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ElkinFencer10
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by ElkinFencer10 Thu Jan 14, 2021 4:44 pm

prfsnl_gmr wrote:
ElkinFencer10 wrote:
MrPopo wrote:4. Shovel Knight - Wii U

I'm so proud. :')


Is that game even available on other systems?

Only if you're a whore.
Exhuminator wrote:Ecchi lords must unite for great justice.

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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by BoneSnapDeez Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:04 pm

1. Richard Scarry's Huckle and Lowly's Busiest Day Ever (Pico)
2. Countermeasure (Atari 5200)
3. Alex Kidd: High-Tech World (Sega Master System)
4. Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Game Boy)
5. Night Stalker (Intellivision)

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As the game's title so clearly indicates, Kirby's Dream Land 2 is the third mainline entry released in the series. It marks Kirby's triumphant return to the Nintendo Game Boy after the series pivoted to the NES for the release of Kirby's Adventure. Dream Land 2 combines elements of the original Dream Land along with the bolder and brighter ingredients Adventure brought to the table, plus the addition of a trio of pals for Kirby. The man sure does have a lot of friends. With a 1995 release date, Kirby's Dream Land 2 was optimized for the Super Game Boy, the device that plugs into a Super Nintendo console and allows Game Boy games to be displayed on a television screen in (limited) color with additional borders around the main display.

The story is pretty threadbare. King Dedede is once again "possessed" (bad luck for this dude) and chaos has invaded Dream Land. The antagonist is some extraterrestrial being known as Dark Matter. It's up to our lovable pink comrade Kirby to huff and puff and save the day. This is one of the earliest Kirby games to explicitly display interplanetary travel, as Kirby blasts through space to each "world" (planet) via a flying star. Upon entering a planet, a map screen displays a cluster of stages (to be completed in order, though all can be revisited later) plus a standalone boss battle.

As anticipated, the game itself is a side-scrolling 2D platformer. Controls are fluent and easy to master. A is used to jump, while B performs an attack (sucking by default). Pressing down while Kirby's cheeks are full will cause him to swallow an enemy. The copy abilities introduced in Adventure are back, as consuming specific enemies will allow Kirby to inherit their powers. Seven abilities are available in total; these are advantageous in specific situations and are opt to be traded or tossed in others. The burning power transforms Kirby into a fireball that shoots forward. Cutter is a piercing boomerang attack. Ice transforms enemies into blocks, which can then be used as projectiles against additional foes. Needle is both offensive and defensive, but Kirby can't move until the attack window expires. Spark is comparable to needle, with a smaller range but more continuous damage. Stone is a crushing move that also allows Kirby to steamroll down slopes. And parasol provides some protection above Kirby's head, the ability to float slowly down long horizontal shafts, and a short-range poking attack.
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An arsenal of "only" seven special attacks may seem like quite the downgrade when stacked up against the plethora available in Adventure. But in steps Kirby's new buddies: Rick the hamster, Coo the owl, and Kine the fish. These animals are rescued periodically, upon the completion of mini-boss battles. Once saved, a given animal will offer Kirby the opportunity to mount it, which then drastically alters gameplay. Rick the hamster, for instance, moves faster than Kirby, is impervious to slippery ice, but cannot fly. Coo, being an owl, perpetually flies at swift speeds and is unimpeded by strong winds. And Kine is a useful swimmer who cannot be pushed back by strong currents. Moreover, each special ability will be altered (generally for the better) once Kirby is joined by an animal. For instance, if Kirby possesses the cutter ability and is carried by Coo, then Coo can unleash a three-feather "spread" attack. If Kirby has spark and is joined by Kine, Kine will emit light bulbs that illuminate dark rooms. When factoring in the animal compatriots, there are in fact twenty-eight total abilities (and ability combinations) to play around with -- more than the average player will likely encounter during a playthrough. Much like the special powers themselves, animals eventually outlive their usefulness. For instance, Kirby will need to ditch Rick in an area where flying is a necessity, and Kine removed from water behaves like, well, a fish out of water (Coo doesn't suffer from any obvious weakness, though Kine is certainly a better partner in the swimmy stages). Dumping both enemies and powers is as easy as tapping the select button. Note the additional friend, Gooey. This "blob" character appears when Kirby attempts to rescue an animal he's already partnered with. Gooey doesn't offer a ride, but will provide a boost to HP.

The stage design is quite good, with all the expected Kirby staples: both vertically and horizontally-scrolling segments, brief auto-scrolling segments, plus the aforementioned factors of wind and water that affect Kirby's movements. Most importantly, stages are often designed to accommodate specific animals. The first three planets, in fact, serve as "tutorials" to ease the player into the mechanics. The first planet, Grass Land, is made for Rick with its long, flat stretches, precision jumping, and lack of giant chasms. The following planet is property of Coo, with its big vertical ascensions and items hidden in sky. Expectedly, a water planet follows, where Kine is useful in navigating around competing currents. The four planets that follow contain a mixture of design elements, and players will be encouraged to continually swap animals and powers, though the game makes this a no-brainer as such things tend to be offered up right as they become necessary. A minor gameplay issue: there are a few scattered moments where the tiny screen resolution becomes troublesome. Of note are a small number of "leaps of faith" where the "next" platform can't be seen until Kirby's right on top of it, plus some annoying auto-scrolling areas that require last minute jumps, and mini-bosses that are battled in cramped arenas. Typical Game Boy issues, really.

