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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by PartridgeSenpai Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:40 pm

Partridge Senpai's 2020 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019
* indicates a repeat

1. Invisigun Reloaded (Switch)
2. Human: Fall Flat (Switch)
3. Shantae: The Pirate's Curse (3DS)
4. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (PC)
5. Splatterhouse (PS3) *
6. 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)
7. Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
8. Pictobits (DSiWare)
9. Puzzle Quest: The Legend Reborn (Switch)
10. WarioWare Gold (3DS)
11. Disaster: Day of Crisis (Wii)
12. Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (Xbone)
13. Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare in North Point (Xbone)
14. Sleeping Dogs: Year of the Snake (Xbone)
15. Dynamite Headdy (Genesis) *
16. Shovel Knight: King of Cards (3DS)
17. Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope (3DS) *
18. Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (Switch) *
19. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Switch) *
20. Shovel Knight: Showdown (Switch)
21. Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PS4)
22. ActRaiser (SNES)
23. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (WiiWare)
24. Mega Man X (SNES)
25. Breath of Fire II (SNES)
26. Ape Escape 2 (PS2) *
27. Doubutsu No Mori+ (GC)
28. Ape Escape (PS1)
29. Ape Escape 3 (PS2) *
30. Maken X (DC)
31. Cubivore (GC)
32. Wario World (GC) *
33. Hatoful Boyfriend (PC)
34. Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem (SFC)

35. Baku Bomberman 2 (N64)

Known in the West as Bomberman 64: The Second Attack, it's always been weird to me how this is often a 500 yen game in Japan but in the West it's easily in the $200-range. So last weekend I finally took the plunge on giving this game a go, as I'm really in the mood for some N64 stuff, I suppose. Now, I eventually realized with the help of TCRF that the Japanese and American versions are significantly different, and that was further driven home by looking at the HLTB time. The HLTB time for just beating the game was 6.5 hours, and this game easily took me over 20 hours to finish with the good ending in Japanese XD. This was definitely a game I didn't wanna let beat me, but it certainly was never something quite as bad as Maken X.

Baku Bomberman 2 is another in the series of more action-adventure spins on the Bomberman formula that Hudson became so obsessed with in the 5th console generation, and the 3rd of such games on the N64. Bomberman found an egg at some point and he brought it with him because he thought it was cool. Then, flying along in his spaceship, he gets sucked into a black hole and captured by a mysterious group known as the B.H.B. Gang. The egg hatches to reveal Pomyu, a little Kirby-like (extremely Kirby-like) alien who was just napping inside the egg and whom Bomberman has effectively unintentionally kidnapped XD. They fight a sentai-esque bad guy to escape this prison planet and begin their mission to fight the Seven Elemental Knights (the heads of the B.H.B.), destroy the black hole generators, and escape from this black hole dimension.

There's a really weird amount of text in this game for a Bomberman game, but I wouldn't say it's all bad. Some of it is quite weird, like there being a good and bad ending for the game each with its own final boss (and the conditions for activating each ending are just how you defeat the sub-boss in the final mission), and the credits being like 15-20 minutes long with the cutscene that happens after the final battle. Some of it is also quite funny, like how the Seven Elemental Knights all seem to hate each other and never get along despite being part of the same organization XD. But for the most part, it's silly, sentai fun with Bomberman fighting different campy elemental-themed bad guys. It's nothing to write home about, sure, but it's not a drag on the game either.

The game itself is made up of 8 stages which have a first and second part, with each part split by a boss fight against one of the Seven Elemental Knights. You beat a Knight, then use the new element you get from it to solve more puzzles between that and the puzzle room at the end where you need to destroy the black hole generator. The platforming (although given that Bomberman can't really jump, it's kinda odd to call them that) sections are generally pretty fun. Some of the puzzles are signposted terribly (particularly one in the final level regarding a lava pit), and I had to look up what to do/where to go more than once, but it has the same basic powerups of bombs, power, speed, remote detonation, throw, and kick that Bomberman usually has. If you keep an eye out and return to some past stages, you can even get armor that permanently gives you the throw, kick, and remote detonation powers! Although the remote detonation does deactivate during boss battles, unfortunately.

And the boss battles are the best but worst parts of the game, largely for reasons that were thankfully fixed in the English version. The bosses tend to have at least two forms, and all of them have a sort of super saiyan-looking charge up move they do when they get to low health that will instantly kill you if they hit you (ouch). The biggest problem the bosses have, in either version (so far as I can tell) is that their invincibility frames are utterly unfair garbage (particularly the wind boss). It makes hitting them really awkward and difficult to do, and that's already a difficult task when you have to hit them with only bombs that you can't remotely detonate. They're thankfully learnable and for the most part do have readable patterns.

I would say the final boss of the good ending is one of the best fights in the game in that regard. I was on voice chat with a friend at the time, and upon beating it I told her "this must be what people who like Dark Souls feel like with those games" with just how proud I was of myself that I stuck through it, learned the patterns, and conquered that final challenge. But there are also some bosses, most notably the final boss of the bad ending, who have nearly (or outright) undodgeable attacks and are horrible, unfun fights (the reason I went for the good ending in the first place is because I didn't see myself ever beating that bastard). On the whole, I would say the boss fights are the highlights of the game, but a combination of weird I-frames and sometimes painful backtracking to their locations sours that a fair bit.

Now would be as good a time as ever to clarify the significant changes made to the Western port of this game and explain the large differences between the HLTB times. One of the first big changes is that the Western game has a life system. While this may sound bad at first, the weird way it's implemented means it makes the game a lot easier and at the very least saves you a lot of time. In the Japanese version, whenever you die, you get a continue screen where you can back out to the world map (and lose all progress in the level) or continue from your last checkpoint (usually either the start of the level, or just after beating the mid-boss). There's also a really mean and unnecessary countdown timer on that screen that more than once sent me totally out of a level because I forgot it was there and looked away for a little bit too long XP. But in the Japanese version, you always lose your powerups when you activate one of these infinite continues. In the Western version, as long as you have an extra life to expend, you keep your powerups. This means you spend a lot less time going around re-collecting them before boss fights and hard enemy rooms.

