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Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:31 am
by Ack
1. Dusk (PC)(FPS)
2. Project: Snowblind (PC)(FPS)
3. Soldier of Fortune: Platinum Edition (PC)(FPS)
4. Ziggurat (PC)(FPS)

Ziggurat came out about five years ago, but it combines a mixture of inspiration from current indie roguelikes as well as Heretic and Hexen. You play an apprentice wizard who is entering the Ziggurat in your final test to prove yourself capable of joining a powerful wizard's cabal. The Ziggurat is randomized but contains five floors full of enemies, traps, items, bosses, and magic weapons for you to use in your quest. Yes, there are limits to the types of enemies you'll see, and as you replay, you'll notice the same rooms over and over again, but there are some variations that make things interesting.

Though I'm writing now that I've beaten Ziggurat, I've actually beaten it five times, and I'll need to beat it many more times to unlock everything. Ziggurat is a game that you play over and over again, because there are tons of unlockables. You have to kill a certain number of enemies to see them in the bestiary. You have to find lore scrolls with notes on the dungeon. You have to meet certain requirements to unlock various playable characters. And then there is the armory, which contains items you unlock randomly at the end of every playthrough, be it winning or death. And there's about a hundred of those.

Yes, this game is like other modern roguelike FPS, such as Tower of Guns or Immortal Redneck. The Heretic/Hexen influence comes in the fantasy creatures and style as well as your magic weapons, based on on spells, magic wands, and alchemical weapons. These can be a variety of things, such as guns and bombs, and you'll unlock new ones that will then be able to appear randomly in the dungeon. The weapons all handle well, even the ones I don't like. There is also a leveling mechanic that lets you pick an ability based upon two random choices given at each level up, meaning you can end up with some wild upgrades that radically change how you play.

There are also shrines to the gods you can pray at, but these may give you boons, severely hurt you, or lead to indifference from the gods, which will cause a change but not necessarily one you benefit from. What do I mean by this? Your mana pool for wands could increase, but so does the cost of using it. Or you jump whenever you take damage. Or you get to choose two upgrades at each level up, but you no longer gain additional health or mana. And trust me, you'll want that health and mana. That gift from the gods definitely changed that playthrough.

To add to the mix, the playable characters also offer something unique. Everyone starts with a magic wand, but wands are created different, so some folks can snipe, some shoot clusters, one guy has a shotgun-type blast, but everyone feels different. Folks also start with different abilities and stats, so you might play as a character that gets very little health on level up but levels up quickly. Or you might try a character who gains health and mana every time he starts a fight with monsters but barely gets any back from health and mana drops. Hell, there's even a vampire character you can unlock who needs to kill to heal and is slowly losing health in the meantime. In short, you have a variety of options.

Yes, the game does offer a lot of repetition. There are only so many enemies, so many traps, and so many room designs. But these characters, the randomization of level ups, blessings from the gods, and weapons, the variety of enemy arrangements you'll find in different rooms, as well as a few upgraded enemies and challenge rooms that make you destroy targets or deal with things like only being able to move by bunny hopping...Ziggurat keeps itself a lot fresher than I found Tower of Guns to be, despite ToG doing more with the visuals. I recommend Ziggurat to folks who like these roguelike FPS games.

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:55 pm
by BoneSnapDeez
1. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (Famicom)
2. Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu (Famicom)
3. Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken (Famicom)

