Anything that is gaming related that doesn't fit well anywhere else
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Xeogred
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Xeogred Tue May 01, 2018 7:14 pm

1. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis)
2. Darkwing Duck (NES)
3. Batman* (NES)
4. Journey to Silius (NES)
5. Aladdin* (SNES)
6. Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse* (SNES)
7. Run Saber (SNES)
8. Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)
9. Ninja Warriors (SNES)
10. Thunder Spirits* (SNES)
11. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch)
11. Thunder Force III* (Genesis)
12. Donkey Kong Country* (SNES)
13. Skyblazer (SNES)
14. Super Turrican* (SNES)
15. Donkey Kong Country 2* (SNES)
16. Super Turrican 2* (SNES)
17. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (PS4)
18. Monster Hunter World (PS4)
19. Resident Evil: Director's Cut (PSX)
20. Resident Evil 2: DualShock* [Claire A/Leon B] (PSX)
21. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PS4)
22. Resident Evil HD* (PS4) [PLATINUM]
23. Resident Evil 5: Lost in Nightmares* (PS4)
24. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition* (PS4) [Vergil]
25. Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)
26. Nioh (PS4)
27. Super Mario Bros 3Mix (NES Romhack)
28. Yakuza 6 (PS4)
29. Metroid: Rogue Dawn (NES Romhack)

* = replay

Yakuza 6 -

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Words that come to mind after binging Yakuza 6 over the weekend... exhaustion and depressed. And I don't want to allude to anything nor is it what you might be thinking with Kiryu's last main game (think the new protagonist has already been revealed). But it's impossible to talk about without major spoilers. I can see how this game has divided even the Japanese fans though. Gameplay wise I have literally no issues, even if the new engine does have some imperfections and hopefully Kiwami 2 is refined, but it really grew on me after awhile. First person view is really cool too. This also might have the best OST in the series, which says a lot since they're generally amazing. But plot/character wise... ugh. I just don't know... I don't know about this one. :|

Metroid: Rogue Dawn (NES Romhack) -

https://www.romhacking.net/hacks/3280/

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The pictures should say a lot. This is a massive scale rom hack and feels like an authentic NES sequel. It has all new areas and graphics, an original story, new music, new bosses, and even adds in a map system, recharge stations, Wall Jump, and Spring Ball... all of which were never in the original game. If you like the original Metroid at all definitely check this rom hack out.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by BoneSnapDeez Tue May 01, 2018 10:22 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)
9. Ys: The Vanished Omens (Sega Master System)
10 Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter (Famicom)
11. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES)
12. Lunar: The Silver Star (Sega CD)
13. Otenba Becky no Daibouken (MSX)
14. Metroid (Famicom Disk System)
15. Mahou Kishi Rayearth (Game Boy)
16. Wabbit (Atari 2600)
17. Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy)
18. Warpman (Famicom)
19. Final Fantasy (NES)
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Final Fantasy is now an enormous and bloated series, with a flood of releases that vary wildly in content and quality (to put it lightly). But this is where it all began: with that initial NES game in 1990. Well, 1987 originally. Final Fantasy was yet another victim of the super-slow localization process so common among Japanese RPGs of yore. In its native land the game was released in December of '87, about eleven months after Dragon Quest II and two days before Phantasy Star. My initial exposure to this JRPG titan came via Nintendo Power in October 1990. Volume 17 was literally nothing but a Final Fantasy strategy guide. Pretty ballsy to dedicate an entire issue to a single game. Though I didn't yet possess a cartridge I spent an inordinate amount of time studying the maps, stats, and strategies. Back then "video games" were so fresh and fascinating conceptually, and I was infatuated with any publications dedicated to the medium. Well, I did eventually get that cart, and thirty years down the road Final Fantasy remains part of my regular gaming rotation.

