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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Markies Sun May 12, 2019 2:10 pm

PartridgeSenpai wrote:
Markies wrote:The only problem is where to go from here: Do I wait until I get a Wii to play Radiant Dawn or do I travel back in time and play the Famicom games? All I know is that this is a series that I want to play more of!


Glad to hear you enjoyed Path of Radiance so much :D
To make a long story short, I think the Famicom ones have no aged very well design-wise and their remakes will be much more enjoyed than the originals for most people, and the first GBA game (Binding Blade) has some really rough and unfair-feeling level design at times with how suddenly new brutal enemies will spawn, but any FE game will likely be one you'll enjoy in the end if you're a big SRPG fan ^w^


Thank You!!

I don't know exactly when, but I know in the near future, I will be upgrading my setup to be able to play Wii/GBA games, so I could easily continue playing the Fire Emblem games on those consoles.

The problem is waiting that long. If the bug hits me, I may just bite the bullet and buy one of the Famicom games just to give it a shot. I can go back and play the older games. They might be a bit archaic, but I think it would be an enjoyable experience.
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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Markies Sun May 12, 2019 6:28 pm

Markies' Games Beat List Of 2019!
*Denotes Replay For Completion*

1. Power Stone 2 (SDC)
2. Radiata Stories (PS2)
3. Dusty Diamond's All-Star Softball (NES)
***4. Saiyuki: Journey West (PS1)***
5. Shining In The Darkness (GEN)
***6. Metropolis Street Racer (SDC)***
7. Half-Life 2 (XBOX)
8. Soul Blazer (SNES)
9. Mario Party (N64)
10. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GCN)

11. Street Fighter Collection (PS1)

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I beat Street Fighter Collection on the Sony Playstation this afternoon!

For most of my life, I have been a Street Fighter player. It was the very first fighting game that I ever got into and the entire series hold a special place in my heart. Slowly but surely, I have been playing through the series on the Backloggery. I have been collecting the games and beating them as well. It was with a happy and sad heart that I realized that I had one more game to go. While I was attending a local convention, I found the last regular series Street Fighter game that I had been missing. It was Street Fighter Collection on the PS1. After buying it and the Fortune Cookie having me randomly play it this year, I finally reached the end of my Street Fighter journey. All I have left is the Alpha series.

Street Fighter Collection is three games: Super Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter II Alpha Gold. Super Street Fighter II played exactly like how it played back on the Genesis and Super Nintendo. Granted, the graphics have been improved, but not much has changed and I was able to easily get through that game. Super Street Fighter II Turbo was the gem of the collection when I bought the game. That version of the game was never released on a popular system besides the GBA. So, it was a real joy to finally play a full version of the game. Everything ran smoothly and it was great to play an original Street Fighter II game with a Super Bar. Finally, Street Fighter II Alpha Gold is another exclusive to the disc. Street Fighter II Alpha was released everywhere, but Alpha Gold was completely new to this collection. It also played well though I couldn't tell much of a difference. The only real complaint I have with the collection is that the load times can be a bit much. There are loading screens everywhere and it takes a while to get into a match sometimes.

Overall, I got exactly what I expected when I purchased Street Fighter Collection. I got a great version of Super Street Fighter II and an ability to play Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter II Alpha Gold. These are all great ports of great games and I feel a little sad of my Street Fighter journey ending so soon. I guess I will have to continue with the Alpha series or move forward and finally be able to play Street Fighter IV. My journey may have ended, but I know I will never stop playing Street Fighter games.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by PartridgeSenpai Mon May 13, 2019 5:08 am

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

1. Night Slashers (Switch)
2. Bye-Bye BOXBOY! (3DS)
3. GTA4: The Ballad of Gay Tony (Xbox 360)
4. Katamari Forever (PS3)
5. Detention (PS4)
6. Donkey Kong 64 (N64) *
7. OctoDad: Dadliest Catch (PS4) *
8. FlintHook (Switch)
9. God of War (PS4)
10. God of War HD (PS3)
11. Tiny Barbarian DX (Switch)
12. God of War 2 HD (PS3)
13. Starlink (Switch)
14. Shin Gundam Musou (PS3)
15. Battle & Get! Pokemon Typing DS (DS)
16. Banjo-Kazooie (N64) *
17. Super Mario 64: Rumble Edition (N64)

18. Mario Party 3 (N64) *

I played a lot of Mario Party 2 over the Golden Week vacation two weeks ago, and it made me want to try out some of the other ones again since it's been so long since I've played most of the games. It's been at least like 10 years since I've played any Mario Party before 9 to any great extent. N64 games tend to be very cheap (at least the more popular/common Nintendo first-party ones) around here, so I went and got Mario Party 3 the other day for a whopping 600 yen (200 yen off because it had the box but not the manual XD ).

In my youth back before I even had a Gamecube, Mario Party 2 was always my favorite of the original 3 Mario Parties, and 3 was always my least favorite. I'd never really been able to put words as to why other than that I didn't like the boards, but the great amount of time I've spent beating story mode twice over the past weekend (once on easy once on hard) has really allowed me to put words to why Mario Party 3 is not just a game I don't enjoy as much as its predecessor, I can also put words to more significant faults in its overall game design. Now I want to make clear I am not trying to state that Mario Party 3 is an outright bad game. I think if one were to do that you'd be taking all the pre-9 Mario Parties down with it with how much greater DNA they share. But all Mario Parties are not created equally, and I am definitely arguing that Mario Party 3 is built of lesser stuff than many of its console-borne brethren.

Mario Party 2 was in MANY ways a "fixed" version of Mario Party 1. A significant amount of the mini-games aren't so much recycled so much as they are improved upon from the first game (although there is the occasional 1-to-1 copy like Hexagon Heat). Other than the new maps, Mario Party 2's main innovations upon the first game are the introductions of concepts like items, a bank, duels during the last few turns, and far fewer ways for players to directly steal items from one another via the normal end-of-turn mini-games. By doing this, Mario Party 2, however unintentionally, amplified the main design flaw from Mario Party 1: It is very easy to run the table by just being very good at all the mini-games. Two of the end-of-game bonus stars are linked to winning them frequently, and things like items and duels gave the best players more ways than ever to utilize that cash advantage and rob other players of their own coin advantages. If everyone wasn't around the same skill level, Mario Party 1 and 2 would quickly turn into a game where the winner was very obvious from the start, and it ironically enough made it an awful party game because of the amount of how difficult casual play was with players of varying skill levels.

