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ElkinFencer10
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by ElkinFencer10 Mon Jan 04, 2021 4:18 pm

Games Beaten in 2021 - 3
* denotes a replay

January (3 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


3. God of War: Chains of Olympus - PlayStation 3 - January 3

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When I started this game, I expected a dramatically scaled down God of War experience. No matter how much remastering and upscaling they may have done, it's still a PSP game at the end of the day. What I did not expect was a full fledged even if relatively short God of War experience with all of the quality and gameplay features of the PS2 titles.

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The first thing that struck me was just how good the game looked. Obviously being remastered in high definition will look better than the original in low definition. 270p to 1080p is a pretty huge jump. But with a jump that big, I figured it would look worse than the remasters of the PS2 games did considering that was just 480p to 1080p. For sure, some of the wall and ground textures looked a little bit rougher, but the character models and the environments as a whole looked just as good as the remastered PS2 games did. I gotta hand it to them, Read at Dawn did a superb job on these games. Even on the original PSP version, the game looks just fantastic considering the low resolution screen.

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It's more than just the visuals though. Truthfully this felt like a true sequel for the series rather than just a handheld side story. It was great to see some of Kratos's story before he killed Ares and became the new god of war. Speaking of story elements and their delivery, this entry (FINALLY) added an option for subtitles during the cut scenes, eliminating my complaints about the wonky sound balancing. The game may have been shorter, but I felt like the storytelling was a bit more focused than the first game and about on part with the second game. The controls also didn't suffer in the slightest although part of that is likely utilizing the DualShock 3 for the PS3 HD conversion. Maybe it's just that I finally got in the swing of the series, but I found myself having more fun with Chains of Olympus than I did with the first two games.

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God of War: Chains of Olympus is, in every way, just God of War to go. I mean, I played the not-to-go version, but you get my point. It may look nice on PS3, but the core experience that the original PSP release delivered is in no way inferior to the PS2 originals outside of visual resolution. The combat feels identical, the storytelling is just as acceptable but somewhat lacking, and the atmosphere and environments are as foreboding as ever. Rarely have I seen a series transition from console to handheld this flawlessly. If this were conceived as a third PS2 game, I'd say it was okay, a competent follow-up, but a bit too samey a third entry, but considering that it was conceived as a handheld game, you really have to give it some props here.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by BoneSnapDeez Mon Jan 04, 2021 5:40 pm

Take this with a grain of salt, but that's the "best" PSP game according to Metacritic.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by prfsnl_gmr Mon Jan 04, 2021 5:57 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:Take this with a grain of salt, but that's the "best" PSP game according to Metacritic.


The correct answer is, in fact, the gloriously-titled:

Chili Con Carnage

You don’t even have to play it. The title alone is 10/10!
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by Ack Mon Jan 04, 2021 6:01 pm

1. Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (PC)(Adventure)

I decided to start the year off with beating something light and breezy, and since I had recently played through the first Frog Detective game at the end of last year, checking out the sequel seemed to be the way to go.

Once again, there is a mystery. And once again, Lobster Cop is unavailable, so the Frog Detective is called in to solve the case. This time, an invisible wizard has moved into the small town of Warlock Woods. However, someone has wrecked the local parade that the citizens were planning to throw in the wizard's honor. It's up to the Frog Detective to question everyone, resolve the needs of the citizens, and crack the case wide open. And this time, not only does he have a magnifying glass, but he even gets a handy dandy...NOTEBOOK.

COMPLETE WITH STICKERS YOU PUT ON YOURSELF:

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This notebook provides you with all the information you need on the case: suspects' information, their needs, and what facts you have about them. As you investigate, you fill it up with information and mark off which citizens you have helped. Of course, this being a Frog Detective game, it will mainly consist of you finding a few objects in the world and then running between citizens to pass off items back and forth in what is effectively a game long fetch quest. Don't roll your eyes, it's not that long of a fetch quest; the game is only like an hour long.

But then comes the twist: two possible endings, depending on a major decision you have to make.

