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Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:58 pm
by PartridgeSenpai
Partridge Senpai's 2018 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017
* indicates a repeat

1. Tyranny (PC)
2. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PC)
4. Hotline Miami (PC)*
5. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PC)
6. Mario X Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch)
7. Nine Parchments (Switch)
8. X-com: UFO Defense (PC)
9. Chocobo Racing (PS1)
10. Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak (GBA)
11. Dragon Quest Builders (PS4)
12. Dragon Quest (3DS)
13. Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below (PS4)
14. Dragon Quest II (3DS)
15. Kirby Star Allies (Switch)
16. Hearthstone Dungeon Run (PC)
17. My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (3DS)

18. Tales of Legendia (PS2)

I've always been fascinated by Tales of Legendia. Not developed by the usual Tales Studios but instead Project MelFes, a team combined of both Tales and Tekken/SoulCalibur devs, it has always been a strange black sheep among the Tales family post-Phantasia. It spent over four years in development, in which time the normal Tales team released both Tales of Rebirth and Tales of Destiny 2, and the time clearly spent trying to remedy the growing pains encountered when trying to blend a more fighting game-like combat system with the normal Tales styles does shine through. That said, I still enjoyed it quite a lot, and would peg it at one of the higher B-tier entries in the series. It took me 67 hours to play through it on the normal difficulty on the American version.

This review is a BIT on the long side, so for simplicity's sake I'm going to spoiler the two main parts just so the page is easier to navigate:

Story & Presentation:
The story and localization are things immediately worth mentioning, as most Tales games are 30-ish hours, and the reason to why Legendia isn't is mostly an answer of "but it is (kinda)" :lol: . A bit like the original Zelda's Second Quest, there is effectively another whole game's worth of content in Legendia once the first credits role that reuse the same dungeons and maps but with a whole new story and (much) tougher monsters. Legendia calls this section its "Character Quest," I guess because it's more focused on the characters development themselves, but I just call it "second quest" for simplicity's sake. The main quest took me about 30 hours, and then the character quest and some side quests took me another 37.

The Character Quest does not actually have any voice work in it outside of the animated cutscenes (of which there are quite a few, but hardly enough to pop up more than half a dozen times over 30 hours), but this isn't exactly a bad thing. Compared to sister games Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss released around the same time, the VA work in Legendia is terrible, especially for a Namco game. Outside of one member of the main cast (who actually is also Kratos in Symphonia) and one of the main bad guys, the main cast's VA ranges from acceptable to downright awful. The Character Quest actually has all of its story lines (of which there are MANY) voiced in the Japanese version, but not in the English version. This isn't even RE-style of "so bad it's good," it's just poor acting.

The bad voice cast really drag down a story that already really drags its feet for the first half of the main quest, which is such a shame because the second half of the main quest and the character quest all had the best story bits by far for me. Never has a game had such tender, human moments to bring me to tears so many times, but I could totally understand most people never even reaching those points because of how rough the first half of the main quest is.

The story itself is quite good, with the main quest's overall plot being better than the overall plot of the character quest, but the pieces that make up the character quest better than those of the main quest. It also has a very noticeably sillier element to it than other Tales games, at least at first. For example, the first town you go into has you meeting with the town guard who proceed to sing at you about how bad you are for breaking the town rules by fighting in town. The sillier moments really help flesh out the characters relations to one another and make the main town feel far more homey, and it was a welcome change of pace from the more purely character driven comedy that a lot of the other games rely on in skits. This game has virtually no skits, so basically all of its comedy and character-building moments are done through the main story, which I thought worked quite well (even though I really would've liked more kits because I like skits).

In my opinion, what really boosts up this game's narrative beyond its bad voice work is the absolutely stellar soundtrack. While looking online a bit about this game, I saw it mentioned on some list of "Underwhelming RPG's with Overwhelming Soundtracks," and that couldn't've hit the nail on the head better. The soundtrack does a ton of the heavy lifting for setting the proper atmosphere for story moments in the main quest, and the lack of VA in the character quest allows it to effectively do all of it. It really stands out, and really kicks in when it needs to, and really brings up the narrative from the bad VA and occasionally less than stellar translation dragging it down.

Mechanics & Design:
Even in its main design, Legendia is a bit of an odd-ball among Tales games. Instead of a large series of towns over a world map, you never actually leave the "continent" you're on. The game takes place on a giant ship made of land (it's complicated), and there is really only one main town with an inn, shops that get updated every now and then, and where most all NPC's live. This means there are no teleportation spells or even any kind of vehicles, but instead a "duct" system that allows you to teleport between the main town and the dungeons you'll go to. It means you can easily zip back to town before going to most dungeons, and you can zip right back to a dungeon whenever you may feel the need. I'm not sure I prefer it to a more typical on foot -> boat -> airship style of terrain progression and content gating in an RPG, but it's not bad.