End-world bosses themselves are of the familiar variety. There's Whispy Woods the apple tree, Mr. Shine and Mr. Bright the sun & moon tag team, and so on. Bosses are all fought in a similar fashion. Should Kirby enter the arena with a special ability he'll ostensibly have the upper hand, though these special attacks whittle away boss health at a very slow rate. Alternatively, Kirby can wait until a boss emits a star project and launch it back: a more tedious procedure but one that dishes out mega damage. In any event, the game isn't particularly challenging (this is a Kirby game after all), as extra lives are offered up in large supply and Game Overs are essentially inconsequential. There's some very discrete auto-saving after each stage as well, so losing progress is all but impossible.
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Super Mario World seemed to be the point where it was decided that platformers (especially those of the Nintendo variety) must contain secrets. That game did it perfectly: hidden exits that lead to full-fledged secret levels -- a nice tangible reward. Kirby's Adventure contained switches that opened up additional minigames, which was decent enough. Kirby's Dream Land 2 does something different, punishing the player with a false ending unless seven Rainbow Drops are found. Only by possessing these can Kirby truly face down Dark Matter once and for all. The Rainbow Drops are well-hidden, to the point of annoyance. Grabbing these requires Kirby track them down while in possession of a special ability and/or with the company of a specific animal -- oftentimes these abilities and animals are not present within the stage of a given Rainbow Drop so Kirby must first find them elsewhere. And then the Rainbow Drops are locked behind blocks. Fire removes the ice blocks; that's simple enough. But what removes the beige blocks or purple blocks? Cutter? Stone? It's a tedious experimental process that ultimately isn't much fun and it's a shame that a portion of the game is walled off until this process is complete.

Even so, gathering the Rainbow Drops will unlock the best possible ending, but doesn't result in 100% game completion. Achieving this requires that Kirby revisit boss stages, which have been transformed into clever (and very tough) bonus rounds with little room for error. And then there's Blob, Gooey's girlfriend and the final elusive 1%. She occasionally materializes instead of Gooey, on those rare occasions where a Gooey appearance would be triggered, but only one-eighth of the time. Yeah... Safe to say Nintendo Power received their fair share of letters about this. Achieving 100% unlocks some slick rewards: sound test, a boss rush, and a bonus round rush. Plus a picture of Kirby and his pals... drunk?

The graphics are very good, with plenty of gorgeous sprites and charming background details. The bits of color added by the Super Game Boy add some flair without becoming garish. However, much like Donkey Kong Land, the graphics are detailed to the point where playing it on an old 1989 Game Boy is a painful experience full of blur and cloudiness. Definitely get this running on a television, or at the very least, a Game Boy Advance SP (this is probably all a moot point in 2021 and beyond). Music is charming and upbeat throughout Kirby's journey, with some new tunes interspersed with those lifted and remixed from Adventure.

Technically speaking, this among the weakest of the early Kirby titles, but that means little give how strong the surrounding entries are. Kirby's Dream Land 2 is a solid experience, albeit one that feels slightly overambitious and was perhaps better suited for the SNES. In any event, this is one of the better Game Boy games and is mandatory for all series fans.

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Night Stalker remains one of Mattel's most memorable games from the classic era. Though mostly known as an Intellivision title, this minor hit also received ports to Mattel's computer system (the Aquarius), the Atari 2600 (retitled and released under the suspiciously-named "M Network" publisher), even the PC and Apple II. Adhering to the "maze game" mechanics and aesthetics, Night Stalker is less like Pac-Man and more like Berzerk, as the goal is to rack up points by vanquishing an endless stream of robotic fiends.

When Night Stalker is booted the game's speed must first be selected, though there's no indication that this is necessary. This is where one realizes how critical it is to possess Intellivision instruction manuals and controller overlays: the speeds (from slowest to fastest) are chosen by pressing buttons 3, 2, 1, and the directional disc, respectively. Totally logical! Selecting a slow speed is not advised. It doesn't make the game any easier, just more tedious. Top speed feels "normal" and natural. The protagonist, known only as "the man" per the instructions, begins the game defenseless, rising from a fortified bunker in the screen's center. One immediately noticeable thing about the maze: it's asymmetrical, consisting of a series of irregularly shaped walls, pathways, and a large spider's web in the upper left corner that serves as a (semi-)safe zone. This is but a minor rejection of the genre's conventions, but an intriguing one, even if it doesn't impact gameplay significantly.
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Several types of respawning villain inhabit the maze. Spiders and bats are of the annoying variety. They can stun the man, but cannot defeat him outright. The true bad guys, the robots, fire shots as they wind their way around the corridors. The man can fire back, but only if he possesses a gun. When the game begins, the gun appears in a random spot in the maze. When six shots have been fired, the gun vanishes and must be retrieved again from another location. When the man loses a life he's warped back to the bunker and once more the gun must be picked up somewhere. The game's pretty generous with lives: six are provided initially and more are gained as points increase.