Mario Party 3's apparent solution to this was to introduce more random chance into not just the mini-games, but all aspects of the game's design in several ways:

1) Chance Time, the frequently frustrating equalizer that, while rare, would give anything from 10 coins to ALL a player's stars to another player if done correctly, now has a much more frequent sibling in Game Guy. Game Guy is a solo-player event that whisks you away to his casino and forces you to bet ALL of your coins in a very easy-to-lose game of chance. Where Chance Time at LEAST involved several players (one pushing the buttons of the game and at least one other being affected by it), Game Guy is not only a totally solo event that really slows the pace of the game down, but it is also something that either totally cripples one player by funneling ALL of their coins into the garbage, or granting them a coin lead so massive that no other player has the slightest chance of topping them (making one of the 3 bonus stars for the highest coin total at one time basically pointless). There's even a rare item you can use to sic Game Guy on any player (even yourself) if you want, as kind of a tacit acknowledgement from the game itself that going to it is a BAD thing you don't want to do. Game Guy's games, in isolation, aren't terrible, but the impact they have on the overall flow of the board game adds an element of randomness that doesn't really do anything but rob agency away from the players in a series that already has issues with random chance.

2) The mini-games. A lot of MP3's mini-games are really good fun. Some take way longer to play than I'd like, but the addition of a selection of item and duel mini-games instead of each map having its own really spices things up for those parts of the game (although both of those do a LOT to slow down the overall pace of each game). Overall I'd say it's a game with higher mini-game highs but lower mini-game lows than its predecessors. However, something that is in MP3 a lot more than 2 are games that rely on random chance to win. It's something that gets far more apparent on higher CPU difficulties as well, but other games too are just designed in such a way that the CPU has a fundamentally easier time to the point where some games are literally impossible for a human player to beat them in. Any game that relies around knowing the character's hit-boxes to a very exact degree or being able to move to adjust to an upcoming obstacle quickly is one the CPU will almost always win. I reached a point where there were times I'd just put down my controller if the game came up because there was genuinely no point in even trying. Although their sporadic length does a lot to slow down the overall pace of the game, the increased amount of games where no amount of skill (or human-attainable skill) makes MP3 a very frustrating experience especially in its special single-player mode.

3) The board design. This is the #1 problem that Mario Party 3 faces as far as I'm concerned. Every single board has a varying level of the core conceit of it tied to randomness. Whether its being flung across the entire board by a happening space, needing to guess a 50/50 chance to not get sent back to the start instead of progressing, or just not rolling well on a particular turn so you can't go the direction the game lets you go that turn, the boards are incredibly difficult to purposefully navigate compared to the previous two games. Largely because of happening spaces dictating when and how certain parts of the board can be accessed, this makes items that do things like teleport the player to the star or change the star's location very valuable, because often times no player can even get lucky enough to even GET to where the star currently is. All of the randomness put into the board designs, on top of just how winding their paths are and visually cluttered their design tends to be, makes it not only difficult to tell how to get to places but to get to them at all. It frequently robs the board part of the board game of any kind of player agency to the point where even having it at all seems like a waste of time between mini-games.

4) The dueling mode. The 1 vs. 1 dueling mode is more of a side-point, as it's completely divorced from the usual Mario Party mode and is honestly more of a gimmick for the single-player mode to have some more length and break up its pacing a bit, but the execution is so poorly done that I cannot leave it without comment. The concept is really cool: Two players going around on a board, each with Mario Bros. baddies as partners that they use to hurt the other player. The better/stronger the partner, the more salary they take per turn, so you need to keep winning mini-games to be able to afford your partner at all! However, in practice, it is just a microcosm of how badly the randomness is in this game. Depending on the map and on the partner you start with, it is VERY possible for a match to be over in two whole turns if one player just gets lucky rolls. It's also even more frequently the case that the board is so difficult to navigate, or the players are just rolling unluckily enough, that no combat ever takes place, so the winner is decided by coins. This would be fine, but mini-games only happen when initiated by landing on space on the board, so if there aren't many that game or if you happen to keep getting unlucky with the partners you get (who are of course assigned randomly, why wouldn't they be), you'll have barely any coins by no fault of your own and just lose. The duel mode was a noble effort that honestly came out so badly I almost wish it weren't in the game at all. It is genuinely as random as two children just playing the card game War with one another: the duel mode may as well be one competing die roll to see who scores the highest and call it a day.

Mario Party 3 doesn't fail in the aesthetic presentation, certainly. Sure, you have the fun map-determinate costumes from the second game gone, but you have a colorful (if cluttered) paper cut-out style to all the worlds and games, as well as a bunch of good music. You even have two new playable characters in the form of Daisy and Waluigi, and all the silly campy cutscenes in between rounds in the story mode. MP3 certainly looks and sounds as good as it should for being such a late-life N64 game. Although you could certainly argue that the toy box style was just a clever way to use mostly 2D sprite assets rather than proper polygon'd models to get the game released quicker, it still looks nice.

