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Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 4:39 am
by Key-Glyph
01. MagMax (NES)
02. World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (GEN) [2-player]
03. Sonic Spinball (GEN)*
04. Sonic Spinball (GEN)* [complete]

05. Comix Zone (GEN)*

I wrote about Comix Zone once before, so I won't say much here. Short story: I love this game to pieces.

06. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Now here's a game that's haunted me twice over in my life.
As a child I enjoyed the NES TMNT in theory, but I was also deeply frightened by it. Disarming the bombs in the dam was terrifying, and my brother's description of the giant mouser's searching eyes left me hoping I'd never have to face it myself. All things considered, I never really aspired to beat the game back then; the experience was just too riddled with anxiety for that. I mostly wanted to wander around in the overworld where the Turtles looked super cute and rock out to that sweet, sweet BGM.

As a teenager, though, I got into an NES groove and decided I'd give this title a serious attempt. So, after an afternoon of painstakingly stocking up on scrolls and health -- as well as celebrating my triumph over the giant mouser who was not so much nightmare-inducing anymore as just totally rad-looking -- I got destroyed two steps into the Technodrome. I was so frustrated and disgusted by this (I thought the scrolls were supposed to, you know, do something) that I hadn't picked the cartridge up since. I couldn't even bring myself to fire it up last year for the Summer Games Challenge.

Well, about a decade has passed since that fateful afternoon of utter failure. Inspired by Popo's playthrough last year, as well as the TMNT valentines I just gave out to my coworkers (they came with temporary tattoos!!), I decided tonight was the night. I was finally going to do this. And I did.

I kind of can't believe it, actually. I really thought I was going to bite it in that final corridor leading up to Shredder, but somehow I survived, and then Shredder himself turned out to be a total pushover. I spammed some scrolls, which were suddenly useful, and the final battle was over before I'd even gotten properly stressed out about it.

You know who's never a pushover? KRANG. Thank goodness he wasn't in this game. There would have been tears.

Anyway. I might celebrate this newfound closure with a pizza tomorrow. Cowabunga, dudes -- or booyakasha, if you're one of the young peoples.

* = replay

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:02 am
by Sload Soap
Transformer: Devastation (Xbox One)
This was a lot of fun. Short way of describing it would be Gen 1 Transformers meets Bayonetta in an arena brawler. It looks amazing as well, as a friend pointed out T:D is much more colourful and far better animated than the cartoon it's based on.

If there's one thing holding it back it'd be the evidently budget grade feel of the environments and recycled assets. Although I guess that could also be seen as homage to the show.

I had a ton of fun with this one and I don't give a bobbins about Transformers. It's maybe a tad short but it does have a lot of side-missions and replay value to make up for it. Not as good as War for/Fall of Cyberton but still pretty excellent.

Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
This still remains my favourite JRPG and one of my all time favourite games. I've played it to death down the years so this was a quick run (for me) finishing off Sephiroth in just under 30 hours. Managed to cut some corners by walking over the marsh minus the Chocobo, going straight to Dio to get the Keystone and avoiding Wutai altogether.

Only real take away from this playthrough is how wonky the translation is, outside of the obvious "this guy are sick" moments. Way too much casual dialogue at critical moments and people starting conversations with "by the way...". If the remake sorts one thing, it should be this.

Actually, playing FFVII again impressed upon me what a monumental task remaking it is going to be. We've seen a lot of Midgar so far in the footage but there's so much beyond that. I hope they keep the cast of freaky enemies as well like the ghost ships and hell houses but I can see a lot of the optional locations (ancient forest and Wutai) and even some of the quest ones (Bone Village and Fort Condor) not making the cut. We'll see though.

Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn)
Another brilliant 5th gen JRPG albeit one that strays very far away from the usual JRPG mold.

You play as Edge who, in traditional Panzer Dragoon fashion, falls down a hole and is about to be eaten by a bio-organic abomination before luckily being rescued by an ancient and powerful dragon. With the dragon under his control, Edge goes on a quest to get revenge on the forces that killed his friends and along the way gets caught up in a plot involving two warring factions of the Empire and a mad plan to harness the continent destroying power of the mysterious Tower.

Okay so the plot isn't too removed from the norm and plays out almost exactly as you expect it to. Where PDS veers off the track is in its world building, its method of exploring that world and its combat system.

If you've played any of the other Panzer Dragoon games you should know what to expect from the aesthetic. There's an almost uncanny, gothic sense to the environments with ocean-like deserts, primeval jungles, or ancient ruins crumbling by a vast calm lake. Then you have the ruins themselves which look like if HR Giger drew his version of the inside of a wasps nest. These varied environments are complemented by a exceptional soundtrack which blends Asian and middle eastern influences into the mix to create something at once otherworldly and memorable.

I have to say though while I adore Panzer Dragoon's aesthetic and have a fondness for early PS1/Saturn 3D, PDS is a ropey looking game these days, replete with abysmal draw distances, muddy textures and NPCs with blurry, indistinct faces. PDS uses Zwei's engine and it's obviously being pushed to breaking point here.

