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Posts posted by Dcubed

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    Blimey! I need to do an update of my own, it’s been like forever, innit…

    Well that took a while.  Better late than never though!


    Advance Wars 1 Remake



    Speaking of late, Advance Wars 1 + 2 Reboot Camp finally got released! I honestly thought that it was going to end up becoming the Switch's very own Starfox 2 but no! Against all odds, Wayforward's remake of the GBA classics actually came out... three years after the announcement of this collection.  Thank goodness all that nonsense with that silly Ukranian war is all done and dusted with and now we never have to worry about real life war ever agai... oh... wait...


    Don't tell Nintendo that...

    You can take pretty much everything I said about Advance Wars when I last wrote up about it back in 2020 and apply it here, so let's go over the remake's quality by itself.  Quite simply, Wayforward did a superb job.  While there was some initial controversy over the decision to go with 3D polygon graphics? In practice, I think it works fine.  While I'd say that the original sprite graphics probably look better overall? I don't mind the shift, as the new visuals look fine to my eye.  The only real complaint that I have is that the MD Tanks look a bit too similar to standard tanks, making me have to sometimes do a double take to make sure which units are which.  Bit annoying, but nothing gamebreaking.

    The 2D art though? Bloody gorgeous! They use traditional handdrawn cel-animation for the FMV cutscenes and interstitial CO Power animations, and it all looks brill.  Like a proper Saturday morning cartoon, perfectly in-line with what the original game was always going for.  What's also interesting is that Wayforward decided to completely rewrite the game's dialogue from scratch.  Bit of an odd decision, as Nintendo's remakes usually reuse the original English scripts mostly untouched, and the original Advance Wars already had some excellent dialogue anyway; but thankfully, the new dialogue feels perfectly natural, and perfectly captures the tone and spirit of the original.


    Meet your peerless strategic leader who is in charge of your lives!

    The presentation is also bolstered by some rather brilliant voice acting... including the utterly inspired decision to choose Veronica Taylor as Andy... yes, the original Ash Ketchum.  You literally could not have picked a better voice actor for the role.


    So meta, on so many levels...

    What's even more impressive than the visual presentation is the audio.  Maddie Lim, Micaela Nachigall and Tommy Pedrini turned out some utterly incredible arrangements of the classic soundtrack.  Every single song is a certified banger, but I'll just leave you with a couple...

    Special shoutout the the excellent sound design as well, as there are no less than five, yes FIVE, versions of every single theme that change as you go in and out of various menus and battle scenes.  Brilliant stuff.  Oh! Yeah.  And I know I've said this before in the game's official thread? But really, I didn't expect this game to be a showcase for the Switch's HD Rumble.  It's not gameplay changing or anything, but the game is full of brilliant little HD Rumble touches, like the clicks of the cursor, or Andy's cranking of his bike wheel in the opening FMV cutscene, or being able to feel each individual rocket being fired when you're using... err... Rockets... it's all so well done.  Wayforward put the effort in and it really shows.

    There are some minor gameplay tweaks here and there, most notably the ability to select whatever stage you want in the Campaign after you finish it the first time, meaning that you no longer have to perform multiple playthroughs to unlock all the stages; while Rivals! is now unlocked by beating every stage instead of the rather obtuse way of finding it in the original... though it's still every bit as utterly brutal as it used to be!  Also, since you can now replay past stages, The Final Battle now just straight up allows you to select whichever COs you want from each army; meaning that your team composition is no longer dependent on your route through the Campaign.  While this does technically make that stage a bit easier than the original, the actual level design have thankfully not been touched.  Finally, Drake's CO Power no longer shows the location of enemy units during Fog of War as they're being hit; a significant nerf on FOW maps, that I suppose gives Sonja a little bit of a bump by proxy? (She still sucks though).  Otherwise, the gameplay is the Advance Wars you know and love... dodgy CO balancing and all.


    Still every bit as satisfying 22 years on!

    Gee! Wonder what game I'm gonna play next! Bet you'll never guess...