The most significant change, however, is definitely the fact that Bomberman simply moves far faster in the Western release of the game. In the Japanese version, with a speed powerup (as only the first one you collect seems to do anything), you're just about barely fast enough to dodge what's coming at you, particularly in boss fights. The reason the bad ending final boss is so hard is that he has a rapid laser fire move that you just aren't fast enough to dodge, and lots of bosses have attacks that you need to barely juke them out of by doing hard-corners since they're so much faster than you when they do faster attacks. Moving faster means you not only die to bosses less (since you can dodge easier), but you also just move through the levels a lot faster too (it's genuinely like 75% to 100% faster than the Japanese version). For example, you can actually run fast enough to dodge the bad ending final boss' laser attacks in the Western version, where that just isn't ever possible in Japanese.

Verdict: Hesitantly Recommended. While I did complain a fair bit about this game to friends over Discord and Slack in the course of playing it, I stuck with it because I was genuinely enjoying my time with it and really wanted to see it through to the end (even if that was at least partially because I just didn't want the game to beat me XD). The game isn't impossible in Japanese, but from everything I researched, the Western release definitely seems to be the version to go with if you're gonna play it. It's a 3D game typically rough for this time period, but it's closer to the "still enjoyable" end of the 3D-jank spectrum of 5th generation games. Certainly not for everyone, but worth a try via emulation if you want something a little different, and especially if you enjoyed the other N64 Bomberman games at all.
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by BoneSnapDeez Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:17 pm

1. ACA NeoGeo: Cyber-Lip (Switch eShop)
2. Pengo (Atari 2600)
3. Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)
4. Knights of Xentar (PC)
5. Hoshi o Sagashite... (Mark III)
6. Dead Zone (Famicom Disk System)
7. Samurai Sword (Famicom Disk System)
8. High School! Kimengumi (Mark III)
9. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)
10. Sindbad Mystery (SG-1000)
11. Steins;Gate (Vita)
12. Champion Boxing (SG-1000)
13. Squidlit (Switch eShop)
14. Skyblazer (SNES)
15. Tokyo Dark: Remembrance (Switch eShop)
16. Bubble Bobble (Famicom Disk System)
17. Steins;Gate Elite (Switch)
18. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Returns (Switch eShop)
19. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Express Raider (Switch eShop)
20. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis)
21. Sword of Vermilion (Genesis)
22. Steins;Gate: My Darling's Embrace (Switch eShop)
23. Oink! (Atari 2600)
24. Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa (Famicom Disk System)
25. Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
26. Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast)
27. Chaos;Child (Vita)
28. Scar of the Doll (Steam)
29. Kirby's Adventure (NES)
30. Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (PlayStation)
31. Hangman (Atari 2600)
32. Metal Slug (Neo Geo MVS)

33. Metal Slug 2 (Neo Geo MVS)
Image
Playing through the Metal Slug series is a bit like plaything through the classic Mega Man NES games. In both cases, sequels were cranked out in quick succession, each one feeling almost like a heavily modified, but still undeniably similar, variant of the game released prior. Metal Slug 2 arrived less than two years after the original, and it's bigger, badder, and tougher than the debut. Strap in.

The core formula here remains the same. This is pure run and gun "shoot everything that moves" action, for one or two players. There are six stages (the last charmingly titled the "Final Mission"), each concluding with a massive bullet sponge boss. This time around, General Morden and his human henchmen have joined forces with extraterrestrials, this being the first Metal Slug game to feature more "extreme" and outlandish enemies. Weapon upgrades are provided upon the rescue of a hostage, and the roster of "Metal Slug" battle tanks has been greatly expanded. In addition to the hostages, there are a couple of additional NPCs who provide brief assistance, by either executing attacks or tossing out items.

There are now four playable characters to choose from, with a couple of ladies, Eri and Fio, added to the (former) boys club. I play as Fio. She's cute, she's cool, she's Italian, she wears glasses. Note that there's no actual mechanical differences between the characters, so just choose the one that looks the most appealing and blast away. Speaking of which, the portraits on the character selection screen are butt ugly and totally clash with the rest of the game's presentation. It's confounding.
Image
The stage design has been upped considerably, as Metal Slug 2 boasts a whole host of new environments. The journey commences in a somewhat culturally insensitive version of the Middle East, before moving forward into a cursed and ghoul-laden Egypt, hopping aboard a swiftly-moving train, making a pit stop in Asia, before launching upon a long trek through the urban hellscapes that characterized the first game. The same hordes of doofy human Morden underlings are back, but they're joined by all sorts of weirdos, like the shuffling mummies and gun-toting tentacled aliens that barf up green slime when injured.

Controls are identical to that of the first game, with the three-button attack/jump/bomb combination. Close-quarter combat sees protagonists and foes alike engage in knife melees. There's a new weapon, the laser gun, which emits an incredibly satisfying solid beam that absolutely disintegrates fiends from Earth and sky. As far as those fresh new "Slugs" go, the first is an actual camel with a Vulcan cannon attached. This is probably the most interesting ride in the game, as the player can still suffer a one-hit death while riding the camel exposed, and those finishing a stage with the camel will find it briefly journeying into the next environment (it bails on the player in Egypt, presumably it wants to reunite with its family). There's additionally a bouncing "Slugnoid" equipped for tower ascension, and a fighter jet that allows one player to "wing-walk" in the two-player mode.
Image
Bosses are significantly more interesting here in Metal Slug 2. There are the traditional "giant tank" battles, but also a massive "chomper" machine that chases our heroes up a building, a gun-toting madman that's eaten by an orca upon defeat, and a final boss alien mothership confrontation that's lifted straight from the film Independence Day. As if death weren't enough of a hazard, Metal Slug 2 injects "status effects" into the run and gun formula. Mummies can turn the protagonists into, well, other mummies, walking at glacial speeds and unable to fire most weapons. Antidotes can reverse this condition, though death is more likely to occur before one is found. There's also obesity: this is caused by consuming too much food (which typically only grants points) on a single life. Obesity causes a character to move slower, but humorously increases (or "beefs up" I suppose) attack power and even alters projectile sprites. Even better, the knife used for melee attacks is transformed into a (kitchen) knife and fork. "Diet powder" can eliminate this condition, as can simply moving around (exercise, in other words).