As this is the Intellivision, the developers decided to get a little cute with the controls. The disc moves the man around the maze, but none of the four(!) "fire buttons" on the Intellivision controller do anything. Instead, one must shoot in the four cardinal directions (N, W, E, S) by pressing the 2, 4, 6, and 8 buttons. It works, but obviously feels a bit strange. A great many players will find themselves shooting left most often, and will try to position themselves to the right of freshly spawned robots. This is because new robots always appear in the maze's bottom-left corner: a good strategy is to snipe them there as soon as they materialize, break to grab a freshly-loaded gun, and then repeat. Shooting is a bit on the stiff side, as the man can't fire while running. Bullets also travel slowly and only one from each shooter (man or robot) can appear on the screen at once. This is a methodical game, where frantic button-mashing spells certain doom. The real fun begins as points are racked up, as the wimpy standard robots are replaced by those that require three shots to kill, those that can destroy the bunker, and even those that are invisible! It does take awhile for these more advanced robots to appear, however, with the invisible bot refusing to make an appearance until a score of 80,000(!) has been reached.

Aesthetics are pretty slick. The maze looks dark and dank with it's muted blues and blacks. Music consists of a simple, catchy, and ominous thumping. The animation is surprisingly smooth, especially in regards to the man and his long-legged gait. Overall, a very solid action title. Like the aforementioned Berzerk and Midway's Wizard of Wor, Night Stalker is a fine addition to the overlooked "blast 'em all" maze genre.
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Note
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by Note Thu Jan 14, 2021 9:59 pm

Games Beaten 2021:

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1. Golden Axe II (GEN)

Growing up, I mostly played the first Golden Axe game on the Genesis, as a few friends had it, and later on in the early 2000's I had access to it through a 6-Pak cartridge. I had played the second and third games through emulation, and even was able to play the Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder arcade cabinet at a Barcade in my area about three years ago. However, I had only finished the first game. I recently picked up a nice copy of Golden Axe II from a local seller and was able to finish the game with two different characters, Gilius Thunderhead and Tyris Flare.

Gameplay wise, the sequel doesn't do much different from the original entry in the series, which isn't a bad thing IMO, as I really enjoyed the original game. One of the main differences is a new system to the magic, in which you can select what level of magic you use. By pressing and holding the A button, you can signify what amount to be used in a given situation. I'm kinda mixed on this system, as it is nice to be able to only use a small amount when you have your magic meter filled up, but I was also in situations where I was holding the A button down for a long period of time to use all my magic and was getting hit by enemies in the meanwhile. This forces you to strategize a bit, and perhaps to make sure you have some space before going ahead with powerful magic.

Another main difference is the move that could be done by holding jump and attack in the first game has been changed for each character. Gilius Thunderhead now has an attack in which he spins around and hits enemies in all directions surrounding him. This should be more useful than the back roll he had in the first game, but I seemed to have an easier time with the back roll. Ax Battler's attack now has an extra jump animation when he's turning around, and I feel like his move in both games aren't great. Tyris Flare's move I think is the only one that received an upgrade, as she now does a pretty quick and effect black flip kick move.

An area in which the game has also improved is the graphics. This entry definitely has a cleaner and more polished look, which is to be expected as it released two years later in 1991. One particularly impressive section of the game's visual is the final encounter with Dark Guld. The look of the throne room is pretty impressive for this era of gaming, the color palette is pretty awesome too. I also have to give credit to to Boris Vallejo, who is the illustrator behind the US cover art. It looks great and is a step-up from the art used for the original title, IMO.

I really enjoyed finally finishing Golden Axe II and I would recommend it to anyone whose a fan of beat 'em ups from the 16-bit era. I think I still prefer the first game, as I've spent much more time with that one, but this is a decent sequel that gives us more of a good thing.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by prfsnl_gmr Thu Jan 14, 2021 11:57 pm

1. Horace (Switch)

Horace is, mostly, a story-driven platformer. In it, you play as the Horace, a mild-mannered robot, and you navigate a bittersweet, occasionally unnerving story, mostly through very well-designed platforming challenges. The game’s primary innovation, at least with regard to the platforming, is your ability to change gravity relative to your surroundings. That is, you always fall in whatever direction your feet are facing regardless of how gravity affects everything around you. It’s actually a really cool mechanic, and it really adds a lot to both the platforming challenges and the ways in which you explore the game’s mostly open world.

In addition to platforming, the game also contains a lot of fun sequences inspired by classic video games such as Afterburner, Breakout, The Legend of Zelda, OutRun, Pac-Man, Pong, Space Invaders, and, best of all...Ballz 3D. :lol: Along with some pretty stellar boss fights and rhythm-based mini-games, these sequences break up the action and provide some nice gameplay variety. The game has a pretty great chip tune soundtrack, and it is overflowing with Easter Eggs.

While some of the game’s “remember the 80s?” humor is a bit wearing, the game does have some genuinely funny bits, and more importantly, the game’s story, told through well-narrated cutscenes, is really good (especially by video game story standards). The memorable characters and compelling narrative really tie everything together, and ultimately, Horace is a game with a lot of disparate parts that, like the titular robot, ends up being a lot more than the sum of its parts. Everything about it fits together so well, and despite a few minor quibbles, the game ends up being a very enjoyable, very memorable experience. Highly recommended.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by elricorico Fri Jan 15, 2021 5:45 pm

1. Cosmic Star Heroine (NS)

My first completion of the year happened a few days back when I beat the last boss in Cosmic Star Heroine. I grabbed this game on a deep sale some time back and played it in small chunks in between other games on my Switch. As 2020 approached an end I decided I wanted to hit the ending, so I pressed through the last third of the game far faster than the rest.