What is bad are the dungeon designs. Dungeons are effectively all corridors with occasional branching paths for better loot. The branching paths of often very clearly marked by being blocked with a "chaos zone," where a dungeon-specific more powerful version of a normal monster will spawn for you to fight. It means most dungeons really aren't memorable past the scenery, which while nice to look at, is really the only real difference between most dungeons other than the monsters.

There are some 50 or so enemy types in the game with most boss monsters taking the form of more scary/powerful versions of those enemies. Some are HORRIBLY annoying to fight because of how short they are, how they recoil when hit, or because they're fast and can fly. Some dungeons are an absolute nightmare because they're a perfect storm of very annoying to hit casters and flyers that systematically hunt down your casters. They're alright for the most part, though, even though most dungeons are really just re-assortments of somewhat differently powered but familiar enemy types.

The combat is also somewhat of a mixed bag. Now I haven't played that much of other Tales games with 2D-plan battle systems, but the combat in this, by design, is much faster and combo focused. Especially when you try and coordinate with your party members hits, you can get some crazy combos going when you start to stagger even a boss enemy, and it just feel so awesome. The physical spell users in your party can even unlock new spells by using "base" spells 50 times and unlocking new spells that are combos of previously mastered ones, meaning your physical attackers get a ton of special moves to choose from, but that are handed out to you in a very reasonable pace. Unfortunately, this fun, quick combat is hampered by dumb AI, lack of special move hotkey functions, and an annoying targeting system.

The AI is just not very bright. The amount of times that I wished my allies would just protect themselves by running away from the giant monster trying to kill them or would actually run towards the allies they're supposed to be protecting was innumerable. However, a lot of this problem I think is down to the bad targeting system. Sure, like most Tales games, you can press R1 to re-select an enemy to target. However, if an enemy hits you, you'll target them. If you TURN AROUND, you'll target the enemy you're facing and your next button commands will be directed at them, and if you play on semi-automatic play like I do, this means a lot of running far away from the enemy you're trying to focus on because your character ran across the field to the new shiny he just saw. Particularly with shorter enemies and flying enemies this can be an absolute nightmare, and there were several encounters I had where the party nearly wiped just because my character was having so much trouble actually attacking what was in front of him. This could be remedied a bit with specific hotkeys to trigger allies moves, but you only get two: The R2 and L2 button. This game doesn't use the right control stick AT ALL in battle, which absolutely baffles me, since plenty of other Tales games use up, left, right, and down on the right stick as an additional four special move-hotkey commands. It just feels like this game wasn't developed with dualshock in mind (which is certainly possible considering that development started in 2000, but this game came out in 2005!).

All of this adds up for a combat system that frequently revolves between being very fun and quick to being very irritating and annoying due to some very obvious problems.

Verdict: Hesitantly Recommended. I really liked this game, but I also really didn't like it at times. It really reminded me of Symphonia in that it has some really prevalent problems that are impossible to ignore, but also some really great things that are exemplary for the genre. This all adds up to a game I can really only recommend to people really fanatic about Tales that just want to play them all (like me), or to people who just really wanna play every PS2 RPG out there. There are enough other Tales games in a similar style out there that you can very safely pick for a more reliably fun experience than Legendia, even though there is plenty of potential fun to be had with Legendia.

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:57 pm
by nullPointer
Great review Senpai! I really need to crack the shell on some Tales games one of these days ...

The List So Far:

17. Formula One: Built to Win [NES]
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Looking at screen shots of Formula One: Built to Win, it would be easy to dismiss it as a clone of Rad Racer. And indeed F1:BtW does bear some striking similarities to Rad Racer which released three years prior on the NES. But these similarities quickly melt away as you begin to discover the hidden levels of depth within F1:BtW, a degree of depth that was all but non-existent in Rad Racer. In current parlance we'd likely refer to this as a 'racing-sim' with Rad Racer being more of an 'arcade racer'. But at the time of release it was not uncommon to hear this game being referred to as a 'racing RPG' (or at least if you heard it referred to at all; this one definitely flew under the radar for the most part). And in some ways, a 'racing RPG' might be the more apt description in this case. As opposed to the sterile 'hardcore' racing sims that would follow it, F1:BtW injects some personality into the proceedings via RPG styled shops and trappings often personed by nicely drawn anime style girls.