The graphics are once again hand-drawn and absolutely gorgeous. The soundtrack, which is ultimately comprised of tunes that appear in other Metal Slug games, is upbeat and riveting. The "announcer" is persistent and hilarious, and the heavily-accented "rocket lawnchair!" has since become a meme of sorts. Really, the only thing holding back Metal Slug 2 is its pervasive, crippling slowdown. The game slows to a crawl at the most inopportune times, leading to a number of cheap deaths and a general sense of frustration. The developers were kind enough to rectify this issue by releasing Metal Slug X, which uses a modified version of the engine seen in Metal Slug 3, removes slowdown, and introduces other various quality of life improvements. X may arguably be the "definitive" version of this game, though both variants are now widely available and it really only takes a little more than an hour to play though both Metal Slug 2 and Metal Slug X. In any event, Metal Slug 2 may be slow, but that doesn't stop it from also being quite excellent.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by PartridgeSenpai Sat Jul 11, 2020 1:09 am

Partridge Senpai's 2020 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019
* indicates a repeat

1. Invisigun Reloaded (Switch)
2. Human: Fall Flat (Switch)
3. Shantae: The Pirate's Curse (3DS)
4. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (PC)
5. Splatterhouse (PS3) *
6. 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)
7. Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
8. Pictobits (DSiWare)
9. Puzzle Quest: The Legend Reborn (Switch)
10. WarioWare Gold (3DS)
11. Disaster: Day of Crisis (Wii)
12. Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (Xbone)
13. Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare in North Point (Xbone)
14. Sleeping Dogs: Year of the Snake (Xbone)
15. Dynamite Headdy (Genesis) *
16. Shovel Knight: King of Cards (3DS)
17. Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope (3DS) *
18. Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (Switch) *
19. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Switch) *
20. Shovel Knight: Showdown (Switch)
21. Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PS4)
22. ActRaiser (SNES)
23. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (WiiWare)
24. Mega Man X (SNES)
25. Breath of Fire II (SNES)
26. Ape Escape 2 (PS2) *
27. Doubutsu No Mori+ (GC)
28. Ape Escape (PS1)
29. Ape Escape 3 (PS2) *
30. Maken X (DC)
31. Cubivore (GC)
32. Wario World (GC) *
33. Hatoful Boyfriend (PC)
34. Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem (SFC)
35. Baku Bomberman 2 (N64)

36. Chameleon Twist (N64)

This is a game I picked up a while ago for a couple bucks and heard it was neat, and my ability to pick up more Bomberman games has been temporarily interrupted due to renovations at the place I usually buy them at, so I decided to go through this game in the meanwhile. I knew it was short, but I didn't really expect to finish it in just a little over an hour ^^;. Granted, I only did 4 out of 6 stages, but this is a super short game that albeit has a neat gimmick.

Chameleon Twist is a somewhat early N64 game with a very simple (although somewhat baffling) premise. You're a chameleon (the game has 4 different colors to pick from), just chilling out on a log, when a white rabbit right out of Alice in Wonderland hops past you and jumps into a weird, magical pot. You, being a chameleon with nothing better to do, I suppose, jump in after it, and transform into a little humanoid with a long chameleon tongue! The rabbit then proceeds to tell you to more or less get going with the adventure and leaves. You go through a few more stages, with the rabbit unlocking doors or giving you little hints about bosses here and there, but that's it for the story. Even calling it a "story" seems a bit generous. It's more like an incredibly general premise, but that isn't a bad thing.

The game is a 3D platformer that goes through 6 worlds of which you need to go through at least 4 (you gotta play at least world 2 or 3, and then again gotta play at least world 4 or 5). There aren't really meaningful secrets, but there are collectible crowns in each stage to do some platforming challenges for. Each world is a series of rooms and your goal is to get to the end and fight a boss. The bosses range in difficulty pretty significantly (I thought the stage 2 boss was pretty darn hard compared to the rest of them that I fought in worlds 1, 5, and 6), but it's far from insurmountable challenge, especially for the N64.

The game's main gimmick is your big chameleon tongue, which you can use to grapple onto poles from a distance, spin around on those poles, suck up enemies to then spit them out, or even shoot it directly downward to do a higher jump at somewhat of an angle. The game controls alright, but especially the fancy tongue-jumps take a while to get used to. There are also some timed platforming sections later on that can get pretty brutal, and the combat and platforming overall have a somewhat uneven difficulty curve, but you just restart the current room when you die, so it's not big deal even if you fail.

The music is quite good even though the graphics aren't terribly impressive. I suppose the biggest flaw with this game might also be its biggest draw: it's a very simple experience. Sure it controls kinda funky, but there's just not a lot of content here, so if you're into getting all the crowns or getting through the game as fast as you can, there can be a lot to enjoy here, but if you're looking for something to sink your teeth into over the entirety of a weekend (or even a whole afternoon), there just isn't a lot here.

Verdict: Hesitantly Recommended. Despite the fact that Bomberman gave me more frustration overall over a longer period of time, I would still recommend it over this game because at least Bomberman made me feel something XD. This game is just sorta "there," in a way that reminds me a bit of Snake Pass (although this game is way more actually enjoyable to play than Snake Pass is). It's very much just "a video game to be played" in a way that was of a dying breed in 1997, so it's somewhat remarkable in that regard, but it simply isn't my cup of tea at the end of the day. It's not a bad time, but it's so short and simple that I'd have difficulty recommending it if you had to pay more than a couple bucks for it.
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by prfsnl_gmr Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:51 am

First 30
1. Her Story (iOS)
2. Elminage Original (3DS)
3. Legend of Grimrock (iOS)
4. Silent Bomber (PS1)
5. Crash Bandicoot (PS1)
6. Bust-a-Move 2 Arcade Edition (PS1)
7. Transformers Cybertron Adventures (Wii)
8. Squidlit (Switch)
9. Sydney Hunter & The Curse of the Mayan (Switch)
10. Mega Man Legends (PS1)
11. Revenge of the Bird King (Switch)
12. Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King (Switch)
13. Gato Roboto (Switch)
14. Kamiko (Switch)
15. Night Slashers (Arcade)
16. Subsurface Circular (Switch)
17. Iconoclasts (Switch)
18. Wonder Boy Returns Remix (Switch)
19. Resident Evil 3 (PS1)
20. The Messenger (Switch)
21. The Messenger: Picnic Panic (Switch)
22. Samsara Room (iOS)
23. Heroes of the Monkey Tavern (Switch)
24. Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch)
25. Gris (Switch)
26. Donut County (iOS)
27. Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)
28. Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES)
29. Contra (Arcade)
30. Super Contra (Arcade)