Most of these graphical issues are reserved for the exploration phases of the game and in fairness, battles are much sharper while the towns are small enough that draw distance doesn't become an problem. There are many moments of true beauty though where the aesthetic usurps the limitations of the Saturn so this isn't a major criticism. It's also worth bearing in mind that unlike a lot of its contemporaries, PDS is running in full 3D. It's therefore only natural its world wouldn't have aged as well as that of other, usually pre-rendered 5th gen fare.

Exploration of this rugged world happens from atop your dragon, who can name if you wish. The dragon can change its altitude and speed but generally you point it where you want to go and it flaps its way over, similar to flying an airship in a FF game. Its in these exploration areas where you'll battle in random encounters and this is where the game shows off its class.

Battles operate under the basic rules of the player and enemy taking turns to dole out damage to one another and your dragon can use magic (here called berserk attacks) or items. So far so standard. What really sets this system aside though something most JRPGs restrict in battle: movement.

PDS' battles fields are split into four quarters you can move freely between these four quarters to either avoid attacks or line yourself up for criticals. These quarters are colour coded to give the player a better indication of what sort of moves to expect from the enemy; green zones are safe, in blank zones enemies will use normal attacks and in red zones the enemy will use its strongest attacks. The onus then is on carefully moving between these zones, building up bars in your attack gauge and trying to expose a weak point. And it's safe to say the enemy won't just sit back and let you do this, they themselves constantly trying to readjust themselves to get you into a position of vulnerability. Some of the later bosses can actually be real bastards for this, one particular boss having a move that makes all zones red and giving zero fucks if you can escape its line of sight or not.

Regardless of one of two irritating boss battles thought the system works amazingly with even regular battles staying engaging. Team Andromeda did a stupendous job of transplanting shooter mechanics into a turn-based RPG battle system and the results speak for themselves. The battles are even graded like a shooter on how quickly they were finished and how little damage you took. Unlike say FFXIII this grading system is actually welcome and doesn't seem forced or arbitrary.

Additionally to the constant tempo of move and counter-move, PDS allows an extraordinary level of customization to the stats of your dragon. Essentially you reach a point where the dragon can morph into five types (think classes or jobs), where one of four attributes (attack, magic, speed or defence) takes precedent. Morphing into a form has a knock on effect to the stats of the form oppositely aligned to it, so more attack means less magic, more speed means less attack and so on. What's great is that this is done on a sliding scale so you can pitch your stat distribution exactly where you want it. And because this game is all class, your dragon's appearance will morph into a new form accordingly. And you can do it mid-battle, so you rarely get caught with your pants down. It's no wonder that the team kept a hold of this idea and transplanted it back into the mainline PD shooter series with Orta.

There are some sections that take place off the dragon, though as this isn't a very long or large JRPG, the places for Edge to go walkabout are limited. Indeed, one of them is just a camp where you can save.

Not to say these town sections aren't interesting, it's more that they are small and lacking in anything beyond a few questgivers and a single shop. They are obviously there to slow things down and pad the running time somewhat. Because make no mistake, PDS is a short game, beaten in 12-14 hours. That this is necessarily a bad thing, it's just something to note considering the fees this game fetches. Personally I'd take this over any of the bevy of obnoxiously long modern JRPGs.

At the end of it all though, forgetting the limits of the Saturn hardware, the extraordinary price the game commands and the raft of PS1 RPGs that hold up well today, Panzer Dragoon Saga is in the main a very, very good game. Easily one of the best on the Saturn. It's like a fabrege egg in way: expensive but wholly unique and expertly crafted. Regardless of how you get a copy though, I do recommend you give it a go, even if JRPGs aren't your bag.

Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)
I very much enjoyed Forza Horizon last year and Horizon 2 is essentially more of the same with a change of location from the red mountains of Colorado to the vineyards and coastlines of the Cote Azure and Tuscany.

Forza games, like sports games, are basically what I use to just disconnect my brain and relax. They are always exceptionally produced games and standard bearers for the graphical prowess of whatever Microsoft machine they turn up on. They are tasty eye candy. Handily, they are also equally good racers so there is substance under the style.

I have to say though, after playing the slightly under-appreciated The Crew last year, Horizon 2 seemed lacking in some edge. It has the usual abundance of cars, tracks and events to compete in but it's almost as if Playground Games and Turn 10 have polished it to such a mirror sheen, it's lost some intangible X-factor. Perhaps it's personality, the kind of personality that a flawed gem like The Crew kind of comes built in with.

The Crew was and is a deeply flawed game in many ways but it also ended up being, almost in spite of itself, a deeply engaging driving simulator almost akin to a modern day Out Run. Horizon 2 is just the sequel to Forza Horizon with all that entails. If that is all you want, you'll be happy. If you want anything beyond that and some very minor changes to the Horizon 1 template, look elsewhere.

