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Replayed Yakuza: Like A Dragon recently and it's still one of the best games I've ever played, personally in my top 5 Yakuza games and top 10 video games of all time for me. 

Just finished Lost Judgement last night on the hardest difficulty and it took me about 2 days. It was fairly challenging and I died quite a few times, but getting that achievement when the credits rolled made it very worth it.

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Shortly after it released, I purchased Blossom Tales: The Minotaur Prince. It's the sequel to an indie Zelda clone that I had played a few months ago and enjoyed. I've been very busy lately, so I haven't been able to play it as much as I'd like (I'm only at the first dungeon), but the game's been pretty good so far; at least as good as the first one. Enemy variety is better for a start, and some enemies actually deal more than half a heart in damage this time, so rather than raise the difficulty by flooding the room with enemies like in the last game, instead this game raises the difficulty by using more challenging enemies.

That said, there are a few problems from the first game that I would've liked to see this game fix, but doesn't. The dialogue of nameless NPCs is still randomized, and the map is still almost useless; it can be used for telling which area the player's in, and that's it. It's too pixelated to get a good idea of the terrain, and you can't place pins or anything to keep track of treasure or locked areas.

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Finished Soul Hackers 2 the other day. Hard to recommend it to anyone else than hardcore SMT fans. Lacklustre dungeon design, no demon conversations (just a random recruitment fee in HP/MP/money or items), annoyingly frequent loading screens even on next-gen hardware - yeah, that's not it, chief. 

Though I have to say that this game's take on the press/turn system is really fun and some of the trickier battles make up for a lot of the shortcomings. Hitting enemy weaknesses contributes to building up a stack for an AoE all-out attack at the end of each round. At first that sounds pretty basic but as the game progresses it gives you more and more tools to optimize your strategies around using said stack. Each of your party members has predetermined strengths, so choosing the right demons to accommodate for that is another element I liked quite a lot (demons are equippable, you don't summon them in SH2). 

Also, I want Ringo's jacket 👁️

 

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for a couple months i've played some games.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Spoiler

(personal & biased) Final Review

tldr; verdict: a masterpiece of JRPG genre. 11/10 would cry again.

in depth review (putting it in spoilers as to not bloat the thread with wall of text and in case i slipped a spoiler unintentionally.):

story, plot, meat of the game:

 i cried, a lot. seriously, not an exaggeration.

The plot and twist this time are very good imo, like REALLY good. 20 years of playing JRPG, can’t believe i can still be surprised by the twists. not only that, its a twist that im sure can't be recreated in other game unless you have a very specific world-building. so, its actually a case where the backstory and imaginary world used properly/effectively, compared to some games where the world and plot twists doesnt really connect, other than making some references, and places of events. while this is a direct sequel it also feels complete on its own because it doesnt repeat whatever was in the previous games conflict and have brand new story. almost no prequel knowledge needed since the important connecting point is actually explained in final part of the game

the story of XBC1 was quite dark, but XBC3 takes the cake as really dark, serious and tragically sad. fortunately, the MC is not bratty young boy, but more of calm and stoic type which fits the overall tone. that leaves XBC2 as the weird one, i guess. The game has fuck ton of cutscene. feels like more than 40% of playtime is actually cutscene. personally, I love it! i love extended cutscene, especially a well choreographed one, and JRPG (usually) can’t be worse than the boring cutscene of western RPG anyway. compared to XBC1, the character movement in XBC3 cutscene are snappier, and expressive. so, its a delight to watch. 
I can sit through 2 hour of metal gear solid cutscene, so its a big plus IMO.

sounds like a minus, but it uses same formula as previous xenoblade: where the big backstory dump reserved near the final act of story. where 2/3 of the game about establishing the chemistry between characters and some teasing about what really is about the conflict. The story not only tied with the previous 2 installment through landscape, but also lore implications. altho unfortunately the game doesnt explain in minute details about the world, race and its inhabitants, but again theres plot reason for that in the end, which might not satisfy some people.

 

Characters, VA, design:

fun and memorable cast.

no unlikable main cast. due to everyone is unique enough and brimming with personality thanks to stellar performance of their Voice actor. something that become a good trend in JRPG dub lately. anyone that like british accent and its fancy insult will love it. Either the game receives some censorship, or the game tries to make insult, swearing, and banter lore-friendly that it becomes funny and interesting. i guess both, since if you understand the world building some insult in real world are just not applicable. BUT the interesting part is, this is a Nintendo-funded game which notorious for kid-friendly game no matter the genre.

People might think that Noah voice are a bit too reserved or stoic for first half of the game, but seriously he got Leading role for good reason, evidently through the later half of the game. i might even nominate him for best male voice actor of the year for "spoiler" reason. Eunie is fan favorite of course for good reason. But all main characters fortunately tried as much as it can to avoid falling into boring anime-trope. Take Taion for example, the design scream "boring, overthinking, straight-man routine type person" but he actually quite opens to suggestion and not forcing his opinion even though he can’t understand or think its nonsense rather than become mad. He also had side-story that i consider the best out of all 6, followed by Mio and Noah, Eunie, Lanz and Sena okay but not really unique/interesting.
all the couple got good interaction and banter that really grows on you due to them being "former enemies made into partners".

the villain unfortunately can’t be said the same, not because there arent any good one, but because there are too many of them the good-bad ratios become skewed. them being many still in line with the backstory but that also makes some of them not having enough time to shine. but all the villain that serves as major boss of every chapter is exceptionally good, they are enigmatic, pure chaotic, and theatrical to boot. its fun time to fight them. as for final boss its... okay? he's very ominous in its own way if you think deeply about his whole action. but we only seen him in action in final battle, unlike other game where BigBadBoss usually appear themselves and disturb the party more than once.

About design character look mature and are all sensibly dressed for the most part and some are very nice to see. It fit the game tones, so no second hand embarassment here. But the interesting part here: the villains, aka the Consul(s): they wear a suit of armor that looks like from a Power Ranger movie or even Iron-man, despite being villains. If im 20 years younger maybe I would even want their suit. Seems like a deliberate choice for irony, because they really believe to be in the right.

OldWorld

its Civilization, but Classical era only. its also part Crusader Kings, but you get to influence some people directly, but not as much and not as trivial/dire that it threaten your life for every decision. From the creator of Civilization 4, comes a 4x strategy game that doesnt waste your time as much as the civiliztion does with its 600 turns (and/or all must move and act every turn. which is a slog) this is more deliberate and restrictive each turn. its a nice twist on the existing formula. not a successor, or even competitor for Civ throne, but more like a nice "what if" game. personally like that now you as a leader are more involved with state you rule to the point of gaining bonus because of your personal leader traits instead of just nation traits

Triangle Strategy

I played the first map, its okay-ish. then stop playing it in favor of Xenoblade 3 before. might want to go back at it again if someone willing to convince me.

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now im torn between playing another round of Humankind that gets a major update already, or installing Cities Skylines for the 4th or maybe 5th times. but i already grew to hate it somehow despite the abundance of Mods and DLC. because mods only circumvent problem, and DLC while nice only add so much without making the game feels fresh or better in terms of simulation...while the engine of the game itself is so old already like Gta online.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Fallout 4

Spoiler

 

I often consider Fallout 4 a fairly disappointing entry. So much missed potential, so much pre-release hype that went unrealized. Fallout was a big capital F franchise for the first and really only time since its inception. I bought and installed my first graphics card to play this game and it still didn't run well - on my computer or anyone else's. But I was baffled to see how many hours I've played according to Steam. Over two hundred. Can you really say you were disappointed in a game you played that much? I had no interest in playing Fallout 4 again from the start. Instead, I had in my possession the game's season pass with a ton of DLC I had never experienced. I did play Far Harbor when it came out and loved it, but most of the other stuff was settlement/crafting related things that I did not and still don't care for. So I loaded up my longest save, and decided I wanted to see all the interesting Fallout 4 stuff I had never seen back when the game was relevant.

Of course that journey led me to Nuka World. What a fun premise for a fallout game. An amusement park/corporate resort town, still bizarrely preserved as if the nuclear holocaust began two years ago instead of two hundred years ago. I was ready to turn my brain off and indulge, and yet the questline made it so difficult. Nuka World is ten hours of busy work. Ten hours of going to fun-looking locations just to clear out all the enemies there and keep your eye out for collectibles. There were no NPCs waiting to give you interesting quests, no stories that could only be told in those settings. Just a bunch of raiders expecting you to help them move in. There was even a dialogue option where you could ask "If I'm the boss, can't I just order these guys to do the hard work?". Gage answers with "No, but give it time". I can definitively say that that time never comes. The Raider factions of Nuka World are so much needier than the settlement dwellers of the base game. If being the boss of these murderers and degenerates feels a little out of character, there's nothing you as the player can do to change their ways. You can kill them all, but that is the closest you can get to a "morally good" ending. Players criticize this as being a DLC that "only evil characters can enjoy", and I sort of relate to that, but the potential for genuine roleplay in Fallout 4 is already so shallow and Bethesda already (smartly) removed the in-game Karma tracker that I don't think it's a serious issue beyond screwing yourself out of their unique quest rewards. What does feel like a serious issue is that every aspect of the DLC just feels like a string of radiant quests.

Fallout 4 is the game that taught me the concept of 'radiant' (repeatable, procedurally generated) quests, but I don't even think they did it well. The experience gain and monetary reward from the quests do not scale to your level like enemies do, so you're better off ignoring these tasks if you're at a higher level. And I notice the quests seem to take you to the same dozen locations, even though there are fifty or sixty marked locations in Fallout 4 that have no associated quest or notable reason for existing. I've ran through Medford Memorial Hospital so many times six years ago that its layout was still known to me so many years later. I knew the lobby area always has a Mutant Suicider behind the left counter, and that a Master-locked door on the third floor leads you straight to the end for a fast clear. Radiant quests ask you to fetch something from a dungeon of respawned enemies, or simply kill the strongest one in there. But you have to physically return to the quest giver to collect your reward. It would save you several loading screens if you could just get the reward once the quest is finished. The loading screens of Fallout 4 are still quite terrible on a modern PC. And I unfortunately encountered a bug where a load screen would take three minutes unless I alt tabbed in and out of the game. The problem with that solution is that it would occasionally cause a glitch that could only be fixed by a hard reset of the game. I found some mods that allegedly fix this issue, but part of my interest in Fallout 4 was mopping up achievements, and I was worried that any mod I installed would disable achievements.