Dragon Scroll
To claim that The Legend of Zelda was a resounding success is an understatement. Seamlessly fusing twitchy arcade-y action gameplay and a massive landscape to explore, the game was unlike anything the world had seen before, and was instrumental in elevating the Japanese "action-RPG" genre. As such, it's no surprise that a flood of imitators soon followed. Falcom was most successful here, with the peerless Ys duo. Sega and Hudson Soft took an outright "cloning" approach with Golden Axe Warrior and Neutopia (the latter of which I'd consider worthwhile). Namco shamelessly rushed forward the heinous Valkyrie no Bouken. Unheralded developer Xtalsoft quietly released the quirky Borfes to 5-jin no Akuma, which remained marooned in Japan on the MSX. And A-list 8-bit gods Konami threw their hat in the ring with Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu (or, Dragon Scroll: Resurrection of the Demon Dragon), released in 1987. As an '87 Konami release, Dragon Scroll had about an equal chance of ending up on the Famicom, Famicom Disk System, or MSX. Thankfully, this is a vanilla Fami cart and is pretty easy to find today. Though it never migrated to North America via the NES, the game was eventually fan-translated.
First impressions: the game feels very Konami. It's awash in green like early Metal Gear stages, and movement is a bit reminiscent of the overhead areas of Super C. Controls are competent, if noticeably slow, and the sound effects and musical stylings brought a nostalgic smile to my face. There are some really impressive cutscene visuals, and Dragon Scroll boasts one of the most striking Game Over screens on the Famicom. Decent first impressions, but does the holistic gaming experience hold up?

No. Dragon Scroll is a playable, but thoroughly half-baked, attempted to ride the Zelda gravy train. It (kinda) does attempt to weave a grand narrative, complete with dialogue from fallen foes and captured thieves, but the plot (something about good dragons and bad dragons) becomes a hazy afterthought after an hour or so of play. What's left is a series of capricious disconnected "tasks" that fail to stitch together a cohesive tapestry.

Most of the game is spent searching for items, either on the overworld or within dungeons. There's an illusion of non-linearity, but generally speaking early items are needed to find later ones. The hero of the story is equipped with a standard attack (A button) and secondary magic (B button) -- sound familiar? Instead of a sword our hero wields a staff that emits projectiles, which can be upgraded twice throughout the course of a playthrough. Unlike the game it takes inspiration from, Dragon Scroll is a "true" RPG, with the B button used for magic that depletes magic points (there's an amusing inconsistency here, as life is represented by the classic red bar as opposed to hit points). The magic sucks -- just flat out sucks. There are no true offensive spells. There are no healing spells. What's left is a smattering of spells used to unearth treasures and dungeon entrances. The game is comically obtuse in this regard. A chest may be found, for instance, by firing off four spells at a specific statue. One notable dungeon can only be entered if a combination of two spells are used in tandem whilst standing in a specific spot. It's insane. Sure, Zelda had its share of frustrating puzzles, but that game made the player feel like they were unveiling centuries-old secrets and piecing together a forgotten lore. Dragon Scroll is more like being trapped in a Skinner Box, mashing buttons until the desired outcome emerges.
This is still Konami, however, so the experience isn't a complete wash. Despite the lack of variety in available attacks, combat can be fun and there's a decent enemy selection. Boss battles are rather clever. One memorable fight involves a series of stout creatures that can't be killed outright by the staff, but instead need to be pushed off a ledge. Accidentally shove two creatures into each other and they fuse into a larger one (or an either larger one!). It's rather ingenious and unironically the highlight of the entire game. The overworld is a bright spot too, split up into several disparate well-detailed segments. It's a shame the dungeons are so blasé - just straightforward gray corridors. There's no real difficulty progression either: the final dungeon isn't any harder than the first.

Dragon Scroll didn't "need" to be an RPG but it is. There's leveling, which means there's grinding. Theoretically lots of it, but enemies respawn so rapidly (think Ys III or Exile) that it's easy to cheese the game and become an absolute beast early on. Strangely, the game allows one to earn experience points after the max level of 15 is reached, but it does absolutely nothing. There's no currency or shops, a big disappointment, and most items are used automatically (typically without even informing the player). The game isn't long, a few hours at best, and one should play in lengthy sessions to avoid the downright nasty password system.
This is an odd duck. Dragon Scroll is far from mechanically broken, but is undeniably rushed and lazy. It was clearly designed to capitalize on a burgeoning genre, with little regard given to crafting an experience with an intriguing premise. Fans of crusty old ARPGs may want to dedicate a weekend to this, and then never touch it again. What's amusing (and puzzling) is that Konami did manage to crank out some incredibly impressive RPGs and adventure games the same year that Dragon Scroll dropped -- Esper Dream, Ai Senshi Nicol, Getsu Fuuma Den, The Maze of Galious, Castlevania II. I suppose the difference is that those weren't so intentionally and blindingly derivative.

