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Zapp Branniglenn

Soooooo what'cha playing?

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1 hour ago, Zapp Branniglenn said:

I just started Xenogears the other night and it's freaking fascinating. Definitely going to have a lot to say on that one. Haven't been making as much time for games in the last month

Elden Ring

Need For Speed Underground 2

been wanting to play xenogears since forever but somehow never actually plays it. does the gameplay feels similar to monolith other games, or actually similar to ps1 era final fantasy?

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Also beaten Elden Ring for a while ago... i hated Dark souls 1 when it comes out for PC at least for a year, then try it again without any prejudice/expectation when my friends ask me if i had a copy of it.... and ends up really loving the series. Fast-forward, Elden Ring is exactly what i want in spiritual sequel to DkS series. double/triple the content, make it more open, pair it with some new cool moves.

when i finished it, im so satisfied and feels hollow at the same time that i stopped playing any game to this day. almost a month without real urge to play any game. i think i can even hold myself from playing any game until next big & good Fire Emblem came, or better a FE6 remake comes out. whevener that may be

1 hour ago, Zapp Branniglenn said:

Need For Speed Underground 2

this career mode would have been great for its time.

wdym would have been, IT IS really great for its time. the only thing i've heard people comparing it to was Midnight club, and its a dead series. before EA become today's EA, people keep asking for underground 3 proves no other racing game scratch that itch which NFSU2 left. also cant remember which racing games dont have repeated races near the end pre-2005

Edited by joevar

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8 hours ago, joevar said:

been wanting to play xenogears since forever but somehow never actually plays it. does the gameplay feels similar to monolith other games, or actually similar to ps1 era final fantasy?

It's ATB. The combat overall is rather simplistic (not like FFVII original had sophisticated combat whatsoever to name a rival JRPG of the era), Deathblows aren't quite as deep as they could've theoretically been. A pipe dream remake would ideally add more complexity for the better.

Where Xenogears shines, is the narrative. Very ambitious, too ambitious actually, given the game gets messy later on. It's a beautiful sci-fi story, just undercut at a point, possibly by a lack of dev team experience, and or possibly by Square maximizing its resources for Final Fantasy VIII partway into development. It's a textbook "flawed masterpiece".

Xenogears serves as the wellspring from which all subsequent Xeno franchise games would derive some measure of inspiration, one way or another. Which is not to call later games unoriginal, unless you're that critical of a little repetition in one plot element or visual design aspect or another. In which case, you should abhor Fire Emblem for being like fifteen times more repetitive than Xeno.

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6 hours ago, joevar said:

been wanting to play xenogears since forever but somehow never actually plays it. does the gameplay feels similar to monolith other games, or actually similar to ps1 era final fantasy?

If we're talking strictly gameplay, I don't think it's particularly similar to either. If I had to pick one point of comparison, take Zell's limit break from Final Fantasy 8 and make a whole combat system out of it. At first you're just flailing punches and kicks at enemies with the playstation's face buttons, but you eventually earn deathblows, which are proper button combinations that result in flashy combos with way more damage. It's pretty much what you'd expect if somebody tried to turn a fighting game into a turn based RPG, but not as demanding as actually learning to play a fighting game. And this style of combat carries over to when your characters are in their mechs, which is quite the spectacle. I'm not especially far into the game, but I don't see much potential for strategy. You buff/debuff at the start of the fight, heal when necessary, and go ham on enemies like it's an online lobby. It may have the potential to get repetitive, but in my experience the amount of time you spend fighting is maybe 20% of the playtime - relatively low for a JRPG. 

The only bits of Xenoblade I see here are in the story telling. A very normal JRPG setup gets derailed by a huge tragedy in the first hour. It's a lot of big, mature ideas exposited at you for up to thirty minutes at a time but the characters are sensibly dressed. There's very little voice acting and no way to make the text scroll faster as you thumb the X button. That's especially annoying if you game over and need to sit through the same dialogue sequences leading to the boss fight that killed you. Save points are mercifully frequent, often placed in between consecutive dialogue scenes to give you an opportunity to take a break. The world is bleak and depressing, compared to Xenoblade, dipping just as heavily into western mythology and biblical references. But part of me thinks this stuff might be going somewhere? So it's captured my attention. Also wow these graphics, I'm guessing the internal debates about how this game should look ended up with every idea getting equal attention and budget. And the PS1 struggles to run each room transition, random battle, or just going in and out of the menu. I've heard quite a bit of warning about the game's second disc, but I'm in for the long haul.

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wdym would have been, IT IS really great for its time. the only thing i've heard people comparing it to was Midnight club, and its a dead series. before EA become today's EA, people keep asking for underground 3 proves no other racing game scratch that itch which NFSU2 left. also cant remember which racing games dont have repeated races near the end pre-2005

Well I mentioned it already but there's a popular mod that patches out the Visual Rating mechanics so that you can have your car look like whatever you want and still progress the game. It was no use to me, as I was playing the PS2 version, but the fact that it takes up the entire first page of results when you google how the system works says a lot about how necessary fans of the game think it is to having an enjoyable experience. Visual Rating is very annoying to grind out - a lot of double checking sub menus to make sure you didn't miss painting a part or installing the latest junk accessory. But if you are the type of person that cares how your car looks, you probably hate it even more when your favorite selection is later usurped by something with a higher "visual rating". Take the visual rating system out and you're still left with a career mode that asks you to grind the same couple dozen races up to six times over the course of twenty hours with very infrequent story or upgrade opportunities to your car. Sure other games have repeated races, but not to this degree. 