If I ever play Fallout 4 again in my life, I'm going to be digging hard into mods, so cleaning up achievements now felt like a good use of my time. If I'm going to have a game with over 200 logged play hours, I ought to have gotten all the achievements anyway right? This completionism guided my playthrough. I definitely see myself looking for a way to tweak the game's survival mode. I have a theory that I will spontaneously love Fallout 4 if I dig hard into its Survival mode in a similar way that I fell in love with the deeply disappointing Fire Emblem Three Houses when they gave us Maddening Mode. It's theoretically a version of the game where every game mechanic down to the seemingly useless settlement building simulator is now recontextualized to play a larger role in your survival. A version of Fallout 4 where every game mechanic has an excuse to be engaged with. But there's a big problem, You can't save. Fallout 4 crashed relentlessly for me during this revisit, so the idea that I can only save by sleeping or quitting the game feels needlessly risky. I would surely lose hours of progress unless I can mod out this restriction. There are also a ton of full-conversion Fallout 4 mods in the works somewhere out there, with the newest hotness being Fallout: London. So now that I've put the intended experience of Fallout 4 to bed, I can now enjoy other peoples' takes on Fallout in the future.

 

Devil May Cry

Spoiler

 

My big hot take on Devil May Cry is that the games became better with each entry. The most controversial element of that is me saying DMC2 is not the worst in the series, just the second worst. But believe me, it sets off my fellow Capcom Connoisseurs. The first DMC is the only one that I grew up with, whereas the others I marathoned through in preparation for DMC5 back in 2019. I've got some strong opinions on the first game that are no doubt influenced by my personal experience struggling to beat it. This replay on Dante Must Die difficulty afforded me a chance to really learn the ins and outs of the game. I actually attempted to nail S ranks on all missions, but I quit that challenge at Mission 15 (of 23). Griffon 3 is a monster, and I can't imagine S ranking the final boss battle, these two take forever. A lot of runs ended at A rank with no indication whether I needed to be faster or grind more orbs from respawning enemies. There's no credible information online about what sort of clear time or orb count you should be aiming for on each mission. I looked up exactly how the rating system of DMC1 works, and there are many demonstrably wrong answers still floating around. One authoritative-sounding post from a supposed dataminer on Reddit claims it's essentially the same ranking system as later entries, but I don't buy that. I think the only thing the game tracks is orbs and clear time, since I always went from A to S by just scoring better on those.

But saying that the Devil May Cry games got better after the first one shouldn't require a full on lecture. Just compare them directly. In DMC1, 100% of enemy encounters feature one enemy type at a time. At no point do you fight, say, Marionettes and Shadows in the same room (and thank god for that, because fighting Shadows is basically impossible until you get the lock on system to cooperate). The only variance in encounter design is the quantity of an enemy type and how much clutter they put in these rooms to screw with your attacks and jumps. Later DMC games have better level design for an action game by simple virtue of not having begun development as a Resident Evil. There are a lot of ways that I feel Devil May Cry is needlessly hostile to new players, and the enemy designs are playing the biggest role. I genuinely think that early game enemies (Shadows, Death Scissors, and Nelo Angelo) are all tougher than late game opponents (Nobodies, Frosts, Nightmare). Shadows are a notorious roadblock because there's only one way to hurt them, and it's not your awesome sword. A new player pretty much has no opportunity to learn to use guns on them before their health has hit 0 on that first encounter. Since the Shadow is very mobile and becomes unhittable by slinking into the ground, you might think all you need to do is wait for him to appear and wail on him, but that will only get you seriously hurt. The only way to expose his weakpoint is at least five seconds of seemingly fruitless shooting. This is a proud tradition of the DMC trilogy, enemies with exactly one, programmed answer to defeating them. Not only are players expected to figure it out for themselves, it also makes repeat encounters with that enemy extremely samey. You can't freestyle. You must follow the script written by the developers.

DMC1 can be seen as a rosetta stone for character action/hack and slash games. It's got the power up mode, it's got a ranking system and Hit counter for combos, there's an unnecessary shop to buy moves, items, and upgrades, and it even has the final boss being a giant humanoid figure in front of an elevated ledge that's close enough for you to hit him. If there's one thing I think they nailed, it's Devil Trigger. Probably the one thing God of War 1 didn't do better than DMC1. Devil Trigger enhances your damage, reduces incoming damage, makes it so you don't stagger from attacks, and on Normal difficulty it heals you passively. Part of how it's balanced so well is It drains quicker depending on what moves your using. The Inferno move can nearly one shot most enemies on the hardest difficulty and grants full invulnerability, but you can only get a few of these off with a maxed out DT gauge. Meanwhile Ebony and Ivory and basic sword swings are extremely economical, putting out the most potential damage for the lowest drain - if you can carefully avoid incoming attacks since those moves have little to know stagger capability. But since DT fills so quickly the only wrong way to use it is to not use it at all. Seriously, the most common critique I have of Super Modes in action games is that it fills up so slowly that I feel a need to conserve it for boss fights. Meanwhile you can very naturally spend the majority of time in fights in DT mode no matter what your strategy is. It exists to be used, not saved.

The camera sucks. I know, generic complaint for a game released in this era, but it needs to be said. Having grown up with Resident Evil, I know my way around some fixed camera angles. Smartly, if you continue holding in a direction, Dante will continue on that straight line until a new direction is registered, alleviating the lack of tank controls. But it's incredibly sensitive. Our thumbs naturally slack after pressing a control stick left or right for a few seconds, and that minor incremental change will careen Dante into an unexpected direction which can leave you spazzing out between the two same camera angles for a few seconds. Since moves like the Stinger require directional inputs, the chance for misinputs is extremely high. For me a bigger concern with the camera is how it keeps Dante in the center 100% of the time in most rooms. Huge pitfall for this camera type. If you jump and double jump, all enemies will vanish entirely from view as the camera fixates on Dante's Ceiling Adventure. Since jumping is your main mode of dodging attacks, fighting enemies is extremely disorienting. It's hard or impossible to keep a handle on what's going on during a fight, even without enemies lobbing ranged attacks at you from clear off-screen. A better camera would be fixated on Dante's X and Z coordinates, but not his Y, so that you'd be offscreen during a jump but still have eyes on the enemies you're trying to avoid, making informed decisions surrounding whether you should come down with an attack or burn your double jump to land elsewhere. This is how God of War did it and I think it's the best choice if you're committed to fixed camera angles.

Soooo is DMC1 worse than DMC2? I'd have to play 2 again for a fair comparison, and I'm not in the mood for another series marathon. I do remember liking that 2 had much better hit feedback with the sword, and had way better bonuses for completing the game, including a Mission Select, costumes, Bloody Palace mode, and two fully original playable characters. In DMC1 all you get is the opportunity to play again on harder difficulties. That's it. And if DMC2's camera or boss arenas are demonstrably better, then that alone could bury the first game. People rag on DMC2's story, but 1's got much lower low points in my opinion. You've got Dante's Oedipus love interest, the bizarre implementation of Vergil, and some infamous line reads. Dante is a far cry from modern, cooler Dante. This Dante is very sensitive and acts more like a contemporary hero - being rewarded for his shows of humanity and selflessness. From a Hero's Journey angle, this narrative is functional, but our protagonist is noticeably lamer than you might be used to seeing him. I know I didn't think Dante was acting particularly cool when I was a kid. Lines like 'Flock Off, Featherface' can only be enjoyed ironically, and he'll even say that "the Sky is Fair, and will always hang over our heads, no different". Man, even Fire Emblem endings are edgier than this.

 

Freedom Planet 2

Spoiler

 

I don't think I fully appreciated Freedom Planet back when it came out. A game that can write the book on what made Sonic games great, and also add its own half of totally new chapters to the field of study. I fully intended to do a replay of the first game sometime this year, but the sequel sort of showed up unexpectedly for me. I can at least say with certainty that FP2 never once hurts your character when simply traveling to the right at high speeds. Enemies don't have contact damage - you'll run right past them. There are no spiked walls in your path, and no bottomless pits to cheese a death out of you. But don't think this makes the game "easy". I died more than a few dozen times on the Normal difficult setting. Each playable character has different approaches to negotiating level design and boss encounters. Heck, it's already a revelation of level design and player control that you can have a Sonic-esque game with good boss fights. Because that necessarily implies your character feels good going fast AND feels good wailing on an enemy. Sega has never achieved this duality, and yet Freedom Planet 2 manages it with 4 playable characters employing different skills and approaches to obstacles.

For my playthrough I selected Carol. I was expecting to have chosen the new girl, Neera, but a streamer I follow went with her on his day one stream of the game. What makes Carol special is her new flip disc/ It's her only ranged means of attacking while also allowing for omnidirectional movement as you launch yourself at the thrown disc. I love this move. I love how I can use it to subvert or sequence break platforming sections, and I love finding the most sensible time to use it in a boss fight for free damage. You can build an entire game out of this attack. But instead they opted to give it a short cooldown via the special meter so that players would have to pepper in her scratches and kicks at close range. No one is a match for this kung fu kitty.

My one and only gripe with the game is Story Mode. Not anything within Story mode, just the fact that Classic Mode isn't unlocked until after you clear it. I have nothing against this game's narrative. I'm actually quite nostalgic for the late 2000s Newgrounds era of sprite animation. But the narrative takes up half the playtime of this first playthrough. Cutscenes can stretch up to ten minutes at a time - as long as one of the lengthier levels. I couldn't help but get impatient. Obviously you can simply skip them, but I was unable to fight my polite nature of letting these scenes play out. It did give me time to ponder how Story Mode could have been done better. It feels like a missed opportunity to have us locked to one character, for instance. I can definitely appreciate all the effort that went into rewriting scenes for different characters, but I imagine every playthrough I have of this game from now to the foreseeable future will be Classic Mode. I'm not dying to see the slight alterations with other characters' version of Story Mode cutscenes. The differences are entirely superficial. You also have to admit some of them are just way better, and should have been THE way you experience that scene. For instance, fighting Askal after the volcano stage. It's a much more interesting sequence when playing as Neera. I think the best way to get an idea of how much this game offers would be to allow players to swap characters freely, or the developers simply picked whichever character most clearly fit the narrative of that stage. But instead you're locked into this one moveset until the end of your playthrough.

