interesting; I can understand why that would be appealing.

Thanks for letting me know.

 

Why do you think I decided to buy it for my Wii U? At the rate Nintendo's been going with remasters, I can't shake the feeling that they'll pull something like releasing each prime game individually and charging full price for each one, or only release Metroid Prime 1 and just ignore the other two games, and since I don't know how much longer the Wii U eshop is going to last, I figured that I may as well get the trilogy before it closes.

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3 hours ago, vanguard333 said:

Why do you think I decided to buy it for my Wii U? At the rate Nintendo's been going with remasters, I can't shake the feeling that they'll pull something like releasing each prime game individually and charging full price for each one, or only release Metroid Prime 1 and just ignore the other two games, and since I don't know how much longer the Wii U eshop is going to last, I figured that I may as well get the trilogy before it closes.

Oh, you know there'll be a Limited Edition Prime anthology to celebrate Metroid's next anniversary. At least if Nintendo remembers that Metroid has an anniversary. :P

You know, it just occurred to me that the Switch would be an ideal place to remake Metroid Prime Hunters.

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8 minutes ago, Lord_Brand said:

Oh, you know there'll be a Limited Edition Prime anthology to celebrate Metroid's next anniversary. At least if Nintendo remembers that Metroid has an anniversary. 😛

You know, it just occurred to me that the Switch would be an ideal place to remake Metroid Prime Hunters.

Well, Nintendo didn't exactly remember Metroid's 25th anniversary. Even with Dread making Metroid more popular than ever before, precedent is not exactly in favour of Nintendo doing an anniversary celebration or re-releasing the Prime trilogy for the Switch without doing something blatantly anti-consumer.

What's Metroid Prime Hunters?

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30 minutes ago, vanguard333 said:

What's Metroid Prime Hunters?

A DS spinoff of the Metroid Prime subseries, having nothing to do with the main Metroid Prime storyline. For a first-person 3D game on the old DS, it's actually kinda technologically impressive. The game is lacking in terms of single-player content, however, it did have a robust and fun online multiplayer mode back in the day, which is what it's most memorable for. The subtitle refers to the non-Samus bounty hunters that appear in the game, playable in multiplayer, and appearing in the story mode- they are very thin as characters though.

Metroid Prime Hunters is in fact the last Metroid game developed in-house by Nintendo, everything since has been made by third parties, mostly but not exclusively Western in origin (which makes sense from a certain perspective- Metroid isn't popular in Japan, it's a Nintendo franchise that survives on American/European audiences).

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32 minutes ago, vanguard333 said:

What's Metroid Prime Hunters?

A spinoff of the Prime series for DS that focuses on Samus battling rival Hunters and acquiring their weaponry - basically, Metroid meets Mega Man. The game features a multiplayer mode where you can play as not only Samus but her rivals as well, and Samus' gunship is expanded upon in functionality.

https://metroid.fandom.com/wiki/Metroid_Prime_Hunters

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Prime Hunters rocks. A DS First Person Shooter has no business controlling that well. Heck, I'd say it's got the smoothest controls of any game with Metroid Prime in the title. You heard me. 

Although I can't speak for how well Metroid PRIME PINBALL controls. If that were on the Wii U VC I'd snatch that up. I still need to play Federation Force. I'm guessing it was made by the same developers as Prime Hunters. 

Edited by Zapp Branniglenn

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Recently, I initially thought I would replay Ocarina of Time on my GameCube (using the collector's edition). However, after playing it for a bit, I decided instead to replay something I hadn't played in quite some time, and that I genuinely consider to be my favourite game of all time: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.

I have made played through the game many times in my childhood and early-to-mid teens, but it has been a long time; if I'm remembering correctly, my last time playing Path of Radiance was before my first time playing Fates. One of the reasons I decided to replay was to see how much of the game holds up; I often say that I prefer the gameplay of Path of Radiance to later games in the series, but I wanted to see how much of that, if any, was simply nostalgia or due to Path of Radiance being my first FE game. So, I started up a new file, selected "normal" difficulty and "random" stat gains.

