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Sarge
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by Sarge Tue Jul 28, 2015 9:54 pm

KayJay wrote:My favorites are X1, & X4.

You have good taste. Those are easily my favorites as well. :)

I've got Collection, which I'm glad I picked up. MMX2 and MMX3 are really expensive. :(
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KayJay
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by KayJay Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:01 am

Sarge wrote:
KayJay wrote:My favorites are X1, & X4.

You have good taste. Those are easily my favorites as well. :)

I've got Collection, which I'm glad I picked up. MMX2 and MMX3 are really expensive. :(



Thanks, man. :D

Yeah, X3 especially. Last i checked, it was in the $80-$100 budget. :/


I just bought the PS2 version of Mega Man Anniversary Collection off Amazon (had the GC version, but i couldn't stand the layout), So I'm eager to start that up. :D
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by Sarge Wed Jul 29, 2015 10:00 am

Oh, yeah, I've got the GC version as well and the control layout just makes it almost unplayable. At least for me it does. I've got my muscle memory trained by this point, and it would take some serious work to unlearn all my Mega Man habits.
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by nullPointer Wed Jul 29, 2015 4:20 pm

The list so far ...
13. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga [PC/Steam]
14. Sonic the Hedgehog [Genesis]
15. Contra [NES]

I'm backlogged on my entries into the Games Beaten thread! Here are the first few entries for games I've beaten in the last couple of months

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
As the title indicates, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is an amalgamation of two earlier games, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game and Lego Star Wars II: The Original Saga. I'm calling this an amalgamation as opposed to a compilation due to the fact that the gameplay is presented as a single uninterrupted experience, rather than as two that are separate and distinct. Traveler's Tales has also added some additional content that was not present in either of the earlier stand-alone games.

LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game was the very first LEGO game developed by Traveler's Tales (henceforth referred to as TT), whereas the Original Saga was the second title they developed under the LEGO banner. These titles form the foundation of what are now familiar gameplay features found in nearly all subsequently developed LEGO games. The hallmark sense of humor is here (although like all of the earlier TT LEGO games, there is no spoken dialog), as are the simple LEGO building puzzle elements. We find a familiar hub based level structure with each level branching from that central hub, and of course the LEGO collect-a-thon aspects make their debut here including the requisite stud collection, mini-kits, red bricks, golden bricks, etc. So while a majority of the gameplay elements will be familiar to those who have previously dabbled in LEGO games, it's interesting nonetheless see the ways in which TT was still experimenting with their formula, solidifying what would become their trademark style. This last bit is particularly interesting in the context of The Complete Saga, because you can see Traveler's Tales incorporating lessons learned and improving their games between the separate bookends of the Prequel Levels (featured in LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game), and the original trilogy levels (as featured in The Original Saga). From a historical standpoint it's striking to see how quickly Traveler's Tales was able to deftly incorporate lessons learned from the first game and use them to improve the second game. From a gameplay standpoint though, this creates a bit of dissonance. Stylistically, the Original Saga is a much more robust game. The levels are longer and more complex, the puzzles are generally more interesting, the graphical elements are improved upon, etc. So while the levels in Complete Saga are presented seamlessly, in practice you will notice a very definitive division between the older (prequel) levels and the newer (original saga) levels. Speaking as a bit of a Star Wars nerd I'm happy that the Original Saga levels are the ones with better gameplay.

As I mentioned before, the gameplay elements here will be very familiar to anyone who has played TT LEGO games before. Given the ubiquitous nature of these games, you probably already know whether this game is for you. If you love the LEGO formula you'll find a lot to love here. If the 'break everything in sight collect-a-thon' turns you off, well … these aren't the droids you're looking for. <groan> As I mentioned earlier, TT was still developing their trademark style in these games, so even those who have enjoyed more recent LEGO titles might find some of the elements featured here to be a bit rudimentary. The controls are (naturally) very familiar, but at the same time feel slightly 'looser' than later LEGO titles. Switching between characters can be a bit tedious since TT had yet to develop the character wheel system seen in more recent titles. This means that you need to stand directly next to the character you wish to switch to, and since you often have several characters crowding in on you this can lead to several instances of switching to the wrong character. This can be slightly rage inducing when you're under attack. Speaking of computer controlled characters, they are basically useless while not under your direct control, and even worse you may find many circumstances in which they will actively become a hindrance. There were several circumstances in which I would need to destroy one of my computer controlled allies simply to create a clear line of fire. Get the heck out of the way Chewie! And while I'm on this topic, I won't lie, sometimes I would randomly just lay a beat down on Jar-Jar, because … Jar-Jar.

