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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by BoneSnapDeez Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:28 pm

1. Antarctic Adventure (Famicom)
2. Nuts & Milk (Famicom)
3. Commando (Atari 2600)
4. Binary Land (Famicom)
5. Devil World (Famicom)
6. Disney's Aladdin (SNES)
7. Popeye (NES)
8. Super Mario Land (Game Boy)
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Would it be remiss to call this game underrated? Sure, it made quite a splash in its heyday, but Super Mario Land has since been overshadowed by its more colorful (literally and figuratively) relatives.

The game's a Nintendo Game Boy launch title. Though, Little Dave (that'd be me) was devastated to discover it was, in fact, not the pack-in game. That would be whatever that falling blocky thing was. Took an additional six months of allowance saving for me to get my hands on handheld Mario.

Nintendo played it smart and safe with this one. No attempts to reinvent the wheel were made. A handheld version of something like Super Mario Bros. 3 (which was out in Japan) would have proven too ambitious. Super Mario Land is an original title in the vein of the first Super Mario Bros. -- a simplistic one-session platformer with no frills. The thirty minute cumulative run-time is easy on both the eyes and the AA batteries.
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Overall design should feel familiar to anyone who's played the NES classic. The primary goal is to traverse from left to right; each stage ends with either an exit or a boss battle. The anticipated control scheme is fluent and responsive, with A being used for jumping and B for running and shootin' balls. There's a superficial "clone" vibe to the whole thing, but a bit of casual play reveals that Mario isn't exactly in the Mushroom Kingdom anymore. In Super Mario Land turtle shells are prone to explosion. Power-up mushrooms now leap from their blocks and must be gathered quickly lest they fall victim to a pitfall. "Fire Flowers" now allow Mario to emit a perfectly spherical projectile (only one allowed on screen at a time): these will bounce off walls with the added ability to gather coins.

There's some shmup action as well. Two stages are auto-scrollers featuring Mario as pilot of a submarine or spaceship. These are undeniably entertaining, and among the easiest segments of the game as there are no tricky jumps to execute. Perhaps most significant to the Mario historians (is this a thing?) is the new damsel in distress: Princess Daisy. For the longest time I was convinced that this was simply Princess Toadstool (uh, Peach) with yet another localization name change, but nope, it's a whole new gal. Can't say I've seen her appear and too many additional Mario games, though she does seem to enjoy golf and tennis.

Structurally, the game contains four worlds with three levels each. Each world contains it's own unique theme and accompanying graphical set: there's an Egyptian world, a sea world, an Eastern Island world, and, finally, and Asian world. Levels are short and fairly simple in design. The biggest challenge stems from the designers' penchant for including plenty of crafty jumping segments, complete with moving platforms a-plenty. Nevertheless, the game is very easy to complete, as it's rife with opportunities to gain additional lives. There are coins everywhere, including some not-so-secretly hid underground areas that must contain about 200 of 'em. One-up hearts (distinguishable from mushrooms on the colorless screen) are housed within conspicuous blocks, and one seems to appear in virtually every stage. Each stage concludes with a bonus area. Access to these is generally earned by completing a simple series of jumps to a door placed at the screen's top. Bonuses range from a Fire Flower to three(!) additional lives granted. Checkpoints - the kind that wipe enemies off the screen - are additionally found in spades. It's clear that Nintendo wanted to grace its new hardware with something "everyone" would be able to complete.
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Though the old standby enemies remain a fixture (Goombas gonna Goomba) some new blood is added with the addition of arthropods, robots, zombies, and seahorses. No more repeated Bowser confrontations: bosses are unique to each area and all follow the same pattern, moving along a fixed axis while repeatedly lobbing projectiles. None are particularly fearsome, nothing like the hammer-tossing Bowser or dieting Wart.

Graphics showcase the new hardware nicely. They're clean, and (most importantly) visible, with an inherent simplicity that allows the screen the breathe. Backgrounds have some sparse but well-executed little details, especially in the later Asian stages. There are few frames of animation, some of the bosses look downright choppy, and don't expect to see anything fancy like parallax scrolling. Veteran composer Hirokazu Tanaka provides the soundtrack here, and it's quite excellent. Stage themes are undeniably catchy, and mesh well with whatever scenery is present. Best of all is the end credits tune, perhaps the strongest of any to appear in a Mario game. Sound effects are a bit strange - there are even some Atari-esque buzz noises - though it's never particularly distracting.

Nintendo took a sound approach with this one: they managed to show off the fledgling handheld without overextending its capabilities. Many more sophisticated Game Boy platformers would follow, including a great sequel to this very game, though Super Mario Land is the one that retains that satiating "pick up and play" quality the best. Essential.
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nullPointer
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by nullPointer Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:48 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:8. Super Mario Land (Game Boy)
There's a superficial "clone" vibe to the whole thing, but a bit of casual play reveals that Mario isn't exactly in the Mushroom Kingdom anymore.