During my most recent playthrough, I found myself immediately struck by how "Western" the game feels, especially when compared to its JRPG contemporaries. Final Fantasy does little to hide its Ultima III influence. There are no playable "characters" here, but blank slates inextricably tied to a specific character class. Inventory space is limited, and spells must be purchased from mage-shopkeepers. The main quest is non-linear early on, soon after a seafaring ship is obtained, with no clear set "order" pertaining to dungeon completion. Dungeons themselves are structured in a WRPG type of fashion. They're lengthy "dungeon-crawls" - most can't be cleared in one trip - rife with dead ends and optional treasures. There's at least one notable area that can be skipped entirely. And the high difficulty that characterizes so many elderly computer RPGs is now on full display on the NES as well.
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The class system. There are four playable characters with six classes to choose from. I play things safe and "traditional" with a Fighter (high defense & HP tank with expensive equipment), a Black Belt (barefisted and naked, with high attack power and low defense), a White Mage (uses healing spells and is adorable), and a Black Mage (offensive spells). Left on the bench were the Red Mage, a sort of "jack of all trades, master of none" guy with a mixture of weaker spells and okay-ish offensive capabilities, and the Thief, who has some interesting statistical attributes but is much more useful in subsequent Final Fantasy remakes. There's a rad class "promotion" that occurs halfway through the game where all characters get beefed up (technically skippable, if you wanna get boned). For instance, the Fighter becomes a Knight, now capable of low-powered white magic. Experimentation with these classes is wholly responsible for Final Fantasy's "replay value" -- I'm already contemplating another run with two Fighters in lieu of a Black Belt.

The plot of Final Fantasy: paradoxically convoluted and simplistic. It's technically "science fantasy" (though not as bold as Phantasy Star), with time travel and robots existing alongside benevolent dragons and feudal kingdoms. The game's storyline is full of twists and turns, though it's all told in the typical 8-bit style: via brief snippets of NPC dialogue. Settings and characters are delightfully "generic" and ripped straight from the anticipated source material: medieval fantasy, mythology, tabletop games, and previously-released RPGs. Obtaining elemental (that is, fire, water, earth, air) "orbs" is the primary quest objective, and dungeons are suitably thematic. Towns are small and easy to navigate, though are distinct enough to distinguish from each other; this is helpful as the game progresses as some need to be revisited. It's this kind of unpretentious storytelling that makes for a truly immersive experience. There's no "filler" to bog down the game. No romance, no heavy-handed and sloppy character "development," no lengthy cutscenes or intermissions. I never felt like a passive observer, merely providing influence over the four heroes. I was the four heroes, and their journey was mine as well.

While game's battle system may not be wholly unique mechanically, its aesthetics were unprecedented for the era. Heroes and enemy combatants alike share the screen, with the protagonists occupying a vertical strip on the east side of the battlefield. Actions taken by party members are animated: axes and swords swing, spells blast forth, unconscious warriors fall to their doom. In stark contrast, enemies are oversized still portraits, beautifully rendered in Yoshitaka Amano's trademark wispy style. The field of combat itself is almost entirely black, save for a sly artistic "banner" near screen's top that hints at battle location. To add to the dramatic flair the game employees a series of pop-up "bubbles" to relay any and all commands and results, accompanied by a barrage of crunching and blooping sound effects. It's a wildly successful formula, and one that would be emulated in five subsequent Final Fantasy installments.
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There is a controversial and archaic element to combat, however. Final Fantasy lacks auto-targeting. Imagine you choose to have all four heroes gang up on a single foe. If said foe is defeated by the first attack the next three will all hit dead air instead of automatically redirecting towards surviving monsters. This effectively prevents the "mash A to win" formula found in so many other JRPGs. Here one must study enemy formations, and effectively plan and memorize strategies for taking down specific monsters. I rather enjoy this forced alertness imposed upon the player, though it can get grating when encountering new fiends and huge enemy formations.

Magic spells, of the offensive, defensive, and recovery variety, need to be employed frequently to make progress. Magic works differently here than in future Final Fantasy games. Rather than the game supplying each mage with a massive pool of MP, spells are instead organized into a tiered system based on strength, with each tier having a specific number of "charges" (uses). Maximum charges will increase based on character level, and depleted magic can only be refilled by staying in inns or using a tent (or similar item) on the overworld. It's a brilliant system, for a couple of reasons. First, it forces the player to be strategically stingy with magic. There's never any to spare. Each spell must be carefully considered before use. For instance, when encountering a group of nine zombie enemies one must consider if the party's white mage should use HARM spells, which come at the expense of future CURE spells. Or whether it's more pragmatic to try to get by on physical attacks. Or attempt to run and hope for a more agreeable skirmish next round. The tiered spell system also prevents low-level magic from ever becoming truly obsolete. Since CURE spells aren't cast from the same pool as, say, CUR4, it can oftentimes be more useful to begin using weaker spells will traversing through a dungeon, while slowly working through the tiers towards the most powerful ones. Ultimately, the pacing of combat and unorthodox spellcasting will either make or break the game for many players. Those comfortable with WRPGs and other genres with slow and clunky battles will feel at home here. Those whose first JRPG was Final Fantasy VII may find it trickier to backtrack to this era.