Verdict: Not recommended. This is not a bad game, but you can do SO much better for a Mario Party even on the N64 that I just can't recommend this in good conscience, especially for the increasingly steep price point it commands outside of Japan. As said earlier, while there really aren't any strictly terrible Mario Party games outside of the GBA one, not all are created equal, and Mario Party 3 is definitely one below the rest. In an effort to distance themselves from how similar the first two games were from each other, they really tried to reinvent the wheel in a way that just was not really necessary, and the series honestly keeps a lot of these problems, even if not quite to the same degree, well into Mario Party 4. Just get Mario Party 2 or bite the bullet and start trying to hunt down the later Gamecube games if you really want great Mario Party in the pre-9 style, because you can do a LOT better for a LOT cheaper than Mario Party 3.
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ElkinFencer10
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by ElkinFencer10 Mon May 13, 2019 10:08 am

Games Beaten in 2019 So Far - 22
* denotes a replay

January (12 Games Beaten)
1. Army Men 3D - PlayStation - January 1*
2. Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished - NES - January 4
3. Mega Man - NES - January 6
4. Mega Man 2 - NES - January 6
5. Mega Man 3 - NES - January 6
6. Mega Man 4 - NES - January 7
7. Dr. Discord's Conquest - NES - January 7
8. Mega Man 5 - NES - January 26
9. Just Cause 3 - PlayStation 4 - January 26
10. Mega Man 6 - NES - January 27
11. Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight - Vita - January 27
12. Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space - PlayStation 2 - January 27


February (2 Games Beaten)
13. Earth Defense Force 5 - PlayStation 4 - February 2
14. Fallout 76 - PlayStation 4 - February 3


March (4 Games Beaten)
15. Octopath Traveler - Switch - March 2
16. Resident Evil 0 - PlayStation 4 - March 9
17. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered - PlayStation 4 - March 10
18. Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade - Game Boy Advance - March 30


April (3 Games Beaten)
19. Moemon - Game Boy Advance - April 5
20. Yoshi's Crafted World - Switch - April 10
21. Wargroove - Switch - April 26


May (1 Game Beaten)
22. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - Switch - May 5


22. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - Switch - May 5

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Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is actually an enhanced re-release of Capcom's original title in the IP, Dragon's Dogma. Joshua Michael French, founder the venerable #SwitchCorps, took it upon himself to serve essentially as an unpaid one-man marketing army for the Switch port of Dragon's Dogma by plugging the game HARD on his Twitter, encouraging other Switch enthusiasts to buy it, and even starting a pretty massive DM group on Twitter for those of us playing through the game on Switch.

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Dark Arisen places you in the role of the Arisen, a man (or woman) killed by an eldritch dragon when it plucks the beating heart from your chest. You're allowed a chance to live, however, and have a chance at revenge and reclaiming your stolen heart. To slay the dragon, reclaim your life, and save the realm, you'll need the help of powerful allies. To this end, you gain the services of the Pawns, a group of beings from another realm with no real will or motivations of their own aside from serving the Arisen. With Pawns at your side, you set off on your journey to slay the dragon and, along the way, help the people of Gransys though quests as superficial as bringing medicinal herbs to help an overconfident explorer to quests as dire as uncovering and thwarting the plot of a treasonous doomsday cult. What you won't experience in Dragon's Dogma, however, is a feeling of having nothing to do.

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The world the game creates is probably its greatest strength. The interaction with NPCs, the Pawns wandering throughout the fields, and monsters and human NPC foes that you can encounter in the field all give the game world a truly lived in feel. The game's main quest is compelling enough, but the side quests that shed light on the corruption within the capital of Gran Soren and the political intrigue going on throughout the duchy in spite of the threat from the dragon are what really set Dragon's Dogma apart of the multitude of "generic fantasy setting" games. The game does have some flaws, though. The biggest flaw in my opinion is that the pop-in with NPCs and environmental features is egregious. You'll be running through the field and watching trees and bushes endlessly pop into existence in front of you. Part of this is, of course, due to the limitations of the Switch hardware, but even so, pop in to this degree is something I never once encountered in Skyrim or Breath of the Wild. The controls, as well, could stand some improvement as they end up feeling a little clunky although not to the extent that some practice can't overcome. The game also includes a lot of escort quests. Fortunately these are all optional, and your ward will typically find you no matter how far ahead you get, but the AI for these escorts is abysmal. If you're walking through the field and encounter a dragon, rather than run the opposite direction like a rational unarmed townswoman, your ward will instead just kind of stand there as if inviting the dragon to tea.

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Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen looks at first glance like just another generic fantasy game, but those willing to put in the time will discover that it's actually a strong and compelling experience in its own right. Playing a cross between Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, and The Witcher, Dragon's Dogma feels simultaneously both familiar and new, a balance that few games these days manage to strike efficiently. A couple different difficulty settings are available to make the game approachable to players of different skill levels, and if a challenge seems insurmountable, some level grinding, equipment upgrading, or Pawn team changes is all that's needed to gain an edge in battle. I have to admit that I was skeptical when I began, but what I found once I got into the game, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Mon May 13, 2019 10:14 am

Cool review, Elkin. When I finally get around to more modern games, that’s one of the first on my list.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Mon May 13, 2019 8:32 pm

Apologies for the massive Atari screenshots. That's the default size the Stella emulator saves 'em as.

1. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (Famicom)
2. Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu (Famicom)
3. Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken (Famicom)
4. Hello Kitty World (Famicom)
5. Galaxian (Famicom)
6. Esper Dream 2: Aratanaru Tatakai (Famicom)
7. Ninja Jajamaru-kun (Famicom)
8. Jajamaru no Daibouken (Famicom)
9. Front Line (Famicom)
10. Field Combat (Famicom)
11. Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (Famicom)
12. Mississippi Satsujin Jiken: Murder on the Mississippi (Famicom)
13. Space Harrier (Famicom)
14. Geimos (Famicom)
15. Attack Animal Gakuen (Famicom)
16. Sky Destroyer (Famicom)
17. Ripple Island (Famicom)
18. Oishinbo: Kyukyoku no Menu 3bon Syoubu (Famicom)
19. Bird Week (Famicom)
20. Baltron (Famicom)
21. Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Famicom)
22. Challenger (Famicom)
23. Ikki (Famicom)
24. Dough Boy (Famicom)
25. Atlantis no Nazo (Famicom)
26. Bio Senshi Dan: Increaser tono Tatakai (Famicom)
27. Yume Penguin Monogatari (Famicom)
28. King Kong 2: Ikari no Megaton Punch (Famicom)
29. Congo Bongo (Atari 2600)
30. Coconuts (Atari 2600)
31. Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (Switch eShop)
32. Dragon Quest V: Tenkuu no Hanayome (Super Famicom)
33. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Super Burger Time (Switch eShop)