Again, developer Grace Bruxner brings her sense of humor and creativity, along with her understanding of the tropes of the detective adventure genre, and she expands upon her world while keeping the same charming sense that made the first Frog Detective game so enjoyable. As of now, I can say I really like Bruxner's work and am awaiting her third game in the series, as well as anything else she develops.

If there is any complaint, it's that selecting both choices requires two playthroughs, and there is no way to skip through things like cutscenes outside of cheats. And...that's my only complaint. How about that?

Do you feel like something different but like your detective adventures? Go check out the Frog Detective series, folks.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by PartridgeSenpai Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:53 pm

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

1. Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland (PS3)

For almost a year now, I've been co-streaming with a friend every weekend and commentating while I watch her play the games. We started with Idea Factory games, but after dropping out of Fairy Fencer F when we realized it was hot garbage even for an IF game, we hopped into another game she was in the middle of playing: Atelier Rorona + (the remake of this game). I've since gone through Atelier Totori (Rorona's sequel) with her and now we're into Atelier Meruru (Totori's sequel) as well, and it's gotten me really interested in trying out the series. I was able to find a copy of the original version of Rorona for very cheap, so I figured it was a good a time as any to try it out, and I ended up absolutely loving it~. It took me around 34 hours to beat the Japanese version of the game with Cordelia's ending.

Atelier Rorona is a bit of an odd RPG as far as the story is concerned. There is no world-saving fight, or even a fight at all. The game honestly barely has an antagonist at all. Rorona is working as the apprentice at Arland's atelier when one day a knock comes at the door. It's a knight from the castle with an important message: the atelier is going to be shut down! Rorona panics and tries to help, but before she knows it, Astrid, the dismissive and selfish master of the atelier, gives the atelier to her to manage and save instead. What follows is three years of fulfilling tasks for the people of Arland as well as new requests from the castle every 3 months to prove that the atelier is worth keeping around.

As I said before, it's a bit of an unconventional setup for a major console JRPG. The only real thing standing between you and a good ending is completing those quests for the castle. As long as you hit a minimum requirement, you won't get a game over or anything. The other things you have to keep engaged are quests for the town to up your popularity et large, and quests for characters around the town. The town popularity as well as doing extra good on the castle quests determines how good an ending you'll get, and doing requests and quest lines for your friends around town will influence you getting certain extra events and character-specific endings.

I really adored the writing in Rorona. It's a lot of smaller slice of life stuff between Rorona, her friends, and other people around town, but I found it very charming. The character quest lines especially were something I really enjoyed, and I did as many as I could. It's a very grounded game that doesn't really stretch the suspension of disbelief very far. The stakes are pretty low, in the grand scheme of things, but this is a game with a very small scope. For Rorona, having the atelier shut down and being forced to leave the city and everyone she cares about would be the end of the world for her, so the stakes couldn't be much higher on a personal level. Atelier Rorona really nails interpersonal relationship writing and that is definitely one of the main highlights of the game. It's also a game that tells stories about relationships that lets people be friends without any of the constant romantic tension, fan service, or queerbaiting that SO much other anime and anime-styled games (not to mention later Atelier games) use, which is another thing I really appreciated.

So just what IS an "atelier" anyway? Well in these games, they're functionally a sort of alchemist's shop. Rorona herself is an alchemist, and you go around the kingdom of Arland fighting monsters and gathering ingredients (and fighting monsters TO get ingredients) to fulfill the quests of the castle and the citizens. The game has a few castle requests that are kinds of combat checks, but the game otherwise has more of a focus on crafting and time management than combat. It doesn't even have a final boss and hardest fights in the game are all optional unless you're going for specific extra endings.

The gameplay of the Atelier games almost always revolves around a larger time limit you must complete your quest within/around, and that time limit then informs a lot of the rest of the gameplay. However, Rorona is definitely one of the more forgiving Atelier games in that regard, and that extends to more than just how easy it is to stay focused on the task at hand via the 3-month requests from the castle (which function sorta as 12 chapters to the game). Where in other Atelier games EVERYTHING takes up time (fighting, gathering, traveling, crafting), in Rorona only traveling and crafting take time. Once at a location, you're free to fight and gather to your heart's content without fear of wasting time, as the time you'll spend there has already been decided. The fairly relaxed requirements of the castle requests combined with this forgiving time management system make Rorona an ideal game to start out with for anyone interested in the series.