Graphically, Final Fantasy is rather striking. Character sprites, though small, are finely detailed and animated. Dungeon environments, though (delightfully) cliché, manage to appear distinguishable and memorable. There's arguably a bit too much black and gray overall, but that's a minor quibble. Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack is suitably excellent. Several of the all-time classic cuts make their first appearance here: the prelude theme, the main theme, the battle theme (well, the bassline at least), and the triumphant victory theme. The OST has a persistent upbeat atmosphere, urging the player forward. I do wish there were a few more total tracks, as a handful are reused rather inappropriately (why is the witch Matoya's quirky theme song recycled for the ice dungeon?).
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I've been rather positive so far. Let's get to the problems. There are many. Dear Lord is this game screwed up. First, we've got all the nonsense that comes "standard" with retro JRPGs. The game's very grindy. Especially in those first several hours. The first "proper dungeon" - the Marsh Cave - is a beginner's trap, poised to annihilate all but the most intrepid and prepared. The only way to survive is to "stock up" at the nearby village of Elfland -- that is, by purchasing all relevant weapons and armor, level 3 and 4 spells, and a massive number (perhaps even 99) of heal potions. The constant need to grind diminishes gradually as the game progresses, but only if one elects to visit respawning mini-bosses or exploit the (in)famous "peninsula of power." Anything involving menus is a complete chore. Items must be purchased one at a time, and while shopping there's nothing indicating who can equip specific gear or if it provides a stat increase. Text speed is adjustable, though the game is completely unbearable if it's set to anything other than the fastest setting.

And then there are the bugs. Bugs can be found in many video games - there are some great ones in Final Fantasy VI - but they generally need to be intentionally sought out. In Final Fantasy the bugs are clear, apparent, and greatly impact the overall gaming experience. First, don't get too excited when certain statistics increase upon a level-up as there are certain statistics that do... nothing. Wanna guess what spells that "buff" these stats do? If your answer was "also nothing" you are correct! Final Fantasy is full of "special" swords with "elemental" powers, promising to deal additional damage to magical creatures, sea creatures, giants, the undead, and so on. Nope. These don't work. Running does not work the way it's supposed to. Due to the stat fudgery, thieves are far less useful than they deserve to be. Magic doesn't work as it should, and the damage offensive magic dishes out is comically variable.

In light of the game's significant difficulty and lack of quality control, I've heard some recommend skipping NES Final Fantasy in favor of a later remake. I have mixed opinions about this. While the most obvious problems have been smoothed over for the PSX, GBA, and PSP releases, they lack that inherent 8-bit charm and the "cleaned-up" graphics and music lack pizzazz. Annoyances aside, there's plenty to like about the original Final Fantasy, and I'd be willing to call it one of the greatest 8-bit console JRPGs. Highly recommended, but approach with caution.
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Sarge
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Sarge Tue May 01, 2018 11:19 pm

Despite the flaws, it ends up being one of the best RPGs on the system. I loved it back in the day, and things smoothed out considerably after the Marsh Cave.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by BoneSnapDeez Wed May 02, 2018 8:20 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)
9. Ys: The Vanished Omens (Sega Master System)
10 Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter (Famicom)
11. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES)
12. Lunar: The Silver Star (Sega CD)
13. Otenba Becky no Daibouken (MSX)
14. Metroid (Famicom Disk System)
15. Mahou Kishi Rayearth (Game Boy)
16. Wabbit (Atari 2600)
17. Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy)
18. Warpman (Famicom)
19. Final Fantasy (NES)
20. Transformers: Convoy no Nazo (Famicom)
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Despite growing up as a member of the "target audience" (male, born in '83) I could never get into Transformers. I found the toys rather gaudy and the accompanying television show just felt like a long crummy advertisement for said toys. So why play this Famicom game thirty years after the fact? My daughter asked me to. She (female, born in '13) is all about these giant robotic monstrosities. Go figure.