 

Return to Monkey Island

Spoiler

 

The Secret of Monkey Island is a wonderful game, especially given the genre conventions of the time. Point and click adventure games used to be obtuse and punishing. The phrase Save Early Save Often, spawns from a reality when sometimes a puzzle trapped you in a hardlock situation with no remaining means of finishing the game. You would literally be told from the game over screen to reload a save from before _______ because the developers couldn't QA a fix in time before release. The Secret of Monkey Island was a breath of fresh air for novice players, as there was no game over state. There were wrong answers to puzzles, but nothing that actually set you back several minutes. And wrong answers often came with funny dialogue. The puzzles were still obtuse, but in an intentionally funny way that encouraged you to use imagination over raw logic. Figuring out how to use the rubber chicken is a meme to this day. Return to Monkey Island captures all of this. It's extremely accessible - even has a Casual difficulty setting that cuts down on some of the more bizarre steps of a puzzle. And regardless of difficulty choice you've got a hints book that will give you progressively explicit hints from where you should be next, to what exactly you should do next. What an excellent feature, why is it that most games either have no hints system, or a hints sytem that is totally explicit 100% of the time. Players appreciate a progressive middle ground.

The world of this game is cozier than ever. In Part One, It felt kind of rote, exploring the same environments as in the first game. However the script and Guybrush's VA are just so on point 100% of the time that it's a joy talking to NPCs about unimportant things. By Part Two I was hanging on every word, exhausting all dialogue choices. I had a lot of fun going through a long, involved quest to obtain a mop when you could theoretically just go out and buy one. I like that there's a scene where you can vent to Guybrush's wife about all the nonsense going on and then say "I feel better just talking to you". There's a wholesomeness to so many character interactions that keep your stress level low going through the game. Everything is presented in a context fitting a child's imagination.

Hey speaking of, I like that although this game was made by some of the staff of the original game, they go out of their way to spell out that all the monkey island games are equally canon. Monkey Island 2's ending kind of bugs me. Or at least, it bugged me with how fans used it to explain how later games aren't canon. Incorporating these other bodies of work is a very graceful thing to do, as an artist returning to a property that other artists have worked on over the last couple decades.

 

 

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Just as I had cleared all of FEW's content to prepare for 3 Hopes, I just beat Tokyo Mirage Sessions # FE to prepare for Engage, which looks like a mainline TMS if I've ever seen one. As for what I thought of it? Great gameplay, unfortunate story, and more than a little bit padded in the last third. I don't regret the experience. Atlus are the true kings of turn based JRPG gameplay, and everything else was just icing.

 

Diofield Chronicles (Demo) - I went in frankly expecting to hate the real-time tactics gameplay. Instead, I really enjoyed myself and will definitely be picking this one up on sale.

 

Not sure what I'll jump on next. I've got a playthrough of Yakuza Like a Dragon to finish, and I'd also like to do playthroughs of Torna, the Golden Country, Triangle Strategy, and Langrisser 2 remake.

 

Edit:

I finished Torna in less than a week. And my thoughts? While it carried a few of XBC2's many flaws to a far lesser degree, it improved upon its base game by so much in terms of mechanics, pacing, story, and cast that I really enjoyed it. Was it amazing? No. But it's a big step in the right direction that gives me some confidence that I'll like 3.

Edited by Fabulously Olivier
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Got a new laptop. Finally get to play some pc rpg in the last 3 years that my old laptop can't handle.

XC3. Putting this and other switch game on hold for now. I think I've reached the middle of the game cuz I have lost interest in the plot at this point (as I weirdly do whenever I'm at the middlepoint). There is also just like a lot of talking scenes, especially those flashback, and if I am scared that if I skipped too much I might miss the action scenes.

Mass effect Andromeda is really fun to play. Not as good as OG trilogy but I really like the combat and Ryder's personality. Before I had to play on lowest setting and the laptop still crash upon reaching latter half of the game areas. Now I can see that the environment is actually really beautiful. 

AC Odyssey. This one surprised me the most. I really enjoy the combat and story. Alexios's VA is such goofy and charming, it is sad to find out the character has pretty much been axed out of canon, not even showing up in crossover. The map is stupidly massive which is a downpoint for me but luckily there is a cheat trainer that teleports you instantly, made completing those side quests that far and away much much easier. I'm still taking my time with this game.

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Xenoblade Chronicles DE, which I am liking far more than expected. The story is gripping, the cast is more likeable, and the combat feels okay.

It certainly aged like a Wii game, but it is so wildly ambitious for a game of that era. And it hits a mostly appropriate balance of depth and intuitiveness, which is more than I can say of either 2 or Torna. Monolith seems to struggle with having incredible ideas, but throwing too many of those ideas in all at once, and perhaps not always teaching them, pacing them, or presenting them in the best way. Not terribly unlike IS, I suppose.

 

Fates Conquest - Now I remember why Fates CQ and Rev are the only entries I've played, but never finished. I despise them. 

There is no setting in Fates in which I feel comfortably challenged. It's either Normal, where I feel even less challenged than in Sacred Stones, or Hard, which feels worse than Radiant Dawn. There is no inbetween. And more importantly, the way it achieves challenge is cheap, unearned, and gimmicky. Full health units getting straight up oneshot by paladins at endgame. Dual strikes making incoming damage much harder to predict. Poison lunge ninjas moving your tank halfway across the map and automatically reducing their health to nothing. Annoying map gimmicks. It feels bad to play. And the game's lousy storytelling is a poor reward for progress. What I'm saying is, fuck Fates.

 

Triangle Strategy - So, I'm probably dropping the difficulty on this one because I do find the sheer amount of damage enemies can do to you deeply frustrating, and the game loves open map design with lots of room for enemies to surround you - if they don't just flat out start out in advantageous positions.

However, I'm going to level some serious praise at the game in some key areas. The units all feel good and distinct. The mechanics are fun and undoubtedly lead to diverse play. The story is excellent, and the alternate paths are great for replay value. 

Edited by Fabulously Olivier
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9 hours ago, Fabulously Olivier said:

Triangle Strategy - So, I'm probably dropping the difficulty on this one because I do find the sheer amount of damage enemies can do to you deeply frustrating, and the game loves open map design with lots of room for enemies to surround you - if they don't just flat out start out in advantageous positions.

However, I'm going to level some serious praise at the game in some key areas. The units all feel good and distinct. The mechanics are fun and undoubtedly lead to diverse play. The story is excellent, and the alternate paths are great for replay value. 

Yeah, the amount of damage that enemies can deal, combined with the map design, is a real pain in the early game. I managed to struggle on without lowering the difficulty, and it got better by the midgame, and then it went right back to being brutal late into the game (of course, one could argue that that's when the game should be brutal, but it was a bit much at times).

Yeah, the units are definitely good and distinct, and they become even more distinct as the game goes on and they unlock more abilities.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I got Persona 5 Royal via Xbox Game Pass this weekend and it's been really fun, I'm on the second story palace and the combat and social aspects of the game are an absolute joy. I was pretty hesitant to play the Persona series at first due to it looking complicated and the chance of screwing up royally and having to go back a week or two but it's been fairly simple and fun so far and I can't wait to see this game through to the end, I can definitely see this game and series being one of my top 10 favorites sometime soon, can't wait for Persona 4 and 3 to come out for Xbox this January. 

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I finished Xenoblade Chronicles DE. Great game with a great story. And I see that Xenoblade's biggest strength - creatively beautiful areas - has always been there. The biggest downside to this one was the focus on MMO-style sidequests. Having to do hours of "kill 10 rodents" and fetch quests to unlock characters' 4th and 5th skill trees felt bad, so I eventually just zeroed in on the final boss.

 

Finished the Morality path of Triangle Strategy. I enjoyed it and will probably weave the other routes inbetween other game completions. The game realllly wants you to play every route, since its scarce upgrades and character unlocks don't come to you in one.

 

So here's what I'm looking as for potential next game options:

Finish Yakuza Like a Dragon (I'm on part 10, I think).

Finish Ys 9: Monstrum Nox (I'm nowhere near done).

Finish Tales of Berseria (about half done, maybe).

Finish Trails of Cold Steel 3 (I'm about half done, but this has proven to be my least favorite entry in the franchise, and thus a big roadblock).

Finish Mario + Rabbids 1 (I've done a few worlds).

Langrisser 2 Remake

Dragon Quest 11S DE

Nexomon Extinction

Edited by Fabulously Olivier
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I have been replaying Resident Evil Village recently. Been enjoying it more so now that it has third person mode. Not to mention the DLC that was released recently is interesting.

 

Other then that I have also been playing random Fire Emblem rom hacks to see if I can get some inspiration.

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I was supposed to do an October update on all the spooky games I played, but I’m awfully late. Also I lost my writeup drafts and got side tracked by two big games that came out that month. I'll try my best to remember the best bits. Why couldn’t Callisto Protocol release instead? It’s later than I am for crying out loud.

Dying Light 2

Spoiler

 

Okay, usually I do these writeups when the game is finished, but I’m going through this one in co-op, and that has slowed down the process (we began on the first week of October). Getting friends together is easy, pulling them away from other game releases and beta builds of Darktide is fairly hard. I’m quite curious about the development history for this game. Its delays from early 2020 to early 2022 are handily explained away by covid, but there were several impressive builds and showcases before things seemingly went south. They hired big name writers from big projects like The Witcher and Fallout New Vegas. It was supposed to be published by Square Enix but that clearly didn’t pan out (The only Western thing Square publishes now is NFTs). I know of games that have been in development for far longer than Dying Light 2 (including, ironically, Dead Island 2), but as far as I can tell, Dying Light 2 doesn’t seem to have been shaken up too much since those years ago builds. There was never a total restart. The Narrative I assume, must have changed due to Chris Avellone’s departure. Most of the game’s mechanics are taken straight from the first game. There’s a wingsuit to help with traversal in the big City section of the game and replace the hookshot-like grappling hook from the original.

Seems to me the game panned out a lot less ambitiously than was planned. Though that’s fine, I enjoyed Dying Light 1 and especially The Following quite a bit. The game opens with rural exploration, and teased me into thinking there’d be as much of that as the urban environments. Not at all, it seems. The Risk/Reward pushing day night cycle returns, with a toxicity gauge to manage - as if you lacked reasons to run everywhere when monsters lurk the streets at night. Hives from The Following also return. Not a lot of new ideas on offer, and yet the game is surprisingly buggy over half a year since launch. We encountered several bugs that forced us to reload checkpoints. An NPC we’re following refuses to walk to their destination, a scripted enemy that’s supposed to appear gets stuck in a wall preventing us from killing him and advancing the quest, etc. The most game breaking was when we all died and respawned at a nearby safehouse. This particular safehouse is opened up by pushing a bookshelf aside when you first enter it. But for us, the bookshelf was mysteriously back in its initial spot – barring us from exit. We were stuck, and reloading checkpoint just plants us back in the same room. The only way I was able to continue with our playthrough was taking advantage of the Backup Save Rewind feature. It takes you back to the last checkpoint relevant to story progression. So we lost at least thirty minutes of side questing. Not a huge deal, but such a Hard Lock bug like this is frankly unacceptable. It’s not like this game is in early access. Pokemon fans might shrug their shoulders when a bug forces them to restart their file, but not me.