This is certainly what stands out in my mind about this one, but also why I dig it. It's definitely one of the 'weirder' entries in the Mario franchise. Great write-up man!
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by PartridgeSenpai Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:17 pm

Partridge Senpai's 2018 Beaten Games:

Previously: 2016 2017

* indicates a repeat

1. Tyranny (PC)
2. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PC)
3. SUPERHOT (PC)

4. Hotline Miami (PC)*

I really hadn't had my fill of Hotline Miami yet, so I decided to hop into the first one again.
My hankering when I played the 2nd game was correct: The first entry did control differently. I'd say I'd prefer the way the more fluid and zany way the first game controls, but I'd also say I prefer just about everything about the first game. A story far less bogged down with dialogue, keeping things just vague enough to keep you guessing; a weapons system that's randomized so sometimes a death isn't just a learning experience but a chance to try something totally different the next time; It has far far more masks so way more styles of play to tackle each level with; and yeah, I just really prefer how this game controls compared to the first one. There are still some annoyingly set up levels, but it's great fun all the same. The one notable thing is that I did notice that just about EVERY character who shows up in the 2nd game has some role in the first game, but damn if you'd EVER recognize them in the 2nd game unless you were playing it immediately after, just because of Hotline Miami's severe aversion to actually naming characters.

Verdict: Highly recommended. Still an amazing fun and fast paced action game. A wonderful way to get that score attack or power-fantasy itch pretty quick.
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noiseredux
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by noiseredux Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:16 am

I prefer Super Mario Land to it's sequel personally.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by BoneSnapDeez Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:05 pm

If I had to give games "ratings" I'd probably give 'em each the same one. They both do different things and do them well.

I've never played Super Mario Land 3!
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by prfsnl_gmr Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:23 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:If I had to give games "ratings" I'd probably give 'em each the same one. They both do different things and do them well.

I've never played Super Mario Land 3!


Super Mario Land 3 is great. Better, it serves as an introduction to the bizarre and wonderful Wario Land series. (Wario Land 3 and Wario Land Shake It! Are not just two of my favorite platformers, but two of my favorite games.)
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Segata
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Segata Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:59 pm

Top Hunter NS
Azure Striker Gunvolt NS


Two games from different eras but they feel part of the same generation. Really nice 2D sprites. Music of that mid-90s sound. Azure feels like a 2D game you would find on SEGA Saturn. The music sounds very much in the type and quality you would find there. Top Hunter, of course, a Neo Geo game and would feel at home on a CD-based system of the mid-90s. I loved both and yes they are different games. Just they both give me a warm feeling of mid 90s 2D game nostalgia.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by BoneSnapDeez Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:17 pm

Segata wrote:Top Hunter, of course, a Neo Geo game and would feel at home on a CD-based system of the mid-90s


Well, I mean, technically... 8)
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Segata Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:44 pm

I figured it likely did get an NG CD port but wasn't 100% sure.
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by ElkinFencer10 Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:54 pm

Games Beaten in 2018 So Far - 5
* denotes a replay

January (5 Games Beaten)
1. Phantasy Star Portable - PlayStation Portable - January 1
2. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War - Xbox One - January 9
3. Duck Tales - NES - January 10
4. Yakuza Kiwami - PlayStation 4 - January 14
5. Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Gate of Firmament - PlayStation 4 - January 20


5. Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Gate of Firmament - PlayStation 4 - January 20

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With my love of visual novels - and often low budget ones at that - I'm no stranger to shoddy translations and straight up "Engrish." This game, however, takes the cake for astoundingly bad translations. Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Gate of Firmament is the sixth game in the series but the first one to receive a translation from Chinese. The Steam version saw a worldwide release, but this retail PlayStation 4 version was imported from China because I'm insane and pay good money for bad games just for the sake of sticking them on my shelf.

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Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Gate of Firmament (henceforth referred to simply as Xuan-Yuan Sword) is timer based JRPG somewhat reminiscent of the Tales or Xenoblade series in some aspects. Depending on what's going on in the story, you have anywhere from one to four characters in your party, and movement in the world takes place in a standard third person view with enemies appearing in the dungeon rather than randomly encountered and combat taking place in a fairly standard JRPG manner. You cannot move your character around within the battle - character movement is done automatically - but you have up to six attacks at your disposal depending on what skills you've unlocked and equipped and two items that can be used (you have to select a health item and a mana item of some kind from the pause menu outside of battle). From there, your actions are on a cooldown timer depending on what attack or item you chose to use. It's a pretty straight forward system that has some quirks here and there to learn but is largely going to feel right at home for any veteran of recent JRPGs.