Transformers: Convoy no Nazo was released on the Famicom in 1986 by Takara. It later appeared on the Wii Virtual Console (in Japan only, naturally) two decades later. The idea of this game being re-released is rather humorous to me, because it's utterly terrible.

Granted, I knew this would be bad. I had seen video footage before jumping in myself, and the game had previously been reviewed by one James Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd). Still, I just wasn't prepared from the horror that laid before me.
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I suppose that Transformers could be considered a sort of "action-platformer." The hero, Ultra Magnus, is equipped with an arm cannon, but the game's overall pacing is too slow to make this a true "run and gun." There are ten stages total, each one concludes with a boss battle, alternating between a traditional horizontal style and a Kid Icarus type of vertical layout. Every element of the game feels lazy, sloppy, and rushed. Stages are boring and redundant. The horizontal ones are just long flat planes with enemies pasted in haphazardly, while the vertical columns are comprised of "randomly" placed blocks. The enemy selection just flat-out sucks. A good 50% of foes are just stationary "cannons" passively lobbing white pixel bullets at Ultra Magnus. And the mobile enemies are egregiously hard to defeat. They're comically fast with projectiles that tend to blend into the background. The only saving grace is Ultra Magnus' ability to execute extraordinarily high "moon jumps" -- in many stretches simply jumping over everything is preferable to legitimately fighting.

Is there any "transforming" in Transformers? Yes! Is it terribly executed? Yes! Ultra Magnus can become a tank(?) capable of shooting vertically and horizontally simultaneously. It's a bit like the buggy from Moon Patrol, except unable to jump, awkward to control, and incredibly easy to destroy. The tank form is only useful for squeezing through tight spots (there are like two of these in the whole game). Otherwise it just makes for a big dumb slow target, and the very act of transforming is painfully lengthy. The protagonist's only "special ability" is complete garbage.
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Bosses are a complete joke. All are massive sprites who occupy the right side of the screen, lethargically emitting sine wave fireballs. "Highlights" include the fact that the Decepticon logo must be battled -- three times. Graphics are tepid and unappealing. The soundtrack is annoying chirpy jank. But the biggest issue with Transformers: Convoy no Nazo is the difficulty. One-hit deaths, three lives, no continues. Well, that's not entirely true -- you can continue, but a "cheat code" must be entered à la Ikari Warriors and The Wing of Madoola. Enemies always have the upper hand in terms of speed, defense, and hit detection; expect to see the Game Over screen dozens of times per a single playthrough. Also, stage nine. Clearly modeled after stages 4-4 and 7-4 of Super Mario Bros., stage nine of Transformers is a "maze" level. An absurdly hard one. The correct route is extremely convoluted and nonintuitive, and I can't begin to fathom how someone was able to able to complete this in the pre-internet era.

This is just a bad game. It fails to be a compelling platformer, and does absolutely nothing useful with the Transformers license. There appears to be a direct sequel on the Famicom Disk System, so maybe that's better? Probably not. Avoid this.
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nullPointer
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by nullPointer Thu May 03, 2018 2:17 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:20. Transformers: Convoy no Nazo (Famicom)

I'd always been curious whether the Famicom Transformers titles had any merit. It's a shame that at least this one seems to have fallen victim to the Curse of the Licensed Properties. Great review Bone; I really enjoyed your thoughts on both this and Final Fantasy!

The List So Far:

20. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [GEN]
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Time spent with a classic is always time well spent. Time spent delving into the arcane and obscure can of course be quite rewarding as well, but the classics represent the high water marks for any given discipline. And when we ensconce ourselves in the classics we are able to more easily perceive the lofty heights to which lesser works aspire. I think it's safe to say that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 can inarguably be called a classic in the medium of video games. It ticks all the right boxes. Here we have an iconic flagship character appearing in a sequel that improves upon its predecessor in almost every meaningful way, no small feat in and of itself!