    Advance Wars 2 Remake


    Officially the greatest GBA game ever made, Advance Wars 1+2 Reboot Camp: Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising: Colon Cancer is next on our list here.  Take everything I said about the remake of AW1 and apply it here pretty much.  This is the bigger & better sequel with a new cast of Saturday Morning Cartoon Monster Of The Week villains, and they're all great!

    AW2 largely assumes that you've already played the first, in fact AW2 is locked by by default unless you finish AW1 or bypass the in-game warning, and has you assume the battle hardened role of Andy once again; grizzled war veteran who is now a true grandmaster of war strateg...


    OH COME ON!!!!

    The sequel offers a more freeform Campaign this time around, allowing the player to choose what stages they play and in what order.  In fact, you don't actually have to play every stage to progress the story, but of course, you're gonna do it anyway because it's so much fun (and you're gonna want those Neotanks and hidden character unlocks ;)).  The overall difficulty is higher, and the level design is every bit as superb if not even moreso.  Wayforward didn't mess with a good thing here, and it's a brilliant remake of an amazing game.


    Yes Lash.  I completely agree with you

    Superior CO balancing, peerless level design... this game has it all.  It won the N-Europe poll for a damn good reason.  It's one of the best games that Nintendo has ever developed/published, and Wayforward's remake absolutely does the game justice.  I'm just gonna end this point on a couple more choice songs from the remake...


    Metal Slug 3



    I love arcade games.  However, I rarely end up finishing them proper because I prefer to try 1ccing them (or in the case of Neo Geo titles, at least under the standard 4 credits of an AES release).  I hate the idea of credit pumping your way to victory because it robs them of their intended challenge and game design, and Metal Slug 3 is way, way too hard for any normal human being to beat with only 4 credits (let alone one!).  So why is it here then?  Well... I played this game at The Heart of Gaming arcade here in London and I was here with my sister, so we decided to sit down at the cabinet and credit pump the crap out of this game!


    Never thought I'd ever see this screen!

    After playing through the whole game now? I can safely say that this game is absolutely not balanced for a potential 1cc.  It fully expects you to credit pump your way to the end.  Beating Metal Slug 1, 2 and X with 1-4 credits is a tough but at least reasonable challenge, but MS3? Nah.  Not gonna happen.  This is perhaps best exemplified by the end screen, which tallies up the amount of credits each player used to reach the end of the game... (was around 56 credits in total... that's a lotta moola!).

    Game is still a ton of fun though!


    Best homeless bum in gaming history

    The Metal Slug series began in 1996 and picked up the baton that Contra had dropped onto the floor in spectacular fashion with its failed attempts at bringing the series into 3D.  It's a natural evolution of Konami's 2D run-n'-gun action with crazy action, ridiculously amazing 2D pixel art visuals, bopping soundtracks and a sharp sense of humour.  Each entry in the series largely plays similarily, being pumped out much like the Mega Man series, but each one introduces new gameplay gimmicks and a ton of reused art assets along the way.  Metal Slug 3 is the final game in the series developed by the original development team (Nazca; who also made the superb Neo Turf Masters; as well as many other arcade classics when they used to work at Irem), and they pulled out all the stops.  Every stage is packed with a ridiculous amount of enemies, setpieces, animation and balls-to-the-wall action... arguably too much even; as this game commits a bit of an arcade game sin... it's too long.  Metal Slug 1 & 2 can comfortably be beaten within 20-30 mins, but MS3? You're talking at least an hour at the minimum for someone who isn't an inhuman speedrunner; with the final stage literally being at least 50% of the entire game's runtime.  It all starts to feel a bit exhausting towards the end, as the finale begins to wear out its welcome.


    This is just the first boss!

    Still, being too much of a good thing is hardly the worst thing in the world.  The game is still a hell of a ride from start to finish, with enough insane action setpieces to make even Platinum Games blush.  There's even a bunch of branching paths that lead to different areas, so each playthrough can be a bit different.  Nazca certainly went out with a bang, and even though it's not my favourite in the series (I still prefer MS1 and MS2/X for their superior pacing), I can't help but admire the sheer ambition on display here.  An arcade classic for a good reason.