I need to make special mention of the collectible elements in this game, because that aspect has really been dialed to eleven. If you're like me and you like to unlock everything these games have to offer, well … you're going to be here a while. You'll need to play through every level no less than four times. You'll play a level once in story mode which will unlock free play mode. Then you'll need to play through free play mode to clean up any of the standard remaining goals in that level. Once you've completely finished the episode you'll unlock Challenge and Super Story modes. So you'll play each level again in Challenge mode to retrieve the blue mini-kits, and lastly you'll play through them yet again in Super Story mode which is a time-based score attack and simply adds to your completion percentage. Four times for every level. Once you couple this with the fact that this game features unskippable cut scenes, it can all start to become a bit … tedious. As I mentioned, this part really only applies to completionists, so your mileage may vary significantly in this regard. I think this is another area in which TT was still figuring out the formula, which in this case meant finding an acceptable line between "collect a bunch of unlockables" and "OMFG, will it ever end!?"

The story is … well, if you don't know it by now, you should schedule yourself for a Star Wars movie marathon, stat. Having said that, you don't need to be a Star Wars scholar to appreciate the game for what it is. In point of fact it can be a great introduction to the Star Wars universe for young padawan Star Wars fans looking to get a toehold on the series. It keeps everything fairly light and deftly negotiates some of the darker aspects of the story. It's also a great game to play co-op with young ones. The game treats its subject matter with great reverence and humor. As a Star Wars fan I enjoyed the game from beginning to end, and this game easily fits within the upper echelons of the greatest Start Wars games ever released. There are six levels devoted to each movie within the Star Wars saga, and among them you will find all the standard Star Wars set pieces you might expect in a game of this nature along with some surprising gems. The levels feature a mix of on-foot and piloted air/space craft missions. All the missions are paced very well, and keep things moving along at a nice clip. Furthermore the plethora of unlockable characters available keeps things fresh enough so that repeated playthroughs seldom feel stale.

Overall the games presented here are highly enjoyable and well done. Even in their first forays into LEGO games, TT was already onto a winning formula that would continue to be refined in later games. This game gets my recommendation for fans of simple puzzle-based adventure games appropriate for gamers both young and old, and especially for being a great co-op game.
Sonic the Hedgehog
True confessions time. This is the first game I've ever beaten for a Sega console. Shocking I know. While I certainly wouldn't ascribe to being a Nintendo fanboy, I exclusively played Nintendo consoles growing up until such time that I moved on to Sony based hardware. So Sega consoles always had a certain sense of 'otherness' to me, and not always in a good way. Whereas first party Nintendo titles exuded polish and pedigree, Sega titles felt scrappy and irreverent. In the 16 bit era when Nintendo was really starting to refine the console gaming experience as something completely separate and distinct from both arcade and computer gaming, many Sega titles still maintained strong ties to the roots of arcade gaming. Whereas Nintendo was the reigning heavy weight champ, Sega was the up and coming bruiser.

Is it a misstatement to say that the Sonic series was the crown jewel of the Sega lineup at this time? For the sake of this mini review, I'm going to say that it was. Here's what I found interesting about finally playing this game to completion. Whereas history tells us that Sonic was designed and marketed in direct competition with Mario, I find very few actual gameplay similarities between these titles. Sonic was all about the use of big, bold, and beautiful sprite work. Mario at the time was still using smaller sprites. From a control standpoint Sonic relied on a perceived sense of speed and (sometimes barely) controlled momentum. Mario relied on razor sharp platforming, with only small tiny margins for drift. Sonic bosses (although technically all the same villain) were distinctly different from level to level and forced the player to constantly adjust strategies. Mario bosses were relatively staid and utilized a small set of similar (and often repeating strategies). If we're talking about apples to apples competition it's actually a bit odd to compare Sonic and Mario, and in point of fact I found a lot more similarities between Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong Country. That may be a conversation for a different post, but I thought it was an interesting corollary.