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But much like more modern racing sims, this game implements several flavors of progression system through which you'll advance over the course of the game. First and foremost you'll start the game with a low grade racing license that levels up by way of entering and winning races. All other progression paths in the game are tied to this racing license. In your quest to climb the ranking ladder you'll earn money from winning races. The first aspect you'll likely apply your winnings toward will be upgrading components on your car, and it's here that the game really starts to differentiate itself as being more sim-like. Upgradable components for your vehicle include chassis, suspension, engine, turbo, brakes, tires, and of course a refillable nitro tank (naturally). All of these components have noticeable in-game effects on vehicle performance and each component has several variants of upgrade unlockable for purchase through higher ranks of license. As you progress through various racing licenses you'll also unlock all-new vehicles for purchase. Although you start the game in a diminutive Mini Cooper, you'll eventually be racing in a powerful F-1 car as indicated in the title of the game. In an incredibly nice touch, each model of car has its own distinctive graphics for dashboard, gauges and controls. In the event that racing alone doesn't provide enough income for a steady string of upgrades, you can head to Las Vegas and gamble away your winnings on casino slot machines for a chance at a big payout (or a big washout depending on Lady Luck).

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As I mentioned in the intro, the gameplay itself feels quite similar to Rad Racer when it comes down to the racing itself. All told this isn't a knock against the game in the slightest, being as Rad Racer is often remembered as being one of the better racing titles on the NES. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! If there's any downside here, it's that F1:BtW exhibits the same degree of sprite flicker found in the earlier title. On the other hand the graphics in F1:BtW are much more detailed and varied than Rad Racer where it comes to the race courses themselves. Even before you enter the Formula-One Grand Prix circuit there are 30 unique race courses spread over 10 locations in the United States, and each track generally features landmarks identifiable to that location (although this connection can occasionally be a little tenuous). The Grand Prix circuit adds another 16 unique tracks in locations all over the world with similarly identifiable landmarks. So by the end of the game you've raced through 46 unique tracks, a rather Herculean feat for a humble NES title!

If there's any knock against this game, it's that there's a rather intense difficulty spike towards the end of the game vis-à-vis the Grand Prix circuit. Whereas most upstart racers will be able to breeze through the early races in the U.S. (provided you keep your vehicles updated and upgraded), the late-game F-1 races are incredibly challenging, almost unfairly so. By the last few races your opponents default speed matches yours at full nitro boost, not to mention that most cars on the track seek to actively obstruct only you (opponents at this level tend to drive right through the other vehicles) In other words don't plan on sweeping the Grand Prix series, it will likely be a fight to the finish.

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It had been a long time since I played this game (I'd never beaten it), and it was every bit as good as I remembered it being. The fact that there's some degree of late game frustration doesn't change the fact that this was an incredibly forward thinking racing game for the time of its release. If you're a fan of old-school racing games, I feel confident in giving this my highest recommendation. Truly a hidden gem for the NES.

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:53 pm
by PartridgeSenpai
PresidentLeever wrote:Yeah La Mulana was just overwhelming to me. Might get back to it or the remake at some point though. Thanks for the tip!

The remake to La-Mulana makes things quite a bit easier. No more ROMs to collect like in the old game, and a lot of the puzzles are made far more straightforward due to more user-friendly UI and menus. No longer using an MSX graphics style, it does control a bit differently, but the remake is definitely the way I'd recommend anyone to play the game. You very well may still need a guide for the very end of the game, but I bumbled through nearly the whole thing without a guide, and if I can do it than I'd say just about anyone can :P

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:37 am
by PresidentLeever
^Thanks for the info!

33. Golvellius (MSX)
34. Shin Maou Golvellius (MSX) (click for full reviews)

These were fun to have a proper look at being a fan of the SMS game - none of the games are a faithful port of the other. I would still consider that version the definitive one since it has the best overall boss and level design with a good balance between linear and non-linear elements. Shin Maou does have the better variety and world building though which is more reminiscent of a 16-bit game, and adds a "valley of Golvellius" area which brings both Zelda 3 and SMW to mind. It also reduces the grinding for gold quite a bit, though I suppose you could use a GG code to fix this for the SMS game. Sadly the fan translation I played is only functional at best while the SMS game is one of the best 8-bit localizations I've seen.