Bugs aside, Dying Light 2 is more Dying Light, so it’s pretty fun. Parkour feels great and the checklist-y missions and activities across the open world are worth doing for those sweet sweet upgrades. I had high hopes for the story, but it’s turning out to be a bunch of schlocky nonsense that would fit in well with a Resident Evil game – if Resident Evil games took themselves seriously so...Resident Evil 6 I guess. I suppose I shouldn’t speak conclusively on this subject having not finished the game yet to see how everything resolves. Come to think of it, our main character has a lot in common with RE6’s Jake Wesker, and his voice actor sounds quite a bit like Troy Baker. In interviews they always stressed this world was "the new Dark Ages", but the only remnant I can see of that is the PK faction having castle-like fortifications. Totally out of character. As if they raided a Medieval Times theater for building materials.

 

Luigi's Mansion 2D

Spoiler

Man, Luigi’s Mansion really set the tone for early 2000s Nintendo games right? A game that looks weird, plays weirder, doesn’t fit in any sort of genre and is remarkably obsessed with money. We were fools to just assume they could recapture the eccentricities in sequels. It’s like asking somebody to pen a script for Shaun of the Dead 2.

Anyway, this is a 2D sidescroller ‘demake’ of Luigi’s Mansion. It's not a ROM hack. You just download and run it directly on your computer. This project was brought to my attention for two reasons. The first is boasting Gooigi co-op play in the newest update. The second is this being a project that fell off a couple years ago and has been revitalized by a new author. That’s rare! So many fan games fall by the wayside, probably because the author thinks nobody is interested. These guys help each other out a lot, but it's not like they attained their level of technical expertise without having their own dream projects to work on. I noticed I was trending toward completed ROM hacks and fan games throughout the year, and I’m hoping to change that by playing more Demos. Provide feedback on projects when they need it, not after the fact. As far as I can tell, the plan for this game is to include 4 areas, and this newest update goes up through Area 3.

Area 1 is the Demake portion. You go through an actual mansion, fight boss ghosts straight out of the first game. Mostly a proof of concept that they can translate mechanics from the gamecube game to 2D, and they also add the ability to drop bombs as a means of destroying obstacles and stunning ghosts that don’t care about your flashlight. Area 2 is the sewer area. Tons of backtracking and just annoying encounters. I got stuck in one room where the solution to move forward is to jump into an unmarked secret passage in a wall. I don’t mind that for optional secrets, but how am I supposed to know there’s a gap there? Area 3 is the good stuff. It’s a desert tomb boasting a new Element – Sand which allows you to make it up taller ledges. The enemies are interesting, there’s a really cool boss fight and an even cooler action set piece to cap everything off. From what I understand, Area 3 is the content put in by the new Author.

Unfortunately my save got borked in Area 3. One room has a genuinely good puzzle in it, but when I left to both save my game and reset the room, I got a full on crash. And since I had just saved, I got this same crash every time I entered. Thankfully I was saved from having to play from the beginning. This demo includes an Area 3 option when selecting New Game. Presumably it's for anybody that's been following the project for a while and just wants to skip to the new content. I lost all the money I collected, but it's fine since money has no use yet in this build. I'm so happy I was able to continue the game after just replaying some 15 minutes of content.

Not all of the experience was stellar of course. On top of the issues I mentioned, I also found it annoying how you can't restore your health very easily. Every health pickup is one time only, because like the money nothing ever resets. I was also unable to get my Xbox controller working despite the game claiming it accepts Xinput. I relied instead on Keyboard controls which reminded me of my youth playing flash games on Newgrounds. But it came with a big problem. Not being able to play with a controller meant I couldn't get Co-op to work. I fully intended to play this game with a friend, and the co-op feature is what sold me on looking up this project in the first place. It's heartbreaking, and I do hope it gets addressed in the game's final update. 

Alice: Madness Returns

Spoiler

Is Alice a horror game? I should think so. While the moment to moment gameplay is 3D platforming, collectables, and hack&slash combat, the rest is unmistakably horror. Jumping from reality to dreamscape. Childhood fantasies corrupted in twisted suggestions of exploitation and murder. An exploration within the mind of a protagonist that may have caused the tragedy that put her in the asylum in the first place. To call this not a horror game would be to look at Silent Hill 2 and think "umm, there are guns? This is clearly a shooter". I played on the PS3 version, and it was fairly unstable. Probably resulting from my PS3's age. But there was constant hitching in the frame rate during battles. And the physics engine just could not figure out what to do with Alice's hair and dress. It could be the case that this is how the PS3 version always performed, since porting games to it was always notoriously difficult. 

This game unexpectedly resurfaced on Steam last year after having been delisted for many years due to rights issues. I recommend that or the Xbox version - and to get it before it suddenly vanishes when EA forgets to renew the rights. Even if it did run well, there are some aspects of the game I don't care for. It's earthy, brown color palette reminds me too much of other popular games that were releasing in and around 2011. Only the game's first level matches the sort of aesthetic you'd expect from an adventure set in Wonderland. Battles also look rough with few animation frames on attacks. The action slips into slow motion for dramatic effect, but it just makes the animations look worse than they are in regular motion. 

As for the story, it's a little difficult to appraise. On the one hand, American McGee's Alice ends very tidily with a bright future for our heroine. The sequel definitely retcons those vibes, but anyone who battles with mental illness can tell you that it is a constant struggle. One story isn't going to be sufficient to resolve everything. And it's less frustrating considering this is a sequel that arrives a decade after the first game with an even older Alice. Madness Returns plants the focus not so much on Alice's past, but on the people in her life. The people who exploit her, and children like her. It brushes up against subject matter that frankly I don't think the game is equipped to explore. Only ever explicit in matters of physical violence, never having the words to communicate mental anguish or emotional trauma. The story's conclusion gets frustratingly vague as Alice seamlessly slips back into her mindscape throwing us deeper into the question of what was real and what was fantasy. Was she lobotomized or not? The ending is cathartic, but again the truth of what really happened is left entirely up to interpretation. I fully expect a third Alice game some day, but I also expect that game will similarly disregard its predecessors in favor of a new story. A more modern take on the subject matter. I rewatched Noah Caldwell Gervais' video on the games, and while he had no answers for me, his comparison to the film Sucker Punch certainly got a laugh out of me. How apt.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Spoiler

Probably the game on this list most hard codified as a "horror game", and engages very little with the genre. This is surprising as a followup to Alan Wake, one of my favorite horror games of all time. American Nightmare's status as a sequel is a very bizarre tonal shift. Wake is now a self-style Champion of the Light battling the forces of darkness seeping through rifts throughout the world. One of these rifts is in Night Springs, Arizona, a fictional place he used to write about in a Twin Peaks-esque TV horror show - now made reality. But his connection to the setting, and the real world show don't ever seem to come up in the game itself. Alan Wake doesn't successfully anticipate events he wrote about as he works to thwart him. Instead the narrative follows a closed, Groundhog Day-esque time loop where he must make adjustments to his objectives in order to escape his doppleganger nemesis, Mr. Scratch. Huh, does that make this video game the first piece of media to make a horror story out of Groundhog Day...?

Anyway, the game was made on an XBLA budget - back when XBLA was still Microsoft's brand for funding indie game development. Had that gone on a few years longer, Cuphead and Ori would have been the faces of XBLA. Microsoft didn't invent "indie games", but a platform like this did a lot to normalize the concept. Create a space for titles under the 50-60 dollar price point and aren't boasting a publisher-mandated 8 hour campaign w/full online multiplayer suite. American Nightmare boasts just three levels in its four hour campaign, and you go through them three times each as part of the Time Loop. This reuse of content is clear evidence of the lower budget we're dealing with. The Arizona desert allows for much more open level design. Longer sight lines means spotting the danger sooner than the forests surrounding Cauldron Lake of Washington. Your play time can be extended with the game's arcade survival mode. Don't quote me on this, but I'd swear XBLA games were just mandated to include some sort of leaderboards as a minimum for Online functionality. Compare against your friends!

Having a score attack mode shouldn't be surprising though. Alan Wake's combat feels as good as it always has, and there's a large suite of military hardware you unlock in the campaign by picking up Manuscript pages. The pages are marked on your minimap, so you'll surely find most of them without going out of your way. I also just have to marvel at how well the combat works for horror as well. The only way to stop the monsters is to point your flashlight at them, stare them down directly, face your fears. The synchronicity between gameplay and narrative is frankly brilliant in a way that few games ever are. My only complaint is that I wish Wake's narration of each manuscript would just play automatically while exploring, rather than me having to pause the game for each pickup. Most of it is nonsense, but it's mood-setting nonsense. 

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope 

Spoiler

 

Mario+Rabbids is my favorite tactics game of the last ten years. XCOM Enemy Unknown is just over ten years old now, so I can say that without any asterisk regarding how they would normally tie. I love the short squad size, the XCOM-esque cover and dynamic camera angles on attacks, and the cute puzzles between battles to give my mind a de-stress. There’s a laundry list of changes I would have made to that game, but it doesn’t lean on usual TRPG trappings and seeing all its elements come together was such a surprise. On paper, this dumb crossover shouldn’t work. Of course, Mario+Rabbids is itself five years old by this point, and the sequel has been a long time coming. Ubisoft has reached out publicly for feedback on the first game, leading to a very different entry that may have over-corrected. Did they feel like they reached a creative dead end with the first game, or have they thrown the baby out with the bathwater? That’s the question ruminating throughout my playthrough.