31. Minesweeper Genius (Switch)
32. Kuso (Switch)
33. 20XX (Switch)
34. Spooky Ghosts Dot Com (Switch)
35. Aggelos (Switch)
36. Quell+ (iOS)
37. The White Door (iOS)

The White Door is the latest Rusty Lake adventure games. It’s more substantial than the free Cube Escape games, but not quite as meaty as Rusty Lake’s premium games (i.e., Rusty Lake Hotel, Rusty Lake Paradise, and Rusty Lake Roots). Still, like all of their games, it’s a sublime, surreal experience, that’s a lot of fun and loaded with secrets (which are often references to other Rusty Lake games). As a fan of their oeuvre, I enjoyed the game immensely, and I really can’t recommend this series highly enough. (The games are available on Android, iOS, and Steam, and many of them are free. Someone else on here should give them a shot!)
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by PartridgeSenpai Sat Jul 11, 2020 5:21 pm

Partridge Senpai's 2020 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019
* indicates a repeat

1. Invisigun Reloaded (Switch)
2. Human: Fall Flat (Switch)
3. Shantae: The Pirate's Curse (3DS)
4. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (PC)
5. Splatterhouse (PS3) *
6. 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)
7. Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
8. Pictobits (DSiWare)
9. Puzzle Quest: The Legend Reborn (Switch)
10. WarioWare Gold (3DS)
11. Disaster: Day of Crisis (Wii)
12. Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (Xbone)
13. Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare in North Point (Xbone)
14. Sleeping Dogs: Year of the Snake (Xbone)
15. Dynamite Headdy (Genesis) *
16. Shovel Knight: King of Cards (3DS)
17. Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope (3DS) *
18. Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (Switch) *
19. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Switch) *
20. Shovel Knight: Showdown (Switch)
21. Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PS4)
22. ActRaiser (SNES)
23. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (WiiWare)
24. Mega Man X (SNES)
25. Breath of Fire II (SNES)
26. Ape Escape 2 (PS2) *
27. Doubutsu No Mori+ (GC)
28. Ape Escape (PS1)
29. Ape Escape 3 (PS2) *
30. Maken X (DC)
31. Cubivore (GC)
32. Wario World (GC) *
33. Hatoful Boyfriend (PC)
34. Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem (SFC)
35. Baku Bomberman 2 (N64)
36. Chameleon Twist (N64)

37. Gato Roboto (PC)

This is a game I got for free on Twitch a while back, and I'd been putting off playing it for far too long given how much I love Metroidvanias. And you even get to play as an adorable kitty! I'd heard it was short but sweet, and that's exactly what I got, with it taking me a little over 2 hours to 100% the game.

In Gato Roboto, you play as Kiki, the cat of a galactic security soldier who steps on his console during a landing sequence and causes him to crash land onto the research station he was going to check out. Pinned within his own space ship, he has no choice but to send out Kiki to complete the mission in his sted with the help of a cat-sized suit of mech armor you find on the station! It's a cute, silly story that has "voice acting" very very much like Chibi-Robo. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but still manages to be silly-yet-engaging.

The gameplay is a more Metroid-y Metroidvania than a Castlevania-y one. You run around in your mech suit shooting your normal gun and you'll find more power-ups as you go through the game like missiles (which are on a cooldown timer, not a limited thing you need to collect more of, which is awesome), better bullets, better jumps, etc. You can search through 6 areas for both extra health packs as well as palette cartridges, which allow you to change the monochrome-palette of the game to all sorts of colors, from a more soft grey & black, to a harsher (and even fuzzier) Virtual Boy-like red & black, to even an absolutely nauseating Commodore 64-like blue & yellow XD

There are also sections where Kiki leaves her suit and is exposed to one-hit kills, and these are easily the most difficult parts of the game for obvious reasons. That said, the game overall is far from the most difficult Metroidvania I've played, while also not exactly being baby's first Metroidvania. The controls are really tight and the game is really fun to explore around and fight things in, even if the boss battles aren't the most exciting thing in the world.

Verdict: Highly Recommended. It's a short game, but it's oozing with character and solid gameplay. If you're someone without a lot of money to spend on games, you might not feel you're getting a ton of value for it, but if you just want an excellent time to spend an afternoon, this is a really great way to do it ^w^
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by prfsnl_gmr Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:20 pm

First 30
1. Her Story (iOS)
2. Elminage Original (3DS)
3. Legend of Grimrock (iOS)
4. Silent Bomber (PS1)
5. Crash Bandicoot (PS1)
6. Bust-a-Move 2 Arcade Edition (PS1)
7. Transformers Cybertron Adventures (Wii)
8. Squidlit (Switch)
9. Sydney Hunter & The Curse of the Mayan (Switch)
10. Mega Man Legends (PS1)
11. Revenge of the Bird King (Switch)
12. Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King (Switch)
13. Gato Roboto (Switch)
14. Kamiko (Switch)
15. Night Slashers (Arcade)
16. Subsurface Circular (Switch)
17. Iconoclasts (Switch)
18. Wonder Boy Returns Remix (Switch)
19. Resident Evil 3 (PS1)
20. The Messenger (Switch)
21. The Messenger: Picnic Panic (Switch)
22. Samsara Room (iOS)
23. Heroes of the Monkey Tavern (Switch)
24. Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch)
25. Gris (Switch)
26. Donut County (iOS)
27. Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)
28. Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES)
29. Contra (Arcade)
30. Super Contra (Arcade)

31. Minesweeper Genius (Switch)
32. Kuso (Switch)
33. 20XX (Switch)
34. Spooky Ghosts Dot Com (Switch)
35. Aggelos (Switch)
36. Quell+ (iOS)
37. The White Door (iOS)
38. Grizzland (Switch)

Grizzland is an inscrutable metroidvania that looks somewhat like an Atari 2600 game played on a black-and-white TV. It received somewhat favorable reviews, and since I like mystifying games that look terrible, I was pretty excited for it (especially since I picked it up on sale for $2.49). Unfortunately, I hated it. The game’s inscrutability is more annoying than rewarding. (“Did you not shrink down to the right size before falling down this pit and hugging the right wall? Well, you can self-destruct or work your way back here to try again! See you in ten minutes!”) Moreover, the combat is atrocious. Swinging your weapon in this game is like swinging the heaviest weapon available in Demon’s Souls...with a magic user...and input lag...and poor hit detection. It literally ruined the experience for me, making what should have been A breezy metroidvania game into a complete slog. Not recommended.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by alienjesus Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:53 pm