34. Fire Fly (Atari 2600)
35. Fire Fighter (Atari 2600)
36. Space Jockey (Atari 2600)
37. Airlock (Atari 2600)
38. Makai Hakkenden Shada (PC Engine)
39. Squeeze Box (Atari 2600)


Fire Fly
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Discussion of "bad Atari games" is typically centered around the usual suspects like E.T. and Pac-Man. Truth is, while those games may have failed to meet consumer expectations, neither one is especially heinous. The former is a lackluster licensed title (one of many), while the latter is a severely downgraded arcade port (again, one of many). Dig deep into the 2600 library to reveal the true disasters. Those games responsible for the crash of '83. Those that were not held to any kind of quality standard. Those that may have not even been programmed by an actual human being.

Meet Fire Fly. Dropping in 1983, the game was created by Mythicon, one of those 2600-only developers who only managed to crank out three games total. Their cartridges boasted some inappropriately awesome artwork, but were sold in gaudy boxes with the fixed price of $9.95. The Fire Fly instructions reveal an overly detailed story about a protagonist attempting to rescue a "pixy" trapped on a hostile alien planet. The titular "fire fly" is an insect-like spaceship controlled by the player.

As for the game itself, it's a "shooter" of sorts, a journey through a series of single-screen arenas where the hero's ship must battle one or three enemies. Nothing in Fire Fly works properly. Controls are slow and laggy. There's an incredibly long wait between shots. When three enemies appear they all move in tandem, as if they're all actually sections of a very large sprite. There's no satisfaction granted by downing foes. No radical Atari explosions or flashing colors. Instead they simply vanish from the screen, leaving some generic treasure (chests, crowns, whatever). Moreover, enemies need not be defeated in the first place, as a stage (using the term loosely here) can be completed by simply moving to the right side of the screen. Clear enough boards and the pixy appears. And nothing happens. No ending jingle or message. Just keep moving and the alien formations begin looping.
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Graphics are unacceptable. The player's ship is an ugly convulsing blob. Foes don't fair any better, with the exception of the giant pumpkin head which is admittedly kind of cool looking. The sound design is utterly bizarre. There's a persistent (and unfortunate) five-second music loop, and zero sound effects. The game's glitchy too. There's an elaborate "death animation" where the ship sinks to the bottom of the screen when hit, but it's possible to hold right while this is happening to head to the next stage with a broken half-ship. Amazing.

Mythicon was kind enough to grant us difficulty settings. The default "practice" difficultly doesn't even record the player's score, instead replacing it with a smiley face. I'd like to think this was an early example of a game taunting the player who chooses to play on the easiest setting, but I'm probably giving the developers too much credit. Cranking the difficulty up results in faster enemies, but the same horrific gameplay.

Fire Fly is terrible, but mercifully short. Everything the game has to offer can be observed within the first twenty seconds of gameplay. And there's no reason to keep playing beyond that. Most amusing thing about this whole mess: nearly 40 years after release, a complete copy of the game is still only worth about 10 bucks.


Fire Fighter
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Imagic was the second third-party developer that emerged for the Atari 2600, following the (once) great Activision. Imagic games were packaged in reflective silvery boxes, with chunky carts that annoyingly don't fit properly into the 7800. Gotta drag out that old VCS woodgrain beast to play an Imagic game. Thankfully, it's usually worth it, as this outfit was able to crank out some rock-solid titles like Atlantis, Demon Attack, and Dragonfire. But every developer must have some stinkers to balance out the greats. One of the Imagic stinkers is known as Fire Fighter.

Like most 2600 games, Fire Fighter makes an attempt at providing a simple, repetitive, addictive experience. The player takes control of a valiant firefighter, his firetruck situated nearby, attempting to rescue a man from a burning building. The graphics are rather plain, but pleasant, with some nice detailing on the retro firetruck. No music is present, but the persistent sounds of footfalls and blazing infernos creates some decent background ambiance. Animation is fairly smooth, and the arm-waving dude-in-distress is both impressive and hilarious.
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A stage is completed when the firefighter extinguishes all blazes (visible in building windows), ascends the ladder of his firetruck, and rescues (touches) the victim. The controls are rather difficult to explain, and to grapple with. Pressing right and left on the joystick causes the firefighter to move in said direction. Pressing up (not the action button) causes him to emit a vertical blast of water, naturally used to put out blazes. Holding the action button down switches the controls into "ladder mode" whereupon the angle of the ladder can be altered by pressing left or right, and the ladder itself ascended/descended with up and down. The hero mounts the ladder by touching the firetruck; pressing up or down causes him to climb in that direction, while pressing left at the bottom of the ladder causes him to dismount should the height/angle need to be recalibrated. Given the Atari 2600's limited control scheme, it's honestly a pretty clever way to do things. But it's undeniably awkward in the heat (haha) of the moment.

Controls aside, the biggest issue with Fire Fighter is the fact that it just feels unfinished. There's no goal to shoot for, and it's impossible to lose. Seriously. For starters, the man trapped in the building is invincible and immortal. He can't make contact with the flames, and if they consume the whole building he simply heads to the roof! This isn't a game where one can chase a high score, as there's no score whatsoever. Time is recorded, but it's not a time limit that ticks down signaling impending doom. Rather, it's a counter that ticks up. I suppose the objective was to track one's best time per stage, but where's the fun in that? You can trigger different game "modes" by flipping the switches on the 2600. This simply affects how tall the buildings are. The larger the building, the longer it takes to make a rescue.

Fire Fighter isn't a broken or deeply offensive game. And despite the clunkiness, I actually appreciate the intricate control scheme. But the game is severely undercooked. It's bland, blasé, and provides no incentive to keep someone playing for more than a couple of minutes. During their heyday, Imagic was developing something like twelve games per year. Statistically speaking, at least a couple of 'em were gonna have to suck. This is one.