    Lucky & Wild


    Continuing my arcade adventures, I was incredibly lucky to get to play Lucky & Wild on its original arcade cabinet.  If you know anything about arcade history, you'll know that L&W cabinets are incredibly rare finds, and to find one in fully working order!? Like literal golddust.  On top of that? This game has never been re-released in any official capacity, making original cabinets and MAME your only options.

    I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by to get to play the game in its original form.  And you really can't talk about this game without talking about its original cabinet.  Sporting a rather odd control setup, the cabinet features a steering wheel and TWO light guns! What the heck? How does this work then? I hear you ask.  Is it a light gun game? Or a driving game? The answer is... both!


    Lucky & Wild.  Running over children since 1993

    This is a 2 player game where Player 1 gets to steer the car and shoot baddies at the same time, while Player 2 merely gets to shoot because Wild is a loser.  Clearly inspired by Starsky & Hutch, you play as reckless bounty hunters who will happily drive through heaps of innocents as they shoot to kill in the name of justice and sweet sweet money.  It's a short & breezy affair that also happens to be a massive quarter muncher.  Namco clearly designed the game with spectacle in mind first, as the super scaler visuals certainly make quite the impression for a vintage 1993 title.  Unfortunately, the game is so hectic and fast paced that it's virtually impossible to complete without credit pumping your way to the end; with each player constantly taking virtually unavoidable damage, the Continue screen is an inevitability.

    Ultimately, I appreciate the spectacle on display here, but I don't think it quite comes together as a whole.  It's more of a glorified rollercoaster ride than an enjoyable video game, but it's such a unique novelty that it's probably worth giving it a go if you're ever lucky enough to see a cabinet out there in the wild.

    Let's Go Jungle! Lost on the Island of Spice


    This is a closed booth, 2 player mounted light gun game released in 2008.  You're a nerdy scientist who is trapped on an island with your girlfriend and you need to somehow escape alive.  This game is like a stupid version of Jurassic Park on rails, filled with lovingly awful voice acting, over-the-top setpieces and thousands of bugs (the insect kind) & mutant sea monsters.  It's designed as a "couples" game, with the game tallying up you and your partner's compatibility at the end based on how well you both perform team actions throughout the game (essentially, timed and button mashy QTEs, alongside shooting targets together).  There isn't a whole lot of strategy involved, as the gameplay remains rather simple throughout; but the sheer absurdist spectacle of it all makes for a fun time with a buddy.


    This screenshot sets the game's tone rather well

    Jurassic Park: The Lost World (Model 3)


    Jumping off the Island of Spice, we enter Jurassic Park.  And as it turns out, Let's Go Jungle is essentially a sequel to The Lost World, sharing remarkably similar mechanics, alongside its remarkably similar setting and remarkably awful voice acting.  Though The Lost World isn't set up as a couples game, it's still best played with a friend; as a fast-paced rollercoaster ride of a light gun title.  Like the other titles mentioned earlier in this post? It has never seen a re-release of any kind, not even in the recent Jurassic Park collection for modern consoles (no, really, WHY!?).


    Are you a bad enough dude to stop this crisis of dinosaurs?

    Puzzle Bobble 2x


    Finishing off my arcade gaming binge is Puzzle Bobble 2x.  Unlike the other arcade games I previously mentioned however, I played through this one on my Egret 2 Mini.  And also unlike those other games, I actually did 1cc this bad boy :cool:

    Shockingly, Puzzle Bobble 2 is the sequel to Puzzle Bobble.  I know, crazy right? But this isn't Puzzle Bobble 2, this is Puzzle Bobble 2x; the minorly upgraded version! (The best kind of upgrade!).  Compared to the crappy vanilla Puzzle Bobble 2, 2x includes an additional Puzzle Edit mode that lets you make your own custom puzzle boards (yes, even in the arcade version; can't imagine arcade operators being happy about this mode!), slightly better graphics (woohoo), an additional set of single player puzzle mode stages called X mode (try to sound surprised), and... best of all... a Happy New Year screen! Yippee!!