The combat and crafting of Rorona are both fairly involved but also ultimately quite simple. For starters, unlike many of its sister Atelier games, Rorona has no MP mechanic for casting spells and no LP mechanic for mitigating how much you can travel in one outing before needing to rest. There is no mechanic at all mitigating how much you can travel, really, and spells are cast by deducting MP rather than HP. This makes for a fairly interesting dynamic, especially with characters who can heal via spells, of just how you're going to balance the actions of your 3-person party to both do enough damage to win but also not die. As a rule, you're quite survivable, but the boss-like enemies in the game know this, and so they will really push your ability to win a battle of attrition unless you're really REALLY prepared (especially the two hardest fights). In this game as well as most other Atelier games, only the alchemist themself can use items, and so crafting items to attack and heal is all well and good, but your party members can't use them. The alchemist also tends to be weaker defensively, so as your party members gain points in an assist gauge so they can take a hit for Rorona or join in with one of her melee attacks to give her a helping hand.

The game also has an interesting elemental magic system that, while not bad, isn't super well thought out either. Every party member has two spells, and more than can be unlocked to cast depending on the elemental status of the battlefield. Cast more spells of that element which your party member uses most, and more powerful spells will be available to you for that fight. If you get to level 5 elemental status, you can then cast a super move, but that super move will reset your elemental gauge back to 0, so you need to decide if it's worth one big attack at the price of being able to do better magics for a little while. The thing is, that enemies can also influence that elemental status, so if you use and your enemy have opposite elemental spell affinities, you're gonna have a very hard time building up any elemental levels and that character's spells are gonna be pretty weak during that fight. In later games they simplify this system to be locked to the respective character instead of something everyone influences, which is a big improvement. In Rorona, that system is cool but quite flawed.

However, the crafting adds a lot of potential spice to your battles. All the items you have have both qualities and traits which will affect the effect of the end product. In terms of healing items and attacking items (bombs), it'll influence the strength of the item to how many charges the item has or even if the item will be an AOE or not. For equipment, it will affect not just the stats of the item, but also passives it will grant you as well as extra spells that your elemental level will unlock in battle. Quite often I found it wasn't actually advantageous to use a new weapon I could craft because despite being a higher gear tier, it gave me spells I liked less or the extra traits on it weren't good enough. You often need to choose between lower tier gear with better traits or higher tier gear with less numerous/less ideal traits, and it gives a lot of nuance to how you'll approach making your gear.

All that said, Atelier Rorona definitely shows its age in its mechanics but especially its UI. The information given to the player at one time is very annoyingly clunky quite often, and going through menus to check if you can craft something at all is only one thing you'll butt against. The most prominent annoyance I had was in regards to making weapons and armor, as I'm not sure there's actually any way to check the stats of what you're currently wearing, let alone is there any way to know the stats of what you're about to craft to then easily compare to what you currently have. It's honestly quite tough to even compare one armor to another, given how the passives and stat boosts outside of the stats related to that specific weapon work. The remake of Rorona spruces up a lot of things aesthetically, but the one mechanical godsend it offers above all others is importing the crafting system from Atelier Meruru, and that one addition would be the main reason (even more than the remake's new playable character) I'd say it's worth shelling out extra for the remake rather than this version.

Presentation-wise, Rorona also shows its age a bit as the first 3D game in the Atelier series (which shockingly enough didn't have a single 3D game on the PS2 despite having like six games on the system). The art style for the character models has them all as these baby-ish chibis, which isn't a problem in and of itself, but it can look quite uncanny given that the dialogue (which is all very well voice acted) uses 2D portraits with many reaction versions as well. This makes a weird demarcation between the characters in your mind's eye and how they look in front of you as you do battle, and making the 3D models look like the 2D portraits is another welcome addition that the Rorona remake adds. What holds up best of all, however, is just how good the music is. Atelier Rorona has an excellent and bubbly musical score with tons of music that just won't get out of my head. It fits the scenes perfectly, and the character and location themes especially fit their purposes splendidly.

