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marurun
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by marurun Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:25 am

1. Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
2. Wonder Girl: the Dragon's Trap (Switch)

My first encounter with this game was Dragon's Curse on TurboGrafx, years ago. I really enjoyed the game and it introduced me to the Wonder Boy series. After seeing trailer footage of the fantastic art I knew I had to revisit this title. A 50% off sale on the eshop finally pushed me over.

By now, most of you know what this modern remake's gimmick is: hand-drawn, beautifully animated HD art and totally re-interpreted music, combined with the ability to switch back, on the fly, to Master System graphics and music/sound. I was disappointed in the latter bit because I never played the Master System version of the game, and my retro memories were all for the superior TurboGrafx version. So switching to the retro content wasn't a trip down memory lane for me but rather a bizarro retrograde experience. This feature did, however, allow me to confirm what others have said: the game underwent only the most minimal of upgrades and alterations, such that it really does feel very much like the original. I was completely at home with this game, with my muscle memory coming back to me within just a few minutes of playing. The redone art and music really does add an amazing depth, however, and the game feels, at first, very different, until you realize that that's an illusion, and it actually feels just like you remember it did. This is something of a testament to how smooth the gameplay always was, too.

But maybe you haven't played this or the original (or the Turbo port) and you want to know why you should care at all. This game is basically an adventure platformer, not quite a Metroidvania, but similar in style. You are a warrior, cursed by a dragon, transformed into a small and somewhat wimpy dragon yourself. You must quest forth to restore yourself to your human form. Enemies you kill may drop money, subweapons, or life. There are hidden rooms and chests, some of which grant money, items, elixirs, or even special hearts that increase your life total. Money can be spent to heal wounds at clinics or to buy better weapons, armor, and shields. But as you explore and defeat bosses, you also gain new transformations, granting you new abilities. You can get through the game without finding every weapon or armor or shield, but you will most likely have to find every transformation. I don't know how sequence-breakable the game is. New abilities get you access to new locations, and there is value in backtracking.

Many laud the Master System game as a fantastic title on that system. It probably is. I think the Turbo version is a fantastic game on that system. Play control feels good for the most part. You can attack with your weapon (or fire breath), jump, and special ability use feels pretty good, too. Enemies react to being hit with brief stun, though if you're getting double-teamed your weapon swing will only injure the first enemy it touches, so be cautious when you have a couple enemies right on top of each other. The gameplay does have some flaws, though. When you get hit you bounce and have a long invulnerability period, but even while invulnerable you continue to bounce around out of control with further contact to the enemy or hazards. And most enemies and bosses do not back off when they successfully hit you, which may be why this mechanic was necessary. So if you get caught in a boss pattern the boss may juggle you across the entire screen for almost an entire second of gameplay. By the time you recover the boss is ready for another pass, so you don't always have much time to get your shit together. A crowd of enemies can also bounce you back and forth for some time. This can get frustrating because in these moments you have no control over what's happening to you or where you end up. Despite this, the game is not that hard, unless you've been totally remiss about gaining money and buying new equipment as you come across it. Most of your characters have a tiny attack range, too, and most attacks are straight stabs, meaning trying to hit small enemies or objects can be a bit of a pain to line up, depending on the transformation you're in. There's also a little bit of occasional difficulty lining up your shield to block projectiles, but that's not nearly as frequent as the other two issues. And, again, this is not a frustratingly hard game, so these gameplay flaws will likely not kill the play experience for you at all. Everything else feels very nice and responsive, so you'll adjust and it will, in short order, feel pretty normal.

The new art and animations have almost no effect on the mechanics of gameplay. While your character has many more frames of animation, the various movement timing seem spot on, or close enough. In this game there's momentum on turning around once you've been moving in one direction for a split second. You turn to face the other way and slide just a moment before moving back the other way. In the original game it's just a sprite flip and a little momentum slide. In the redone art your character hunches down into the slide and uses several animation frames to turn around. It's really beautifully done. The art and animation are really tight and capture the tile-based look of the original in places where that distinction is critical, while still making everything look varied and interesting (rather than uniform and blocky) Backgrounds have more perspective and scrolling and there are environmental animations. This game looks great. It sets the bar for every other modern 2D high-res game. This isn't trying to be pseudo 16-bit, or even pseudo-32-bit. It's hand-drawn, carefully animated, and beautiful. There is one example, however, where the new art does seem to adjust the mechanics. Characters seem to be able to attack just a bit faster in the new art style. When you switch back to the classic graphics you lost that faster attack timing. I don't know that it practically makes much of a difference, but that alteration is there.

There are two other changes that affect the game (for the better). In the original there was an ability you could acquire that required using a particular weapon. Now you gain a bracelet instead, and you can use that ability while wielding any of the weapons. This has the effect of allowing you not to have to switch to an inferior sword briefly just to make one momentary interaction with the world just to switch back 2 seconds later. Very common-sense change. The other is that in the original there was an invisible (to the player) "charm" score. Different transformations were more or less charming, and additionally there were charm stones hidden around the game. This affected what storekeepers were willing to sell you. It means there were some pieces of equipment you could only buy if you were in the correct transformation and/or had collected a certain number of hidden charm stones. This remake does away with that, mostly. There is a single item that requires charm, and there are 6 hidden charm stones required to be able to buy it. Those charm stones require you best short special challenges with each of the character transformations. These challenges can be SUPER hard. Very different from the rest of the game. But the item they open up to you is completely optional, so if the challenge areas frustrate you, just skip them.