    More Puzzle Bobble is always fine by me

    So what's new with Puzzle Bobble 2 over the original game? Well, there's a proper VS CPU mode now, that's a nice start! But also, the single player mode is way better, with more interesting puzzles and a new branching path map screen that lets you choose what stages you want to tackle on the way to one of several endings...


    What Puzzle Bobble learnt from Darius

    Otherwise, you have better music and graphics, and that's Puzzle Bobble 2.  This is my favourite game in the series, with plenty of content and my favourite overall presentation and game feel.  It just feels good to play.  It's also rock hard if you're trying to 1cc the game... which I managed in both Puzzle Mode and VS CPU.  What else can I say? It's really good, go play it!

    Pokemon Trading Card Game



    In this latest episode of WHY THE HELL HAVEN'T THEY MADE A SEQUEL!? (we'll get to those later), we have Pokemon TCG for the original Gameboy (yes, it's a hybrid GB/GBC cartridge, not a GBC exclusive game; sorry @Glen-i but it's not a GBC game, no matter what you try to argue).  It got re-released for the Switch NSO service and I went apeshit over it! Oh... my God... Pokemon TCG Online, at last! (no! not now...).  This is an RPG take on the real-life Pokemon Trading Card game and even comes with a free Pokemon card! (Not on Switch though... they robbed us... cheapskates...).  But really, it's only an RPG in the loosest sense of the term, as the RPG trappings basically amount to a level select with some optional battles and a few roundabout fetch quests/trades.  It's very basic stuff... but it's enough to make the game a pretty compelling experience.


    Pretty much the entire game summarised in two screenshots

    This Gameboy game features all of the cards found throughout the three initial real-life TCG sets (Base, Jungle, Fossil), along with a few extras and a handful of GB exclusive cards that make use of randomisation attacks that are impossible to replicate in real-life.  If you haven't played the game before, you've probably already figured out the story.  Kill all 8 gym leaders, steal their cards and become the champion who nicks the Legendary Cards; or something like that.  Anyway, this game is all about collecting cards, beating up kids and stealing their most prized posessions; just like the real-life TCG!


    Capitalism Ho!

    The real-life Pokemon TCG is was a very well balanced and enjoyable card game in its own right, so naturally that means that the core gameplay here kicks arse.  But the light RPG elements and awesome music are enough to elevate the game from mere TCG simulator to essential Gameboy game in its own right.  There isn't really much to say about the game world or structure, because there really isn't much to it at all (it really is just a glorified menu screen), but it goes to show how a quality presentation and charming RPG trappings can elevate what would otherwise be a fairly rote card game.  And this game still remains the most accessible way of experiencing the Pokemon TCG's gameplay, even some 25 years on.  So go play some children's card games! I'll be waiting for you on Switch NSO to do battle, as we never got a proper sequel... and certainly never an online version of the TCG before... no, never... shut up!

    Vampire Survivors


    Vampire Survivors

    Vampire Survivors... doesn't truly have an ending... but it does have a credits sequence so it counts!

    This is the best slot machine I've ever played.  It's just the perfect down-time game and I find myself continuing to come back to it again and again (do the new stages count as post-game!? Honestly, @Glen-i @RedShell, I have no idea! Help me out here!).  Described by slot-machine maker extrodanare Luca Galante (AKA "poncle") as a "reverse bullet hell" game, it was a side project that was slowly developed over many years during his down-time while working for various online gambling websites.  The gameplay is ridiculously simple, you walk... and that's it! But unless your idea of walking involves being constantly attacked by literally thousands of on-screen monsters while filling the screen with seizure inducing fireworks, this is the worst Walking Simulator I've ever played!