So no I don't think it lives up to the campaigns of Need For Speed games since. And it's totally fine to acknowledge that. The only other PS2 era racing games I do recall growing up are Midnight Club 3, NFS: Hot Pursuit 2, and ATV Offroad Fury. I think I'd immediately prefer either of the first two to this game, whereas the ATV games could easily tie at the very least. However, I definitely agree with NFS fans about them doing another Underground game. Both because every modern NFS game tends to be a reboot anyway, and because the Underground games are clearly inspired by the Fast & Furious films, which have only grown in popularity since the mid 2000s. Obviously there's still a market for it, and I've played the official Fast & Furious game released a couple years ago, it has none of the car tune up/customization stuff and open world that NFS Underground offers. Imagine a game that starts with underground races and works its way up to the outlandish car gadgets, international heist missions, or psuedo superhero stuff that the films did. I'd play that.

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Main game has been Rune Factory 5 for the past while. It's been fun, if a tad disappointing coming from 4/4 Special.

I have some gripes with it, namely the performance and the decision to go back to 3D affecting how smooth and snappy the game plays. Farming feels clunky, everything is choppy, and it just looks bad.

Other issues aside, it's been fun regardless. Rune Factory is hardly ever not fun, and 5 is no exception.

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9 minutes ago, twilitfalchion said:

Main game has been Rune Factory 5 for the past while. It's been fun, if a tad disappointing coming from 4/4 Special.

I have some gripes with it, namely the performance and the decision to go back to 3D affecting how smooth and snappy the game plays. Farming feels clunky, everything is choppy, and it just looks bad.

Other issues aside, it's been fun regardless. Rune Factory is hardly ever not fun, and 5 is no exception.

Yeah, the characters were less likable to me, which could be because of my rf4 bias, but you know. The plot might’ve been a little worse too, but at least Doug is back!

I’ve been playing Echoes, Triangle Strategy, FF XV, FF VII, three houses, Octopath traveler, and Majora’s mask recently. 

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Been watching my bro play Chrono Cross lately. I'm thinking of starting a file of my own on there. Despite my numerous misgivings about the game, I do still enjoy its core Innate and Element-based gameplay. We've even been approaching the game more strategically, like by using Turn Elements to make certain characters hit harder or to reduce damage being dealt to them, or swapping out weaker Elements for stronger equivalents at every given level on the grid.

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Finished my first Three Houses Route which was CF.

I got the DLC so I'm hyped to play that eventually then go through the other routes.

The game's flawed but it does feel like a game the devs put their heart and soul into and I honestly had a big grin watching the credits.

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So I picked up Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi recently. It's a DRPG from Experience (Stranger of Sword City, Demon Gaze) that really scratches the Etrian Odyssey itch.

The core gameplay is build around exploring the titular labyrinth using craftable items, which provide ways to construct passages within the dungeon. This makes it basically "wall licking - the game", because you can't easily see spots hiding a buildable tile until you bump into them. Keys, doors, ladders, bridges - your toolkit is expanding as you progress, making preparation a crucial element in later stages of the game, as you don't want to miss out on shortcuts of safe routes. 

Suffice to say that in such a harsh environment as Yomi battles can get out of hand pretty quick, for example if your party's formation is broken. Your party consists of six characters, divided into a front and a back row, so you really don't want to have your healer move to the front or your short range attackers to the back.
This game's twist to the rather traditional turn based system is called "Switch Boost", which for a turn grants the whole party some perks like being able to use skills without consuming MP or reducing damage taken. These boosts have a cooldown, so deciding when and if you should use a perk adds a very welcome layer of strategy to the battles. 

When one of your characters die you need to return to base to resurrect them for money but that's the full extent of how punishing Undernauts can be. It probably is Experience's most approachable game in that regard, as this time the developer decided to not include Wizardry shenanigans like "your characters get older and weaker when too much time passes", meaning you don't need to spend a lot of time in the character creator, setting up back-up parties and whatnot. You can decide for your starting six and basically stick with them the whole game.  

In fact, there are some lovely QoL mechanics in Undernauts. First and foremost, being able to respec your characters at any given time outside of battle is a huge relief, as you can safely try out new skills and customize your loadout based on enemy types in each area. Then there is auto-travel, buildable healing and teleportation spots, fast travel back to base. It gets as comfortable as a DRPG can get.

The contemporary setting is also refreshing. Yeah, you have the usual asset-recycled Experience mobs like goblins, trolls and whatnot but the atmosphere is more akin to MegaTen: Strange Journey, where the real world meshes with the supernatural in that one doomed spot. So you will have dragons riding on tanks. Personally I'm quite fond of the bizzarre vibe Undernauts gives off, mixing fantasy with tech.     

Highly recommended if you like FPP dungeon crawlers. 