One thing that stood out to me right away, as I watched the opening cinematic (the one before the main menu), was simply how well the game's artwork has held up over time. The cutscenes have not held up well, everything else looks okay, but the artwork is still fantastic, and since the opening was mostly artwork, it has held up extremely well.

Speaking of the cutscenes, the voice acting in them is mixed; Greil is pretty good, but Ike and Mist really are not well voice-acted. It isn't distracting; it just makes me glad that only the cutscene dialogue is voice-acted, and not any of the in-game dialogue.

Today, I played the prologue and chapter 1; not a lot of progress, but still enough for a first impression. One thing I noticed almost immediately was the lack of one convenience a lot of new FE games have: the one where, if you select one of your units then scroll over to an enemy unit and select that unit, the game will move the playable unit next to the enemy unit. In Path of Radiance, you have to select a tile next to the enemy unit. It's one of those little conveniences that I honestly forgot was not in this game. I don't miss it at all, but it was still interesting to notice.

I've seen people say that the battle animations in this game are slow, but I honestly have never considered it slow, and I still don't today. That said, I can understand wanting a fast-forward or skip animation option; I can't remember if the game has either of those or not, and I completely forgot to check even though that was one of the things I wanted to check.

One thing that definitely isn't nostalgia is the music; Path of Radiance has quite possibly the most memorable music in all of Fire Emblem.

Overall, right now, a lot of the things I liked back when I was younger, I still like now. And the one thing I disliked back then, I still dislike now: the game has two things to indicate which tile the cursor is currently at; a white, glowing outline around the tile that's easy to see and doesn't get in the way, and a giant floating yellow triangle that bobbles up and down over the tile and gets in the way. Every time I see that triangle, it is very distracting and it does take up a noticeable chunk of the view. Fortunately for this playthrough, I can easily ignore it, but if there is a remaster of the game, I would want that triangle removed; I genuinely find it irritating whenever I see it.

 

EDIT: I also decided recently to purchase a game called Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. The game has existed for a few years now, but I just found out about it today. It's an indie game that's very heavily inspired by old 2D Zelda games like A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. It looked interesting enough, so I thought I would try it out.

The gameplay is very much like typical 2D Zelda: exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. One thing I do like is that the sword combat has more to it than in a typical 2D Zelda: if you press attack again while doing a spin attack, the player character will then do a jump attack. However, the sword is mapped to the same button as contextual actions such as talking to NPCs and picking up objects; picking up a jar instead of simply cutting it with the sword does get annoying after a while, as does talking to an NPC instead of cutting a jar next to said NPC, among other little annoyances that do add up. I haven't gotten very far in the game (I've only beaten one dungeon so far), but the items so far have been typical Zelda: bow, bombs, shovel and the shield. I'm not a fan of that, but I do like how the shield is an item you have to press the button to use, rather than an automatic thing like it was in Zelda 1 and A Link to the Past, and I also find it interesting how, instead of ammo, the bombs and the bow use an A Link Between Worlds-like energy meter.

The story is deliberately wacky and told through the framing device of a grandpa telling his grandkids a story. I'm torn on whether or not this kind of framing device really works for a Zelda-like game. On the one hand, it does allow for a lot of fun gags through the grandkids commenting on various events, and it allows for some interesting replayability in the form of the kids deciding which enemies the protagonist will face in an area and stuff like that. On the other hand, every time I veer away from the main story to do some sidequests or some exploring, or when I read through a lore book, I can't help but think, "Is the grandpa telling all this stuff to the grandkids as well? 'And then the knight Lily read through a book detailing a bit of lore about the swamp. It read-' 'Grandpa! This is boring!'" 

Edited by vanguard333

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I played lots of games in the last month. Spoilered because of length, not because of plot spoilers.

I rather suddenly Final Fantasy 15 after chipping away at it for a couple months.