This is a throwback style turn based RPG that felt to me like a mix of Phantasy Star and maybe Shadowrun(although I have much more experience with the Phantasy Star series). Cyberpunk setting with multiple planets to visit through the story. It has a fast paced story, relatively short quests and dungeons, streamlined battles and in all can be beaten around 10 hours on the default difficulty that I played.

I enjoyed the story and most of the characters well enough. I liked the battle system as well, though I tend to prefer brute force to the more subtle branch of skill choices that this game focussed on. I never had to grind so long as I did all the exploring in each area.

The presentation was nice if you like 16/32bit RPGs. Clean pixel art and pretty good music(though nothing that really stuck in my head too deep). About half of the characters left a real impression and the other half seemed a bit shallow. The one character with a big plot-twist was never interesting to me, so they stayed in reserve whenever I was allowed and I think that may have taken away a little from the impact of the plot twist.

This felt like a really good fan-made game or a solid entry to the style for an indie developer. I don't think it will be anyone's favourite, but it is an easily digested and reasonably enjoyable choice if you are looking for a retro-styled role-playing game.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by PartridgeSenpai Sat Jan 16, 2021 8:07 pm

Partridge Senpai's 2021 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
* indicates a repeat

1. Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland (PS3)
2. Portal 2 (PC) *
3. Atelier Judie: The Alchemist of Gramnad (PS2)
4. Pipo Saru 2001 (PS2)

5. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (N64)

This is a game I rented as a kid and enjoyed up until I hit a huge difficulty roadblock and had to stop. I wasn't super into reading game dialogue when I was a kid, so I probably wouldn't've been able to finish it even if I had been able to progress, but it's a game I've always wanted to get back to at some point. It's also got the odd position of being a 3D action/adventure game on the N64 that came out 15 whole months before Ocarina of Time did, making it a very interesting historical curiosity. It turns out it's a pretty cheap game here in Japan, so I picked it up a while back with the intention to stream it. The only problem was that, while the game DOES work, it needs a Memory Pak to save, and even worse is that for whatever reason it simply cannot use the Memory Pak that I have (I guess my one is too new or something? I have other Japanese Konami games that use it fine, so my Pak certainly ain't broken), so if I wanted to beat it, I'd need to do it in one sitting. 11 hours later, I finished it! I certainly didn't expect (or particularly want) it to take that long, but I did it!

Goemon and Ebisumaru are escaping from the angry crowd at an inn when suddenly a giant peach-shaped spaceship comes out of the sky and transforms Oedo Castle into this weird, Western toy-looking thing. They then embark out first to save the lord of the castle and his daughter, and then on a quest to save Japan from the Neo Momoyama Shoguns who want to turn all of Japan into their own personal theater stage. This game was originally titled as Ganbare Goemon 5, but the '5' was dropped in order to try and show that it was a break from the older games in the series. Nonetheless, the markers of its continuation of the story of the previous games (however unimportant or trivial that may be) are there in how wacky this story is (and a reference here and there to the ending of Ganbare Goemon 4).

What's also unfortunate (but certainly unsurprising) are the continuation of all of the more rotten parts of Ganbare Goemon's humor, like the not infrequent homophobia and transphobia. It wasn't a deal-breaker for me, but it very well may be for some people, and the English script does tone it down a bit (though not THAT much). It does have some genuinely funny comedy in it as well as an aggressively silly tone packed with loads of 4th wall breaking, irreverent remarks, and even a laugh track. That combined with the several voiced musical numbers give the game an energy like something right out of a gag anime. When it works, it works pretty well and gave me a good few chuckles, but when it doesn't work, it's downright painful.

The game design is overall pretty strong. You have four playable characters, as many of the Super Famicom games do (although no co-op mode), going through a 3D adventure around Japan. Each character has 3 weapons (at least one of which uses money as ammo, in grand Goemon fashion) and a special power they can activate, and while they each play mostly the same, there are enough differences between the four of them that you'll likely develop a favorite among them. The game has five dungeons to go through with a handful of bosses and mini-games to tackle to progress through the game. The overworld is not super awesome, and can feel a bit needlessly empty at times, but there are many secrets to find, so it pays to keep your eyes open for the many heart containers (or rather, lucky cats) scattered throughout the world. The bosses are overall tackled fairly well, and although some of the dungeons can certainly run a bit long (the ability to save in the middle of them would've been very nice), they're well put together even if they tend to fall into the camps of "overly simple" or "overly maze-like" in their constructions.

The game's biggest problems are in a few deliberate design choices and then with technical problems. There are several fairly baffling design decisions, number one of which is that the game has absolutely no manual camera controls. This game is an early N64 game, sure, but 3D environments were not a new thing in 1997, especially given that Mario 64 came out the previous year. It isn't the worst auto-camera in the world, but damn if I wish it didn't have some way of controlling it to at LEAST recenter it behind you. Outside of some rough signposting here and there (despite a hint shop), there are some other strange decisions like not being able to pause during the Goemon Impact boss fights, or how despite how often well tutorialized the rest of the game is, you're never told how to actually fight in those boss fights.