 

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Street Fighter x Mega Man

Spoiler

It's the year 2012, Mega Man's 25th anniversary, and we're unfortunately in the full swing of Capcom's 'Dark Age' of gritty, western-focused game releases. All the Mega Man news of the last couple of years was cancellations, on top of the departure of Keiji Inafune, the guy people still mistakenly claim to be Mega Man's creator to this day. 2012 is the same year where the headline of "Mega Man joins the all star cast of Street Fighter x Tekken" can only be received negatively among that game's myriad of controversies. "Bad Boxart Mega Man? Does Capcom hate this guy now?" The Mega Man brand was in trouble, but one Capcom USA staffer saw an opportunity when a fan approached him with his fun crossover levels loaded onto a laptop. Before playing this game, I thought this was a standard ROM hack that Capcom threw up on a website and that was the end of it. But no, they contributed to it's development. As an official Mega Man title, every rights holder of every character, reference, sound effect, and piece of music had to sign off on what would appear. Many video game companies are fine with fan games, so long as nobody is making money off of it. Capcom sunk a substantial amount of time and resources into this project and still released it for free. That's great. Although the specific website that hosts the game seems to be down at the time of writing. To get it, I had to turn to the Internet Archive, ironically the same place I go for ROMs of games anyway. Hopefully Capcom notices and fixes it someday. But this game is no doubt a copyright nightmare to keep available for so many years.

In 2022, Mega Man fan games are commonplace. You can even download level creation software right now and submit your levels to a yearly contest. Kind of like DOOM WADS of the early 2000s, fanmade Mega Man content is its own part of the fandom. How does Street Fighter x Mega Man stack up to the Classic series? Fairly well I'd say. The level design is pretty weak, about what you'd expect from the very first Mega Man. But naturally the stars of the show are the boss battles. Each Street Fighter character is lovingly recreated. Their special moves triggered my own muscle memory tackling them in their original context. I especially like how much the Slide gets used. I popped off the first time I slid under Ryu's Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. Normally in classic mega man games the slide is used just for its speed boost, rather than a means of getting underneath an attack. The special weapons obtained from these guys are great too, with funny demonstrations featuring Dan Hibiki. I just wish there were a Shoryuken equivalent to deal with dive kick-like attacks. Other great touches are the PERFECT that appears if you defeat them without taking damage, and the Continue screen.

Upon defeating the 8 'robot masters', you then take on Shadaloo standing in as the 'Wily Stages'.  I don't know why characters like Chun Li are fighting for M. Bison, but you can't end a Mega Man game without a boss rush could you? This isn't a must play mega man game, but I definitely think there's more to appreciate coming from a Street Fighter background. It's also missing features like saving, save states, or the rewind that modern players might be used to. If you play this game, you'd better set aside a few hours to finish it, or else remember to write down those passwords. Now that I've finished this game, I guess I've played every official entry in the Classic Mega Man series. You know, this year is Mega Man's 35th anniversary. I'm just saying Capcom, Mega Man 11 did pretty well. And you made a new Ghosts n Goblins game for its 35th last year. You're really teeing up my expectations here.

Xenogears

Spoiler

The PS1 era of JRPGs was truly fascinating. Coming off the gilded age of the SNES, you might say it was a dramatic step back as developers fell over themselves trying to harness the magic of 3D graphics at the direct expense of gameplay. Squaresoft struck gold with FF7, so it was time to milk this cow for all it was worth right? While the company did make one really costly decision, a lot of ambitious and frankly weird projects got greenlit over a slew of final Fantasy releases. Games like Xenogears, Vagrant Story, and Parasite Eve. I don't know if Square made their money back on any of these risks, but it's admirable that they gave these projects a chance before redoubling their focus on their Main Franchise. Three Final Fantasy games announced on the same day of the year 2000, geez. Xenogears does feature 3D graphics, but it is also the pinnacle of 2D graphics for this genre. I've never seen a battle system this meticulously animated. And since it is a game about executing button combinations with characters that fight mostly hand to hand, it invokes a 90s arcade fighter. Here's a video of most of the Deathblows. I was ecstatic every time I learned a new one, just to see what it looks like. 

Outside of battle, this game has fully rendered 3D architecture with 2D sprites. The camera can pan 360 degrees, so every part of the room has new sprites drawn to match the various potential angles. By choosing not to use pre-rendered backdrops, the visuals have not aged as well as other Square games, but I'll still offer this is visually impressive stuff for the PS1. The internet is in love with Square's 'HD-2D' aesthetic, but forget Dragon Quest 3 or Final Fantasy 6, here's a game that's already halfway there on that visual style. Really what it needs most is a better camera. I can never seem to get the right angle because objects will still appear stubbornly in the foreground, and walls continue to tower and obscure the room you're standing in. Wild Arms 2 is a game with these exact systems, but its camera is far better. And thank god for that since that is a game with Zelda-esque dungeons that require more consideration of your surroundings. Xenogears is part of the way there in its aesthetics, but Wild Arms 2 can at least serve as proof that these ideas work.

Of course, most of the reason why Xenogears doesn't work is it's narrative. There are flashes of brilliance if you're paying attention, good character moments, a joke that was absolutely nailed,  maybe some genuine cinematography, but it can be hard to notice with the sheer volume that dialogue is exposited to you. 30 minute dialogue scenes round out most of the game's 50-60 hour playtime. I would say that no more than 25% of the playtime is fighting random battles, exploring dungeons, and taking on bosses. So when the game is presenting you with novel-length story, your brain gets impatient. You begin to miss details. Somehow these writers expect you to remember minute details or facts you learned from 40 hours of playtime prior in order to get the drama of a scene. But the revealing of key information gets weird for the opposite reason too. Such as presenting a mystery to the player, and resolving it right there in that same scene, rather than leaving the reveal for later. To keep everything straight, I listened to the State of the Arc Podcast, where they spent a cumulative 20 hours summarizing and analyzing the story, and yet even they scratch their heads at more than a few scenes.