Spoiler

A lot of people talk about how this game had ten years in development. It didn't. A completely different game was scrapped, and they used a few of the same resources to start over on this unrelated project in late 2013. What I don't hear anybody talk about is that this game continued to be developed until 2019. The DLC went on for almost as long as the main game's development, and they only made half the DLC episodes they announced they would make. There was clearly something problematic about Square Enix's development cycles when both Final Fantasy 13 and 15 had lost them so much money. Then again this may not be so surprising when talking about the same publisher that announced Final Fantasies 9, 10, and 11 all on the same day in 2000. Whatever the problem was, I think the answer they landed on since then was just "Let's stop making new games and instead poor our resources into remasters and full scale remakes of 20 year old games that we know people will buy". It's an aggressively safe strategy banking on the demographic of established fans with the most disposable income. If the next Kingdom Hearts game is a remake of the first one, you heard it here first, because it is about to hit 20 years old as well.

Final Fantasy 15's development cycle quietly says a lot about the finished product. So much effort is put into the most innocuous details. The graphical fidelity is top notch, yet enemies will fade in right on top of you for a random encounter. The setting is clearly based on 1950s Americana, yet the major characters wear chic fashion and J Pop hair. The game world is impressive in scale, with clear inspirations of real world locations (just like in Final Fantasy 8!), but primarily offers hunts and fetch quests to pass the time. The item sub menu listed as "Treasures" tells you these items exist to be sold, when in fact they have other, often incredible uses. Combat is fast paced and demands pro active thinking, yet the dodging and blocking of attacks is entirely automated by holding a button. Hitboxes for even scripted sequence attacks like link strikes commonly miss the target. The player can pop a potion at any moment with full invulnerability, and I feel like most of the damage I took in battle was a big creature merely turning around rather than hitting me with weapons, claws, or horns. Even the basic controls lack the sort of streamlining that would assure you they were created for one video game. Whether you're playing as Noctis, a Chocobo, the car, or any of your three buddies, everybody has a completely different moveset that will trip you up as you switch between them. The buttons for sprinting, targeting, and attacking are all different character to character, on top of unique mechanics you need to bear in mind for counterattacking and building up special moves. 

I was personally let down by the story. Final Fantasy XV does a good job of establishing threatening stakes, but presents no antagonist working against our heroes' goals. The ultimate villain they settle on is just an immortal jerk who's still upset about an off screen event that happened generations ago and the characters have no connection to. The enemies you face throughout the main story path are literal demons or literal zombie robot soldiers with no variation. The Empire of Niflheim gets no screen time to make its case for what they're doing. In the Episode Prompto DLC, there's a throwaway line in a text document about how the war was justified over precious resources, so I guess they get almost as much consideration as the country of Nohr from Fire Emblem Fates *slow clap*. And the protagonists aren't compelling either. Noctis does what he does because of a prophecy. His buddies do what they do because it's their factual job. When one of them starts having second thoughts, somebody else tells them to suck it up and the issue is dropped. Heck, even FF13, a thematically confused mess of a game, arrives at a "fate doesn't define us" theme that ties everything together. FF15 laughs in the face of any such nuance, because every selfish thought from our heroes is immediately admonished or dramatically punished. God forbid we have heroes that can think for themselves and question their place in the universe like real human beings.

As harsh as I am on FF15, I've had a clear affinity for the idea of the game for many years. I love road trips, and road trip movies. A group of friends or family having a clear destination in mind. They encounter strange locations and people who may as well live in a different universe of concerns. Tragedy strikes, lending greater weight to their journey. And at the end of the road, the journey itself has had greater significance than the destination. Finally, homecoming. FF15 has all of this. Seeing the penultimate chapter essentially be the beat for beat final act of a Resident Evil game makes me wonder if I did, in fact, have a hand in this game's development. It may be frustrating to players that FF15 begins with fully open non linearity, only to gradually cut out the side content and put you snugly on the rails of a journey comprised entirely of set pieces. You can thankfully travel back in time to previous chapters to tie up loose ends, but from my experience the side activities are largely unnecessary. If you want to play the game going from main quest straight to main quest, you can. Just keep a healthy stock of items, hold that dodge button rather than time your press like I mistakenly did for a while, and no encounter should pose a serious threat. There's never a busywork requirement to unlock main story progression. Enemies do not have harsh level scaling to punish you for not doing enough grinding. I like this design a lot, as it keeps the player in control of the pace of their adventure, unlike the vast majority of modern jrpgs. 