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For me the aspect of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that towers over all else is the level design. This is a masterwork of 2D level design. Each stage feels massive though not in an overwhelming capacity; moreso in that the player is given total autonomy in terms of how to tackle any given stage. It feels like there are multitudes of paths through a stage each with clever funnel points that in turn branch out to any number of other paths. It's as if this sense of freedom was fully baked into the design of the game, simultaneously encouraging both speed and exploration, or any combination thereof for that matter.

This sense of quality and excellence certainly carries over to the audio-visual components of the game as well. Sonic 2 is an excellent set piece for the bright and bold design aesthetic we often think of with regards to the Genesis. Almost any given screen is alive with color and movement and detail. One is almost encouraged to take a pause every so often just to take it all in or for that matter just to listen to the music for a while. The music perfectly sets the tone of the game and further solidifies what we think of as the 'sounds of Sonic'.

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In my opinion any weak points in the game will largely fall to personal preference. Growing up as a 'Nintendo kid' I've always felt slightly iffy towards the controls in Sonic. They're brilliant for what they do and they're absolutely true to the 'Sonic feel', but at the same time the push-pull dynamics of the speed and inertia always strikes me as resulting in movement that feels ever so slightly unpredictable. Of course there are legions of speed running videos which prove me wrong on this point though, so again this is ultimately just down to personal preference. While most of the game resolves itself to take the elements of the first game and do them 'bigger and better', one aspect which is radically altered from the Sonic 1 is the bonus stages. Here we see some nicely rendered pre-3D graphics in which Sonic races headlong down a twisting turning halfpipe in an effort to collect a specified number of coins while avoiding bomb traps. Along for this ride is Tails who almost never fails to be more hindrance than help during these stages. These stages are fun and a really nice technical demonstration of what the Genesis was capable of … but I find myself missing the more puzzle oriented aspects of the bonus stages in Sonic 1. Whereas the bonus stages in the original game were simultaneously challenging and dare I say relaxing, the bonus stages here never take their foot off the gas for even a moment. Truth be known this really is more in keeping with the spirit of the character, but it's almost as if because the bonus stages in Sonic 1 felt a bit out of place that they were all the more interesting for it. Still this is a minor quibble at best.

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What more can really be said about Sonic the Hedgehog 2? If you've somehow never played this game, it's highly enjoyable. Regardless of whether you play games for sheer enjoyment or whether you consider yourself a 'student of the medium' Sonic 2 has something for you (which is not to suggest that these things are in anyway mutually exclusive). Highest recommendation.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by BoneSnapDeez Thu May 03, 2018 5:11 pm

nullPointer wrote:In my opinion any weak points in the game will largely fall to personal preference. Growing up as a 'Nintendo kid' I've always felt slightly iffy towards the controls in Sonic. They're brilliant for what they do and they're absolutely true to the 'Sonic feel', but at the same time the push-pull dynamics of the speed and inertia always strikes me as resulting in movement that feels ever so slightly unpredictable. Of course there are legions of speed running videos which prove me wrong on this point though, so again this is ultimately just down to personal preference.


Yeah, I always felt like I was playing Sonic "incorrectly" and that I was "supposed to" like the games more than I actually did.

Defeating enemies by purposefully hitting them from the top/sides always felt off to me. Sonic takes damage if he "falls onto" an enemy, which betrays my Mario sensibilities.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by PartridgeSenpai Thu May 03, 2018 8:50 pm

Partridge Senpai's 2018 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017
* indicates a repeat

1-20


21. Deadbolt (Steam)

Deadbolt is a game I didn't even know existed until a few days ago when I got a Steam coupon for it for owning Risk of Rain. Deadbolt is another game by the Risk of Rain guys, so they gave out coupons to everyone who owned either for the respective other game, and it certainly worked on me this time :P . It's a fun but short game that was well worth the $5 I paid for it.