    Don't mind me, just on my morning constitutional

    The goal of the game is to live... to thrive... to... not die! Well, for at least 30 minutes anyway.  Your chosen character (usually) starts out with a weapon, and said weapon fires automatically.  You just have to move and try not to walk into baddies, while your weapon attacks the nasties automatically.  When the villains are vanquished, they drop gems! And gems make level go up! Level go up means you get to choose a new weapon or passive ability (or you can level up an already collected weapon/passive to make it stronger), which lets you make more dead! Which makes level go up and make more dead! Which makes level go up...


    Well that escelated quickly!

    Number go up make me happy.  There's something oddly satisfying to my lizard brain as you start becoming a God of destruction, literally thousands of enemies start flooding the screen and the screen turns into a flashing seizure of colours and explosions as you continue to try not to die.  But of course, nothing lasts forever... as death inevitably comes for us all.  No stage ever lasts longer than 30 minutes, as the grim reaper himself always puts an end to your rampage... if only there were a way to cheat death itself...


    What does it meeeeeeeeeaaaaannnnn!?!?!?

    Oh the secrets... oh the rabbit hole goes deep... The game just keeps throwing more and more hidden things, new gameplay mechanics, new weapons, new... stuff, at you! All the time!  The roguelike elements really start to come into play after your first few runs and you unlock the second stage, as the mechanics really start to snowball wildly out of control...

    There are well over 100 weapons and passive items to collect, dozens upon dozens of characters to find and unlock, so many hidden things and surprises.  And so much pointless deep lore! For such a ridiculously simple game, there's a ridiculously huge amount of things to do and see.  You're (usually) limited to only carrying 6 weapons and 6 passive items, so you have to start getting creative with your builds, and as you delve deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, you start to find some utterly broken combinations of items and weapons that can make you nigh-on invincible.  There's an immense satisfaction that comes with developing unstoppable builds, as you start to min-max and game the system to make yourself as broken as possible.

    Oh and the music... oh wow, the music.  It has no right being as good as it is! Belieing the cheap & cheerful graphics on display, the music is a tour-de-force of near copyright infringement and genuinely beautiful orchestral soundscape.  Here's a bit of mood whiplash to set the mood for you...



    In case you haven't figured it out yet.  The game doesn't exactly take itself seriously.  It's downright hilarious, with some of the most ridiculous Italian puns you'll ever see in a video game, and some riotously funny bestiary descriptions, written by none other than James Stephanie Sterling (Of Jimquisition fame).  Thank God for them, because the descriptions are worth the price of admission alone.



    With a ridiculous number of stages, each with their own unique mechanics, literally hundreds of unlockable characters, weapons, items, gameplay features and mechanics, I'm still not done seeing everything this game has to offer... and there's MORE to come!? Oh come on!!!

    But still.  I saw the credits.  It counts.

    Kirby & The Amazing Mirror



    The Legend Of Kirby Four Swords is a GBA game released in 2004.  It pretends to be a four player co-op game, but after the absolutely shambolic play from @Glen-i, @S.C.G and .  @BowserBasher, no.  This is a VS fighting game.

    What this game actually IS though, is a four-player Metroidvania game where each player is free to wander off and explore the fully open-world map in any direction they like.  There are 8 bosses with 8 plot souvenirs that need to be collected to unlock the final boss.  You are free to tackle these bosses in any order you like, so long as you can find the copy abilities you need to get to them.  Along the way, there are dozens of treasure chests with all sorts of unlockable goodies to find... with of course, the most important one being...



    This is still pretty unique as far as multiplayer games go.  I can't really think of any other multiplayer Metroidvania titles that give each player complete free reign to go off and individually explore the map at their leisure in entierly different directions with zero restrictions in play.  And HAL/Flagship did this on the GBA back in 2004!? Nuts!

    Now, in theory, you're supposed to work together to explore the world, open up various paths & shortcuts and pass obstacles that require multiple players to work in harmony... but in reality?


    Despite our best efforts to sabotage each other, we somehow overcame the odds and succeeded at bringing an end to Dark Mind's desires within the Mirror Realm.  Twas great fun!