Several boss fights in the game (the second and then two final ones) have you piloting Goemon's giant robot friend Impact. First, you have a really fun transformation sequence as Impact is summoned in (complete with vocal song behind it) followed by a brief sort of running section to bash baddies and buildings in order to build up ammo and health before you get to the boss. Then when you get to the boss, you enter a mode that's something between Star Fox 64 and Punch Out, and they're often brutal battles of attrition unless you know what you're doing already. I was stuck on the final boss for an HOUR (he has some attacks that go on for AGES) before a friend looked up a speedrun and told me of a Scorpion-style "GET OVER HERE!" grappling hook move I had no idea was present (which I then proceeded to use a lot to beat the everloving hell out of the boss). The R-button, which is otherwise totally unused in the game, launches that grappling hook, while Z fires money as projectiles, A does long punches, and B does quick jabs. There are even special moves you can do by doing certain combos, but the game never tells you ANY of this in the game. While I'm sure the manual for the game did tell you that stuff, it's very odd that the game itself never tells you any of this given how many other things are explained to you in it. Some of the mini-games are overly obtuse and frustrating in their own ways, but the Impact fights take the cake as far as inadequately explained mechanics go. The fights are fun once you know what you're doing, but if you don't then expect to have a really frustrating time (especially since the cursor in the first-person sections don't use inverted vertical aiming, and that takes a LONG time to get used to XP).

The last of the issues with the game are largely technical. Konami has a pretty bad track record on the N64 as far as releasing games that feel unfinished (like Castlevania 64, which genuinely IS unfinished), and this game is part of that legacy. Even for an early N64 game, the frame rate is HORRIBLE and very inconsistent. There were many parts where it was chugging so badly that it began to affect the latency of my button inputs, and while it isn't exactly game breaking, it is impossible to ignore in a game where platforming is so important yet pressing A sometimes results in a very late or a totally absent jump. Then finally there are some significant collision problems. Enemy and character hitboxes are very oddly defined, with hits often hitting but sometimes bafflingly missing, and there even being one type of platform (the fans in the last stage) that I routinely clipped through for no apparent reason. The game's difficulty is overall quite forgiving (your health bar is pretty big and only gets bigger while health items are quite cheap), so these problems never made me feel like the game was unplayable, but it was quite frustrating and they do a lot to drag down a game that could otherwise be one of the best experiences of its type on the system.

What isn't a slack at all, however, is the presentation. It's a 1997 N64 game, so it's VERY polygonal, but the art style on the characters at least holds up pretty darn well. Environments look pretty flat and unimpressive in the overworld, but dungeons are often whimsically put together in a way that makes them memorable. The MVP of the game is easily the music, though. The soundtrack is an absolute banger even outside of the vocal tracks. The dungeons even have a really cool mechanic where the songs start out simple but then slowly get more complex as you delve deeper into them. The excellent music is one facet carried over from old Goemon that still runs as strong as ever, and even if you don't check out the game, the music should still be looked at X3

As far as regional differences go, there are a few but they're usually not very important. The biggest and most noticeable one is that the opening and ending movies have voice acting in the Japanese version of the game, which adds a fair bit more character to the game in a way I really enjoyed. Aside from that it's largely small aesthetic things (like replacing the manji on grappling blocks with a star) and translation decisions. A lot of Ebisumaru's lines in particular are wordplay that simply can't be translated, and from what I understand the English version of the game has a translation that walks the line of "poorly translated, or deliberately wacky?".

Verdict: Hesitantly Recommended. This is a weird one to recommend because it has so many problems, but if you can get past those and play the game as it is, then there's a lot to be enjoyed here. Especially for mid '97, this is a really incredible feat for the N64's library, and is one of the best 3rd party Japanese developed games on the platform in my experience (if we aren't counting Rare as 3rd party, anyhow :b). The technical issues and writing problems are the biggest obstacles to my recommendation, and I can't give it a higher one because those are a lot more difficult to tolerate, generally, in 2021 than they were in 1997, but if you're ready to take the plunge then there is a lot of enjoyment to be had here among the jank.
Last edited by PartridgeSenpai on Mon Jan 18, 2021 5:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by PartridgeSenpai Mon Jan 18, 2021 5:02 am

Partridge Senpai's 2021 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
* indicates a repeat

1. Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland (PS3)
2. Portal 2 (PC) *
3. Atelier Judie: The Alchemist of Gramnad (PS2)
4. Pipo Saru 2001 (PS2)
5. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (N64)

6. Atelier Viorate: The Alchemist of Gramnad 2 (PS2)

After being thoroughly underwhelmed by Atelier Judie a couple weeks back, I was eager to see just what they went to from that entry. Given the very experimental nature of Atelier Judie's abandonment of the time limit Atelier as a series was so defined by, how would the next game in the sub series handle what Judie had brought to the table? What I was greeted with was an incredible turnaround I never would've expected. This game, like its predecessor, also does not record your actual playtime, so I reckon it took me around 40-ish hours to complete it with Brigitt's ending.

Viorate is a 15 year old girl living in the small village of Karotte. It's famous for its carrots, and she can't get enough of them. She loves her town, but her parents think it's too small and want to move to a big city very far away to get more opportunities. Inspired to take up alchemy by an itinerant alchemist (another student from Salzburg, the location of the first Atelier trilogy), she commits to trying to use alchemy to improve her town to the point that her parents have no choice but to remain there (or at least let her stay). This starts as simply filling requests for people, but ends up working towards efforts to both run a shop and to be the biggest seller at the annual charity auctions.