Deadbolt Is like a more action-focused Gunpoint, so it's a 2D, stealth-based action game but with a far heavier emphasis on combat and gunplay than Gunpoint (ironically enough). The plot is something like you're a kind of grim reaper-type hunting down unruly undeads for some unnamed candle-god thing, but it's not terribly important. Hunting the monsters is still pretty fun though, and it gives excuses for enemy types like vampires that come back to life until you break their phylacteries. All the guns don't feel exactly balanced, as I ended up using the scythe for most of it, but even then the game almost became a kind of puzzle on how I could manipulate the AI to allow me to use the scythe for like every level :lol: . You can't jump, but you can turn to smoke to dash through vents really quick, which makes outmaneuvering your enemies something that's always a fun trick. You DO die in one hit (generally) though, so you can't get tooo crazy with how you move :lol:

There are a dozen or so guns and like half a dozen melee weapons as well as a dozen or so enemy types, but the enemies can't pick up weapons lying around like you can. Most melee weapons can be thrown, as you aim both your gun and the melee throw with your mouse pointer and guns have an accuracy that is variable depending on how far you're aiming and how much you're moving. It's a really fun little system and even though I died a fair bit, going through the enemies again was always fun. You earn "souls" as a currency by completing achievements and beating missions, but all they do is unlock more weapons that you can start missions with. They don't unlock hard-passives or things like that, and given that weapons don't have much ammo, they really don't affect the game that much, for better or worse.

There are 30 or so missions, and I beat the game in about 4 or 5 hours, but it's apparently completable in under an hour if you're really good. Mission types aren't super varried, usually just either accessing "information" (i.e. an interaction point) often in a difficult place or eliminating all the enemies. Occasionally there's a gimmick like doing it in a certain amount of time or eliminating a boss character, but the bosses are either literally normal enemies but different looking or taken out just as easily as a normal enemy. It's more than serviceable for the fun combat and stealth stuff though.

Verdict: Recommended. This is a fun stealth-action game you can knock out in an evening, and the game grades you on stuff like time, accuracy, and head shots, so if you're someone who likes 5-staring things, this game has you covered for replaying levels in the most clever ways you can suss out.
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
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MrPopo
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by MrPopo Sat May 05, 2018 1:48 am

1. Ultima V - PC
2. Ultima VI - PC
3. Might and Magic VI - PC
4. Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny - PC
5. Pool of Radiance - PC
6. Curse of the Azure Bonds - PC
7. Secret of the Silver Blades - PC
8. Pools of Darkness - PC
9. Gateway to the Savage Frontier - PC
10. Treasures of the Savage Frontier - PC
11. Champions of Krynn - PC
12. Death Knights of Krynn - PC
13. Dark Queen of Krynn - PC
14. Into the Breach - PC
15. Lords of the Realm - PC
16. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands - PC
17. Lords of the Realm II - PC
18. The Alliance Alive - 3DS
19. Shattered Steel - PC
20. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition - PC
21. Battletech - PC
22. Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part I - PC

So The White March Part I is the first of two story DLCs for Pillars of Eternity. It was released after I beat the base game, so I never got around to playing them. With Pillars II coming out on Tuesday I figured now was the time to go for it. And so far it's been a nice way to spend some time and get used to the game systems again.

The White March DLC is set north of the main area of Pillars, in the frozen mountains of the titular White March. When you first join the game looks at your level, and if you have end game levels (as I did) it will give you the chance to put the enemies in hard mode; they'll get more something that makes them tougher if you want that challenge. The game is very clear that you won't get any additional experience or treasure for doing so, so it's entirely up to you. One thing I've noticed with RPG DLC is that it tends to be sized for people who come late to the game and do it midway through their playthrough. Seeing this available as an option for end game people was nice (though since I'm just trying to blow through it I let the game keep the lower level enemies; they're still a threat).

The basic plot is that the town of Stalwart has put out a call for adventurers; they want someone to open the gates and restart the legendary forges of the old dwarf fortress known as Durgan's Battery. The Battery was famed for the quality of its steel, and they feel they need access to that to revitalize their town. You answer the call, and set off. Initially, you need to figure out how to get in. Once you do, you have a three level dungeon to explore, with you discovering what happened to the dwarves that made the fortress go silent. The whole thing isn't terribly long; I'd call it less than 10 hours. There's some side quests available, including at least one related to one of the two new companions available. She's got an interesting story; her soul was ripped from her body and implanted in a bronze suit of armor, and she's none too happy about it. And she wasn't the nicest person beforehand.