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:59 pm
by nullPointer
The List So Far:

18. Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus: Salamander [PSX]
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Shoot'em ups are always an interesting genre for me. By and large I completely suck at them, but because I completely suck, it's almost as if they become that much more interesting to me. They're like this ungraspable 'other' that I can never fully comprehend, and the harder I try to do so, the farther they slip from my grasp. Shmups are therefore my 'Zen and the Art of Video Games' if you will; equal parts game and meditative practice. Someday I hope to beat all the games in the Gradius series, and perhaps through this journey I will gain insight into some universal truth … become privy to some all-encompassing universal Life Force. <GROAN>

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High-minded erudite mumbo jumbo aside, what we have here is the first game in the Salamander (AKA Life Force) series which is set within the same universe as Gradius and which serve both as sequels and side stories to the Gradius line. Having said that, I'm certainly no expert on Gradius lore so if I'm missing any finer points in the timeline or universe at large, please feel free to let me know. The games themselves are not exactly fonts of wisdom in this regard (not that they aren't brilliant for what they are). What I can tell you is that in this game you are indeed piloting the same Vic Viper space fighter first popularized in Gradius. Given all of these close familial ties, perhaps it's no surprise then that this game shares many similarities with Gradius. If you're familiar with practically any Gradius game, you'll feel right at home with the side-scrolling gameplay in Salamander. Although most enemies aren't identical to those you find in Gradius, many of them are functional copies. The power-ups are all quite similar as well, with missiles, shields, lasers, and options all functioning identically to their Gradius counterparts. The power-up system however is where we see our first distinctive difference as compared to the Big-G. Whereas Gradius utilizes a 'power bar' in which power-ups cycle through predefined selections until such time as they are activated by the player, Salamander utilizes a more 'traditional' system in which power-ups take effect immediately upon pick-up. This leads to some interesting strategic implications. In Gradius you have a bit more leverage to actively hone your preferred load-out, while in Salamander you need to stay very conscious of which power-up icons do what, lest you suddenly lose your weapon of choice. And the game will often troll you in this regard by placing less effective power-ups directly before some boss or crucial segment more tailored to some other weapon.

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In discussing the ways in which Salamander is different from Gradius though, the most crucial and indeed the defining characteristic of the Salamander series is that it has a mix of both side scrolling and overhead segments. And in freeing itself from purely side-scrolling levels, the obvious implication here is that it allows Salamander an opportunity for more varied gameplay than that found in the base series. In some ways it's quite successful in this regard. It's interesting to see how some of the familiar Gradius weapons perform (or fail to perform) in an overhead perspective. It's not that Salamander breaks any new ground here of course, but it is a fun spin to see the familiar Gradius tropes playing out from above.

Bearing in mind my earlier comments regarding my prowess at shmups (I suck), it needs to be said that I found this game to be much more challenging than Gradius (by which I mean Gradius the game, not Gradius the series). Sure it starts out easy enough, and for a good half of the game I had convinced myself that Salamander was in fact a good deal easier than Gradius. But somewhere around the level 4 boss, Salamander flips a giant switch. And that switch is labeled, "Fuck you and everything you stand for". Beyond that point the game becomes less about reflexes (though that certainly helps!) and more about pattern memorization. It's still a good game, just not a terribly forgiving one. At least to this end there are some concessions to be made, such as the fact that after your ship is destroyed you resume play immediately from where you left off. Furthermore after death, you leave behind any options you've collected so that you can pick them up again with the next ship (assuming you're quick enough). All the same there are no continues in the 1 player game, something sure to delight the "1CC or die" set. So despite some concessions this is in no way a (space) walk in the park.

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As if all of the above wasn't indication enough, I'm really not the best judge of shmup games. Having said that, I enjoyed my time with Salamander despite some intermittent frustration with difficulty. I feel confident in recommending Salamander if you're a fan of Gradius games, and more to the point I think it's pretty safe to call Salamander a classic in its genre. If any of this sounds appealing to you, then Salamander is your jam.

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:11 pm
by Segata
Wild Guns Reloaded on Switch. I did own it on PS4 but I only played it for 5 min then got sidetracked and gave it to someone so I rebought it on Switch. Feels better to own on a cart anyway. I never played it in arcades or SNES. Really fun arcade shooter but not meant to be played solo like I did.

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:13 pm
by prfsnl_gmr

Your review of F1 BTW is really, really solid. I have owned that game for years and never been interested in it. You have shown me the error of my ways!

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:26 pm
by nullPointer
prfsnl_gmr wrote:@nullpointer

Your review of F1 BTW is really, really solid. I have owned that game for years and never been interested in it. You have shown me the error of my ways!

Thanks so much man! It's definitely worth a shot, even if just to take it for a spin. I was a bit of a 'car nerd' as a kid, and was (somewhat counter-intuitively) rather thrilled at the notion that you started the game racing in a relatively un-glamorous Mini Cooper, as opposed to an overwrought super car (as seen in other racing games during this time). Sort of like, "Wow, I could actually own this car in real life!" :lol:

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 4:22 am
by ESauced

I similarly am awful at shmups but I love the Salamander and Gradius series. One of my favorites shmups is Hellfire, despite the fact that I will probably never beat the game due to my lack of skill.

Re: Games Beaten 2018

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:49 am
by PresidentLeever