The biggest change is with the dialogue – in that there’s way more talking. The lovingly crafted, complex overworlds are populated with NPCs, and waypoint-guided side quests. This brings the experience closer to the other Mario RPGs, but includes something they don’t – voice acting. Not Full Voice acting, but short blurbs matching the first 20% of each text box. If you’ve played Fire Emblem Awakening or Fates, you know what this is like. Awful. If anybody has ever said “A little Voice Acting is better than No Voice Acting at all”, I must emphatically disagree. The deliberate incompleteness is frustrating at worst and creepy at best. And I’m not sure I agree with the decision in making Rabbids talk in the first place. Mario characters vocalize as often as they usually do, but gone are the annoying Bwaaah screams the Rabbids are known for. That also means most of the humor is gone as well. The cartoony antics that Rabbids get up to is funny largely because it was non-verbal. Reading grammatically correct dialogue and actual Lore Datalogs left me way less invested in their struggles. Beepo also suffers from the change. He was uniquely capable of text-based speech in the previous game, making him an obvious straight man for jokes. But now that he has a voice – and uniquely has full voice acting on his lines only, that magic is lost. The only way that voice acting has enhanced the experience is with the short quips during battle. If it were just that, I’d probably love it.

Another thing that jumped out at me is the battles existing in their own void. Every single one takes place outside the explorable overworld. Giving side quests and main story battles the same disconnected impression that random encounters do, along with cutting to a black loading screen. On the other hand, the explorable hub worlds are gorgeous, and I’m glad the artists did not have to compromise on their vision just to include wide battle arenas that will just become empty after the enemies are defeated. I’d say this change is a net positive, but the lack of puzzles left me a little disappointed. There’s plenty of side activities to serve as a palette cleanser for battles, but I can’t think of any reason why they couldn’t litter the field with puzzles like last time.

Now for the good. Mario is no longer forced into your party. That was my number one bullet point going into the sequel. In Sparks of Hope, you start the game with six party members and get the remaining three by the halfway point (compared to last time where you got them so slowly that the last one was four battles before the finale). Also, all party members are rocking their own unique weapons and abilities. No sharing, except for the three characters that have some variation on XCOM’s Overwatch. Okay, number one change for the Threequel? Give every character Overwatch. Just make that a basic action like dashes and team jumps. Sparks are the big addition to combat. At first they just seem like a collection of generic buffs that don’t make up for the lack of having a second weapon or second ability to choose. But as the game goes on they really expand what you can get done. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that your Spark loadout means more to your strategy than your party selection. I cleared so many battles in one turn from realizing the awesome power of Glitter and Rabbid Mario. Sparks might have a long cooldown, but the average battle in this game ends in about two turns, so cooldowns are often irrelevant. You have only enough action points to play every card in your hand in those two turns. So make sure it’s a good hand.

So did the game end up being better or worse than the previous? It’s hard to say one way or the other. I do think the sequel is much better for players that don’t usually play tactics games. Being able to adjust your movement so freely gives your decisions less consequence, but also enables some absolutely brutal turns where your spread out party members can converge and use team jumps for all sorts of shenanigans. It results in greater tactical depth yet also punishes players much less for poor choices on the first turn. You can replay battles at any time, but there’s never an in-game reason to do so unlike in the original. The game never ranks you based on how quickly you cleared the map or whether you kept everybody alive. Perhaps the lack of a rating system can be a plus for players that don’t want the game pointing out how they could have done it better. I do not share in this personal preference. Sparks of Hope also really wants you to finish it. If you speed through the game’s main missions, the scaled experience gain will ensure you’re never behind the recommended level. You can play as much or as little of this RPG as you want, and it won’t be any easier or harder. But if you are a fan of tactics games, to the point that you’ve once or twice kicked a fire Emblem game up to Hard difficulty, you might be more interested in the first game’s better curated challenge. It's battles were longer, granting greater weight to your decisions from Turn 1. And it's also just plain funnier. I completely recommend both games in the end.

 

Bayonetta 3

Spoiler

 

It appears I’ve given off the impression to friends that I am some kind of Bayonetta Super Fan. Probably because I’ve coached them through their first playthroughs, and can play a pretty mean Bayonetta in Smash when I’m in a try-hard mood. Well the truth is I’m just the regular sort of fan. I played the games once each when they came out, got mostly silver ranks on the Normal difficulty setting, and that’s it. I’ve always contemplated a revisit of 1 and 2, but no more than any other game I like. The reason why I recommend it over Devil May Cry is because anybody can grasp the concept of dodge-then-attack. Enemies have bright flashes preceding each attack, and a successful dodge lets you just freestyle without any worry about optimal combos or studying Bayonetta's outrageously large moveset. Player expression took precedence over white-knuckle challenge. Button mashing is welcome, yet the price for mistakes is still high enough you’ll surely die here and there. The challenge never gets frustrating because once you’ve seen the enemy’s attacks, then you know what to look out for. Meanwhile in another action game, enemies will just have those attacks that you know to fear, but have no easy answer to. How do you deal with Furys in DMC5? Git Gud. They dictate the matchup until you nail a parry against them - only possible once you've looked up their three animation cues before they disappear.

My first blush impressions of Bayonetta 3 match up pretty well to what I’ve been seeing folks say about it. It’s the worst looking game of the trilogy, it’s a failure on a technical level, the camera doesn’t convey enough information now that it has to accommodate giant enemies, newcomer Viola is basically Scrappy-Doo but with a Shounen protagonist tendency for pratfalls, and Bayonetta’s scenes are almost totally devoid of her usual humor and tone. I’m serious on that last point, there are so many moments of her looking sternly at the Big Bad, pointing a gun at them as they go through their monologue, and she makes no move to stop them or even send them off with a fun joke. It’s like the developers had never played Bayonetta 1 to know that she used to actively parody these tropes, not perform them.

Still, I had a blast with Bayonetta 3. Without going into too much detail, the entirety of my playthrough occurred hundreds of miles from home, in Handheld Mode, and across a week where I was wracked with constant pain. The kind of unending pain that makes you think you’re dying if you hadn’t gone through this so many times before. The circumstances by which I played the game were not ideal – the camera spun around clockwise constantly thanks to my drifting "repaired" joy con. I was sleep deprived, and had no privacy. And yet the game came through for me where the universe refused. Every dodge was empowering and every combo ender was a fresh release of that pain. The game throws so many weapons and demons into your arsenal that the playtime simply isn’t long enough to try everything out. Bayonetta 3 isn’t short, either. I feel like the only drag on the experience were the Jeanne levels and the sheer length of cutscenes barring me from the good stuff. Oh and the frame rate of course. Not a single battle runs at a smooth frame rate, and when the action speeds up unexpectedly you could be taking damage that wasn’t your fault. There's also that uniquely Bayonetta problem where you witch time a big enemy's tackle, start wailing on them, and it's 50/50 whether their still-active hitbox will clip you when witch time ends. Bayonetta combat is a lot of things, and "Inconsistent" can be an apt descriptor. Especially since not every attack has the usual visual cue. Did they forget, or are these omissions part of the intended challenge?

It’s a shame that Bayonetta 3 is held back as an exclusive title. The best we can hope for is an enhanced port on the Super Switch, since Bayonetta 2 is living proof Nintendo will never allow this game onto other systems (Sega and Platinum would LOVE to put it elsewhere so that more people could buy and play it). I haven't seen a game this compromised by its hardware since...I dunno the PS4 version of Cyberpunk. To go on would be to turn this into a review of the Nintendo Switch so I'll leave it at that. Bayonetta 3 is probably the worst of the trilogy, but for what it’s worth it panned out better than I was expecting out of modern/covid-era Platinum. It was exactly what I needed when I needed it. That makes it perhaps the most important game I’ve played all year, and since our memories don't reflect feelings accurately, I had better legitimize it in words. Just one more thing, I don't like the canonized romance between Bayonetta and Luka. Watch the opening of Bayonetta 2 and tell me She and Jeanne aren't perfect for each other. A beacon of LGBT representation. Yet in this game, the two can't seem to stand each other. Kamiya, you got something to say?

 

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete

Spoiler

I first encountered Lunar ten years ago from HCBailly's Let's Play series. It was a game I wanted to play, but frustratingly not among the classic jrpgs available on the PS3's digital store. I eventually came to own the PSP port, but I didn't care for the changes, and instead resorted to emulating the PS1 version. There are several versions of this game out there, and they are all substantially different from one another. Fans generally agree the PS1 is the way to go. And it was certainly more accessible than the Sega CD original. 

There isn't a whole lot to say on Lunar. I like the graphics, I find the 90s dub voiceover charming (they even included Outtakes after the credits!). It's challenging - and this seems to be the most challenging version of the game. The game ends before it overstays its welcome. It's straightforward enough that you shouldn't need a guide to beat it (except for Finding Kyle in Nanza, I definitely needed a guide to figure out which NPC needed to be talked to in which order). And there are some *ahem voyeuristic secrets to collect. Let it be known that I also consulted a guide to discover all of the bromides for the most complete Lunar experience. It's less risque than JRPGs in the 2010s and beyond, but no less ridiculous to have this in the game at all.

Battles are extremely low-depth. You heal whoever needs healing, buff up at the start of bossfights, and spam AoE sleep spells at the start of random battles. This is probably the only JRPG I've played where the player can make greater use of status ailments than enemies ever can because they're not arbitrarily made immune and the spells typically affect multiple targets. Grinding is largely unnecessary past the first dungeon. Level up gains are not very substantial besides HP and MP. I'm finding out now that boss fights are actually scaled against the player's level just like in FF8, so the only reason to grind is if you know there's an excellent spell you're about to learn. Enemies and allies move around on the field, allowing for juicy combos of AoE attacks, but it's unfortunately out of the player's control for the most part. One thing I really like is how enemy sprites change to indicate upcoming special moves. A poker player's attention to detail can really save your life. In most turn based games, the only place the developers expect you to keep an eye on is your HP bar.

Wasteland 2: Director's Cut

Spoiler

 

Wasteland 2 is something I’ve been chipping away at for a few months. I’m not the biggest isometric RPG guy out there – just XCOM if that counts, and the classic Fallouts. So Wasteland 2 isn’t some ambitious journey for me. Fallout 1 would have been Wasteland 2 if EA let them have the license sooner. Wasteland’s got some shared world building with Fallout, the NCR ranger prominently displayed on New Vegas’ boxart comes from a tribe of ‘Arizona Rangers’. And in Wasteland 1 and 2 your crew is comprised of Arizona's Desert Rangers which largely have the same backstory. Just a bunch of law men that take it upon themselves to right the wrongs of a godforsaken post apocalyptic desert. Taking on raiders, mutated beasts, and a synthetic threat that sleeps in the ruins of the old world, biding its time. About the biggest difference in Wasteland 2’s legally distinct universe is that the nuclear apocalypse occurred in 1998, rather than the far off retro-future of 2077. So the tech is much closer to our real world. There are even some fun cameos in the game’s various junk items. Like a Tyger Electronics game pad, MAD Magazine, and the ‘it’s so bad’ Power Glove. How did these make it to the apocalypse???