Space Jockey
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This game was made by Quaker Oats. Okay, that's not entirely true but almost. Space Jockey was developed by the suspiciously plainly-named "U.S. Games" which itself was a subsidiary of the aforementioned breakfast giant. Yet another case of a random company trying to hop upon the Atari 2600 gravy train. Same story we've heard before: the developer cranked out a cluster of titles in 1982 (all 2600 exclusives) and folded shortly thereafter. Most of these Oats cartridges are somewhat scarce today, especially some of the more oddball label variants.

This is one of a billion "shooters" on the system. You play as some blimp thing, firing at objects, most of which will fire back. Presumably in space, though most space-themed games don't feature this many hot air balloons, helicopters, houses and trees. Graphics are admittedly pretty decent, with some nicely drawn multi-colored sprites. Animation is smooth, without a hint of flickering. Unfortunately, the game background is a bit lackluster: just a black sky accompanied by an ugly brown landscape. Space Jockey features sixteen game modes. Surprisingly, the game's "genre" changes a bit when playing in the higher modes, going from a fixed-axis shooter to a more recognizable modern scrolling type of shooter. Bullets behave a bit funny in the scrolling modes, as they'll travel in a sort of "wave" motion if fired while the blimp is moving vertically. I highly recommend starting right at the highest difficultly. The game is slow as molasses otherwise.
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As for gameplay, you shoot things and earn points. Nothing else to it. No fuel, no hostages, no bosses. One big eternal stage, with nothing but a high score to shoot for. The game's heavily exploitable. You'll always get a shot off before your enemies. Thus, it's possible to position yourself at the bottom of the screen, place a weight on the Atari action button, and walk off waiting for the score to slowly tick up to the maximum. Not saying I've done this, not saying I haven't.

Space Jockey is programmed with (some) competence, but is ultimately a wearisome experience. It lacks the visceral tension of single-screen "wave" shooters like Space Invaders and Gorf. And it's significantly simpler and less interesting than legendary scrollers like Defender, River Raid, and Vanguard. The game basically just exists: a random unwashed bargain bin Atari 2600 cartridge that perhaps disappointed a handful of kids on Christmas of '82. I will end on a positive note: Quaker Oats made better Atari games than Johnson & Johnson and Purina combined.


Airlock
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Airlock is yet another "random" Atari 2600 game, by a "random" developer. This one comes courtesy of Data Age, one of many 2600-exclusive outfits that closed up shop following the video game crash. Their best-known (and highest-quality) game was the horror-platformer Frankenstein's Monster, which I take out for a spin every October. Airlock itself is a platformer, and one with an admittedly original concept: a man races against time trying to escape a rapidly sinking submarine. First, a quick note about game modes. Airlock only contains two stages. However, in the default mode "1" only the first can be played. It's inexplicably strange -- I can't imagine too many '82 gamers were clamoring for half a game. Switch to "3" to experience the entire affair in single-player mode.

Atari games tend to be stereotyped as inherently simple affairs. However, many are endued with graphical and mechanical ambiguities that render them paradoxically complex. This is one such game. In my first few runs, I seemed to lose, mysteriously, within seconds. A harsh Game Over, with a boot back to the title screen. No indication of what was happening. No life bar was depleting, and the game's timer seemed to have an ample amount remaining. After perusing over some archived instructions found on the web, the truth was revealed.
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Each stage (all two of 'em) of Airlock is comprised of a set of parallel horizontal platforms, connected by elevators. The trapped submarine commander has ten "ticks" of the timer - they don't quite correspond to real-life seconds - to escape one platform for the next. Otherwise, he's consumed by the rising flood waters. The timer displayed onscreen is a master timer for the entire game, hence my initial confusion. Elevators won't operate until hanging keycards are collected. There are two per floor, with the game requiring the "fat" one be collected before the "skinny" one. The player must jump to reach these, using the lone Atari action button. Speaking of jumping, there are hazards to clear, in the form of stationary blocks and rapidly moving torpedoes. If hit by a torpedo, the submarine commander becomes temporarily stunned, thus losing precious seconds.

While the game deserves praise for creativity, the execution is a bit sloppy. The jump controls are awkward. Due to their placement, it's actually harder to clear the stationary blocks than the torpedoes. It's possible to get "stuck" on the blocks, and sometimes the game will glitch and pass the submarine commander's sprite right through them. The graphical presentation also leaves much to be desired. All the developer's hard work seemed to be dumped into the game's impressive title, ending, and Game Over screens (though for some reason the title screen only reveals the name of the developer and not the game itself). Stage environments are quite plain and monochromatic. The submarine commander is a stick figure that slides around the screen. Hilariously, the torpedo sprites are literally just half of the man's sprite: his head, arms, and a portion of his torso. It's some of the most epically lazy programming ever seen. The "rising water" is also poorly implemented. It doesn't slowly ascend; instead entire swaths of the screen instantaneously turn blue at certain time intervals. Worse, if you're killed by a flood you never actually see it happen, instead the game instantly cuts to Game Over. This can even occur while the hero's sprite is in midair jump; hence the "mysterious deaths" I cited earlier. The game boasts two difficulty settings, but they're hugely disparate. With a sliver of practice the easy difficulty can be cleared with a massive clunk of time remaining, while hard mode demands pixel-perfect precision. Airlock is one of those rare Atari games to feature a true hard-lock ending. There's no looping and no chasing high scores (convenient, as there is no score whatsoever).

I often see Airlock topping "worst Atari games ever" type lists. That's a bit too harsh. The game's not great - or even good - but it's an inventive and somewhat intriguing piece of Atari history. I'm a sucker for any type of old single-screen platformer, and you can certain locate the game's DNA within the vastly superior Frankenstein's Monster.