Piggybacking off of that, I booted up another road trip game that's been sitting in my backlog. Kentucky Route Zero.

Spoiler

One common theme I've observed from road trip narratives is questioning whether the protagonist behind the wheel is really in control of his journey, or more broadly, his own life. Maybe the protagonist is a passive observer of his own story, but what does that say about video games? Doesn't the game happen chiefly through the player's input? KRZ starts you off with a simple goal: Deliver a package. And after the sixth or seventh ludicrous setback, you'll come to terms with the idea that this isn't a game that's about delivering that package. In fact It's not about any one character, quest, or theme. The "driver" is the road ahead of you, and you're just a passenger whose only agency comes from what you examine, where you choose to stop, and what dialogue selection you choose which always seems to lack long term repercussions. I'm not surprised that there's a debate about whether this "counts as a video game" since it definitely stretches the conventions of the medium. 

Of course the experience of KRZ can't be summed up even partly by its gameplay. I lack the academic/artistic chops to assess the game in its own words. I was able to grasp broader themes from the narrative, and connect with some of the intensely personal stories of individual characters, but I'm not tuned in enough to make concise assessments about what the game is trying to say, and how well it succeeded. Some things fell flat for me. There's a lot in here about civilizations that came before, but we only get phony editorial glimpses into what those civilizations were like. There's a lot in here about company towns and the uncaring, capitalistic urge to work decent folk to their grave, but the mining company too is gone before the events of the game with nothing to say for themselves. There's a recurring motif of outdated/obsolete technology to symbolize societal decline, but I'm not sure if the game supports the idea of restoration or leaving the past behind for greener pastures. Maybe that one's for the player to decide in the final act, but I don't think my input did anything for that ending sequence either. 

Maybe I shouldn't care about "the answers" so much. Just let the game be up for interpretation. Ignore the glaring parallel between the final act and what's happened to real life Kentucky in the last week. When I first gained an interest in road trips, I saw those decayed spaces and thought they may have been neat once, but aren't begging to be recreated or refurbished to their former glory. A lot of the characters in KRZ struggle with the same dilemna which I found refreshing. In most fiction narratives, it's taken as a given that whatever is broken needs to be fixed. But in real life, not everything that's lost needs to be found. Proposing both answers made the experience more relatable to me. And there was a lot of raw talent in the dialogue writing. The way that everybody seems to always be explaining themselves as they recount past events, makes those interactions feel authentic. And being able to answer questions as characters you don't know very well lets you tailor the direction of every conversation to something you yourself want to talk about. It's cathartic. That moment right there is what justifies this as a video game rather than anything else. 

 After dabbling in surrealist fiction, I decided to punch out the rest of my problems with Killer Instinct (2013).

Spoiler

I don't know what it is about the winter season that gets me in the mood for fighting games. Killer Instinct may be one of the best ones I've ever played. It's easy to grasp, the character roster is varied but not so unique that it feels like you're learning a whole new fighting game when trying a new one out, and has an announcer bellowing from the ends of the earth in response to your rad combos. Killer Instinct is transparently about its combos. And I don't mean in the sense of some anime tag team fighting game with 60 hit flashy auto combos that take ten seconds to execute. No I mean Killer Instinct becomes an entirely different game when somebody is getting smacked. In order to perform a combo breaker, the victim must guess the timing and strength of the attacker's next move and input that specific breaker. Meanwhile the attacker has to vary his attack patterns to avoid being read. Going for a combo breaker isn't free either. A failed attempt puts you in lockout for several seconds, meaning the attacker can resort to exclusively heavy attacks to maximize damage. And the attacker can even halt their combo with a counter breaker at the precise moment they expect to be broken to reset the combo meter. So unlike rock paper scissors there are elements of skill and strategy beyond simply guessing which breaker to use.