(Oh, as a quick final note, Dragon Scroll has the worst game ending sequence I've ever seen. Ever. It actually prompted me to research whether I had received a "bad ending" for doing something wrong, but no, the singular default ending is just stunningly stupid. Almost worth playing the game just to see it. Almost.)

The original Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken is one of those mostly forgotten platformers of old. Part of a massive (and confusing) series, the arcade original dropped in 1984 (renamed Ninja-Kid in North America), though the initial round of home versions were left in Japan. 1985 saw a Famicom release of the game, courtesy of Jaleco, who later went on to develop the related Ninja Jajamaru-kun games.
Fami Ninja-kun does a decent job of imitating the stage layout present in the arcade original. As an early arcade game, only three (looping) environments are available, with the game's primary goal being high score acquisition. Stages are completed not when an exit is reached, but when all enemies are vanquished. Our hero, a stout ninja clad in red, is equipped with shurikens. These will annihilate most foes in a single hit, and cancel hostile projectiles, but they're emitted slowly so success in Ninja-kun is predicated on a well-timed series of hops and attacks.

Yes, the oddball jumping controls were transferred from the arcade to this home release. Basically, there is no true dedicated jump button. Instead pressing A causes the ninja protagonist to drop down vertically to a lower platform. To jump, one must tap the A button in tandem with left or right on the d-pad, and it's downright impossible to leap straight up into the air. It's a wholly unnecessary control scheme, and transforms an inherently difficult game into an absolute beast.
If we're gonna be fair, Ninja-kun in the arcades wasn't that good, and this Famicom port downgrades all elements even further. Graphics are grainy and ugly, with the stage two backdrop featuring the same sort of gray as a blinking non-functioning NES. Controls are stiff and unwieldy. And while the original musical compositions aren't technically bad, they've been transformed here into ear-piercing shrill loops. There's also a strange amount of epileptic screen-flashing. As a final insult, there are no continues available, though there seems to be fewer on-screen enemies here compared to the arcade game, and most any platforming vet should at least expect to complete a loop or two.

Ultimately, this the exactly the type of half-baked rush-job arcade conversion that screams "early Famicom." As an obsessive adorer of antique platformers, I'm willing to give this a bit of a pass -- fans of the genre should play this once, if only for the sake of posterity. That said, the superior arcade game has now officially been emulated and released worldwide via Hamster's Arcade Archives line. It arguably renders Jaleco Famicom cartridge #3 completely moot.

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:59 pm
by Sarge
That spot in Dragon Scroll is absolutely ridiculous. I never did find anyone to drop the hint necessary to find that area, unlike all the rest which I managed to suss out without much issue. Other than that terrible, ludicrous bit of game planning, I enjoyed it, but dang, that's a serious flaw.

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:00 pm
by Ack
Oh man, I love reading about Zelda clones I never played. Now I really want to know what that ending was like. Is it really that bad?

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:49 pm
by BoneSnapDeez

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:07 pm
by Ack
BoneSnapDeez wrote:Behold.


Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:29 pm
by pook99
@BoneSnapDeez: Nice reviews, never heard of either of those games, I'm always looking for nes games i never played before, but both of those seem pretty terrible. Did the ending of drgon scroll even make sense in context to the rest of the game?

games beaten 5

1. Kung fu z (android)
2. Celeste
3. Dead Dungeon
4. Defender Faith
5. The Messenger

The Messenger received a lot of hype as a game that was greatly inspired by Ninja Gaiden, going into it I was expecting a game that was essentially a Ninja Gaiden clone, and although I can see some inspiration taken from Ninja Gaiden, the messenger is so much more than a Ninja Gaiden clone.

The game starts out with you, a ninja in a village full of ninjas, being told of a prophecy and given a scroll. You are given the title of the Messenger and told that the fate of mankind depends on you getting that scroll to the top of a mountain. From there all sorts of different things happen and the story takes several twists and turns along the way. I won't get into spoilers but the story here is very well done and genuinely kept my interest, which is very rare when I play these types of games. I would say that the Messenger is the most well written game of this genre that I have ever played. The dialogue is incredibly well written and funny, and although there is an occasional old game reference, they are rare and not milked like many games of this type.