Verdict: Recommended. If this were the remake, I'd probably put this as a "highly recommended", but even at this level I still adore this game. Had I finished this before the end of last year, it would've been my #3 favorite game I played that year. If you're someone who prefers your RPGs to offer technical puzzles to solve in regards to its combat and interlocking systems, then you will likely be very bored by Atelier Rorona. However, if you're someone like me who prefers good storytelling and character writing over complex systems, then there is a lot of joy to be found with Atelier Rorona, and if you've ever considered giving the series a try, then Rorona (and moreso its remake) is an excellent place to start ^w^
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by BoneSnapDeez Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:12 am

1. Richard Scarry's Huckle and Lowly's Busiest Day Ever (Pico)
2. Countermeasure (Atari 5200)

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The roof of a flower shop catches fire. A pig gets lost downtown. Gingerbread men are handsomely glazed. The city is painted. The playground is alive with boisterous games. This may indeed be the busiest day ever.

Richard Scarry's Huckle and Lowly's Busiest Day Ever is a video game released in 1994 for Sega's Pico, a console whose library consisted solely of edutainment titles. A licensed game, this one stars author Richard Scarry's delightful creatures, most notably Huckle (the cat who sports lederhosen) and his worm buddy Lowly. The are a number of other animals too, of course. Like the mischievous mice and pigs of all stripes. Seriously, there are so many pigs. In the vein of Scarry's written work What Do People Do All Day?, Busiest Day Ever outlines a typical day in Busytown, where animals ceaselessly go about their business.

It's probably a fair assumption that anyone reading this is unfamiliar with the game itself and the platform is was released on, so a brief introduction is perhaps a necessity. The Pico is a console that hooks to a television, opens like a laptop, and features "built-in" controls rather than a detachable controller on a wire. As such, anyone playing a Pico game needs to be seated close to the television and console itself; it's a bit like playing an old Pong system. The internal console hardware is very similar to that of the Sega Genesis, with games featuring 16-bit graphics and audio. Genesis emulators will in fact boot Pico games, but many lack the ability to emulate the controls. Cartridges are bulky and attached to picture books. Scene progression throughout a game is done by turning pages, and the scene displayed onscreen is essentially an "interactive version" of what's shown in the picture book (though most Pico games feature additional "hidden" segments of gameplay not represented on book pages). As far as controls go, the Pico features a wired stylus which can poke picture book pages or an accompanying pad. There's additionally a "d-pad" fashioned out of four colorful clustered buttons and a lone (and very large) action button.
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The flow of Busiest Day Ever is best illustrated with examples. Upon turning to the first proper page (which comes after the title page / title screen) the player is granted a view of a bustling street. The player can use the stylus to click various spots of the book page, which will trigger onscreen reactions, or one can instead use the stylus in combination with the pad for a "computer mouse" feel (the cursor being a red star). Clicking on characters, such as Huckle and Lowly and their various friends, will trigger bits of dialogue and some brief animations. Should one click on the pig carrying groceries, a small minigame is initiated, where the screen shifts to a larger view of the city and one must use the d-pad to guide the pig to Main Street (the action button honks the horn). Gameplay continues to follow suit as the pages are turned. The second scene occurs within a bakery, with two available minigames: a simple card-flipping matching round and a gingerbread decorating segment. Next comes a painting scene where a pig paints various objects in the city and the player can mix and match paint colors, and then a park where the animals play hide and seek. The final page of the book is divorced from the rest of the game. Here there's a rather ambitious "paint" segment (as in, something vaguely similar to Mario Paint), where one can draw freehand, cut and paste Richard Scarry characters, and switch between drawing tools and colors. All told, it only takes about fifteen minutes to run through the entire book.

The onscreen graphics are quite good, faithful to the Richard Scarry artwork and matching the book perfectly. Music is bland stock nonsense, but there are some surprisingly competent voice samples and a wide range of speaking roles. "Rating" such a game is essentially impossible. I enjoy it well enough for what it is, and my kids got a kick out of it as well. Today, this type of thing is really only recommended to those who collect ultra-obscure old video games. (Can one comfortably ride a bike in lederhosen??).