Though the chronology is later specified to a degree, Atelier Viorate's connection to Atelier Judie is at first very murky, but ultimately not very important (especially given how Atelier Judie ends). Viorate's story and how it's told are head and shoulders above Atelier Judie's. The side characters (and main character) are better defined and characterized with a lot more scenes together, the main character's motivations as well as the stakes of her quest are much better established, and there are a myriad of endings you can aim for depending on just how hard you're willing to go towards trying to fulfill Viorate's wish to remain in her hometown. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, and although it certainly lacks the depth and polish of later games I've played like Atelier Rorona (many party members still join your party basically just because, and with very little personal reason to), the seeds of what would become the even more detailed character writing that are so strong a hallmark of the series are definitely here and definitely flexing their narrative muscles.

A lot of these narrative improvements don't exist in a vacuum, however. A lot of them are allowed to exist because the the structural changes in the game's design since the last game. You still travel around to different towns, but Karotte Village is your home base of operations. No more moving house from inn to inn like in Judie. This means you have a place to expand and grow your alchemy/shop skills in as well as a place to have important plot events to occur. And let's not forget the most important change: You have a time limit again! You have three years (or five, if you manage to get the two year extension from doing well enough at the end of the first three) to turn Karotte Village into a boom town. If you're paying attention to your shop stuff, this is a pretty trivial task and is ultimately not that hard. However, putting the game's story back on a time limit gives it a sense of pacing that really helps the story stay consistently engaging, as the multiple endings allow you to try as hard as you're willing to go to see the story to its completion. The establishing of Karotte Village as your home base as well as giving you a time limit to do your quest within allow the most verisimilar elements of Atelier Judie's narrative progression to now shine as genuinely clever storytelling elements rather than interesting quirks that do little but befuddle you with awkward signposting.

The UI and quality of life features have been improved a fair bit as well. Most importantly, you can now select multiple items at once when moving them between containers. That may seem trivial and obvious a thing to implement into a game that has tons of item management, but it's SO nice to have it now after not having it for the entirety of Atelier Judie XD. Overall, the item management has been streamlined a bit, as you can even auto-sort your inventory now with a press of the triangle button. There are still some annoying things like the lack of more detailed sorting features, the lack of sub-categories in your crafting menu (so the ever expanding singular list gets a bit annoying to traverse after a while), and your container still not preventing things from spoiling, but it's overall a very significant step up. The one weird step backwards is that they no longer give crafting time for items in their actual fraction of a day anymore, and you need to figure it out yourself through trial and error.

The gameplay loop itself has both changed a fair bit but also stayed very much the same. The Atelier crafting system; with its item qualities, item effects, time spent, and resource gathering; is still here in all its glory. The function of tools that you buy or craft to aid in crafting has also returned from Atelier Judie. You have more items to craft than ever, and most importantly you can even craft your own weapons and armor now! You also very familiarly to any Atelier game have the ability to pick up requests for both found and crafted items from the town bar. However, you also now have shop management, which involves keeping your store stocked, deciding what items to mark up or down (with a simple "sale" or "luxury" toggle), and trying to keep track of what's popular so you can sell as much as you can! Those requests you do for bars? They spread the word of your products and will attract people from those towns to your village's shop. You can hire someone to stand behind the counter for you, or you can do it yourself if you fancy getting some of the oodles of character interactions hiding behind it~. You can even unlock different upgrades for your atelier, but you can only have so much built at a time (granted the upgraded forge is basically the only correct choice to have once you have the opportunity to build it). Running your shop adds a big opportunity for self-directed play in the game, but along a guided route. I found the gameplay loop really satisfying, and although running a shop isn't exactly a totally unique thing in the series (it's the main focus of the first game in the series, after all), it's definitely within the realm of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Of course there's also the combat in the game, which is really one of the things that's changed least from Atelier Judie. You still have the same "everything is HP" system of that previous game, where running out of HP, MP, or LP will result in a KO. Additionally, a LOT of enemy sprites have been reused. That said, having different player characters as well as differently balanced monsters makes the way you need to approach combat much different, especially given how many fewer good non-item AoE attacks are in this game compared to the last one. The only really significant change in the combat is the addition of special moves that require several party members in your group. Both members of the pair can add skill points into their own version of it, meaning that whoever launches the attack has a big impact on its effectiveness. These also tie into the story to some degree, as they're basically always done between characters who have some narrative relation to each other.

This system is ultimately a double-edged sword. On one hand, it nudges the player towards pairings that will result in more durable fighting teams, but it also gives you hints on whom among your possible party compositions will result in side-story events together while you're out and about. But on the other hand, these pair moves are often quite powerful and have some of the best AoE spells in the game, so it ends up discouraging experimental party compositions. This game, unlike Atelier Judie, has no combat checks for most of its good endings (as there are many good endings, and it just depends on which one you're trying to aim for, although the best endings do involve a fair bit of combat and defeating the all or several of the game's quite tough optional bosses), so combat is another aspect that you really only need to engage with as much as you're willing to do so (as most of the base good endings are related more to crafting, the town's population, and your shop level than anything else). The combat is another element that is very much "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and honestly the ability to craft your own weapons and armor does more to fix the combat than any actual technical changes in the mechanics of combat ever could XD

The last thing to mention is the game's presentation, but it's definitely something worth mentioning. Though an art style change in the middle of a sub-series isn't something this series often does, it's something that happens between the two Gramnad games, and it's absolutely one for the better as far as I'm concerned. Characters look far more appealing in this style more reminiscent of the early-/mid-2000's anime rather than the more decidedly 90's' look and feel of Atelier Judie's art style. The other aspect that's really been given a shot in the arm is the music. I'd been told before I went into this game that it had a banging soundtrack, and boy does it ever. Atelier is a series that I generally associate with quite good music, and Judie really let me down on that front. Viorate really picks up the slack though, and has a soundtrack of the quality that I have come to expect from these games.