1. Ys: The Oath in Felghana PSN Vita
2. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Switch
3. Super Mario Party Switch
4. Moss PSVR
5. Paper Mario: Colour Splash Wii U
6. The Firemen SNES
7. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SFC
8. Kuukiyomi: Consider It! Switch eShop
9. Valkyria Chronicles Switch eShop
10. Illusion of Time SNES
11. Trials of Mana Switch
12. Undertale Vita
13. Rastan SMS
14. Rainbow Islands SMS
15. River City Girls Switch
16. Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch
17. Streets of Rage 4 Switch eShop
18. Dragon Warrior IV NES
19. Super Tennis SNES
20. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse Switch eShop
21. Pilotwings Switch eShop
22. Castlevania: The Adventure Switch eShop
23. Streets of Rage Game Gear *NEW*
24. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix Switch eShop *NEW*
25. Ninja Gaiden Game Gear *NEW*
26. Psychic World Game Gear *NEW*
27. The G.G. Shinobi II: The Silent Fury Game Gear *NEW*
28. Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble Game Gear *NEW*


Streets of Rage

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I recently decided to splash out on a modded game gear, which comes with a new LCD screen and makes the console actually feel playable. Because my Game Gear library is pretty small, I also decided to pick up a selection of new games for the system. The first of these games I actually sat down to play was Streets of Rage.

Streets of Rage on Game Gear is an interesting oddity, for fans of the 16 bit title. The game is fairly faithful to the content which is included, although there is also a lot of stuff that had to be cut. First of all, there’s only 2 playable characters: Axel & Blaze. Their moveset is most intact, although weirdly there doesn’t seem to be a way to attack when grappling an enemy other than your throw or vaulting over them and slamming them. Also missing is the iconic police support, presumably due to the system lacking a third face button. Finally, the game is also missing 3 of the original’s 8 stages. The missing stages are stage 2 (backstreets, with the wolverine boss), stage 3 (the beach with the wrestler boss) and stage 7 (the elevator stage). This makes for a slightly odd experience when you finish stage 1 and jump straight to the bridge which is normally stage 4.

The game looks OK for the system, although the sprits feel a bit crushed, I guess because they were made for Master System and shrunk to Game Gear resolution to keep everything full screen. It also seems quite technically impressive too, with lots of moving sprites on screen. Unfortunately, this is where it most lets itself down – the performance here is shocking. When enemies are on screen your button presses frequently don’t register, and it gets worse the more there are. Blaze’s combo is also broken – enemies break out of stun too fast with her slower combo here, so her final move misses 99% of the time and leaves her very vulnerable.

I had fun trying out this game, and it was interesting to see an 8 bit version of it – but it’s really not a must play by any means. Buy if and try if for cheap if you’re a fan, but otherwise, skip it.



Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix

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I love the Project DIVA series, especially the entires on Playstation Vita (DIVA F and F 2nd), so I was very excited to pick up this game when it launched on Switch. This is a compilation of 130 or so (including the DLC) songs, mostly from previous entries in the series although with a handful of new ones thrown in, so a ton of game for your money.

However, upon playing, it took me a while to get into this one, because there’s some differences in the gameplay compared to my favourites. See, DIVA F and F 2nd were designed for console & handheld first and foremost, so the gameplay mechanics were centred on that. You press the face buttons in time with the circle, square, X and triangle icons as they appear on screen, arrows require you to press the corresponding button plus the d-pad pointing the same way, and star symbols required swiping the touch screen. However, DIVA Mega Mix aims to replicate the DIVA arcade games, and brings over some changes which take some adjusting to.

First of all, arrows are gone, as the arcade game uses big button pads to play and only has one for each symbol. Instead, sometimes you’re asked to hit multiple buttons at once (X + circle for example). 130ish songs down and I’m still only just getting my head around these actions when they appear in songs. The game also asks you to hold down a buttons sometimes, whiulst contuinung to hit others. This can be complicated too. In all honesty, both of these mechanics feel a bit rough on a controller, but I imagine they work great on the arcade pad. Unfortunately, the arcade pad costs a bomb, so I’m stuck with the less ideal way to play.

Still, as I worked through the game and got used to the new mechanics, I did once again find myself having a lot of fun. Whilst the changes do make the game feel less fun to play without the arcade style setup, the core gameplay is still fun enough that it’s enjoyable, and the music still has a lot of variety too.

There’s not much more to say about Project DIVA Mega Mix. In terms of value, it’s a great starting point for the series due to the massive amount of content on offer here. However, I’d still recommend people start with one of the PS3 & Vita entries in the series if they want to experience the series at its best.




Ninja Gaiden

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More Game Gear next. A little whilst back I played through the Master System version of Ninja Gaiden, a game not many people even know exists. That game, whilst completely different to the NES or even arcade versions, is actually pretty great and definitely worth picking up. Here is another totally forgotten about version of Ninja Gaiden, and despite being on Game Gear, it’s not a port of the excellent SMS version. Unfortunately, there’s probably a reason this one has been forgotten - it’s a totally forgettable experience.

The game takes place over 5 fairly short levels, and features some Ninja Gaiden staples – you run through multiple levels at high speed, slashing enemies and using your ninja magic to progress. This game feels somehow even more fluid then previous entries as you can swing your sword whilst running. However, that’s about all there is to say that’s good about the game, as it’s a very generic experience otherwise.

The game is very easy for 90% of the experience – I never came close to dying at any point in the first 4 levels as the platforming is very simple and the game drowns you in health potions throughout. There’s not a lot of variety for the first 3 stages, although stage 4 is an interesting climbing stage where you bounce between 2 buildings as you climb upwards and stage 5 features an extended section where you manoeuvre around walls and pillars as there is no floor at all. Unfortunately, the only real challenge comes from the final boss who is quite tough in his 3rd form and sends you back to the wall section of stage 5 when he beats you – so I got sick of that novelty pretty quickly as I replayed it again and again…

In terms of NES Ninja Gaidens other strong points, Game Gear Ninja Gaiden still fails to match up. The story is barely there, and whilst there are cutscenes they’re often 10 seconds long and feature one image and text only. The graphics are quite bland and feel very flat, and the music is nothing memorable at all.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden for Game Gear is not very good, and probably not worth your time. However, it is cheap and it’s not a terrible experience, so if you want to give it a go sometime, why not? I still think you should pass though.