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The Atari 2600 launched with Combat, a charmingly straightforward tank battle game. Its only big flaw was the fact that it lacked any semblance of opponent AI, and thus required two human players. Years later, on their follow-up console the 5200, Atari released something called Countermeasure, a beefier and more complex tank game with light "simulation" elements. The game indeed showcases a host of computer-controlled adversaries and is designed for a single-player (an additional person can grab joystick two, but gameplay merely alternates after each death). The game is also quite bad.

Countermeasure isn't notable solely for its lack of quality though. It piques the curiosity of collectors even today, as it's one of the very few games that was released as an Atari 5200 exclusive. Wait, don't all consoles have a host of exclusives? No, virtually every title available on the 5200 was either an arcade port, an "enhanced" version of a 2600 game, or a "conversion" of an Atari 8-bit computer game. In fact, it would be most accurate to state that the 5200 library is largely comprised of games that originated in the arcade, were ported to the 2600, and then brought over to the 5200. Perhaps Countermeasure was designed as an alternative, an idiosyncratic experience meant to draw consumers to the floundering console. If so, mission not accomplished.

Grated, the game's concept is pretty clever. Controlling a tank within a top-down vertically-scrolling battlefield, the player isn't tasked with simply blasting all enemies or reaching a goal, but instead must decipher a three-digit code that will save the world from impending nuclear devastation. Most enemies are impediments to achieving this objective: they can be shot or simply avoided, though shooting them is preferable if one is interested in a high score. Additional enemies are added to subsequent stages as one progresses: there are pillboxes, jeeps, and cruise missiles (listed in order of annoyance), and a player can additionally choose to begin on one of the more difficult environments. Passcodes are comprised of the letters L, E, and O (though a letter may be duplicated or ignored, so something like EEL is a possibility). By touching one of the three supply depots a letter and position is given (in the form of "**L" for example). Supply depots also serve to refill the ever-dwindling fuel supply and can be accidentally destroyed. Once the code is deduced, one must enter a silo to input the code within a strict time frame. Succeed and the Earth is saved -- at least until the next stage. Fail, and humanity is doomed. No pressure. Interestingly, you don't have to visit all (or any) of the supply depots; it is possible to complete a stage via a lucky guess and the player isn't penalized for initially entering incorrect passcodes.
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The controls are nothing short of tragic and fail on no less than three fronts. First, the Atari 5200 controller itself is garbage and severely contaminates the gameplay experience of everything released on the system. It's a big clunky "keypad" thing, inspired by the Intellivision, with a miserably-conceived joystick. The big issue with the stick is that it doesn't self-center. This is so far removed from proper controller design that it's difficult to even explain: essentially, if the player chooses to push the stick, say, to the right, it remains stuck in that position until the player "pulls back" to the center or some other position. This makes maneuvering anything needlessly difficult and tedious. Second, the control scheme itself is obscene. Countermeasure doesn't adhere to "normal" controls or even the expected "tank" controls. Instead the developers tried to be cute by programming this like a twin stick shooter... but with only one stick. The idea is that the tank and turret are supposed to move and shoot independently, via some crafty movements of the stick coupled with presses of the four side buttons and the 0 button (yeah, you know, the 0 button). Even entering the passcodes is a weird ordeal, with the 1, 2, and 3 buttons assigned to L, E, and O respectively. Third, the speed of the tank. To call this thing slow would be an understatement. It's absolutely glacial. Moreover, each stage is littered with terrain which causes the tank to move, you guessed it, even slower than normal.