Again like Horizon 1, there's some skeevy DLC stuff present. There are way too many cars in the autoshow locked behind paywalls or part of bundles (including the IGN bundle, cos lolz gamez jurnalizm). At one point the game lead me to what seemed like a new event, only to be whisked away to the Xboxlive marketplace and asked to stump up £15.99 for DLC. Not seen anything this shameless since Dragon Age: Origins.

Strangely I don't feel like I can recommend Forza Horizon 2 despite having a lot of fun with it. It's kind of plain and only two games in, the Horizon formula is wearing thin. I can't believe I'm saying this but, as a stalwart Forza fanboy, I'd actually rather play The Crew over Horizon 2. That rhymes so it must be true.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 9:57 am
by Exhuminator
Sload Soap wrote:It's like a Fabergé egg in way: expensive but wholly unique and expertly crafted.

That is a brilliant analogy for PDS and absolutely accurate.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 10:45 am
by Ack
Exhuminator wrote:
Sload Soap wrote:It's like a Fabergé egg in way: expensive but wholly unique and expertly crafted.

That is a brilliant analogy for PDS and absolutely accurate.

I wouldn't know, I've never played it.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 10:47 am
by BoneSnapDeez
Key crushes some really hard games.

Nice to see some PDS love up in hurr.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 10:48 am
by Exhuminator
Ack wrote:
Exhuminator wrote:
Sload Soap wrote:It's like a Fabergé egg in way: expensive but wholly unique and expertly crafted.

That is a brilliant analogy for PDS and absolutely accurate.

I wouldn't know, I've never played it.

You ought to do something about that Ackypoo.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 10:56 am
by Ack
Maybe someday, but for now I have a ton of titles to get through, including quite a few classics on the PC side of things.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 11:36 am
by MrPopo
Grats Key! It's always an awesome feeling to beat that game you've had since a kid but was always way too hard for you to beat.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 11:47 am
Nice work on the TMNT there, Key! That game gets shit on some, but I still love it anyway.

Re: Games Beaten 2016

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 12:00 pm
by Sarge
1) Bonk's Adventure (NES)
2) Little Samson
3) Holy Diver
4) Holy Diver (legit!)
5) Mitsume Ga Tooru
6) TMNT II: The Arcade Game (NES)
7) Mighty Final Fight
8] Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
9) Monster In My Pocket
10) Battle of Olympus
11) Gunstar Heroes (repeat)
12) Dragon Age: Inquisition
13) Dragon Age: Inquisition - Trespasser
14) Captain America and the Avengers (NES)
15) StarTropics
16) Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES) (save states)
17) Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES) (legit)
18) Crisis Force
19) Esper Dream 2
20) Felix the Cat
21) Moon Crystal
22) Panic Restaurant
23) Frankenstein (NES)
24) Crystalis
25) Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu

26) Killer Instinct (GB)
27) Mashin Hero Wataru Gaiden
28) Sly Spy (Arcade)
29) The Red Star (unreleased XBOX, also on PS2)
30) Adventure Island 4
31) Cocoron
32) Batman: Arkham Knight
33) Xeodrifter (Vita)
34) Doom 2
35) Brandish: The Dark Revenant
36) Magical Pop'n
37) The Ninja Warriors (SNES)
38) Phantasy Star (SMS)

Yep, I finally finished off Phantasy Star. I feel like I shouldn't belabor my earlier criticisms. That end run is legit tough, though. I didn't prepare very well, and found myself reaching LaShiec with pretty much no HP, but full health. It took me ten or fifteen goes at it, because I didn't want to warp out and return. The primary problem is that he dodges physical attacks really well, so I really needed to have magic to make things easier. That thunder attack is no joke, either. (And that's not even factoring in that I was lucky to get the crystal, that battle is unbeatable without it, from my understanding). I figure it'd been easy if I'd bought a bunch of Ruogonin (Burgers in the original translation) to keep my health up. I ran from almost every encounter. I noticed it's really tough to run against the Golems (the really big muscle guys), at least if it's a single one. I had pretty good luck running from groups of two.

Anyway, the real last boss (spoiler?) took a few tries as well. I had to recalibrate my strategy, sticking with Fire for Alisa/Alys, Wind for Lutz/Noah, and giving Tylon/Odin the Laconian Axe and having Myau use Power Boost on him then heal as best I could. Seemed to work well enough. Thankfully, you can save pretty much anywhere, anytime, so you can eventually see it through even if you're a bit underleveled. My team was 24, 24, 24, and 22 for Lutz, so probably ready, but probably could have used a few more levels.

All in all, it's a solid 8-bit RPG. Certainly one of the better ones, and it'd be almost perfect if I liked the combat more. And for when it came out, it compares pretty favorably to Final Fantasy in scale and scope. I still prefer FF, but PS is good times, and one of the most technically-impressive 8-bit RPGs I've played, especially with the FM synth soundtrack.

(To Key: Great job finishing TMNT! That one always stymied me as a kid, felt good to beat it last year. That last hallway is no joke. The answer to everything is Scrolls, but even then, it can be tricky.)