And then you have the translation. Xenogears was going to be the first jrpg at Square with a team of localizers, rather than handing the entire project to some poor sap, who not only needs to translate but reprogram the game itself in order to test if each line fits the amount of textboxes. Unfortunately, all of the team quit the project save for Richard Honeywood. Part of the reason for the mass departure was the sheer workload, but there was also objections over the game's religious content. If you look at this story and think "what's the big deal? Lots of jrpgs have you killing god", well none of them tend to arrive at such explicit content straight from the Bible. Japanese writers often are guilty of careless application of Christian concepts. To them, it is nothing but another western mythology, like greek and norse gods. It doesn't occur to them that there are, in the present day, billions of people worldwide that take this stuff seriously on some level. Plus, you have the Satanic Panic of the 1990s, I'm with the localizers on this one. The game where your character (coded as both Jesus Christ and Adam of the Garden of Eden), taking on Yahweh is pretty hard to spin as harmless fantasy. 

Oh and of course I must mention Disc 2. I have been warned of this part of the game for years. It only comprises about 20% of the game's playtime, but a lot happens totally offscreen. World-changing, climactic events are explained to you by your characters after the fact, sitting in a chair, in front of a still screenshot of what that event might look like if you could actually play it. Honest to god, PowerPoint Presentation. Xenogears is already a game where you feel the budget running dry after the first few hours, but this is on a whole other level. I do see the reason behind it. The specific plot points of Disc 2 have wide reaching ramifications. They would have to recreate the various cities over and over again if they let you walk around and explore at your leisure. By the time you do regain control of your party, civilization has nearly been wiped out, leaving few sparse areas for you to explore.

I have plenty to say about the game's proper gameplay, but this writeup is already long, and like I said, fighting battles and exploring dungeons is about a quarter of the game's playtime, so it doesn't feel too vital to mention. Basically, I love the system of learning Deathblows. I like that you get huge exp dumps from bosses so you never need to grind for exp to keep up. I love how much equipment matters, although it does make for an RPG where a lot of the strategy is in your setup, rather than making moment to moment decisions during battle. I really wish you could scroll the dialogue faster or skip dialogue scenes entirely, because a game over can mean replaying several minutes of that which is never fun. And the platforming can get very frustrating, since the game locks out your jump command when it's loading a random battle. So the result is you running clear off the edge, wondering why your jump didn't register, and the random battle happens as you touch ground. 

Forgive Me Father

Spoiler

There are so many games - too many games out there to play. How can you find time for them all? But every so often, you catch a trailer for something new and you can't help yourself. A DOOM clone with an HP Lovecraft 1920s aesthetic. What a perfect match. There is something to be said about how popular culture has distilled Lovecraft into "squid creatures and murky swamp towns", but if an aesthetic works, it works. And the adaptation of DOOM works as well. Just like DOOM 2016 your character moves very fast in all directions and the enemies are hyper aggressive. You have to stay moving and pick out the biggest threats from the crowd in order to stay alive. It's a tough game too. I had to bump the difficulty down to easy because I just felt like I couldn't get out of a state of having low health and ammo. 

It's perhaps because of the game's difficulty that I was a little frustrated at times. The majority of your guns require pretty precise aiming, and that's of course tricky when you're encouraged to run and gun to avoid getting hit. The animated 2D sprites that make up the enemies can make their actual hitboxes difficult to parse. I don't envy anybody trying to play this game with a controller, because it's the sort of shooter a keyboard and mouse were designed for. Or maybe even a VR headset. It doesn't help that your guns are noticeably inaccurate. You want to pull off headshots for the added damage, but I found more success in just aiming for an enemy's center of mass. That way at least all of my bullets hit something. I would have liked more rocket launcher-esque tools where I can shoot once at a group of enemies, rather than chip away at them one at a time as I circle strafe a room. Levels are comprised of 100-200 enemies typically so it can feel like a slog taking them all out. Better to just run through some of these rooms and hope you won't be barred by a locked door.

Still I enjoyed my time with the game. Maybe not great enough to warrant immediately buying it, but an enjoyable romp nonetheless. I would have liked to hear more of the grungy soundtrack, and maybe see more gimmick stages to break up the gameplay. The only example I can think of was an underwater stage where you're restricted to using the harpoon gun. I played as the Journalist, and I'm not sure what the thought process was in her voice acting, but I found them hilarious in a schlocky sort of way. Hope I wasn't meant to take the plot too seriously. I also really like the drunk dude hanging out at every checkpoint. He's great, RIP. 

Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack

Spoiler

Katamari Damacy in 2D. Though the lack of a third dimension emphasizes the puzzle platformer aspect of that sort of game. You have to identify what is small enough that you can eat in order to progress to bigger stuff. And that smaller stuff might be locked past a physics puzzle or daring platformer sequence. You've also got other tools like the ability to magnetically attract or detract yourself from specific objects. When you're big enough to eat entire people, then the game really gets rolling. Because this is the sort of nihilistic universe that mistreats its poor alien blobs. Sometimes it's fun to just destroy the whole world. Not a whole lot to say on this one. It's short, sweet, has a great sense of humor, and made by the developers of Guacamelee. I recommend giving this a shot if it found itself onto your steam library or wherever.