Psychic World

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I went into Psychic Worlds hoping 3rd time’s the charm with my Game Gear acquisitions, after 1 interesting but slightly janky port and one pretty medicore entry in a popular series. Psychic World is a game which appears on both Game Gear and Master System, but is actually a fairly different game on both – the premise and level themes are the same but the level layouts are different.

The plot of the game is that you and your sister work for a scientist dude who is researching psychic powers. One day, the creatures he was experimenting on escape and kidnap your sister, so you fit a special helmet which boosts your psychic abilities and go after her. You progress through 5 or so worlds making use of a variety of psychic powers to progress. Initially, you can run and jump and shoot your basic psychic blast, which is weak but fairly all purpose. However, by killing enemies you can acquire new powers to use. These come in 2 forms.

First off is alternative attack powers, which must be won by defeating stage bosses first, but then regular enemies can also drop them (and collecting multiple boosts the power and spread of the attacks). These com in fire, ice and sonic powers, and each are effective vs different enemies and have additional level functions – ice can create platforms which can also be melted with fire, and sonic waves break certain blocks. Attack powers cost no e.s.p bar to use.

The second type of psychic power are utility abilities which can be dropped randomly by enemies. Once acquired, they can be activated at any time, but require some of your esp bar to use. Examples include a power to jump higher, and one which resets you back to the start of the level – which is essentially a retry button if you screw up and are low on health, although iirc the game has unlimited continues. The most useful power though, which you’ll use a lot, is the invincibility power, which renders you impervious for a short time. This makes bosses and tricky platforming sections much easier.

I actually really enjoyed my time with the game. It’s not perfect – it’s too short and a little easy (although a few levels took several tries), and I triggered the reset ability by accident a few more times than I’d like. The trick to getting the good ending is a bit obtuse as well. But it’s a fun little 8 bit action game and I think it’s worth your time. The music is good for Game Gear and it looks pretty nice too – certainly better than the Master System version. This one is good!




The GG Shinobi II: The Silent Fury

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Although I bought a bunch of new Game Gear titles, I actually already had one which been sat in the backlog for quite a while, and so I decided I would play through that as well. The G.G. Shinobi II is the sequel to the rather good first title, and so I was expecting good things. That game was a bit tough towards the end though, so I wasn’t expecting it to be easy.

In the GG Shinobi games, you play as a band of ninjas, all in different colours Power Rangers style, who all have different abilities. Each ninja has different weapons, inate abilities and magic – Red has a short range sword and a teleportation spell to jump to the level exit fast when revisiting, but no inate ability. Blue uses a grappling hook to attack, and can also use it to swing over gaps, plus a tornado spell that allows him to fly briefly. Yellow can wall on water and throws a boomerang shuriken which can be thrown upwards too. His spell grants temporary invincibility to attacks. Pink throws bombs which arc downwards, and can walk on ceilings. His spell is a rather useless one which lights dark rooms. And finally, Green throws throwing stars which are weak but ranged, and can double jump like Joe Musashi. His spell creates an earthquake to damage enemies and break certain walls.

Despite the interest band of abilities, you start quite weak. Red is your only ninja initially, and you have only 4 health to take hits with. However, you can choose from one of 4 levels to begin with, and upon finishing each you rescue one of the other 4 ninjas. You’ll need their abilities to revisit levels too, as each level contains a hidden crystal needed to unlock the final stage, plus a health increase item to bring your total health up to an eventual 12 points, 2 at a time. Revisiting stages with new powers is fun and adds an exploration element to the game.

Upon getting all 4 crystals though, you lay siege to the enemy castle for the 5th, and this is where things get rough. The final stage is an incredibly tough gauntlet of platforming challenges interspersed with boss fights throughout a complex labyrinth – and it makes those health power ups feel a but wasted as most deaths come from instant death spike pits rather than enemies. It takes some practice to get through the stage, but eventually I managed, and the bosses were easy enough. On the plus side, despite the harsh final level which took me as long to beat as the rest of the game put together, it’s still notably easier than the even more brutal final level in the original GG Shinobi game.

It has a bit of a rough difficulty progression, but The G.G. Shinobi II is a great game for the Game Gear, and must own for the platform. Its undoubtedly one of the best games on the system and it looks, sounds and plays great. I highly recommend it if you want to try some portable 8-bit Sega goodness.


Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble

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Choo-choo, the Game Gear train keeps on chugging. Sonic Triple Trouble is the 4th portable Sonic title for Game Gear, after the ports of Sonic 1 & 2 for Master System, and also Sonic Chaos (which I think was ported from Game Gear to SMS instead of vice versa). This is a sequel to Sonic Chaos (it’s called Sonic & Tails 2 in Japan, Sonic Chaos is 1) and the first Game Gear exclusive classic Sonic title of the bunch.

I think the Triple Trouble in the title refers to the games 3 antagonists. Whilst you can play as either Sonic or Tails this time round, you’ll be vexed by Knuckles the Echidna, back in his antagonist days, as well as the ever present Dr. Robotnik. New to this game is Nack the Weasel, an opponent who only shows up in special stages to fight you for a chaos emerald. These special stages caused me some confusion, as I’m not really sure how you trigger them. I know you have to find a special monitor in each stage, but hitting it didn’t always make a special stage appear so I guess there’s some other criteria.

Anyway, the game otherwise plays similarly to Sonic Chaos. To account for the zoomed in view, the game is pretty easy and doesn’t feature too many enemies. Running into enemies also doesn’t seem to make you lose all of your rings, just some of them. The zoomed in view still causes some issues, especially in later levels where more bottomless pits feature, and I can’t help but feel this would be a better Master System game than a Game Gear one. Nonetheless, the stages are fun enough, if mostly forgettable, besides a a fun little train section I enjoyed.