However, I think you can just as easily critique Killer Instinct as a fighting game that lacks fundamentals. Most moves feel safe on block and safe enough on whiff that there isn't a complicated punish or footsie game, even at high levels of play. Some of the unblockable or command grab setups are so brutal that I've seen high level matches come to a complete halt as one player has no good choice other than to run straight away and outlast the situation. Furthermore, since most of the damage dealt is done with combos, there isn't a whole lot of reward for landing stray hits. When my opponent jumps at me, and I shoryuken them out of the air, resetting us both to neutral, I feel like I ought to be rewarded for more than a meager 5% of their health bar. I'm often fighting other players transparently spamming their light punch button at me and I don't know what to do about this if I have no projectile. Just hope one of my moves out prioritizes it or try spacing a jump kick on top of them. Those are both risky solutions to a situation that is not threatening in most fighting games.

Still the game is easy to grasp. There are no combo trials, but the command list has information on what specials can be used as linkers or enders. Armed with that information, you should be capable of extremely long combos without any extensive practice. And if you do want to get technical with the game, the game also provides very good advanced tutorials and precise frame data. My favorite mode in the game is the single player Shadow Lords campaign. It's a procedurally generated mode where you undergo missions, make Oregon Trail style decisions with positive or negative results, and unlock gear and items that raise your parameters. It's a challenging mode with an addictive loop. And your health doesn't refill after a battle, so every hit you take has ramifications for the next turn. But to get the materials I need, I had to perform daily quests that are mostly multiplayer focused. As you can guess from a game this old, the only people online these days are top of the line players, and totally new players that will leave in the middle of your Ultra Combo finisher just to deny you your daily quest reward. Frustrating. Thankfully all I need for my dailies is finish the match, but finding as many as six matches in a single day is already a time consuming order. 

I also popped in Azure Striker Gunvolt 2

Spoiler

I played the original for 3DS, and recently bought the dual pack on Switch. I really liked the original. It was just so satisfying tagging enemies and then being able to do damage while focusing on dodges. But thinking about it now, with the Prevasion ability all you have to do is stop shocking in order to tank as many hits as you want with no loss of HP. Taking this to its logical conclusion, I guess the games are much easier than your typical mega man game since you can reload your energy right in a boss' face as he's hitting you. Both characters can also heal themselves on command which feels like overkill. I nailed an A rank on every level just for beating it deathless, and that really opens my eyes to how brainless the game can be. Even the point loss from tanking hits with Prevasion largely doesn't matter unless you're going for the absolute highest score or achievements. The new character Copen also has the same prevasion ability, except he can do the majority of his damage output with just his gun since it isn't tied to an energy meter. If I had designed the game, I probably would have had prevasion simply reduce the damage you take by 80%. That way the player would respect bosses enough to at least make some effort in avoiding their attacks yet still maintain the Offense at the cost of defense design philosophy of combat. 

Regarding the two campaigns, they at least go to the trouble of reversing the stage order, and remixing enemy placements and room layouts to suit the strengths of that character. It's still a B side playthrough, but not a beat for beat retread. Annoyingly, if you want the true final boss and ending it's not enough to beat the game twice. You have to play the final stage a third time. There is zero reason why they couldn't just give you the true ending on that second clear. Playing both campaigns led me to think they developed Copen's campaign first, since it has more set pieces and variation in its levels. That's concerning when you consider it's gunvolt's name in the title. There's also no way to switch from one character's campaign to the other without clearing the final stage from what I can tell. Item crafting is still here, and like in the first game I didn't naturally earn enough materials to craft a single piece of equipment. So I'm guessing the only option is to break out a gamefaqs guide and start grinding if you want to become more powerful this way. But if you have the sense to watch your prevasion energy you shouldn't have any trouble beating any stage with default gear. 