Makai Hakkenden Shada
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Indulge me in this scenario for a moment. It's 1989 and you have that sleek 16-bit PC Engine console, along with a promising new action-RPG. Boot it up and a dithering title materializes over a beautiful nude goddess. Your hero is then, rather unceremoniously, dumped into a small village. Directly north is a lush overworld, teeming with enemies that can be slain by bumping into them. The hero's HP regenerates while standing still. A key item is hidden among the roots of a solitary tree. In a general northeast direction lies another town. There is but a handful of dungeons to be explored. One is a dimly-lit cave. Another is a massive sprawling tower, replete with a mirror maze and a moonlit catwalk. Some goods are stolen while exploring the final dungeon; they must later be retrieved. The supreme villain is a lithe demonic being, who vanquishes sections of the battleground floor during the final confrontation. This journey is a fleeting one, contained within a game that can be completed during the course of a weekend.

Sounds like Ys Book I & II, right? Well, yes, while all aforementioned elements are found within Falcom's peerless classic, the subject of this review is the obscure Data East rip-off known as Makai Hakkenden Shada. Released on the PC Engine as a HuCard, Shada unsurprisingly never left Japan. Despite the game's lackluster reception and relative anonymity in the West, a full fan translation appeared in 2015. This is, apparently, a "licensed game" in the loosest sense possible, being based upon a series of 19-century Japanese texts. I'm wholly unfamiliar with the source material, but everything I've read indicates that the developers were just as clueless. In any event, the game's protagonist is a samurai, who is seeking an assortment of additional (nonplayable) heroes, as they're tasked with collecting a series of legendary crystals and sealing away a great evil.
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In a vague sense, I do "enjoy" the game (or at least some fleeting aspects). I'm a sucker for these old simplistic ARPGs, and Shada feels like it could have existed on NEC's own PC-88 two years before a PC Engine release. Controls are straightforward, at least to anyone familiar with the Ys series. There's no semblance of backtracking -- in fact, this is a strikingly linear experience with several notable "point of no return" moments. Sadly, the gameplay just isn't up to snuff. An attempt to emulate the combat of Ys is attempted, quite badly. Collision detection is poor, and combative sprites "overlap" in a most unpleasing way. The hero doesn't get knocked back when damaged, which means that it's all too easy to take multiple hits at once and die within a fraction of a second. The game's grindy (of course it is) and death comes so frequently that I found myself saving after every two or three skirmishes. Like many old ARPGs, success in Shada is largely predicated on XP level (which caps at level 11) and weaker foes stop dishing out experience. That said, level progression is just strange. The game's ultra-hard to start off with. But then, after an hour or so in, a leveled-up fully-equipped samurai becomes literally invincible for a large stretch (including an entire dungeon). Towards the game's end, enemies start to bring the pain once again. Like Ys, the level cap must be reached in the penultimate dungeon, which is a colossal pain given its narrow design. Equipment (armor, swords, helmets) can be found in chests, alongside other goodies like keys and spell scrolls. There are also shops in the game's tiny lookalike towns. These stop appearing about halfway through the game, and it appears that enemies also quit dropping currency at this point.

There's a magic system, which functions like a weird amalgamation of those featured in the first two Ys titles. Choice of magic is determined by whatever scroll is equipped, and the game can be completed with certain types never being cast. Some magic is offensive and projectile-based, while others are stat-boosters. Data East was too lazy to include a MP meter. Instead, cast spells wipe out HP, which just feels hokey and lame. The enemy selection is barren and unmemorable. Most are subpar imitations of Ys fiends, and seem to glitch in and out of the screen at a moment's notice. Bosses are generally unimpressive; just huge mindless enemy sprites that take loads of hits to vanquish. The most interesting (or only interesting) boss battle is against a frog which can be damaged only if the hero allows himself to be swallowed. Once inside, though, there's no way to take damage and the battle ends once the frog's innards have been sufficiently pummeled. Talk about wasted potential.
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Without grinding, Shada could theoretically be finished in a single sitting. It took me three or four meaty sessions to complete the game. There's a "save" system, but it's far from ideal. The game does not utilize the internal "file cabinet" memory of the PC Engine. There are options to "quick save" and load, but resuming the game after the system is shut off requires passwords that rival War of the Dead in terms of length, complexity, and outright insanity. I don't typically "recommend" emulation over authentic hardware, but playing this on a vintage PC Engine unit is the stuff of nightmares. Fun tip: a quick save "refreshes" the screen, which clears out all enemies nearby. Good way to get through the final dungeon, which is infested with fiends that no longer grant XP.

Visually, the game fails to impress. Graphics are grainy and the overall color choices are just uninteresting. There are a few somewhat decent character portraits to be found (including the requisite cutesy anime girl) but they're tiny and severely underutilized. The soundtrack is mostly bland. It tries to capture the spirit of the Ys games, but these compositions just aren't memorable enough. For the most part -- there are some delightfully poignant tunes played during some of the game's "sadder" moments, and the final dungeon theme totally slaps.

I'd be remiss to not mention some of the flat-out "weird" moments of Shada. Cross the first bridge on the overworld and a man appears out of thin air. He just straight-up kills you. That's it. Game Over. It's unavoidable. Most mature normal persons stop playing at this point. What's actually happening is that a huge chunk of HP is being deducted from the samurai's total. It's typically enough to drop HP to zero, unless the player has been doing a ton of grinding. There's a "Lost Woods" section found soon thereafter, which can only be escaped by touching one particular random tree. Good luck. And about halfway through the game one encounters an inane "maze" featuring doors that light up with a flame emblem, based on when and how they're entered. The trick is too get all flames alight, a sharp contrast to the nearby sign which proclaims "DON’T LET THE FIRE BURN." Gotta love games that just brazenly lie. Somewhere, Simon's Quest is blushing.

Ripping off a good game can, sometimes, lead to another good game. For a PC Engine example, look no farther than Hudson Soft's Zelda-esque Neutopia. Makai Hakkenden Shada, however, exists in the same realm as Golden Axe Warrior. It's not a "tribute" to Ys, or even a nod. It's a foul parody that should be touched only by the most insane ARPG-addicted madmen.