The last few bits of presentation I'll quickly mention are that, just like in Atelier Judie, you unlock a bunch of goodies after you beat the game like character portraits, a jukebox (complete with composer's comments about each track) of songs you heard, the ability to view art stills and anime videos (of which there are a surprisingly large number) from the game that you saw, as well as listening to interviews with the voice cast about their time with the game. I really love gallery stuff like this in games, and it always makes me smile to see that, even back in the early 2000's, Gust was putting these in as bonuses for people who saw their game to the end.

Verdict: Highly Recommended. I figured I'd like this game, but I ended up loving this game. There aren't many Japan-exclusive games that I play and really bemoan that they were never localized, but this is absolutely one of them. Atelier Viorate is an excellent entry in the series that really flexes the strengths of what Gust's team was capable of. If you can read Japanese, it's absolutely something worth checking out, as it's quite the foundational game for what would come after (at least for what I've seen of the later games) while still managing to be fun and compelling in its own right.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by ElkinFencer10 Mon Jan 18, 2021 11:28 pm

Games Beaten in 2021 - 7
* denotes a replay

January (7 Games Beaten)
1. God of War - PlayStation 3 - January 1
2. God of War II - PlayStation 3 - January 2
3. God of War: Chains of Olympus - PlayStation 3 - January 3
4. God of War: Ghost of Sparta - PlayStation 3 - January 4
5. God of War III - PlayStation 4 - January 6
6. God of War: Ascension - PlayStation 3 - January 9
7. God of War [2018] - PlayStation 4 - January 16


7. God of War [2018] - PlayStation 4 - January 16

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This is the thing I hate about reboots - the naming schemes. I love franchise reboots for breathing new life into a series or changing direction after it starts to get stale, but for Christ's sake, don't repeat names. There's already a game called Doom. There's already a game called Star Wars: Battlefront. And there's already a game called God of War. When Sony announced this new God of War that would focus on Norse mythology rather than Greek, I thought it was cool to see them branch into a new type of mythology even though I'd yet to play any of the games, but that damn name...However, asinine naming scheme aside, I was hesitant about the game's new direction; it plays VERY differently than the previous six games (seven if you include Betrayal, but all of like eight people played that, so whatever). I have to admit, though, that I was very quickly won over. I see why even my Xbox fanboy friends were singing this game's praises.

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This 2018 game takes place an undetermined amount of time after the events of God of War III. Kratos, having slain the bulk of the Greek pantheon and seeing the devastation his vengeance brought, travels far to the cold north of Scandinavia and seeks to live as a man. There he meets a woman named Faye whom he marries and with whom he has a son named Atreus (although Kratos will have you thinking that his son's name is simply "Boy"). Though Faye knows that he is, in fact, a god, he keeps this from Atreus, not wanting to burden the boy with the "curse" of being a god. The game starts as Kratos and Atreus are laying Faye to rest. The game never reveals how she died, but her last wish to have her ashes scattered from the highest peak in all the realms. After burning her body, Kratos and Atreus head out on this journey. Cue father/son bonding trip.

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The first six games were fixed camera hack and slash gore-fests with twin blades chained to your arms. This one, on the other hand, is a pseudo-open world adventure game with a big axe that you can throw and call back to you. There's still plenty of action to be had, but if you swapped out Kratos, I wouldn't have guessed it's a God of War game at first. Once the story starts to pick up and the lore with the Norse gods comes into play, it starts to feel more like God of War with its general antitheist tone, but it's a VERY different experience. Honestly, I think I liked God of War III more, but this one is definitely a close #2.

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One of the biggest differences with the experience here aside from the obvious genre shift is the massive amount of side quests to do. You've got full blown side quests to do, you've got treasure maps to hunt down, you've got optional areas to explore, you've got collectibles to find, you've got optional bosses to slay; it's a massive game on top of an already pretty big game at least compared to its predecessors. The first six games in the series averaged around 8 hours each, I'd guess whereas this one would probably take between 15 and 20 just for the main story. It can be a bit overwhelming at first if you've butt chugged the entire series beforehand like I did, but it's definitely welcome as you'll not be left thirsting for more.

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Visually, the game looks amazing. It's definitely one of the best looking games on the PS4 and really showcases the system's capabilities. You get two performance modes, a resolution mode that will run the game in 4K and target 30 fps and a performance mode that will run the game at 1080p and target 60 fps. I played on PS5, and while there's no visual boost from PS5, it does improve the performance mode's frame rate from around 45 fps to a solid 60 fps, so that's how I played. I tried resolution mode, but it suffers from the same atrocious and weird choppiness that Spider-Man's fidelity mode did. Even at 1080p rather than 4K, though, the game looks amazing on my 65" 4K TV.