The DLC also has some quests back in the regular area of the game. One is related to some poppinjay who wants to take your stronghold from you. The other is you breaking into a mercenary camp and murdering everyone to keep them from attacking a wizard or something, but they're also shockingly high level. I'd recommend waiting until after you do the second half of the DLC and gain a couple levels. The DLC ends with some foreshadowing of more sinister things that are set in motion once you get the forge going.
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Sload Soap
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Sload Soap Sat May 05, 2018 10:13 pm

The 3D Ninja Gaiden Trilogy

Like many people, instead of paying £40 for the fun but sparse Sea of Thieves I opted to sign up for Microsoft's Gamepass service, a sort of Netflix for games. After beating another recent Xbox exclusive, Super Lucky's Tale (lot of fun and perfect for kids) I had a peruse of the service and saw that Ninja Gaiden Black was part of the package. I had never previously beat Ninja Gaiden (cos it's hard) despite owning both the OG and Black versions for the Xbox so I decided that now that I have beat all the Soulsbourne games, and am therefore obviously now OP at all videogames, I would give it another go.

Ninja Gaiden Black is kind of a masterpiece. It's got this incredibly precise but also very intuitive combat system that underpins what is possibly the 6th gens best 3D action game. I like Devil May Cry and God of War a decent amount but Ryu in NGB feels so much slicker than Dante, his attacks so much more visceral than even Kratos' tantrums. Being able to combine wall running, magic attacks, lightning fast counters, multiple weapon types and throws makes each fight flow differently and having enemies that will punish you and punish you hard gives combat a real edge.

While NGB sets the standard for how the series would handle combat it is an outlier in terms of level design. While the game is split into 15 or so chapters, once the first 3 are cleared and Ryu lands in Vigoor (a country that is a mix of Russian, Turkish and Egyptian architecture with a dash of black magic thrown in) the levels start to crossover and intertwine with one another. A boss defeated in level 8 for example crashes through the floor creating a path to next level but also a shortcut to previous areas should you be willing to backtrack.

This isn't to say the game is openworld it just has this interesting criss-crossing aspect I really enjoyed. Level design still manages to be both mechanically and superficially diverse even under these conditions which is a massive credit to Team Ninja's ability as developers.

Indeed the whole product is incredibly polished and along with Panzer Dragoon Orta and Project Gotham Racing 2 ranks among the very top tier of the Xbox's 3rd party games. The cutscenes, while nonsense, are well animated, the music is low key but effective and the graphics have that lovely Japanese 3D sheen, the sort you get in games further down the line like NG2 but also Metal Gear Rising and Vanquish.

It's top end stuff basically and even the frequently obnoxious camera can't ruin proceedings. I love how NGB keeps setting up incredibly cool set pieces while being as daft as a brush in the fashion of 8bit games. Ryu's world is as mentioned a bizarre but believable mix of Soviet era military hardware and Onimusha style Japanese demons. His enemies run the gamut between standard army dudes to full on demons, with ghosts, tanks and dragon skeletons inbetween. Bonkers stuff but never dull and full of amazing bosses most of whom probably weren't matched (for my money) until Platinum and Fromsoft upped the ante last gen.

Next up Ninja Gaiden 2. I played the vanilla 360 edition as I had read around and took it to be both the fans and series head Tomonobu Itagaki's preferred version.

NG2 takes everything that made NG1 great and adds a big dollop of glorious, delirious violence. Not content with merely cutting his foes down, Ryu can now dismember them first with limbs and blood flying with every attack. The action is so violent it ends up being darkly comic especially the frequent sight of an enemy down an arm and a leg, staggering forward, Monty Python style, to attack you. Of course you have to do the merciful thing and grant them the kindness of either removing their head or bludgeoning them so hard they explode into red mist and gristle.

NG2 also ups the rate in which you engage the enemy so things do get much more frantic than in NGB which had fewer but tougher encounters. To compensate for this increase in carnage, NG2's health system is similar to that of a fighting game where your health bar can be depleted but will refill once you defeat your enemy. However taking a particularly nasty hit or too many in quick succession will turn part of the bar red. The more red, the less you refill after battle, at which point a healing item can be used (now handily mapped to the D-pad) although to add another layer, using a herb will heal a set amount of the full bar not just red health. It's a good compromise that I imagine makes some fans feel the game is too easy, which it does seems at first, but if it wasn't there and with the massive increase of enemies (you'll likely have cut your way through more people by chapter 4 than you did in the entirety of the original) I think it's more than necessary.