Squeeze Box
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Squeeze Box is yet another janky low-effort cash grab presented by my good friends at Quaker Oats (or "U.S. Games"). Like many D-list Atari titles, this one comes across as a stale Activision rip-off. An attempt was made (possibly) to create a simplistic but addictive score chaser, but the result is an utter failure that inspires one to simply shut off the console.

Conceptually, the game is somewhat original. I'll give the developers that. Squeeze Box is highly reminiscent of Ram It by Telesys, though both were released in 1982 and there's no surefire way to tell which arrived first. Both games involve escaping from a series of rooms where two walls slowly (and later, quickly) converge to crush a hapless individual. The protagonist of Squeeze Box, if we can even use such terminology, is an old-timey prisoner. Clad in the stereotypical stripes, he's equipped with a pistol and is even seen smoking in-game. Atari does what Nintendon't, I suppose. The prisoner's sprite is impressively drawn, but the animation is stiff and shoddy. Only his feet are animated, and he moves like an uncanny shuffling cardboard cutout. The walls of impending doom are constructed out of several parallel rectangles, colored in the garish scheme of those old SMPTE color bars.
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Gameplay is killed by the fact that aiming the prisoner's pistol is so difficult. While Ram It utilizes a small player-controlled sprite that can be directly lined-up in front of sections of the encroaching walls, the Squeeze Box developers deemed it necessary to make the prisoner absolutely massive, spanning the height of four wall bars. It's an interesting idea in theory, as the game requires four sections of the wall to be shot out before escaping, rather than one. Unfortunately, since the prisoner is too big to be placed directly in front of most sections of the wall, and since his arm and gun lack animation, achieving proper bullet trajectory is an exercise in guesswork and frustration. Trying to shoot diagonally never seems to pan out, and it's downright bizarre to see bullets flaccidly drop to the screen's bottom when the joystick is held down. Once a sufficient hole in a wall is uncovered, the prisoner may escape to a nigh identical stage.

To their credit, Quaker Oats offers up a few different game modes. By default, both sides of the room will cave in, though this can be changed to one side only. There's also an option to make the wall bars smaller, where seven need to be shot out to proceed rather than four, but this does nothing but exponentially increase the difficulty of an already hard game. Lastly, there's an auto-fire option for the gun, which has the unintentional effect of making aiming even more of a chore.

This is not a good game. Anything this simple needs a "hook" to keep one engaged, and the goofy color bars and rubbery gun controls provide no such thing. Avoid this.
pook99
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by pook99 Mon May 13, 2019 9:07 pm

@Originalgamer: I bought it for arcade mode as well but didn't realize I had to beat it in one sitting. Definitely write a review when your done, I would love to know how arcade mode is but am busy with too many other games to check it out myself.

@pierrot: BLASPHEMY!!!! Capcom vs Snk 2 is the greatest 2d fighter of all time and anyone who disagrees with me is objectively wrong ; )

Seriously though, I do love me some cvs 2, I spent hundreds of hours playing that when I was managing funcoland back in the day, I do understand your criticisms of it as it can be a bit much. I will tell you that I was very high level in that game, and never played anything other than C groove, the rest of the grooves are pretty niche other than S groove which is tailored to fans of SNK games, so don't let all the options bog you down.

@Markies: Great review, I really want to try a FA game before the switch version releases, not sure I will have the time but if I do I will probably give this one a go.

55. Contra (nes)
56. Super Punch out (snes)
57. Mega Man 2 (nes)
58. Overdriven: reloaded (switch)
59. Mega Man 3(nes)

My dad had heart surgery last week, everything went well, but given how stressed I was I needed to play a few games that I consider my video game equivalent of comfort food.

All of the above games (other than overdriven, a fun vertical scrolling schmup on switch) are games that I have played dozens of times in my life and just love everything about them. They are the kinds of games I could play anytime I am feeling down and just forget about everything and feel like a kid again.

I'm not going to write full reviews of all of them, just some personal feelings and ramblings
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55. Contra:

Contra is, in my estimation, one of the greatest video games of all time. The formula seems so simple, run sideways, shoot, have some random stages to break up the action, repeat and win. Regardless of how simple it seems good modern contra games are nearly impossible to find. In the age of indies where very modern classic is clones 1000 times over you would think that there would be a wealth of good indies like contra, but there is not. The game is rarely emulated and when it is, it is often done poorly are average at best. To make matters worse Konami is a trash company that has ruined the franchise completely and is likely never going to make another contra game.

Contra is gaming perfection, perfect controls, one of the best soundtracks ever, coop, tons of fun to play, and a perfect level of challenge. As a kid we all knew the 30 life code but I was determined to master this game without the code long before internet trolls were telling people to git gud.

And so 9 year old me played contra non-stop determined to be able to beat it without the 30 life code, and as a kid I was eventually doing no death runs of contra every day when I came home from school. Because of the magic of muscle memory, contra is now a nice, easy, and relaxing game that I call upon in times of stress, I hum the rocking soundtrack and just let all my worries mely away as I blast through the alien hordes.

57. Mega Man 2:

MM2 is not my favorite game of the series, but it is the one I have the most nostalgia for. I remember reading about the game in nintendo power prior to its release and being blown away by the amazing graphics and the new robot masters. It was the first time in my life I remember being absolutely blown away by the larger than life enemies and obstacles, the giant heads in air mans stage, the giant fish in bubble mans stage, the electronic bats and monkeys in wood mans stage, the enemy designs were so thematic and unique and I just couldn't wait to finally play it, especially given the fact that mega man was one of my favorite nes games at the time.

When I finally played it I was blown away, it was everything I loved about mega man but just so much more. Better graphics, amazing soundtrack, better levels, better weapons, better bosses, literally everything was better. I remember my brother and i just marathoning through the whole game, I remember being shocked by dr wily being an alien, and I remember how cool it was to find out he was not.

In terms of pure gameplay I would say that MM9 and the fan game MM unlimited are both better games, but MM 2 is very high on the list and the warm nostalgia it gives me is the reason that I run to that as my go to MM when I am stressed.