    While this game is still tons of fun for one player, it really does shine in multiplayer as was originally intended.  And now with the game being available to play via local wireless and online multiplayer via NSO? It really is a killer app for the service.  A must play with some buds, and still a must play in single player if you have no friends.

    Starfox 64



    When was the last time I spoke about Starfox 64 in one of these gaming diary threads, it can't be that long ago surel... HOLY CRAP! I'VE NEVER WRITTEN ABOUT THIS GAME BEFORE!?


    No!!! Don't look at me... DON'T LOOK AT ME!!!

    Well, if you've ever read a single one of my posts on this forum, you've probably figured out that I'm a bit of a fan of the series (I will defend my 9/10 Starfox Zero review to my grave!), and this game is the biggest reason why.  It's one of my favourite games of all time for a damn good reason, and it's because it's a perfectly paced, high-score chasing arcade powerhouse of a game.  I decided to do yet another quick run of the game for the hell of it (and to try out the N64 core on MiSTer), this time across the Easy path (don't find myself running that one as often as Normal/Hard).  What a game! A masterclass of pacing, with just the right peaks & valleys of action to set the mood.  Each stage featuring the perfect silence, followed by the perfect crescendo; knowing exactly when to leap forward towards the player and knowing when to pull back to allow breathing room.  The stages not being mere placid backdrops or relentless bombardment, but encouraging and rewarding experimentation, ducking & weaving with hidden paths, secrets and higher scores.  An endlessly replayable high-score chasing thrill that encourages the player to forever improve their skills.


    Though Pepper's army never seems to improve... forever bested by just 4 ships.

    Starfox 64 is one of the first games to ever feature full voice acting (and certainly the first to come from Nintendo), and I don't really need to say anything else, because its voice acting is legendary (and for once, for all the right reasons! Not sarcastically!).  Likewise, its presentation is stellar, from the Thunderbirds inspired visuals & characters, to the beautiful music (both bombastic and haunting in equal harmony), to the pitch perfect controls, to the perfectly tuned gameplay.  To the literal introduction of Rumble! Yes! THIS is the game to thank for your modern controllers vibrating your hands off today.  This was a revolutionary title that truely defined what it meant to be a "cinematic" game, before the term became corrupted and warped into meaning a game that plays itself.


    Pure chills...


    The scoring system is full of endless depth, and it gives the game its endless replayability.  What would be simple and easy to maximise is elevated by one massive addition... the Hit + system.  Shoot down multiple enemies with a single charged shot and you get +1 added onto your score for each additional enemy caught in the blast.  This is the core mechanic that makes the whole scoring system shine, and it makes some utterly ludicrious scores possible... Just to give an idea as to how high the skill ceiling can go with this game.  My best score is somewhere within the 1,500-1,600 range after like 20 years of playing on & off... The current WR is a whopping 3,085!

    ... and what's even more nuts? The theoretical maximum goes well beyond even this! With the current TAS climbing as high as 4,191!  There is still so much depth yet to be plumbed, and for a high-score focused game like this to still be so untapped? That's basically unheard of outside of the CAVE shooter realm!

    Starfox 64 is one of the greatest games Nintendo has ever made.  And it'll probably forever remain the finest moment in Fox McCloud's career.

    Mario Party 3 (Story Mode)



    This is my favourite Mario Party game, but it's a multiplayer game! So why is it on this list then? Well that's because it just came out on the Switch NSO service... and there are several modes and boards that need to be unlocked by playing through the game's Story Mode.  So with me needing to finish off a fresh file to get it fully ready for multiplayer shenanegans? Yup, it's time to knuckle down and play through this epic tale of love, alliances and... actually no, it's mostly just backstabbing and revenge.

    Story Mode involves you playing through every single board (both Battle Royale and Duel) back to back in single player mode against 3 other CPUs.  It is a miserable experience, as you are subjected to endless BS plays on your lonesome, with none of the dynamic fun that comes with playing against other people.  But if you want to unlock the two hidden boards (Waluigi's Island & Backtrack), the Super Hard CPU difficulty and the hidden Game Guy's Room and Mario's Puzzle Party Pro? It has to be done... and on Hard difficulty to boot.  So I had to endure and take one for the team.  Below is an accurate summary of what I had to deal with on my journey...