The original tunes in the game are catchy, though some of the Master System originals are grating (thanks to the treble-biased PSG). The Turbo versions of the tunes stay true to the feel of the original but sound quite a bit better. They aren't so much re-interpretations as simply enhanced. This remake, however, does something delightful with the music. While there is a little bit of synthesizer (not easily noticed), most of the parts are performed on real instruments by a variety of musicians. And they are interpreted stylistically as well. Some tunes are rather straight-up, but some go in some very interesting stylistic directions, resembling the originals but actually feeling quite different. Fortunately, they always fit the environments, even when they are very different in feel from the original tunes. The sound effects are punched up in quality but also still sound very true to the original. They are not nearly as interpreted as many of the tunes are.

On the whole, this is a fantastic little game that will probably take most players 4-6 hours to complete if they aren't attempting to master the 6 challenge areas for the charm stones. I'm not sure I would have spotted for the game at $20 (the regular eshop price) but it's an absolute must when it goes on sale. Anyone with any love of 2D platformers will find value in the experience, and any sale that prices it at $15 or less makes it a must-buy. Even without nostalgia, this game is enjoyable and a treat for the eyes and ears. And with nostalgia thrown in, it becomes a very gestalt experience.

PS. If you can't tell by the title of the game at the top, you have the option to play as Wonder Girl, too! It's great! Totally "unnecessary" addition that I think really makes it clear the team that remastered this cares about the people playing it.
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Sarge
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Sarge Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:28 am

I paid for the Limited Run version of the game, and felt it was well worth my money. Great game, and really does show how you can faithfully do a remake without messing up the core of the game. I wish we'd get more remakes like this!
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by marurun Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:32 am

Sarge wrote:I paid for the Limited Run version of the game, and felt it was well worth my money. Great game, and really does show how you can faithfully do a remake without messing up the core of the game. I wish we'd get more remakes like this!


I was hoping that I was being clear that this was about my personal valuation and not some kind of "worth" on high. I guess I also figure if someone hasn't picked it up by now at the regular price, they should know that any sale at all, just about, is good enough to snap it right up and delay no further!
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Sarge
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Sarge Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:41 am

marurun wrote:
Sarge wrote:I paid for the Limited Run version of the game, and felt it was well worth my money. Great game, and really does show how you can faithfully do a remake without messing up the core of the game. I wish we'd get more remakes like this!


I was hoping that I was being clear that this was about my personal valuation and not some kind of "worth" on high. I guess I also figure if someone hasn't picked it up by now at the regular price, they should know that any sale at all, just about, is good enough to snap it right up and delay no further!

Oh, yeah, I think it was clear. I was just making a statement on my own personal valuation, and spending $30+ somehow didn't feel like a rip-off to me. :)
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by marurun Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:55 am

I think we both very much agree that this is the now defacto must-play version of this game. I wonder if there's any chance at all that the devs of this remake will be asked/allowed to remake other Wonder Boy titles.
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Sarge Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:06 pm

I'd totally be on board for that.

You can definitely tell the game was a passion project for the team. Omar Cornut was one of the head guys working on the game; his name should sound familiar to those in the SMS emulation scene, as he worked on MEKA. MEKA was a fantastic emulator at that time. It also explains why the underlying mechanics are pretty much spot-on with the original release.
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by prfsnl_gmr Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:10 pm

Sarge wrote:I'd totally be on board for that.


Having played a lot of Wonder Boy games recently, I think that your support should hinge on the title. Monster Land has some very serious issues, and Monster Lair is definitely best forgotten... :lol:
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by alienjesus Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:11 pm

prfsnl_gmr wrote:
Sarge wrote:I'd totally be on board for that.


Having played a lot of Wonder Boy games recently, I think that your support should hinge on the title. Monster Workd has some serious issues, and Monster Lair is probably best forgotten... :lol:


I think you're thinking of Monster Land and not Monster World.

You've also stopped making progress right before the series gets really good. The first 3 games you've played are the flawed ones, but from Dragons Trap onwards it's all excellent.
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Sarge Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:18 pm

The best in that series are Dragon's Curse/Trap, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and Monster World IV. And tangentially, Super Adventure Island 2. :)

Oh, and super-secret, feels a bit like a Monster World game Mashin Hero Wataru on Famicom. Westone developed on that title, and it combines a top-down RPG with random battles that have the feel of other Monster World games. I definitely recommend it. (It's also apparently based on an anime series.)
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by PresidentLeever Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:30 pm



49. Dungeon Explorer (PCE)
50. Quest for Glory VGA (PC)
51. Secret of Monkey Island CD (PC) (click for the full reviews)

Finally got started with the MI games. The presentation is great for 1990/1992, and I don't think you could get completely stuck anywhere. The insult duel was probably my favourite part. I had to use guides several times though and it shared some interface/control issues with Day of the Tentacle.
http://minirevver.weebly.com/ - Mini-reviews, retro vgm tribute, rom hacks, chip music, mockups, misc. lists
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