56. Super Punch out:

I remember having a snow day very shortly after I got super punch out. I can't remember my first playthrough of the game, but I certainly view it as the easiest in the series, but despite lacking the challenge of its predecessor and sequel, it is still an amazing game that I spent tons of time with.

When the snow day hit I had already beaten the game, in the end credits Bear Hugger says that he heard that someone can beat him in 17 seconds, I didn't get how and so I went to the opponent select screen and played around until I finally figured out that you can counterpunch opponents before they even punch. A well timed punch, with the right hand, to the right part of the opponents body, would stun them before they even punched, landing a few of these in a row would send the opponent into a stun animation, in which you could deliver an instant knock down with a well timed power punch.

and so my brother and I spent the entire snow day trying to speed run all the opponents, by the end of the day I had beaten bear hugger in under 17 seconds, my brother had ko'd nick bruiser in under 30(I still remember how amazed I was as he gets up and falls to one knee on the 10 count) and we had both achieved some amazing times for every opponent. Super punch out was the only game I ever tried to speed run and honestly for a 12 year old kid with no internet access I think I did a pretty good job with it.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Mon May 13, 2019 10:00 pm

I agree that NES Contra is the best game in the series. (IMO, it beats Contra III and Contra IV by a hair.) Interestingly, it’s one of the few console ports of the era that’s drastically better than the arcade original.

It’s definitely one of my very favorite run ‘n guns, and I think it’s better than all of the Metal Slug games. The only games I think really gives to a run for its money, beside the aforementioned Contra III and Contra IV, are Sunser Riders, Gunstar Heroes, and Alien Hominid.
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pierrot
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by pierrot Mon May 13, 2019 11:23 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:Fire Fly

Is that Evil Otto, or something? I don't get it.


pook99 wrote:@pierrot: BLASPHEMY!!!! Capcom vs Snk 2 is the greatest 2d fighter of all time and anyone who disagrees with me is objectively wrong ; )

Seriously though, I do love me some cvs 2, I spent hundreds of hours playing that when I was managing funcoland back in the day, I do understand your criticisms of it as it can be a bit much. I will tell you that I was very high level in that game, and never played anything other than C groove, the rest of the grooves are pretty niche other than S groove which is tailored to fans of SNK games, so don't let all the options bog you down.

I am almost definitely wrong about CvS2, but while I really like a few SNK fighters like Last Blade 2, and Real Bout Special, I'm not a big fan of SNK, so the crossover doesn't do a whole lot for me. (I refuse to acknowledge any suggestion of Alpha 3 being better than Alpha 2, though.) CvS2 just kinda doesn't work for me, though, kinda like Kikaiou/Tech Romancer which was a game I really wanted to like because of how much I love Cyberbots. I don't care for all the grooves, but often when I don't really like a fighting game, it's also because of some issue I have with the roster. In general, I feel like less is more with fighting game rosters, and the only game with a massive roster that I really like, that I can think of, is MvC2, and mostly because that game is just a bunch of dumb fun. I actually think I would potentially be able to forgive Alpha 3 a bit if it were just the original arcade roster. The ratio system in CvS2 is kind of awkward for me, too. I mean, with free-ratio, six different grooves, and a huge crossover roster, how does a development team balance anything, on a ~1 year development cycle, no less. I feel like the answer is, they don't. It kind of seems like it's actually a three character roster (Morrigan, Blanka, and Sagat), and god help you if you don't like Sagat, and just poking all day with heavies.

Anyway, I don't need to detract from CvS2, because it's a fine game, and I get why people would like it. It's just not my game.


prfsnl_gmr wrote:It’s definitely one of my very favorite run ‘n guns, and I think it’s better than all of the Metal Slug games. The only games I think really gives to a run for its money, beside the aforementioned Contra III and Contra IV, are Sunser Riders, Gunstar Heroes, and Alien Hominid.

I feel like you really meant to just say Contra: Hard Corps five times.
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Flake
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Flake Tue May 14, 2019 11:17 am

January Games:
Megaman (Switch)
Megaman 2 (Switch)
Megaman 3 (Switch)
Megaman 4 (Switch)
Megaman 5 (Switch)
Megaman 6 (Switch)
Megaman 7 (Switch)
Megaman 8 (Switch)
Megaman 9 (Switch)
Megaman 10 (Switch)
Kirby's Dreamland (Wii)
Time Spinner (PS4)

February Games:

Megaman Legends (PSTV)
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (PSTV)
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

March Games:

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)
Mario Galaxy (Wii)

April

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS4)

May

Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope (Switch)
Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (Switch)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4)
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Switch)

After a brief break, I returned to complete the Shovel Knight Treasure Trove! Or at least the parts that are out so far. This is particularly satisfying because Shovel Knight Treasure Trove was the first game I downloaded to my Switch. So there's definitely a sense of 'unfinished business' having been taken care of.

It gets a lot of praise but Specter Knight didn't wow me as much as Plague Knight. That is not to say I didn't enjoy it immensely, though. The level design and mechanics are fantastic. I missed the overworld map, though. I felt like there were too many gimmicks or items that were introduced either too late or weren't used enough. Some of the 'curio', I never even used once.

Specter Knight was also too easy. The challenge that Shovel Knight had or the tricky movement of Plague Knight wasn't there. Powering up Specter Knight was super fast - it seemed like I had max health and power with a ton of gold and other resources to spare.

One thing that Specter Knight's campaign brings in spades though was plot and character development. Plague Knight (as I understand it) is more of a 'what-if?' tale that happens roughly contemporaneously with Shovel Knight's adventures. Specter Knight's story appears to be canon and explains the history of several main characters like Shield Knight, the eponymous Specter Knight, and the random little fighters Shovel Knight runs into on the overworld map. Specter Knight fleshes out an already interesting world and has me thinking about the potential that a Shovel Knight 2 might have more than what the King Knight expansion will be like.
The PSTV is amazing.
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