Upon game start, you build four characters. In games like this, reading what all the stats do – trying to figure out which ones are most important when you haven’t played a moment of gameplay? This is hell when it’s just one character to build. Thankfully there’s a pre-made party you can take instead, then select Edit to give them fun names and clothes, read what the stats do, and make any adjustments you think are appropriate. I had a gimmick party in mind when I started, but I recommend anybody else go with this option to save stress and time. Wasteland 2 wants you to build a competent four man group that covers key skills and diversifies their weapon preferences so that two characters aren’t competing for specific types of ammo. If character creation is daunting, your first hour of gameplay won’t do much to ease your worries. There’s no guided tutorial. There are optional hints detailing mechanics, but I wasn't in the mood for them after doing all that reading during character creation. If I was told early on to press Z to highlight interactables, that would have drastically improved my playthrough. I pretty much kept a Walkthrough tabbed on my computer at all times for whenever a quest had me stumped, and that happened at least a dozen times. Some of them were just straight up bugged, while others didn't match up at all with what the walkthrough guide was claiming. And the game can be very vague about the usage of skills. For instance, the first major mission had people tied to the wall by vines that will kill them. They ask you to cut them down, and one of my guys was holding a machete. Use machete on vines. Oops, I cut his head off, and I can’t progress the main questline because that one specific NPC won’t talk to me for killing a civilian. This perfect storm of game mechanics and bad signposting prompted me to put the game down for a week before restarting from the beginning for my redemption arc. The correct answer, by the way, was to use the Surgeon skill on the vines rather than any sort of item. Nothing in the game alludes to this bizarre answer.

I was recommended Wasteland 2 by somebody else, and as a joke that he’d appreciate, I named my party after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was naturally a party of exclusively melee weapons users. Leo took bladed weapons, Raphael took Brawling, and the remaining two shared blunt weapons. I popped off when I discovered quarterstaffs that Donny could use. Your party size can grow to seven, but potential companions are doled out slowly, and if you don’t have enough charisma among your characters, you won’t even have the option of recruiting them, even if you did their associated recruitment quest. I’m finding out now there’s a few companions that only join if you have less than four – presumably if one of them got killed. There is permadeath, but I only ever got somebody killed in the final battle (RIP Leonardo). To die, a character has to reach a drastically negative HP value like in DnD. But the enemy AI totally ignores dying party members in favor of living ones. The only way somebody dies is if you let them bleed out (presumably your lone users of the Surgeon skill are among those bleeding out). Or you’re fighting enemies employing explosives and target the party member scrambling to res them. That’s how Leo died.

Once I had a full grasp on the game, things went much more smoothly and I started having some fun. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody that isn't already interested in the genre. And even then I hope to have some better recommendation to offer than Wasteland 2. I would rank it inbetween Fallout 1 and 2, personally, with 1 topping the trio. Wasteland 2 feels like an isometric RPG that came out in the late 90s, and yet it's a crowd-funded project from the mid 2010s. And this was the enhanced Re-release! There's no good excuse for its shortcomings and I expected better from it. In particular I was hoping for more interesting interaction from the game's dialogue. Wasteland 2 asks a lot of the player, but I'll admit I was satisfied with the journey even before I was treated to some ending slides detailing the consequences of every major decision I made. I'm staring at Wasteland 3's store page on the Steam Sale, and it looks absolutely awesome. 

 

 

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Well... Dragalia Lost is on its final day.

I just completed the entire story, after not playing for about a year.

...what a sad feeling. Been playing since the beginning. It was such a good game, the characters were very all-around good, the dragons usually looks awesome/cute/cool/all of the above, the music was stellar (I very frequently listen to various tracks featured in the game), the story was good, it offered something of a challenge, hell the only reason why I stopped playing this game I probably like more than FEH for a year is just because of burnout trying to juggle so many games... and yet here we are, the final day of service.

Completing the story gave me enough free gems for one last set of summons... I can at least say I'm bidding farwell to this game in a familiar manor: summoning dupes of old 5* dragons that I don't need any more of.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Okay, so, early impressions of XBC3 (early as in just over 20 hours)... I can finally call an entry of Xenoblade great without qualifications. The whole player cast is likeable. The story doesn't seem to be as good as 1, but it hits a good balance of depth and levity and stands out as above average for a JRPG. The character designs are much improved. The humor isn't aggressively cringe. The combat is both approachable per 1 and deep per 2. The progression systems are more intuitive, but also every bit as deep as ever. The exploration is compelling, and the amount of fetch quest bloat is reigned in. And the increased party size helps free the player from always needing to play DPS. Basically, 3 is quickly showing itself as the best of the series, and by a lot.

Edited by Fabulously Olivier
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I’m going through SSBU and going through every Spirit Battle via the rematch feature and I noticed that a lot of seemingly no-brainer characters for Spirits among the franchises already represented via playable characters…just aren’t Spirits.

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Donkey Kong Country Mania

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Calling yourself the 'Sonic Mania' of DKC ROM hacks is a pretty bold statement, but it's the first one made in the hack's Description. I was hoping for a game that combines elements from the entire trilogy, but this one restricts the scope to just DKC1's enemies and levels. Honestly I had quite a bit of trouble distinguishing which levels were fully original and which ones were just the original game's stage with newer, meaner enemy placements. Apparently some of the changes are inspired by Donkey Kong Land 1, but that game is itself a demake of DKC1, so the distinction is a little arbitrary. DKC Mania is more challenging than DKC1, but you've got infinite lives. Death also returns you to the latest checkpoint rather than kicking you back to the overworld like in the original. These simple changes cut down a lot of the downtime and fear of failure from the original game, but it also means that bananas are worthless to collect. You don't need to earn extra lives when you're locked to 99. People like collecting bananas, but the only value they have now is signposting offscreen secrets or attempting to guide the player's jump arc.

Bonus stages are also best avoided since they don't award anything you care about besides maybe spitting you out past a difficult chunk of level. Here's certainly an area where a DKC Mania would have shined if it included elements from all three games. If you were awarded DK Coins, kremcoins, or some other collectable that you take with you out of a level, it would make exploration feel more worthwhile. As is, the only incentive for exploration is to raise your completion percentage (trackable by whether or not an exclamation point is next to a level's name). And since this is DKC1, I'm guessing the only factor in completion percentage is the discovery of bonus rooms - not KONG letters. 

Of course it was still more fun than a barrel of monkeys. My friend and I realized that of all our co-op adventures we've never played any of the original trilogy together. A hack like this was a great excuse. DKC 'co-op' stretches the definition a bit. It's really just a mode that allows us to switch off at will or on death without the hassle of physically passing P1's controller between us. I'm not the biggest fan of DKC1 specifically - it's a very jank, slippery platformer with some baffling design choices. But having somebody with you to laugh off each death keeps things from getting too frustrating. The hack's final stage is the best one. It's a very long, multi-checkpoint affair that includes one of every single enemy in the game. And the credits music is playing. Essentially the joke is that you're "playing the credits" without the technical nightmare of literally turning the game's credits into a playable stage or creating some 'post game' level. This is where a hack like this can really shine. Just doing creative, unexpected things within the framework of a game.

I was really hoping to see more of what we saw in that final stage. For the most part this hack is just Donkey Kong Country 1 again, but with enemies swapped for tougher variations and no fear of Game Overs. I can recommend it to anybody itching for an excuse to return to that game, but certainly not a must play. 

The Callisto Protocol

Spoiler

Let me just say up front that whatever you’ve heard about Callisto Protocol from accredited review outlets is probably valid. Thanks to them I went into the game expecting a fresh take on survival horror, rather than explicitly a spiritual successor to Dead Space. The internet held their hopes on that particular outcome, and that seems to be where a lot of the grief stems from – at least as much as the issues that actually exist in the game itself. Glen Schofield is the executive producer of the original Dead Space, sure, but he left Visceral Games immediately afterward. This man has a longer history as Director of the Gex series than Dead Space, to put it in perspective. If anything, I wish the developers made an effort to cool off the internet’s expectations, but I know that would cut heavily into pre-order purchases. If Kickstarter has taught us anything, people love spending hate money on a project like this (See: Mighty No. 9). A lot of people have run into performance issues, but I had nothing of the sort during my playthrough. I played it on PC a full ten days after launch and that version’s running way better than the footage I’ve witnessed in launch day streams.

Callisto Protocol differs from most in the genre by having a focus on melee combat over guns. People compare it to Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, but I and the game’s first combat tutorial must stress this isn’t a game about reflexes and timing your dodges. Simply hold the direction you want to weave, and your character does the work for you. Dispatching enemies is much easier with GRIP and Guns, but I worry that players don’t grasp their importance and simply try to bludgeon mobs of enemies purely to conserve on resources. Jacob can only engage one enemy at a time, and there’s no target switch command. Enemies you’re not locked on to will attack you seemingly at random with 50/50 odds your dodge will work. To put it bluntly, fighting multiple enemies at once is a deadly proposition. An intentionally deadly proposition, but I can see why players think it's a fault of the game's programming when they assume melee combat is the primary attacking mode. There’s no 180 turn and no threat indicator that you’re being approached from behind. And I’d swear every time I turned and ran for a better position, I got smacked immediately, as if the enemy AI is programmed to chase and punish you for retreating. So Callisto is a game prioritizing decision making over quick Reflexes, and yet it presents its combat like an action game. I think that’s a big part of the disconnect for players - we’re waist deep in a Dark Souls era where we just assume we can dodge anything with no need of anything but our reflexes. And in any survival horror game, you want to conserve ammo for the potential threats coming up. Players will fight these losing battles, get frustrated at unavoidable damage, and never realize the issue is them thinking they can brute force every encounter. The main takeaway? If there’s a fight with multiple goons, I recommend using your ammo and GRIP gauge liberally to force more 1v1 scenarios. Don’t worry about running out of resources since the game keeps you well stocked. 

Perhaps too well stocked. My inventory was full to bursting the entire time. You’re allowed just six items for the first half of the game. I want it on the record that I love limited inventory space in games like this, but it’s causing some issues here. Ammo and health restores share space with sell-able valuables and new weapon schematics. I opted to leave behind my first weapon schematic, thinking I could pick it up later once I’ve dumped off excess resources at the next shop. Unfortunately this game has very infrequent shops and constant points of no return, so I was unable to return to that room with the weapon schematic (it seems that weapon schematics have several potential rooms to discover them, so I ended up getting them all by the end). It would be nice to know which fork in the road is the main story path. Perhaps with a map screen, or with Dead Space’s waypoint indicator? I often chose the “right path” first and locked myself out of goodies as a result. Your inventory problems really start to balloon when you purchase more weapons to play with. Now the game is handing out ammo of several different types and you have to weigh them against each other when deciding what’s worthy of leaving behind. Can’t get rid of your weapons either, they’re permanent. Every trip into the inventory to leave junk behind is a pace breaker that drags the experience down. I hate to point to Dead Space once again, but I wish I was able to Store excess items into a safe as a stress-free alternative to Drop or making a risky bet that the next Shop is just around the corner.