 

Edited by Zapp Branniglenn

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Started playing Ocean's Heart recently, and am liking it so far. Top-down Zelda-esque games are one of my two favorite genres alongside platformers.

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50 minutes ago, Lord_Brand said:

Started playing Ocean's Heart recently, and am liking it so far. Top-down Zelda-esque games are one of my two favorite genres alongside platformers.

I hadn't heard of this game until now; thanks for mentioning it.

Are there enough top-down Zelda-like games to call it a genre? There's the 2D Zeldas, this, Blossom Tales; are there any other ones?

Edited by vanguard333

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Well, I know of Rogue Heroes, which is great for co-op while still being enjoyable as a solo outing, and of the upcoming Mina the Hollower which looks to be a combination of the Oracle Zeldas and Castlevania with a cute mouse as the protagonist. You also have other retro top-downs like the classic Metal Gear series and Mystery of Murasame Castle. If you really want to stretch, you can even count titles like Star Tropics, Blaster Master, Secret of Mana, Trials of Mana, Bomberman, Harvest Moon Story of Seasons, and the Hamtaro games for GBC and GBA, though those really are more general top-down as opposed to Zelda-esque per se. Zelda-esques are a genre, they just never got a term as snappy as "Metroidvania".

Incidentally, I'm planning at least one Zelda-esque game myself.

Edited by Lord_Brand

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1 hour ago, Lord_Brand said:

Well, I know of Rogue Heroes, which is great for co-op while still being enjoyable as a solo outing, and of the upcoming Mina the Hollower which looks to be a combination of the Oracle Zeldas and Castlevania with a cute mouse as the protagonist. You also have other retro top-downs like the classic Metal Gear series and Mystery of Murasame Castle. If you really want to stretch, you can even count titles like Star Tropics, Blaster Master, Secret of Mana, Trials of Mana, Bomberman, Harvest Moon Story of Seasons, and the Hamtaro games for GBC and GBA, though those really are more general top-down as opposed to Zelda-esque per se. Zelda-esques are a genre, they just never got a term as snappy as "Metroidvania".

Incidentally, I'm planning at least one Zelda-esque game myself.

Interesting. Oh, yeah; I forgot about the Mana series. There's also the very first game in the Mana series: Final Fantasy Adventure, which pretty much is a hybrid of Final Fantasy and Link's Awakening. So, yeah; I guess it is a genre.

Cool. I hope you're able to make it.

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3 hours ago, vanguard333 said:

Interesting. Oh, yeah; I forgot about the Mana series. There's also the very first game in the Mana series: Final Fantasy Adventure, which pretty much is a hybrid of Final Fantasy and Link's Awakening. So, yeah; I guess it is a genre.

Cool. I hope you're able to make it.

Likewise. I have shared mine on Discord, so I might start a topic for it here at some point.

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I achieved 100% content complete on Fire Emblem Warriors a few weeks ago. Working on my Blue Lions playthrough and mean to complete it this weekend. I WILL be ready for Three Hopes.

 

After that, I've got a few things I can tackle. I've got a mostly-done Scarlet Nexus playthrough. I've beaten 3 overseers in the first Nexomon, which I really enjoy. I've got plenty of unfinished Warriors games on my plate - Persona 5 Strikers, Berserk, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 and 4. I've got plenty to get me to Three Hopes.

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I recently started my Azure Moon playthrough of Three Houses. It has been a while since I played Three Houses, and while I'm not sure if I actually will play Silver Snow, I would at least like to finish an Azure Moon playthrough.

I've been enjoying it a lot. I just have one issue right now, and it's an issue of pairings: Azure Moon is the only house where there are more guys than girls, and I plan on having Byleth s-support Ingrid and having Sylvain end up with Mercedes. I try to keep the number of students from other houses that I recruit to a minimum of two that I actually intend on using (I know I need Caspar for Mercedes' paralogue, and I have a plan to have him be strong enough to fight the death knight without ever using Caspar outside the paralogue), so the question is: who should I recruit? I've considered Marianne, Petra, and Leonie; I need to narrow it down to two. Does anyone who has played Azure Moon have any suggestions?

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Nothing much came out recently so i've been passing my time with Yugioh master duel. Its my first going back ever since a brief dable in the ds games and I must say...I did't have as hard of a time getting back as I feared. Its certainly a lot faster and with different kind of cards, but when you get a deck going its not too hard to adjust.

A big plus is the massive, massive amount of archetypes the game has. It has that pokemon charm where you can own your own thing. The downside is that sometimes your opponent takes FOREVER to vomit his entire deck and extra deck on the field in one turn.

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Over the weekend, I cleared Scarlet Nexus (Yuito path), Nexomon one, and Pirate Warriors 4. That's a lot off the bucket list.

 

I think I'll set Persona 5 Strikers as the next reasonable pre-Three Hopes clear goal.