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The story - from what I was able to gather of it - is that you play as this guy from some random little village whose sister gets kidnapped by bandits because she's stupid and clumsy, and then you meet some chick who eats more than a fat kid in a bakery but stays skinny and wields an axe that looks like it was stolen from Soul Calibur's Astaroth, and the two of you try to save your sister and along the way find some space looking chick who's in a come or something. This chick seriously looks like if the Chinese tried to draw a human version of Princess Luna. Anyway, yall do plot stuff and go your separate ways, and then your character gets banished from his village because old men are stupid, and then the game's real story FINALLY starts...literally no less than five or six hours in. I've never in my life played a game that takes this damn long to get to the actual story, and you're easily halfway through the game before you have any clue who the antagonist is.

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Part of the reason that synopsis is so flippant is because the story isn't that engaging anyway, but it's also partly because the translation is so bad that the details really aren't made clear. Like, the overarching narrative is that good guys want to get to heaven so the Jade Emperor (the creator god of the Three Pure Ones in Taoism) can recognize the ruler's bloodline which will apparently magically make natural disasters stop happening in their territory, but there are also bad guys who want to get to heaven and - somehow - force the Jade Emperor to destroy the world...or something. That part wasn't really that clear. Then there's a god who's a good guy but turned into a bad guy but he's dead but he's not REALLY dead and he's basically the "just wants to watch the world burn" meme in a nutshell. Another thing about the translation that makes it REALLY confusing to figure out what's going on is that seemingly at random, the wrong character's name will be used in a subtitle, so it gets REALLY confusing to figure out who's even talking to whom and about whom. There are also a couple of lines of subtitle that aren't even translated from Chinese - just these lines of Chinese characters mixed in with (very) poorly translated English).

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There are also some real gems of awkwardly or just flat out badly translated dialogue that make the game next to impossible to take seriously.

"I didn't come this far to only come this far!"


"I has been a obedient child."


"The willagers were trapped all over the places!"


Yes. Willagers. If only they had a nuclear wessel they could use to escape. Like, this game may well have a brilliantly written and compelling story. I'll never know without becoming fluent in Chinese because they could seriously have just plugged the entire script into Google Translate and had a better English product. It's baffling that this made it past ANY legitimate game studio's QA department. It's not like this is some bootleg Vietnamese Pokemon game for NES; this is a fairly well respected and well received game series among Chinese literate gamers. It just blows my mind a tad; it honestly might have been better not even to bother translating it at all if the finished product is this quality.

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So now that I've thoroughly expressed just how god awful the translation is, let's take a look at the graphics and music. It looks okay....if it were running on PS3. Honest to god, with only a few exceptions, it looks like an upscaled PlayStation 2 game. There was literally nothing about this game's visuals - not the character models, not the environments, not even the few pre-rendered cut scenes - that impressed me in the slightest. It doesn't look bad by any means, but it doesn't look like a game that came out for current generation hardware. Unfortunately, the last-gen looking visuals aren't for the sake of performance; the game normally runs between 20 and 30 fps, but there are section - one dungeon in particular - that routinely dips to 15 fps or so and approaches if not outright reaching single digit frame rates.

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The game's music is actually quite good. It's traditional instrumental Chinese music, and it's absolutely gorgeous. The problem is that it's also absolutely relaxing, and when you mix that with an utterly boring narrative and repetitive gameplay, you get my snoring pretty promptly. I had to put on headphones and start listening to Liquid Metal on Sirius XM and my Slipknot station on Pandora just to stay awake long enough to finish the game. It seriously put me to sleep. The biggest problem with the audio in general is that there's not much consistency to the voice levels; some characters' voices will sound normal, some will be virtually inaudible, and some will be almost deafening. In general, that's not a MAJOR issue here, but it does get annoying.

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Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Gate of Firmament has a decent pedigree, and with an interesting (or at least coherent) story, the rather repetitive gameplay wouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately, the game is somewhat marred by lackluster visuals, inconsistent performance, and an utterly pathetic attempt at translation. Chinese is a complex language, and English has some confusing grammar intricacies - I get it - but this is just pitiful. The game plays like a mid-budget RPG, looks like a low-budget RPG, and is translated like a high school project. I absolutely cannot recommend this on PlayStation 4 (it's a total waste of money and time to import it from China), and unless you find it for less than $5, I can't even recommend it on Steam. Hell, even for less than $5, I'd have a hard time recommending it unless it's a gift or something. There's just nothing worthwhile or compelling here, and that's really a shame given the promise of an RPG steeped in Taoist mythology. If you do ignore my advice and buy it, though, at least it does work. It's a functional game; it's just not a very good game.
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