The Messenger is unique in that it is half linear action platformer and half metroidvania. When the game starts you have a singular goal, get to the mountain. You progress through a series of linear levels, fight a boss at the end, and eventually make your way to the mountain. This half of the game is incredibly well done. Level designs are great, boss battles are fun, the music is excellent, and the controls are as tight as you want them to be.

You have a variety of moves at your disposal, you can cling to most walls and climb up/ down, and you later get a suit that lets you glide, and a grappling hook that extends forward, but the really unique thing in this game is the cloudstep. Unlike most games you do not get a traditional double jump, instead if you hit anything with your sword in mid air you are allowed to jump one more time. Each time you hit something you can do another jump, which means as long as there are objects and enemies you can have an infinite number of jumps. This makes for some very unique and fun platforming sections where you are flying over long chasms having to smack something after every jump, this concept is totally unique and executed masterfully.

Halfway through the game you reach your goal of the mountain, deliver the scroll, and then the game turns into a metroidvania. You are given a map and now you can traverse around the world, accomplishing new tasks, discovering new areas, and unlocking new upgrades and paths until you eventually reach the end. It is here that the game lost some of its steam for me.

There is a character who gives you a prophecy, which is a hint on where to go next. Some of them are pretty clear, others are very cryptic. If you choose(and I did) you can go to the shopkeeper, pay him some coins and he will decode the prophecy, which results in a map marker telling you exactly where to go next. I really enjoyed this feature, as someone who hates aimless wandering, and gets frustrated easily when I am lost, I used this feature literally every time I accomplished something, which meant I always knew where to go so I never felt frustrated.

The new areas that are unlocked in the later half of the game are amazing, some of the best designed levels in the game, and are all super fun to play as they all can take full advantage of your entire arsenal of moves. There is also a time travel mechanic introduced where you step through portals to alternate between present and future, these alter the layouts of the land, and introduce some cool platform challenges and puzzles that have the landscape shifting back and forth in real time.

The problem with the 2nd half of the game is the excessive amount of backtracking that needs to be done. There are 7 or 8 levels in the first half of the game, when you make it to the 2nd half you get quick travel spots to 3 of them. That means you have to do a lot of backtracking through worlds in order to progress, you eventually unlock more, but by the time you do, you are essentially done with the game. You will find yourself going through those 3 central hubs ALOT and having to replay the same levels over and over again adds a layer of tedium to an otherwise great game. This problem could have easily been alleviated by simply having more locations to fast travel to, I don't think it is enough to not recommend the game, but it is definitely a blemish on what was otherwise an amazing experience.

Overall, the messenger was a fantastic experience, I went into it expecting a ninja gaiden clone, but really outside of the ninja theme and the wall climb, this game has very little in common with Ninja Gaiden. What I got instead was one of the best written games, with one of the best set of movement mechanics, I have ever played in my life. The 2nd half will cause a spell of boredom and/or frustration with all the backtracking but it is worth it to see the new areas, and complete the story.

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 9:22 pm
by BoneSnapDeez
pook99 wrote:@BoneSnapDeez: Nice reviews, never heard of either of those games, I'm always looking for nes games i never played before, but both of those seem pretty terrible. Did the ending of drgon scroll even make sense in context to the rest of the game?

Sort of. There's a surprising amount of dialogue, but you have to slay certain foes or catch thieves to view it. And then piece it all together.

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:41 pm
by noiseredux
1. Super Mario World
2. Super Mario Bros 2
3. Bust-A-Move Universe
4. Crystalis

Holy shit. I beat Crystalis. I'll write more about it when I have the time to do so, but I really really enjoyed this game. It was one of those pleasant surprises where a game you've built up in your mind actually exceeds your expectations. Certainly there were some faults to be found - mostly ones of the age such as being able to easily miss items required to beat the game, or just leaving things way too cryptic at times. But, if you're okay with using a walkthrough when needed then I must recommend this one big time.

Re: Games Beaten 2019

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:42 pm
by prfsnl_gmr
Awesome. Such a great game. One of SNK’s finest, IMO.