The back half of the game doubles your inventory space. The extra resources encourages less melee combat, thus less of the game’s core issues. In fact there’s whole chapters of enemies you can easily sneak past and around for a resource-free shiv in the neck stealth kill. I kinda don’t like games in this genre letting you defeat enemies with no spent resources or creative tricks. I’m not a fan of shoehorning crafting systems either, but I wouldn’t mind if I had to craft shivs here. You’ve gotta screw up pretty hard in order to fail the stealth sequences because these enemies can’t detect you until you physically bump into them. Hilariously, stomping corpses and shiving a screaming shambler doesn’t alert the others, but one casual step while not crouching will alert the whole room. Definitely some of the most amateur stealth mechanics I’ve seen in a modern video game.

There’s plenty of other frustrations. Lots of hazards and unavoidable damage that will certainly cheese some health out of the unsuspecting player – face huggers popping out of lootable containers. I love the enemy mutate mechanic, but by the time I noticed they were mutating, or were still alive after I already shot them, I was often too late to fire again and stop it. I couldn’t for the life of me read the GRIP gauge until I googled it (it appears only when aiming a gun, rather than at all times like your health bar underneath it). When reloading a checkpoint, all items in containers or dropped on the ground disappear. This actually causes a big problem for the first boss fight! If you opened all the containers before starting the fight, that stuff you can’t carry will surely disappear unless you nail him first try. And this is the same boss fight that has an instant kill counterattack if your first instinct is to whack him after dodging his first swing. You’re meant to use the generous resources around the boss arena to fight him with guns exclusively, so it’s Baffling that this wasn’t caught in testing. Hopefully they do the resident evil thing and low-key spawn ammo drops around the arena when the player is clearly low in order to avoid a hard locked save file. 

Warhammer 40K: Darktide

Spoiler

My friends and I have sunk hundreds of hours into Vermintide 1 and 2. It's a great take on the Left 4 Dead formula, the progression systems feel very satisfying, and it's got the best first-person melee weapon combat in the bizz. Some of the best bits of Vermintide are here in the dystopian sci fi future 40K universe with Darktide. But this is still very much a work in progress title. Best compared to Vermintide 1 than its modern day sequel. Many of the weapon crafting elements are still labeled Coming Soon, crashes are still somewhat frequent, and you plateau hard in character progression upon hitting level 30. By that point you should have weapons and curios that you like, and upgrade them to the highest rarity tier with generous crafting resources. All that's left after that point is doing weekly quests and checking the shops for a version of your favorite weapon that has slightly higher statistics or perks. The truth is though that optimized equipment doesn't compare to simply playing the game well and being in constant contact with teammates via discord. A low level character can definitely keep up on higher difficulties with those advantages.

For me, the big disappointment in Darktide is that it doesn't do anything new with the gameplay coming off of Vermintide. Ranged weapons are more versatile, but if you've played Left 4 Dead or other games like it, then you've already had the experience of mowing down zombie hoards with guns. The 40K setting only offers a new aesthetic skin for the gameplay. What characters you can play as, what enemies you encounter in Hive City Tertium, is disappointingly small scale for this setting. I know they wouldn't add a Space Marine class, but what we do have feels pretty dry and uninspired. Instead of giving us unique, fleshed out characters, Darktide offers you the ability to create your own character. After choosing their background lore, it writes a whole bio based on your choices. That's pretty neat, but there's no interesting dialogue on offer when the banter is comprised entirely of generic queries and responses you'll hear a dozen times at random spots. The five characters in Vermintide are so much more likeable. The one big gameplay addition is the Meat Grinder, a Training Mode room where you can test your weapons against every non-boss enemy in the game. It's not just having access to damage values, but also the practical data of knowing how many hits for each enemy on each difficulty. Or you could test out whether certain perks and blessings make a difference for your weapon of choice. It's a wonderful tool when you're optimizing your final gear loadout, and the only thing I'd add is a way to invite other players into your Meat Grinder to test combinations of abilities. Or a way to get the enemies to fight you so you can practice dodge timings or test other minute details.

I've got 80+ hours of playtime in this game - counting its two pre-release betas and I've had nothing to do for the back half of that. My equipment's all maxed out, just waiting for the rest of the game's crafting system to be added for some additional fine tuning. I've even cleared one mission on the highest difficulty, which is a feat I never accomplished in all my years of Vermintide. All I care to do is hunt down the game's Penances. Achievements, basically. Like any set of achievements, there's a lot of annoying junk that you'd never get naturally. And in a team based game, you have to tell your buddies what you're doing in order for them not to jeopardize your challenge - or you jeopardize their survival. A Psyker purposely blowing themselves up to take three Elites with them is straight up griefing - and they made that one a proper Steam achievement. It's also annoying that everything in the game runs on a real life timer. If you need to clear a certain mission, or a certain objective that's not available, there's nothing you can do about it. Come back later and just hope. Lots of small frustrations and setbacks like that can really drag the experience down. And if I didn't have friends to play with, I would certainly have dropped the game by now. Most of my friends actually have, at least until there's some substantial content update.

Planescape: Torment

Spoiler

I mentioned last month that I'm not the biggest isometric crpg guy out there. Just the original Fallouts and thematically related titles. I picked out Planescape: Torment to break free of that mold, but it turned out to be an ironic choice. As soon as I saw the in-game graphical style, read the first 1000 words of dialogue, it was obvious from before I googled it. This game was made by Black Isle, right off the heels of Fallout 2. No other writing staff is willing to write a unique "goodbye" line at nearly every branch of every dialogue tree. Of course the Fallout connection doesn't even rank among the twenty most interesting facts about the game. Planescape is a deeply fascinating game on its own merits. It's an RPG where your main verb is Talk. You'll spend about 90% of your playtime talking to NPCs and exploring to find more people to talk too. When you play, you better be in the mood for reading. The developers claim the total word count to be about 800,000 words - longer than any novel you or I have read. When speaking to any NPC, in-game narration describes in detail the tone of voice and body language of the speaker. Even their appearance despite...them having an in-game sprite for us to look at. What I'm saying is this: to do an appraisal of this game you need to come in ready to appraise a proper novel. I could say that the game is " too wordy" but such a criticism is equally a failure on my part as the media's - even if the game's writers agree with me in retrospective interviews. Eventually my eyes began "college reading". Skimming past mundane descriptions, committing proper nouns to memory, and turning to google when a quest isn't making sense (like finding out I still need to magically identify an artifact despite knowing exactly what it's used for based on lore clues). There's an in-game journal keeping track of important details, but only as a supplement to the fact that a lot of relevant dialogue cannot be re-read.

There's combat too, extremely straightforward combat, but I finished the game feeling like I barely understood the basics until most of the way through. Swinging of weapons happens automatically until the target is dead. The action isn't turn-based, but you can pause at any time to key up a spell or use an item. Most quests are resolved without combat, and indeed there are only two forced battles across the main story path. Even if you are thrown into a dungeon of enemies, you can safely run past them so long as they don't body block you against a wall. Even the final dungeon gives you the advice to just run past them all. There's a hundred or so spells, but since so much of the gameplay is reading, I didn't feel up to reading spell descriptions all day and optimizing my spell book. The game runs on DnD Second Edition, and it's hard to tell how well the mechanics are translated when you don't see any of the dice rolls. There are no skill checks, just un-labeled ability score checks in dialogue. If you lack the stats for something, you just won't see the option. And if you have the stats for something, it succeeds 100% of the time with no RNG. That feels distinctly un-DnD, and weird coming off of Fallout where critical failures were always possible. Even the statistics that the game does share seemed to ask more questions than it answered. Like why our buddy Morte just isn't taking damage from most enemies despite lacking AC. There's a lot of things I just don't "get" about Planescape, even after a 30 hour playthrough.

The narrative similarly teases you about all the things you don't know. My character canonically reached the end of his journey not knowing the full extent of the lives he has impacted. The penultimate boss fight fought me out of revenge, and my character answered honestly: 'Revenge? For what?' I'm only discovering now in post-playthrough googling that I could have recruited him and learned that story. I had even done the most labor intensive parts of his recruitment quest without knowing that what I was doing might pay off somehow if I talked to the right people again. Perhaps that's a failing of the game's signposting. In a modern western RPG, developers don't want you to miss out on stuff like that, so the questlog might update with "find out how to use this artifact" to help ensure your efforts didn't go to waste and you see the end of their written plot thread. Planescape has a questlog, but like Fallout 1 and 2 before it, it grants no advice about what you need to do next. And most quests, Large and Small, won't appear there in the first place. It's up to the player to discover them and take note when your journal updates with a new piece of information. You spend so much of your playthrough talking to NPCs, the idea that I missed out on material because I didn't talk to this or that person again, after advancing the correct quest flag, is a little frustrating to think about. Game Designers want NPCs that flesh out the world in a way that feels authentic, but they also want NPCs that always have something useful to say - a reward for the player spending time to talk to them. I'm reminded of real life Dungeon Masters playing mental gymnastics about how they guide the players. What things should be spelled out for them in order to maximize player enjoyment, etc.

A grand thesis statement about Planescape is more than a little tricky. A lot of its critique of fantasy fiction is just as relevant now as it was in 1999. I didn't need Chris Avellone to explain to me the significance of how the game's nicest, most earnest NPCs are the ghouls, skeletons, and zombies that supposedly "lost their humanity". Western RPGs take so many inspirations from titles like this, but it's hard to ignore that the modern day, open world game is focused more on satisfying combat and exploration than having interesting NPCs to talk to. And I'm going to stomp on the game's coattails in opining that they should be. After all, these are video games, not novels. You have to think about what the medium can do for you, not what your authorship can do for the medium. There isn't a stretch of dialogue in this video game more helpful than me telling you to hold the TAB key in order to highlight interactables to ensure you don't walk past any key items or zone entrances. One scene nearly brought me to tears with how well it was written and how well it exploits the medium by taking away the player's control to make you a passive observer to your own wrongdoings. But it's an outlier. Most of your interaction with other characters is asking unending questions, and being given answers that you'd never imagine a stranger divulging to this funny-smelling zombie man. I was especially underwhelmed with the party members. They may have fun mysteries to discover, but your interactions with them are so wooden, so platonic - except with the two sexy females. Their loyalty to the player in the game's finale left me totally unconvinced.