The graphics are... actually kind of cool. The dark color palette gives the game a tough, sharp look. The screen-filling pixel art pieces, which display when you succeed or fail at entering a passcode within the time frame, are also pretty slick. Unfortunately, some of the terrain (such as certain tree types) is a bit too dark, blending in with the backgrounds. Sound effects are minimal and the constant tank noises and victory jingles leave much to be designed. All told, this is quite the stinker. It's slightly interesting from a historical perspective, but offers up virtually nothing in the gameplay department.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by marurun Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:32 am

The Pico is such a neat device, and that Richard Scary game is a great example of the uniqueness it could offer, uniqueness that has been largely replaced by tablets and phones.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by prfsnl_gmr Tue Jan 05, 2021 12:50 pm

Ack wrote:Do you feel like something different but like your detective adventures? Go check out the Frog Detective series, folks.


Awesome review, Ack. With games like Aviary Attorney and Chicken Police, it seems like games starring anthropomorphic law enforcement officers are having a bit of a Renaissance right now. :lol:
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by Lurkei Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:04 pm

You can add the Blacksad game and the upcoming Brok the Investigator to that list of modern animal detective games!

...Now I'm wondering why that combination is so popular.
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Re: Games Beaten 2021

by ElkinFencer10 Tue Jan 05, 2021 2:06 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:Take this with a grain of salt, but that's the "best" PSP game according to Metacritic.

I disagree with that assessment because of the game I'm about to review.

Games Beaten in 2021 - 4
* denotes a replay

January (4 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


4. God of War: Ghost of Sparta - PlayStation 3 - January 4

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Just as the second PS2 game did after the first, this second PSP God of War game took what made the first one on PSP good and improved that. God of War: Ghost of Sparta takes place between God of War and God of War II, after Kratos has killed Ares but before he took on Zeus. As with Chains of Olympus, it shows its roots as a PSP game in a few ways, but the PS3 HD remaster makes it look and feel like any other console release.

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The core of the story is that Kratos is looking for his brother Deimos, whom Ares had kidnapped when they were children and whom he'd been led to believe was dead all these years. His journey takes him to the city of Atlantis and then into the depths of the realm of the dead ruled by Thanatos, a place neither god nor mortal dare to venture. In terms of mood building and setting up a solid sense of gravitas, Ghost of Sparta honestly does a better job than Chains of Olympus or either of the PS2 games in my opinion.

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Ghost of Sparta is still shorter than its console brethren, but it's a couple hours longer than Chains of Olympus. Not only is the length an improvement over Chains of Olympus, but I found that the time I spent with the game was just overall more enjoyable. The storytelling felt smoother and more cohesive this time, and the level design was superb. We've seen Hades's underworld realm before, but Thanatos's realm of the dead unique. Darker. More hopeless. More cruel. With the mythological distinction between the god of the underworld and the god of death easy to conflate, it was great to see their realms look and feel distinct and truly separate. It was also great to get a glimpse at how things changed since Ares was slain and Kratos became the new god of war in the couple of levels that took place in Sparta.

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If you'd waited until after I finished Ghost of Sparta to tell me this was originally a PSP game, I might not have believed you. The remaster on PS3 really does look phenomenal. Part of that is because the game looks really good for the platform on the PSP, so they had good base material to work with, but even with that, Kratos's character model and even most of the enemy models truly do look good. The only place you can really notice the low resolution roots of the game is with a few stretched out textures on floors, walls, and huge enemies like bosses, but even then, it's only a handful of instances where the textures look a bit off. One of my big complaints with the HD remaster of the first game was that the cutscenes looked like garbage. Either they put in the work to spruce up the cutscenes or they were just higher quality to start with, but they don't look bad at all in Ghost of Sparta. They certainly don't look as good as a cutscene in a game made specifically for the PS3, but they're certainly not the muddied mess that we got with the first game's HD remaster.

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When I praised God of War: Chains of Olympus, a lot of that was because I was truly impressed at how true to the console originals the first handheld God of War game was. Ghost of Sparta definitely has that, but it's just a genuinely great game on its own. I honestly think it's the best of the four games I've played so far (the two PS2 titles and the two PSP titles). The environments, the mood of the game, the way the story is told, the interactions between Kratos and the gods; everything felt like the previous games but more refined and more polished. I enjoyed the other three, but Ghost of Sparta is definitely my favorite thus far.
Exhuminator wrote:Ecchi lords must unite for great justice.

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