Another aspect that I found interesting was that there's a bit of a disparity between the way that the game was marketed as being a "balls to the wall thrilling speed-fest" (paraphrased), and the way that the game actually plays. In point of fact I would contend that while there are certain sections of the game that encourage putting the pedal to the metal, much of the game requires a more careful and considered approach to the platforming at hand. If you go too fast you might miss some great shortcuts along the way. Even more than that, the game can be a bit malicious with enemy and trap placement in sections that would seem to encourage a speedy approach. In this sense the game often punishes speed in a way that would seem to counter the marketing (and public opinion in general).

The graphics here are absolutely beautiful in a timeless sort of way. This game is one of the finest examples of an all too fleeting era in which 2D sprite based graphics were operating on a level of fine art. It really is a beautiful game to look at, and IMO one of the most visually striking of its era. Sonic the Hedgehog confidently and unerringly set the groundwork for the iconic look and feel of the Sonic series right here at the series inception. It's really sort of amazing how well conceived this series was straight from the start.

That doesn't necessarily mean that it's a perfect game though. The use of larger Sprites means that the platforming can feel less precise, and as you progress further into the game it relies more and more on precise platforming. Compounding the issue of imprecise platforming is that controlling Sonic can feel pretty drifty at times. I suspect part of this issue can be chalked up to the fact that the jumping mid-air 'turn into a ball' animation for Sonic is very different from the takeoff and landing animations, although I also don't think that sums up the entirety of the issue. It's just a bit of a drifty game. Having said all of that, I doubt that it would much feel like a Sonic game if that drifty feel were tightened up or altered. It's actually not so bad, once you get used to it, but conversely I think that's the main driving factor that prevented me from seeing this game through for all these years.

The stages in this game are well executed and rather brilliant. For my money the game hits its high points around the mid-point with the lineup of Spring Yard, Labyrinth, and Star Light Zones. I also need to make special mention of the Special Chaos Emerald Zones in Sonic the Hedgehog. These levels show off the parallax scrolling capabilities of the Genesis in splendid fashion, and while they are (sometimes frustratingly) brief, they are a joy to play. These levels even caught the attention of my wife who is not a gamer, and who rarely pays any attention whatsoever to what I'm playing. "Cool! That looks psychedelic!" she exclaimed. And that in a nutshell encapsulates the universal appeal of Sonic. If a 23 year old game manages to capture my wife's attention however briefly, it's doing something (or several things) right.

Usually I end these things with some sort of recommendation summary, but really what is there to say? If you fancy yourself a retro gamer this is required reading playing. I'm a bit chagrined that it took me this long to get around to it.
Contra
After finishing Sonic, I started up Contra on a whim, as I hadn't played it for a while. I had forgotten how short this game is (even by the standards of its time)! Any time spent with Contra is time well spent though.

One of the things I love about this game is just how tight it feels. The controls are precise and responsive in the best possible way. And that's good because this is a game that requires, nay demands, precision from the player. To an extent, this sort of precision further requires pattern and placement memorization of the part of the player, but to this extent it never feels tedious or grinding. Perhaps that is due in part to its short duration, but I would say that to an even greater extent it's because it rewards the requisite precision and memorization with spectacle and wonder. Especially at the time of its release this was a game of spectacle. The bosses are larger than life and tough as nails. The levels are constantly changing not only in their scenery but in their rudimentary compositional mechanics. You have horizontal side-scrolling one minute, followed by rudimentary pseudo-3D, followed by vertical scrolling. From a gameplay perspective this constant shake-up keeps you on your toes, as you never quite settle into a groove before the game turns the tables again. It keeps the player slightly off balance, but continually eager to see what it will throw at you next. Contra is a game that inherently understands its tonal makeup and absolutely knocks it out of the park without fail. It represents so much of what was awesome about the outrageous 80's and reflects it across the span of time through an 8-bit lens.