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Another month another...oh. Seems I misplaced my writeups on the games I played in May. Darn. Well, I'll piece together the best bits from memory. I also expected to have a write up of Fire Emblem 4, but I'm still working on it. Just got to chapter 8 so it'll be a while.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Spoiler

 

Technically I've been at this one since April. I have been recommended this game for years by many different friends, and it took one of them hand delivering me a copy before I finally did play it. What can I say, I always turn in a homework assignment without fail. It's not like I harbored any particular reason for avoiding this game that gets so much praise, I just thought maybe I'd do a full series playthrough and work my way up to the good one. I have indeed dipped my toe into The Witcher 1, but it didn't stick. I have been assured that I didn't need to play previous games to understand the third one, and that seems...debatable. The Witcher 3 is unapologetically calling back to the first two games, as well as events that only happen in the novels. Heck, one line of dialogue is referencing the gosh darned CG trailer. Thankfully the game is loaded with its own journal entries for locations and characters to help get you up to speed. Give those a read, and it goes a long way.

Though it is an RPG, The Witcher 3 doesn't have character creation. You're playing one role, and his "class" is the Witcher. While investigating the skill trees for good application of my level up points, I found that they don't seem to favor any specific playstyle. The raw damage increases on my sword swings also come with faster adrenaline regeneration - meaning I can cast witcher signs (spells) more frequently. So even though I was speccing into physical combat, I ended up a much more potent mage at the same time. In combat you mash the quick dodge button until your opponent stops flailing, then mash attack, keeping your thumb ready to switch to the dodge button again. Whether it's light or heavy attacks, you can always cancel directly into a dodge with no regard for attack timing or finding an opening. Hack away, and use your spells once they're ready off cooldown. So it's not as deep as your average hack and slash, but fighting enemies is visceral and satisfying. If it feels good, then it's good. The only thing that didn't feel good was the shoddy hit detection. I really do mean that mashing attack and dodge buttons are ideal, because the game will disregard careful spacing and timing of dodges due to poor hit detection.

The dialogue is extremely engaging. The writers and voice talent clearly worked their asses off to have such good quests. Dialogue options occasionally have that issue where you don't know what Geralt has to say based on the 3-5 word blurb. Call me a square, but I can never identify which one is the "Flirt" option until I've accidentally selected it. And as far as I can tell from this single playthrough, most dialogue choices that impact anything only seem to be concerned with who Geralt wants to bang. You've also got the Persuade skill, in the form of the Witcher sign Axii. You can max this out from the opening hours of the game. So, speaking in a game design sense, why wouldn't you want extra Quest solutions? A lot of western RPGs fall into this trap, and no doubt many Geralts went through the entire game with maxed out persuasion. But there was one moment that kept it interesting. It was a quest where we were surrounded by goons and I was talking my way out of a fight. I used Axii without thinking about it, and it failed spectacularly. In this universe, Axii looks just like a jedi mind trick, and only works on one person, not a group. So the other goons immediately saw through the deception. I adored this moment. The game called my bluff, but instead of dissuading me from using Axii, I decided I would continue to see how often this happens. Never again. That was the one time, but I suppose one is better than none. 

 

Super Donkey Kong 64

Spoiler

 

A friend of mine requested help from me in getting this ROM hack to run. To provide the best tech support, I of course got it running on my own computer. If I'm going through the effort of doing that, I may as well play too. Super Donkey Kong 64 is a hack of Mario 64 that includes recreations of DK64's levels. The associated level themes are done in Mario 64's sound font, so it's quite the experience hearing Rare's brass instrumentation remastered with Mario 64's harmonicas and pan flutes. The story is that Mario and Pauline are visiting DK Island, but the Kongs have been kidnapped by a big green monster. Was hoping this would all lead to a boss fight with King K Rool, but it just ended up being Bowser. In general I found the hack to be pretty poor in terms of representing the original game. The levels are missing a lot of rooms, and very few of the Stars are collected from challenges you had to do in DK64. Too often I would climb a difficult platforming sequence to discover nothing up there but some coins or a 1UP. At just 6 stars a stage (and a 100 coin star), it's a very brief hack, coming in at just 50 stars total.

If there is one reason to recommend the hack, it's the unlockable abilities from Cranky's hut. There's a higher Triple Jump, a Mario Galaxy esque spin, 1 second of Metal Cap you can activate anywhere, and a super high spin jump you can do from specific jump pads. The latter two are just simple keys for collecting specific stars, but the first two are really powerful together. The Galaxy Spin makes you land ready to perform your enhanced triple jump, so you can now wind one up anywhere. No need to worry about finding enough ground to build momentum on. Especially liberating is that the Spin resets Mario's facing position to wherever your control stick was pointing, letting you redirect your momentum extremely freely. I don't know if I ever want to play Mario 64 without these skills because they feel so good. 

 

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

Spoiler

What a strange and delightful game. Turnip Boy is a top down zelda-like where you acquire items and trade them in for more items. When you're not doing trading sequences, you're working out puzzles in larger dungeons filled with enemies who are vegetarians (that's bad for you). I found the dialogue to be extremely funny. Turnip Boy only speaks in emotes and has a bizarre habit of tearing up any piece of paper handed to him. If Chaotic Neutral could ever be personified in a character, it's him. Along your quest you find out more about the circumstances that led to this world of animated vegetables and Turnip Boy's place in it. Not much to really say other than I enjoyed every second of it.