Sonic Triple Trouble is a little pricier than a lot of Game Gear games, although it’s not crazy expensive by any means. Like all Sonic games on the system, it’s not really a must own. The original 8 bit Sonic game is still the best by far, but you definitely want to play that on Master System instead. Still, I had a fun hour or so playing through this game, and I liked it enough to recommend it. Give it a go sometime and see if you agree.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by PartridgeSenpai Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:57 pm

Partridge Senpai's 2020 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019
* indicates a repeat

1. Invisigun Reloaded (Switch)
2. Human: Fall Flat (Switch)
3. Shantae: The Pirate's Curse (3DS)
4. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (PC)
5. Splatterhouse (PS3) *
6. 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)
7. Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
8. Pictobits (DSiWare)
9. Puzzle Quest: The Legend Reborn (Switch)
10. WarioWare Gold (3DS)
11. Disaster: Day of Crisis (Wii)
12. Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (Xbone)
13. Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare in North Point (Xbone)
14. Sleeping Dogs: Year of the Snake (Xbone)
15. Dynamite Headdy (Genesis) *
16. Shovel Knight: King of Cards (3DS)
17. Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope (3DS) *
18. Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (Switch) *
19. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Switch) *
20. Shovel Knight: Showdown (Switch)
21. Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PS4)
22. ActRaiser (SNES)
23. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (WiiWare)
24. Mega Man X (SNES)
25. Breath of Fire II (SNES)
26. Ape Escape 2 (PS2) *
27. Doubutsu No Mori+ (GC)
28. Ape Escape (PS1)
29. Ape Escape 3 (PS2) *
30. Maken X (DC)
31. Cubivore (GC)
32. Wario World (GC) *
33. Hatoful Boyfriend (PC)
34. Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem (SFC)
35. Baku Bomberman 2 (N64)
36. Chameleon Twist (N64)
37. Gato Roboto (PC)

38. The Messenger (PC)
39. The Messenger: Picnic Panic (PC)

Continuing playing through Metroidvanias I've gotten for free on PC over the past few months, I played through The Messenger this weekend as well as the free DLC pack that was added in a while after release. It's a game that's really fun to play and an excellent addition to the string of retro-inspired action games over the past few years, even if it isn't my favorite out of all of those. It took me around 8.5 hours to 100% the main game with an Xbox One controller on my PC, and another 2 hours to 100% the DLC.

The Messenger is the story of a ninja tasked with carrying a scroll to the top of a glacier on the edge of his island to fulfill a prophecy after his village is destroyed by the Demon King. Only after arriving at the end of the island, however, does it get revealed that The Messenger is only one in a long line of Messengers who have been carrying out this same task throughout time, putting off annihilation by the demons time and again forever, and it's up to your particular Messenger to help defeat that cycle once and for all.

The writing is definitely closer to something like Guacamelee 2 than a Hollow Knight or Timespinner (or heck, even Guacamelee 1). There are some solid character traits to the few characters that are there, but most of them just amount to being 4th-wall breaking and quirky. I found the humor in the game, while often clever, was so omnipresent in all the dialogue that it was usually more annoying than actually enjoyable (especially by the greed demon who brings you back to life). The narrative overall has a decent bit of interesting (if a bit gratuitous at times) lore, but isn't really trying to do that much in the end other than give a fairly archetypal story of good triumphing over evil. Not an outright bad thing, but definitely something worth mentioning.

The gameplay of The Messenger is where things really shine, at least for the most part. The game starts off in a more 8-bit-inspired graphics style with music to match, and those sections largely compose of linear action-platforming segments. Once you get around the 8th stage or so, you hit a time warp and travel forward in time 500 years and the graphics and music change to a 16-bit style, and then after a few more stages the gameplay also transitions to a Metroidvania instead of being linear.

I don't think the game is nearly as solid a Metroidvania as it is an action game, though. The bosses and the stage flow of the linear sections are really great, but once you get to the Metroidvania part, it feels a lot more like backtracking around a lot rather than exploration (due in no small part to how annoying the game's warps are placed). It's luckily not usually too hard to figure out where to go (save for one section about getting through an underwater Lost Woods-type area), but the game slows down a LOT in the Metroidvania section, and that was fairly disappointing. It's still not a bad Metroidvania, but it's a shame the game's main gimmick of "linear action game that becomes a Metroidvania" seems to not really stick the landing very well.

The gameplay and bosses really are great though. The game's main gimmick is introduced from the prologue in that you get another jump when you land a hit in the air, and there's no limit to the number of times you can do this. This makes for some really wild platforming potential as you get more upgrades to your moveset, both optional and non-optional. Some of the optional ones (particularly the ability to attack while you do the glide) feel like the break the intended flow of the game a little bit, and A both activating your glide and de-activating it AND jumping can make the precision of some challenge rooms a real pain, but the gameplay still feels really good to go through, especially once you've got some practice at it.

The game has a fair amount of challenge rooms and optional content you can go for if you're feeling up for a challenge, and they're usually pretty fair and nice challenges. Sometimes they're maddeningly difficult, and the hardest of them easily make up the most difficult sections in the game. That said, they're totally optional and only unlock a sidegrade (granted it's a very good sidegrade) for your shuriken, and none of them are nearly so hard as the most difficult optional areas of Hollow Knight (to give one example). I loved tracking them down, and it was always super satisfying to finally conquer one.

The music and graphics are also great, but I also think that that's an unevenly split level of quality. The 8-bit graphics and music far surpass the 16-bit stuff for various reasons. It may just be down to hearing most all of the 8-bit stuff before you hear the 16-bit versions of it, but I didn't like any of the 16-bit (more Mega Drive-esque) tracks as well as their 8-bit counterparts. I'm also not a huge fan of the 16-bit stage designs largely because of how they force you to relearn the visual language of the game in a fairly hamfisted way. The game is full of wall-mounted objects (usually lanterns of some kind) that you can slash for a jump in mid-air, and the 8-bit sections usually have these hanging in untextured (or lightly textured) backgrounds. The 16-bit sections are much brighter and have much more involved backgrounds, and they make these wall-mounted objects much harder to see, especially going back through areas you've been through once before. The game is still beautiful and very pretty to look at, but the 16-bit sections feel like they prioritized aesthetics over function at some point and the game suffers a little for it.

The Picnic Panic DLC is unlocked once you beat the game's main story, and you can access it from the game's shop. In an alternate universe, The Messenger of that world hasn't been doing so hot, so you've gotta step in to go in their stead to a tropical island off the coast. This is a really good add-on to the main game that has another dozen or so collectibles across two new mostly-linear areas. There's a fun new surfing mini-game, as well as what is definitely the hardest proper boss in the game, and even a Punch Out-style final boss battle just for funsies. It flows really well into the rest of the existing content, and the writing is all-around a little tighter and better than the main game (although not by any great margin, I just liked the humor here more). It's definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed the main game, and is an absolutely stellar piece of free content.