The game also has a pretty berserk storyline featuring demons, ninja and the military, taking Ryu to a futuristic Tokyo, werewolf infested Venice, demonic Amazonian ruins and finally literal hell all of which are incredibly well rendered and presented. The semi-open world of NGB has been dropped in favour of a more traditional level-boss-level structure but it isn't to the game's detriment.

In many ways Ninja Gaiden 2 is the perfect sequel and I imagine a lot of people will prefer it to the original. I don't include myself in that camp however as I preferred the harsher but more intimate battles of NGB and its level structure. NG2 teeters to close to too much of a good thing for my taste and the swarms of enemies can make the game feel less precise and more like a God of War style hack and slash.

Speaking of, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge basically is what NG2 threatened to become plus a whole heap of superfluous western style game design thrown in to keep us gaijin happy. Bet you never thought you'd see a turret section in a Ninja Gaiden game, did you?

NG3 is weird from the get go. Right away combat felt less tight, button presses feeling just a fraction off. You can adjust to it and I did but I was instantly reminded of Arkham Origins' combat and how it looked like Asylum, it had the same flow but things were just ever so slightly looser. There is a new mechanic called Steel on Bone which seems to let you string obliteration moves but I never really got a grasp on how or when it is activated and it's one of the few things the game doesn't harass you about in its almost constant stream of pop-up hints.

Razor's Edge plays mostly like NG2 with dismemberment and obliteration attacks being your bread and butter although for some reason Team Ninja decided to lock some essential techniques like the counter and guillotine throw behind a pointless RPG style skill tree. As a result NG3 has a very uneven difficulty level with some bosses and areas in the earlier parts of the game being much harder than those later on purely because you are less well equipped to handle them. It's kind a big fuck up really and along with removing healing items and an even more constant barrage of enemies, it makes NG3 hard for all the wrong reasons.

You then add on top of that an emphasis on story via cutscenes, characters talking to Ryu during missions a la Gears of War, enemies and locations leaning more heavily towards military or real world, an abundance of QTE's and it feels like a western made game in the vein of Lords Of Shadow or the Bionic Commando reboot.

I did however enjoy both Lords Of Shadow and Wife-Arm Commando and despite its obvious pandering to the western market (even the loading screens ape COD's presentation) and looser combat, NG3 is really not all that bad. I'd put it around the same tier as something like Dante's Inferno, nothing earth shaking but a decent way to spend a weekend and with enough pretty scenery and memorable moments (Cyborg T-Rex anyone?) to be satisfying.

All in all the 3D Ninja Gaiden games are like the 2D installments, the first two being exemplars in their genres with it being a case of preference of which you enjoy most, while the third is a somewhat bloated and disappointing but not a wholly bad affair.

I'm going to try and fit the 2D games in between bouts of Morrowind and Shining the Holy Ark for TR. Can anyone recommend the DS game? I've read good things but I trust you guys opinion more TBH.
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Xeogred
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Re: Games Beaten 2018

by Xeogred Sat May 05, 2018 10:48 pm

You played those back to back? That's impressive. I'm glad you enjoyed Razor's Edge, I thought it was pretty dang solid honestly. I know the original NG3 is supposedly terrible but I didn't expect much from Razor's Edge either... I was surprised though. Still better than other action games out there to me. And I'm glad you played Black, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is terrible in my book. But then there's 2... I've only played Sigma 2 so far and it sounds like there's significant game balancing changes and whatnot, so it's not just the removal of gore or some (lame) additional levels with some of the female characters. I enjoyed it but actually liked Razor's Edge more. I have a copy of the 360 original now though so I'll have to see how that is in comparison.

A word of caution... do not spend a penny on Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. I wanted to give it a fair shot but it's one of the worst games I've ever played by far. Not a good track record, lol.

Nioh is different but Ninja Gaiden's blood is definitely in its veins and a nice return to form for Team Ninja.
Last edited by Xeogred on Sat May 05, 2018 10:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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