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn

Spoiler

 

Shaq Fu is a household name among enthusiasts of bad retro games. But infamy is the same as fame in the nostalgia baiting reality of the twenty first century. Of course the indiegogo campaign of a followup would get funded. I wasn't responsible for this, but I did fund Mighty No. 9, so I could have seen myself being responsible for this one just the same if I had the opportunity. Instead of a fighting game, A Legend Reborn is a full reboot. New Story, new characters, and it's now a side scrolling beat em up. It's a little uncomfortable seeing (and hearing the voice of) Shaquille O Neal playing this fictionalized Chinese orphaned version of himself, especially when elements of the real Shaq's life creep in. One of the bosses taunts you, saying they should have rebooted Steel instead, to which Shaq responds "That one's next!". Heck I'd watch that. Because I'm comfortable with being part of the problem and it can't be any worse than modern DC comics movies. There's also Icy Hot™ appearing as the game's only health item. 

As a beat em up, it's about on par with the average standard of quality among the 1990s. And by that I mean notably worse than the likes of Streets of Rage or Final Fight. There's not a lot of strategy beyond trying not to get surrounded on both sides. There's no block button. There's a dodge roll, but I found it ineffective at actually letting me avoid big attacks that I couldn't walk away from. The best dodge option is to simply jump clean over your opponent's attack. At the very least there is some aesthetic spectacle to your attacks. Your Size 22 combo finishers will knock enemies into the foreground and background. And there are these cinematic slow motion instant kill moves you'll perform by...I actually don't know what causes these. They just seem to happen. There are moments where you need to wiggle left and right to escape a grab. But you can only use the control stick for that. Well excuse me for preferring the D-Pad on a side scrolling game. I also encountered soft locks on two different boss fights, prompting me to restart from checkpoint.

The big downer on this game was the lack of co-op. The indiegogo campaign did promise co op (and not as some stretch goal), but it was never added to the game. Not even post release like they promised. I actually invited a friend over to play this with me, and it led to my most frustrated google search in recent history. We instead turned to the Capcom beat em up Collection on that day. Just to get this game out of my backlog, I sat down on my off hours and played alone. And it was...strictly okay. 

 

 

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On 5/23/2022 at 4:52 PM, Sasori said:

Nothing much came out recently so i've been passing my time with Yugioh master duel. Its my first going back ever since a brief dable in the ds games and I must say...I did't have as hard of a time getting back as I feared. Its certainly a lot faster and with different kind of cards, but when you get a deck going its not too hard to adjust.

Another Yugi-oh player!?

Favorite Archytype to play as?!

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So here's my thoughts on everything I've done over the last month or so. My pre-3 Hopes bucket list if you will.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Azure Moon

Spoiler

This being my 3rd playthrough didn't help matters, but I find Three Houses uniquely exhausting. It's so bogged down in side content, and the calendar system ensures that said side content doesn't feel optional in the moment. It's a slow game, and really needs an option to skip White Clouds. When I was actually experiencing new story, I was having a good time, but that was a small part of the experience. And eventually I started taking rest days just to get it done with.

 

Scarlet Nexus (Yuito Path)

Spoiler

Scarlet Nexus makes a very strong first impression with slick combat, unique visuals, and great music. That impression weakens as the stages get longer, the story gets more convoluted, and 30+ minute segments are taken up by support conversations. I wouldn't say it wears out its welcome, and I did enjoy my time. But I also don't think I'll be playing Kasane's story.

 

Nexomon 1

Spoiler

The back to basics approach to Pokemon actually resonated with me a bit, and their attempts to give it a funny, basic storyline were appreciated. It got some laughs out of me. The mon designs were shockingly good, and I was hooked to the end. My only real complaints are that 1) there is zero attempt to make common, uncommon, or even rare mons viable (this is due to the game's mobile roots) and 2) allowing foes a free attack every time you knock out one of their mons means you'll suffer a LOT of cheap KOs.

 

Pirate Warriors 4

Spoiler

If I were to make a tier list of all Warriors games I've played, this would be solidly A tier. Best combat of any musou. Great air combos. Good roster. About 55+ hours of content, and some randomizers for the side mode. The only things really holding it back are worse/less strategic map design than its predecessor (which I'd consider an S tier musou), and the game can be cheap at times with enemies pinballing you around (it could have used some iframes after you get hit).

 

Persona 5 Strikers

Spoiler

 

This is the highest metacritic musou game, and that is perhaps predictable because it's also the one that least plays like a musou game. Gone is the stage-based format emphasizing light real-time strategy, and in its place is a full story-based dungeon crawler. Gone is the big roster, and in its place is a quality-over-quantity approach to movesets with a hybrid combat system more akin to FF7 Remake.

And while I'd love a Persona Warriors in the traditional format, I enjoyed this too. The story is good, the first 3 Jails are amazing S tier experiences. And even when the game gets less good in its second half, it's still solidly B tier. My only real issue with the game is that the game KNOWS its economy is fucked, and therefore designs its bosses to be cheap shotting damage sponges just to use all of your infinite healing items. 

Overall, I'm averaging an S tier game and a B tier game into an A tier game.

 

 

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk

Spoiler

The previous two musous were games I have very high opinions of. This one is not. I once said it was underrated, and I pretty much take it back. Because somehow, this game makes a mere 15 hour musou campaign exhausting. And it's not just that the roster is pitifully small. It's that it's pitifully small, and it railroads you into playing Guts for pretty much the whole game. On RARE occassions, it opens up the option to play other characters for one chapter, before taking that away from you again, which only serves to remind you of the monotonous torture. Individual musou movesets are not compelling enough to play for 15 hours straight. They thrive on variety. If it's a one character story, make something with the depth of a DMC or God of War, please, for the love of God.