Verdict: Highly Recommended. For all the small faults I may find with it, I'd be damned if I said I didn't really enjoy my time with The Messenger. It's not quite Shovel Knight, but it's still an amazingly fun action game and a pretty darn good Metroidvania. It's challenging but still forgiving, and it's well worth the purchase if you like either of those genres.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by prfsnl_gmr Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:26 pm

First, awesome reviews, AJ. Just amazing. I really like it when someone goes on a kick with esoteric games on an esoteric system.

Second, I’m glad you enjoyed The Messenger, Partridge. All of your criticism’s are 100% valid, but I still loved that game to death. It was so challenging, so fast, and so fun.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by MrPopo Mon Jul 13, 2020 2:21 am

1. Elite Dangerous - PC
2. Soldier of Fortune - PC
3. Star Wars: TIE Fighter: Defender of the Empire - PC
4. Star Wars: TIE Fighter: Enemies of the Empire - PC
5. Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Balance of Power - PC
6. Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - PC
7. Phoenix Point - PC
8. Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter - PC
9. Descent II - PC
10. Inbento - Switch
11. Ori and the Will of the Wisps - XB1
12. Doom Eternal - PC
13. Serious Sam 2 - PC
14. Black Mesa - PC
15. Descent 3 - PC
16. Darksiders II - PC
17. Resident Evil 3 (2020) - PC
18. Overload - PC
19. Final Fantasy VII Remake - PS4
20. Trials of Mana (2020) - Switch
21. Persona 5 Royal - PS4
22. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered - PC
23. Sublevel Zero Redux - PC
24. Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age - PS4
25. Maneater - PC
26. XCOM: Chimera Squad - PC
27. Sakura Wars - PS4
28. Stela - Switch
29. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 - DC
30. Darksiders III - PC
31. Shadow Warrior (2013) - PC
32. Robotrek - SNES
33. Shadow Warrior 2 - PC
34. EVO: The Search for Eden - SNES
35. Blast Corps - N64
36. Command & Conquer: The Covert Operations - PC
37. Command & Conquer Red Alert: Counterstrike - PC
38. The Last of Us Part 2 - PS4
39. Exodemon - PC
40. Halo: Reach - PC
41. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary - PC
42. Halo 2: Anniversary - PC
43. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - PS3

Trails of Cold Steel is set in the same universe as Trails in the Sky, just a couple years later and in a different part of the continent. I first picked up the game shortly after finishing Trails in the Sky 3, but quickly burned out after the prologue because it was just too much of the same game. Now that the third game came out on Switch I decided to go for the series again, though I will be taking a break between this one and the second one to play Halo 3 (as it's about to come out on PC in the Master Chief Collection).

Trails of Cold Steel mostly builds on the gameplay systems of Trails in the Sky, but now things are in 3D and there is a different flow to the story. The game is set at the Thors Military Academy in the Erebonian Empire. You are a member of a new type of class at the school; while normally nobles and commoners are separated your class is mixed. Your class is an experiment for the school's faculty, and engaging in this experiment is what drives most of the plot. The basic layout of each chapter is you spend some time at school running errands and interacting with your classmates, then you go out into the Empire to do some field work helping people out. This is intended to expose you to the world (both in universe and to the player), but as you do so you start to find the beginnings of the overall plot of the Cold Steel games; the tensions among the different factions that make up the Empire that will eventually come to a head at the end of the game. In fact, the game mostly serves as a prologue for the rest of the story in a way not too dissimilar to how Trails in the Sky 1 was a lower-stakes story compared to what would come in the other games.

The combat system builds on what Trails in the Sky did. Positioning is still important, but now you're on a 3D field instead of the isometric field, so there tends to be more encirclement happening. You still have three basic options; attacking, using crafts (special attacks), or casting artes (spells). The game uses the same timeline with bonuses system of the first game, and you still can skip the timeline using an S-Craft (at the expense of all your craft points). So things will be extremely familiar for people who have played the previous game.

The biggest change in these systems is how quartzes work. In Trails in the Sky you would slot various quartzes to get passive stat bonuses and to gain one or more points of a given element. Then, depending on the total elemental points you have on a line (a character will have from one to three lines) you will gain artes, with higher artes requiring more points and more diverse points. Here you instead have quartz that is dedicated for the various spells, in addition to the passive stat bonuses. This has a couple of implications. The first is that it turns the value of lines on its head; whereas in the previous game having one line was advantageous for a caster (as you could get multiple high level spells), here it is all downside. Unlocking nodes costs a greater amount for each node on a given line, so having more lines means you pay less to unlock everything. And the quartzes that can cause stats effects are limited to one per line, but if you have three lines you can equip three different status quartzes. So the character who has a caster setup ends up having their setup feel like more of a liability (though it doesn't really matter too much). The whole thing basically makes it easier to make your characters do whatever you want (though their crafts still will incline them to specific roles). There's also a new master quartz available, which levels up with the character and provides some inborn stats, artes, and passive bonuses; this ends up being the main way to give characters unique strengths.

However, all that stuff I said about spell setups doesn't actually matter, because midway through the game spells get left in the dust. See, the balance of things in this game is that speed is the god stat. But more importantly, they give you a lot of access to delay, which is the ability to move an enemy down the timeline. Basically, after taking an action everyone gets a delay number based on the action taken (so attacks are cheaper delay-wise than high level magic). The game sorts by delay with the smallest delay going next. You can both equip quartz that makes your attacks cause delay as well as certain crafts being able to cause delay, which includes one your main character gets which causes a high amount of delay in an area for a reasonable cost. There are a grand total of two boss fights who are immune to delay. All others can be permanently delay-locked so they never get a turn. Once you realize this and build for it (max everyone's speed and delay causing ability) you will steamroll the game, aside from the aforementioned two boss fights. And one of them is really just a long endurance fight and isn't actually difficult (the other one though, hoo boy). I understand it that they nerfed this tactic in the sequel; we shall see.

It's a long game (60 hours), but it builds towards an interesting storyline that I'm looking forward to seeing unfold over the coming games. They do a lot of hint dropping towards this game's plot as well as the deeper sweeping events, and you will be rewarded if you've played the previous games by cameos and hints at plotlines that were first introduced in those games. I'm not sure how much was preplanned when they started the overall world and how much they've made up as they've gone, but there are a lot of twists and turns that are going to keep things interesting.
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Games Beaten: 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
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