Pokemon Scarlet

Spoiler

There's so much to be said about modern pokemon that any primer would feel insufficient. How can the world's largest media property not afford to put out a video game that at least matches the technical quality, scale, or innovation of previous entries? Why are they stepping up production to a standard of two mainline entries a year? Call of Duty never reached that point, and they had three 300+ development studios (on top of countless freelance work and smaller studio support) working full time to make sure that crap retained an industry-leading level of quality. The answer to why Pokemon is the way it is, is simply the nature of the property and the people making it. Pokemon Scarlet, like several buggy unfinished games that released this year, hit the standard of quality the developers were aiming for at the outset. If they spent 6-12 more months continuing to work on the game, the small increase in sales wouldn't justify that extra development cost. First lesson of marketing a product: the optimal price point is the highest the consumer is willing to pay. The optimal resource cost is however low you think you can get away with. And when you're top of top dogs like Pokemon, you can get away with whatever you want. Of course by now I'm sure we're sick of hearing complaints about Pokemon. I quietly stepped away from the franchise years ago, and that allowed me more money and time to spend on other November games. How I came into possession of this game is simply that my still-pokemon-playing friend ordered two non-refundable copies on accident and didn't want to be down sixty dollars. I offered to buy it off him, comfortable in the fact that my money went to a friend in need, rather than the game's publisher.

I went into the game expecting a bare minimum, and got a little less than that. Scarlet is just unapologetic in its shortcomings. Not a single location ran at a smooth frame rate, and I could feel the developers giving up once I was exploring the occasional town. When it began raining, every texture is replaced with its "wet' version instantaneously after a short game freeze. Its technical performance reminded me of the days of trying to get N64/PS1 emulation to work on school computers in the late 2000s. The games were barely functioning, but the thrill of playing them for free superceded all of that. Pokemon Scarlet would be pretty good if it were free-to-play. One benefit of the game's open world format is the removal of random encounters. You can physically avoid the creatures, in theory. The problem is the game's draw distance. For some reason, pokemon are marked as Lowest Priority in the spawning order for objects, appearing just a few feet in front of you if you're moving at full speed. To say that Pokemon Scarlet does not have Random Encounters is a statement that is technically true yet patently false in practice. And the pokemon remained spawned even when you're exiting battle. I was totally stuck for a full 60 seconds when I was accosted by a herd of Tauros that wouldn't allow me to leave no matter how many times I successfully ran from battle. 

Pokemon Scarlet's battling and catching still function in every way that we remember. A pokemon fan is always chomping at the bit to see new creatures, type combinations, moves, abilities. But all of these are iterations, not innovations. Pokemon's battle mechanics are so dull to me that the feeling of burnout was instantaneous. I don't feel like some strategic genius drilling super effective weaknesses, or healing my guys up with items. Although the game's three narrative structure lets me decide when its time to battle - thus making it feel less like the homework it is. Gyms are now presented along two other plot threads: Team Mock-it and Sandwich man. Helping somebody build the ultimate sandwich is a heck of an Option C, so I did his quests until I was rudely roadblocked by a 6v6 pokemon battle against level 60s. That's another easily-remedied oversight, no Recommended Level. You'll just as often faceplant into an unbeatable challenge as you will curb stomp some early game content you walked past ten hours ago. I think I ultimately prefer this over meticulous level scaling, but being able to see how I match up against a challenge before spending ten minutes finding out the hard way would be ideal.

It's hard to offer insightful commentary on this game because anything I have to say just devolves into snark. It's not a game for me, and I knew it going in. It doesn't particularly bug me that this is the highest selling pokemon game or that many of those sales are people that don't care about the game's shortcoming. Like whatever games you like, don't let me stop you. What I call "standards" can just as easily be called "elitism". And really isn't the bad-ness of pokemon kind of bad...ass? No self-respecting game publisher would ever release this game. But what has self-awareness ever done for any of us? Make us feel inadequate and depressed. Pokemon Scarlet, like so much trashy media before it, is a reminder that we shouldn't care what other people think. Just be you.

 

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On 12/26/2022 at 11:22 AM, Perkilator said:

I’m going through SSBU and going through every Spirit Battle via the rematch feature and I noticed that a lot of seemingly no-brainer characters for Spirits among the franchises already represented via playable characters…just aren’t Spirits.

Like Adult Ruto and more than half the Robot Masters from Mega Man Classic?

I wonder why Galaxy Man has "Energy-Shot Resist ↑" and not "Black Hole Equipped". The enemy fighter literally starts the match with a Black Hole equipped. But then, these are the same geniuses who thought Metal Mario should have "Weight ↑" and not "Made of Metal".

Edited by Lord_Brand
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/25/2019 at 11:11 AM, Anathaco said:

I've started a playthrough of Lunatic Awakening, and I'm up to around the point where I really need to grind for extra stats. Problem is, that'll take ages, and I really can't be bothered. So that might take a while until I get back into that.

Also finishing up a playthrough of Revelation where the goal is to get my Avatar to solo the endgame (and maybe a few chapters before that, if I feel like it), without any support or pair up. Also very grind heavy, but it'll be more satisfying when I'm done than Awakening, at any rate.

I also want to start playing Xenoblade Chronicles X this weekend, and I'm pretty excited about that. So the above titles on this list will inevitably get put on the back burner for a while once I get into that.

(As a side note, it's not summer here in Australia. So I doubt I'll be finished with any of those anytime soon haha)

I know you said you thought hard was too easy, but it is, in my opinion, the only "fun" difficulty in that game. The best way to deal with Lunatic is to play the game as little as possible and turn Robin into a one-man army. I'd recommend either a +Def Robin and getting him/her a quick support with Frederick or Chrom and then just snowballing, or playing Hard mode without pairing up. Personally, I thought the latter was a fun experiment; you can still take advantage of dual strikes and guards with unit placement, but without the stat backpacking, the enemies are actually quite threatening, especially once promoted enemies appear.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I decided to revisit Monster Hunter Rise. I had to stop playing it around a year ago because my left joy-con began suffering immense joy-con drift to the point of making it impossible to play the game. Now that I have a replacement joy-con, I can revisit it.

Naturally, this meant 30 minutes of updates since Capcom has added a lot to Monster Hunter Rise since I've been gone. I also decided to buy the Sunbreak expansion because I'd like to play it and because I feel Capcom has actually earned it: where most companies these days release a butchered, unfinished game and charge extra for the bits they removed before release, Monster Hunter Rise was finished when it released, Capcom gradually added more to it for free, and then released an expansion, from what I've seen of it, is easily a substantial enough expansion to be worth the price.

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Valkyria Chronicles 4

Finally finish the game after almost a year sitting in my Steam library. compared to VC1, this is straight upgrade all across the boards. as a game this is a solid 8.5 for me, or maybe even a 9. The plot while play it safe, also has its moment where it took some unexpected decision that caught me in surprise

Spoiler

they kill a one of the main character. the one being killed is a good written character no less.

Armored Core 4

A haven for mecha purist that like to tinker with their loadout combination to achieve perfection. it has weighty feel but this installment is one of the lighter side where you can fly-boost longer and easier than other installment. you spend a lot of time tinkering with your mecha than you do with missions. unfortunately for Story enjoyer like me, theres a lot less story even when compared to other Fromsoft titles. theres implication here and there. but i dont catch the lore as much like i did when playing Souls-like game. the gameplay a solid 10 tho.

ASTLIBRA Revision

BOY did this game slaps hard for an indie. this game gives me more satisfaction more than many triple A titles in recent years. i'll just post my Steam review here (i very rarely review a game).

astlib.jpg.10ab6581722c09275ecab4974950614e.jpg

this is a sleeper hit that makes you question how big budget game in same genre cant have this deep gameplay mechanic

Fire Emblem Engage

just started

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@joevar Yeah; Valkyria Chronicles 4 was great. There are one or two things I preferred in VC1 (and VC4 was the first one I played), but, overall, VC4 was definitely an improvement.

By the way, have you gotten the true ending for VC4?

Spoiler

If not, to obtain it, you have to purchase a bonus chapter from the shop that's appeared in the postgame, go through all that bonus chapter's cinematics (there's no mission), and then a new difficulty mode will be unlocked for the final story mission; beat the mission at that difficulty and you get the game's true ending.

 

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35 minutes ago, vanguard333 said:

@joevar Yeah; Valkyria Chronicles 4 was great. There are one or two things I preferred in VC1 (and VC4 was the first one I played), but, overall, VC4 was definitely an improvement.

By the way, have you gotten the true ending for VC4?

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If not, to obtain it, you have to purchase a bonus chapter from the shop that's appeared in the postgame, go through all that bonus chapter's cinematics (there's no mission), and then a new difficulty mode will be unlocked for the final story mission; beat the mission at that difficulty and you get the game's true ending.

 

yes i got it. kinda weird that despite the second run of final boss being hard mode, now you can actually make it stop from diving without destroying the glacier thingy, making the whole fight finish way earlier. and the stage punish you too hard when not properly using grenadier. a bad thing imo

also i honestly very disappointed with the true ending.. there should be more. if only that much, you can easily crammed it into credit roll. just a passionate hug while everyone watch it which makes me getting second hand embarassment instead

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6 hours ago, joevar said:

yes i got it. kinda weird that despite the second run of final boss being hard mode, now you can actually make it stop from diving without destroying the glacier thingy, making the whole fight finish way earlier. and the stage punish you too hard when not properly using grenadier. a bad thing imo

also i honestly very disappointed with the true ending.. there should be more. if only that much, you can easily crammed it into credit roll. just a passionate hug while everyone watch it which makes me getting second hand embarassment instead

I wouldn't know; I really disliked the final boss fight (the arena is too big and too full of enemies that make it tedious; I think VC1 had the right idea in reducing the number of enemy units in boss fight missions), so both times, I just used the trick of having a grenadier destroy all four exhaust vents at once to end the battle in a single phase.

Yeah; I honestly don't even understand why the true ending even required playing the final mission twice; why not just have that bonus chapter be available before the postgame and have whether the player watched it or not determine whether the player gets the true ending? That would make more sense than forcing the player to watch bout 95% of the same ending twice.

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