 

Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity

Spoiler

 

Maybe it's that I just completed a D tier musou, but I am absolutely reevaluating my opinion of this one upwards.

I still don't like the Divine Beast missions, lack of strategy/pressure in most maps, and one-hit failure missions. However, the moveset quality is high, the officer/boss encounters are good, it's cool seeing even peons do formations, and the game is beautiful. Me calling this a bottom tier musou was too harsh. Berserk, Touken Ranbu, and DW9 are bottom tier musous. This one is solidly B tier.

 

 

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I haven't started playing it yet (as I haven't finished that Blue Lions playthrough of Three Houses), but I recently decided to buy a Canadian indie game called Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag. It's a 2D action-platformer, and the reason it caught my eye is that it takes heavy inspiration from Celtic Mythology, which is something that greatly interests me.

EDIT: I decided to try the game (I have no intention of stopping my Blue Lions playthrough; I just thought I would give this game a try).

The gameplay is fun: you control three different characters by switching between them at any time. The first character is a melee fighter with a spear and a sword, and he uniquely can glide and cut vines. The second is a brute that fights with his fights and he can shove and destroy blocks. The third is an archer, and she can double-jump and roll under narrow obstacles. The three characters complement each other well, and both the action and the platforming is pretty fun so far.

The art style is also great; apparently they took a lot of inspiration from Celtic art, and it does show in more ways than just using Celtic symbols; I'm often reminded of various artworks I've seen at highland games festivals.

The story is interesting; the premise is that, after a gruesome battle, the king of the O'Conall clan and the king of the Otherworld (the home of faeries in Celtic myth) decide to stop the slaughter and become allies & friends, only for someone to be disappointed by the peace and kill the Otherworld king and abduct the king of the O'Conall clan, leaving the king's three children to save the day. It's a simple premise, but it works. It's especially neat that the cutscenes have zero dialogue; the premise is conveyed entirely through visuals.

I have only one problem with the game so far, and it is admittedly a very small one: one of the main collectibles in the game are stray faeries... and the faeries are depicted as tiny butterfly-winged creatures. The idea of faeries as tiny benign butterfly-winged creatures was an invention of the Victorian English; faeries in Celtic myth were wingless, human-sized, and properly scary.

Edited by vanguard333

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After playing Lost Judgment on the weekend that it was free to play, I finally got around to buying and playing the rest of it! Having not yet played Judgment past the first set-piece, Kiwami 2 or The Song of Life, this was my first impression of the Dragon Engine's non-JRPG gameplay. And... Wow, is it fantastic. The combat is wonderful (If not a bit easy at the start), the three styles mesh super well, and it got rid of OG Judgment's slow start to combat while mainting the usefulness of upgrades for the most part. I'm personally the most fond of crane, but all were a joy to play. JUggling was super fun as well, and it was only really OP against one boss. I am a bit sad that they got rid of mortal wounds, but the mid-to-lategame was still reasonably tough at times. My only real complaint for the gameplay was the fact that the finale bosses sucked; spoiled in case you wanna be fully blind, but i won't be naming names.

Spoiler

One of them had, like, two simple attacks and an annoying parry with nothing else going on in the fight; I think he hit me only once or twice during the entire fight? The other had a really interesting moveset, but for some reason he gets juggled super easily, so the fight is just a couple rounds of Crane Light Heavy Heavy -> Tiger Light Heavy Heavy (There's probably better juggle combos than this one, but it's what I figured out).

The story in this game was absolutely balling as well, and is absolutely some of RGG's best work. It was really interesting the whole way along, and even though the finale, and the climax therein, don't quite reach the same heights as some of the other games, the story alone puts LJ into my S-tier for RGG games. I'd personally give it a 9.5/10 on the strength of its absolutely brilliant story and gameplay, with the .5 missing because I wasn't particularly fond of the cast- Not bad at all, but when you're running against Ichiban and his crew, or Majima and the rest of Yakuza 0's cast, you've gotta have a finale that's almost as strong as K2's; if you're more into gameplay and enjoy stories but don't need 'em, Lost Judgment is preak Yakuza.

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I just finished playing through Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag. Overall, it was very fun. The gameplay is great, with each of the three characters having really cool abilities and with swapping between each character being very quick and seamless. The level design was very good, and it has the player make use of all three characters' unique abilities while also often having the player swap between the three characters a lot towards the end.

The story is very basic, but it's serviceable and provides all the necessary context for what's going on. Personally, I just would've liked to see more sibling banter between the three main characters. But the game easily makes up for its story with its visuals: the art style is fantastic and, when combined with the music, the game has a ton of atmosphere; it really does capture the idea of a world of Celtic Myth, even if the faeries are completely wrong.

My first playthrough was about eight hours, and that's with 100% completion. That's about right for a 2D action-platformer that is about $8 (and I bought it when it was on sale at $5). I have seen people criticize the game's short length, but given that it's $8, the length doesn't really bother me at all. That said, I wouldn't have minded a bit of replayability. There is an upgrade system where you spend the collectibles to level up the characters, and that could've provided some replayability, but one can easily have all the characters reach the maximum level near the end of the game if they collect everything.

 

Overall, if you like 2D action-platformers, then this is definitely a good example of one.

Edited by vanguard333

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