The game will have a 30 second dump of dialogue in every boss fight. And while I'm certain it's not important to ever read, it's still ludicrous that anybody would think I can read it in the middle of a real time boss fight. Equally obnoxious is the character portrait cutout that comes with the dialogue for whomever is speaking. That cutout is on the bottom left of the screen, which can totally obscure where the boss is standing whenever he comes in from offscreen. I know that you can turn off "Story Dialogue" to avoid these issues, but in doing so you cut out all the story telling present in that level, so of course that's a poor solution for the first time or casual player. From Gunvolt's point of view, Copen's character traits are being religious and being incredibly racist. From Copen's point of view, neither of these are explored. The only new information we can gleam is that he comes from a rich family complete with his own motorcycle riding maid. How this kid got two sequels and counting is a mystery to me. 

And finally, Super Mario Star Road.

Spoiler

 

For the next year I want to pay more attention to the world of ROM hacking, and I've been told Star Road was the one that broke the most ground for Mario 64 hacks back in its release exactly ten years ago. I can't even remember the last time I've touched Super Mario 64 so adjusting to that game's physics and camera has been quite the ordeal. It really reopened my eyes to how much later 3D platformers improved on it. Super Mario 64 was one of the first ten or so video games I've ever played. If you asked me how I knew about this secret star or this long jump strategy to skip the intended route, I wouldn't able to tell you. I just know. So playing this hack as an adult, making these discoveries for the first time gives me a rare window into what that first time playthrough of Super Mario 64 is supposed to be like. Often times I'll climb something and wonder "was that the intended way up here?". In mario galaxy for instance, I would never ask a question like that since the intended route everywhere is meticulously laid out for the player.

When talking about ROM hacks of mario games, the first that comes up are the Kaizo mario hacks. Or maybe these days the household name is Panga...? Anyway, I have no interest in that super hard take on Mario 64. I don't even need to google "Kaizo Mario 64" to know that A) That hack exists, and B) I wouldn't like it. Mario 64's engine already lends a nervous tension to every precise jump. Mario never comes to a complete stop when he lands, and there's nothing you can do to force mario to grab a ledge that he's about to slip off of. I never know if this slope coming up is steep enough that I'll immediately enter a slide, gradually enter a slide, or have no slide at all. I never know if a long jump or aerial kick will allow Mario to land exactly how I want to on a platform or bonk straight off of it to my death. And all the while I'm fighting to keep the camera from getting caught on level architecture so that I can see what I'm doing. Star Road is not too many steps above Mario 64 in terms of difficulty, but the player will need a working knowledge of all of Mario's jumps. You'll occasionally wind up a side hop in a confined space, attempt some sketchy wall jumps over bottomless pits, and make a lot of guesses about what the game wants you to do based on the star's level name or NPC dialogue. 

Star Road boasts 130 stars in total, including post game content. You'll need 80 of them just to beat the game. It mostly sticks to the ideas and obstacles presented in the original Mario 64 and for some reason the first half of the levels almost uniformly rely on water. Maybe the hacker thought having a large pool of water underneath the level would reduce the penalty for failing a jump. But with how wonky it is to simply exit the water I'd rather the game just kill me. There are some unique enemies, including a couple sprites ripped directly from Paper Mario 64. But the real creativity comes in the game's latter half where you get levels built out of candy, toys, or musical instruments. The soundtrack is also comprised of other video game music performed in Mario 64's unique sound font. Some of it is pretty creative, like getting Band Land from the original Rayman for the musical instruments level. And when you game over you get sent to a nondescript afterlife stage before you're booted back to the file select. My favorite new idea is Super Mario World style blocks that get filled in when you've found the corresponding colored switch. These are the same switches that unlock the three powerup caps. How did Nintendo never think to combine the two ideas? 

 

 

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