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The sound design was one area where I was really unsure specifically with the voice acting. They changed the voice actor for Kratos for this game, and I tend to get pretty attached to a specific voice for a character. Fortunately, however, the voice actor they chose was Christopher Judge; once I heard the strong and confident voice of Teal'c (I was a big Stargate SG-1 fan back in the day), I knew I wouldn't mind. Sure enough, while the voice was noticeably different, it fits very well for a Kratos who is much older, wiser, and haunted by his past. Atreus's voice acting was top notch, too, which was another concern of mine; getting solid voice acting for children characters isn't always easy. Fortunately, it's been confirmed that Sunny Suljic will be reprising his role as Atreus in the untitled God of War game supposedly releasing later this year. The only real problem I had with the sound design is that the soundtrack choices didn't always feel quite fitting. The whole soundtrack was good, but some of the songs felt a bit out of place for an ancient Norse world. I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me, but there were a few instances when I found myself thinking, "Huh...That's an interesting song choice."

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Honestly, this is everything I wanted God of War to be from the beginning of the series. A deep story with top tier voice acting and brilliant cinematic design and direction, a beautiful world to explore, and rich characters to discover. I may have had a bit more fun with God of War III's balance of world building and gratuitous gore, but it can't be denied that the storytelling and world building in this entry surpasses the rest of the series combined. It's beautiful, it's compelling, and I finally understand why the reveal of the sequel last fall made such a splash online. I wasn't quite as smitten with the game as some of my friends, but it's definitely on the short list of "Absolute Must Play PS4 Games" for me. I can't wait to see where the series goes from here and how Atreus explores his newfound godhood in the upcoming game.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by Note Tue Jan 19, 2021 1:11 am

Games Beaten 2021:

1. Golden Axe II (GEN)

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2. Time Crisis [Special Mode] (PS1)

I'm a big fan of lightgun games with Time Crisis on the PS1 probably being my favorite lightgun experience on a home console. It was a game I poured tons of hours into when it was released. After finishing the Arcade mode again late last year, I thought to revisit the Special mode, which is the campaign created specifically for the home console port. I've had the itch for some lightgun shooters, and thought to put some more time into the extra campaign that I didn't show enough attention to years ago.

The gameplay is identical to the Arcade mode, with the major difference being that your path throughout the campaign will be determined by how quickly you can finish different sections. This gives the Special mode good replay value, as you can continue to revisit it to try and see the various levels you missed in earlier playthroughs. It took me quite a few attempts to finish the game, as I'm still learning the enemy patterns, so I did see a few different areas in each attempt, but there are still a couple that I missed.

I don't find the environments in this mode as appealing as in the original arcade version of the game. The Special campaign takes place mostly indoors, with some drab areas filled with greys included, for example the parking garage and a trash/dump area. Even the areas throughout the hotel seem a bit bland to me, containing mostly reds and browns. It would've been nice if there was a mix of outdoor and indoor environments, as in the original Arcade mode. Perhaps some of the areas I missed in my playthrough add to the mix and switch things up. I plan on revisiting the game again so hopefully I'll find out.

I found the Special mode to be more difficult than the Arcade mode. Maybe it's because I have a better handle on the enemy placement in the Arcade mode, or perhaps it was just designed as a bit more difficult since it was built for the home console in mind. There is also no difficulty setting in this mode, so if you're having a tough time, there's no way to scale it back.

Overall, this was a nice change of pace, as I've played the Arcade mode so much throughout the years. It was fun to put some more time into a section of the game I wasn't too familiar with. I still enjoy the Arcade mode better, but this is some good additional content that I think is worth playing through. Definitely recommended for fans of lightgun games.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by Ack Tue Jan 19, 2021 12:09 pm

1. Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (PC)(Adventure)
2. Revulsion (PC)(FPS)
3. Nonogram - Master's Legacy (PC)(Puzzle)

I have no idea why this is called "Master's Legacy" at all. There is no Master, no Legacy, nothing really but nonograms. But it was free, and it managed to slack my thirst for a few rounds of Picross, so I installed it and happily got more than my money's worth.

Yes, Nonogram - Master's Legacy is listed as Free on Steam, though that isn't entirely accurate. There is a selection of free puzzles and a tutorial mode. There are larger collections listed as DLC that you can pay for if you so choose. However, the free release also includes access to a puzzle builder and a massive collection of puzzles that other Steam users have created. Yes, some will be crap. But considering you have access to potentially thousands of puzzles, well, quantity sometimes wins over quality. I even joined in on the fun and made a small 5x5 nonogram puzzle myself...of the tank sprite from Combat on the Atari 2600. Yeah, I'm a dork, and Combat is fantastic.

So, what is a nonogram? It's a grid with numbers on two sides that tell you how many squares must be filled in. Once all the squares are filled in correctly, a picture is revealed. Of course, the numbers don't tell you exactly which squares need to be filled in, and that's where the puzzle aspect comes into play; as you fill in rows and columns, you begin to figure out how other rows and columns should be filled out based on what you have already done, eventually leading to a possible cascade of you resolving the puzzle and seeing the final image. It's a nice mental exercise, and it's rewarding, the same way that something like Sudoku is. I love these kinds of puzzle games because they provide me a time to focus on a problem, do some brain aerobics, and get myself centered. Yes, they are meditative in their way. It's also often satisfying to see beautiful sprite art rendered from what are effectively pixels at the end of the puzzle.

And that's pretty much the whole product in a nutshell, unless you choose to put down the money for the DLC packs, which I did not. Your mileage may vary.
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