I really need to make special mention of the music and sound effects here as they're quite remarkable. The sound of the gunfire combined with the intensity of the soundtrack propels this game forward with an unstoppable drive. It's the type of game that feels like you're doing it wrong if you try to take it slow, or take your finger off the trigger. Even the dying sound is badass, although I suppose that's a good thing as it's something you'll likely be hearing often.

Although this game isn't the progenitor of the Konami code, I think it's the game that popularized and imprinted its muscle memory as an unforgettable sequence for many of us in the U.S. This was some of the first "arcane video game lore" that I was ever aware of, passed down from Nintendo Power and onwards from kid to kid in the form of secret oral history.

All told this is a game that's exceedingly satisfying when you find your groove as a one-man army, and equally punishing should you slip out of that groove for a moment. If you've not played this game, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It truly is one of the very best action oriented titles on the NES.
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Sarge
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by Sarge Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:28 pm

Yep, Contra is a classic. Fantastic game. The Konami Code is a good way to practice up, but nothing really beats playing through with the initial stock. It requires you to bring your A-game every time. And it really is rather short. You can blow through it in about 30 minutes if you're pretty good at it. The longer you can hold on to the Spreader, the shorter that time gets, too, because you'll absolutely shred bosses with it.

I think Super C is just as good, and I'm finally getting to the point where I can consistently beat it without continues. I don't have it as memorized as I do the first game, though, which is part of the problem. And there are some sequences where losing your alternate weapon can be a death sentence. (I don't recommend losing the Spreader on, say, the boss that spits out the skulls that go along the ground, or that sequence in the last stage where the ceiling drops and you've got the little spore thingies coming for you.)
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KayJay
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by KayJay Wed Jul 29, 2015 6:15 pm

Sarge wrote:Oh, yeah, I've got the GC version as well and the control layout just makes it almost unplayable. At least for me it does. I've got my muscle memory trained by this point, and it would take some serious work to unlearn all my Mega Man habits.



IKR? Although i played the Gamecube collection first, but after playing Mega Man Powered Up, and Maverick Hunter X (which are excellent, by the way) It was nigh impossible to play. :/
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Sarge
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by Sarge Wed Jul 29, 2015 7:47 pm

Yeah, I've been playing Mega Man since the NES days, and I'd played and beaten every entry in the series multiple times. I mean, I can get through stages, but man, it kills my efficiency.

Powered Up is indeed great. I played a bit of Maverick Hunter as well, but seemed to encounter a lot of slowdown. Was that just me, or did you run into that as well?
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by Markies Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:33 pm

I beat Illusion of Gaia on the SNES this evening!

Man, that was a fantastic game! The story is pretty insane and really really depressing on some of the little stories. The overall story is kind of weird and makes no sense. However, that combat is so satisfying. I love changing between the different characters and the dungeons really made the game. The power ups are fantastic and the new abilities really do make you feel stronger.

Honestly, I think the combat is better than Link to the Past. Everything else is better in Zelda including the graphics, sound, puzzles, story and dungeons, but the simple art of fighting and defeating monsters, Illusion of Gaia does it better.

So glad to have played it. I can't wait to play other Quintet games!!
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by BoneSnapDeez Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:37 pm

bro did you play Soul Blazer first?
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KayJay
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Re: Games Beaten 2015

by KayJay Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:47 pm

Sarge wrote:Yeah, I've been playing Mega Man since the NES days, and I'd played and beaten every entry in the series multiple times. I mean, I can get through stages, but man, it kills my efficiency.

Powered Up is indeed great. I played a bit of Maverick Hunter as well, but seemed to encounter a lot of slowdown. Was that just me, or did you run into that as well?



Man, i haven't played Maverick Hunted in about a year or so, dude. :P


let me think...I think there may had been some, but it was only in high enemy count areas. I think so, at least. :/ I've always preferred the SNES version, even though i played Maverick Hunter first.
Currently Playing: Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd (PS3)
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