    But fear not! I got my revenge...

    ... and eventually emerged victorious!

    Waluigi's Island, Backtrack and Super Hard CPU difficulty unlocked! My journey's over... wait... what do you mean that Game Guy's Room hasn't been unlocked!? What do you mean that you have to achieve Miracle Star rank in Story Mode to unlock it!?!? ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT I NEED TO PLAY THROUGH STORY MODE ALL OVER AGAIN!?!?!?


    ... I did it.  I played through Story Mode twice just to unlock Game Guy's Room... Granted I played on Easy difficulty the second time around and with Luigi in order to give me better odds of winning the Duel Boards (He starts with Goomba, probably the best Partner to start with), but considering that achieving Miracle Star requires the player to not only win every board, but achieve S-Rank on every stage (which requires you to win with at least a two star or 3 HP advantage over second place... as difficult as it sounds!), I needed to stack the deck in my favour as best as I could...

    ... but many hours of torture later and...

    ... never again!!!

    This was torture.  But it is done, and the file is now fully ready for multiplayer fun.  And in the end?


    Anyway.  One of the best multiplayer games ever made, and an utterly tortuous single player experience.  But here's some more choice clips taken from my Story Mode adventure to close things out here with...





    Castlevania Legends



    The one and only 2D Castlevania game I have never played.  A surprise Halloween addition to the Switch NSO library, and a very welcome one, considering the insane prices that it commands on eBay, and the fact that this is the first time it has ever been re-released.  It doesn't exactly hold a stellar reputation, and it was famously written out of the series canon by series producer Koji Igarashi due to it's supposed poor quality.

    Well I've played and beaten Haunted Castle.  If I can suffer that travesty of a game, I can get through anything!  There's no way that Castlevania Legends can even be remotely as bad as that tirefire...

    ... and I was right!


    Still looks better than Haunted Castle


    Better than Haunted Castle is not exactly glowing praise... or praise of any kind.  But I can't quite bring myself to call Castlevania Legends a bad game.  Developed by KCE Nagoya, a short-lived Konami studio that focused largely on cheap ports and licensed Gameboy titles, Castlevania Legends is their sole original Castlevania credit.  And while it's clearly based on the two Gameboy Castlevania titles that came before? It is their inferior in virtually every respect.  From visuals, to level design, to game feel, to audio, it is a huge step back from Belmont's Revenge in every respect, and I'd argue that The Adventure is the better game too.  It's hard to believe that it came out so late into the Gameboy's lifecycle in 1997, but there ya go.

    Outside of the novel inclusion of a female Belmont protagonist, the gameplay setup is pretty standard fare.  You have a whip, you've got the standard assortment of subweapons, and the level design is pretty simplistic from start to finish, bereft of noteworthy setpieces.  The only real wrinkle in place are these seemingly random Trap Rooms that you can fall into, where you're forced to fight a set of enemies before you can escape (You earn nothing from them except a chunk of your healthbar lost, so avoid these as much as possible).


    Nothing ventured, everything gained

    The only other real wrinkle in play are the Soul Weapons (which are so situational that they're basically completely useless) and the Burning Mode, which a temporary invincibility that is utterly broken and should be spammed liberally against every boss you see.  Otherwise? This is really as vanilla as it gets.  But the level design is just really poor, with awful pacing and infuriating enemy placement that leaves you open to taking basically mandatory damage.

    The music is also... strange.  It's not bad by any means, but it often sounds like a Silvagunner remix of other tunes...

    Tetris called, it wants its Type C music back


    It all contributes to this feeling of this being a Bootleg Castlevania of sorts.  I don't think this game quite deserves its scathing reputation, but it's certainly amongst the lowest tier within the series.  I'm glad I got the chance to play it, but it's certainly not a must-play by any means.

    Vampire: Master of Darkness



    Speaking of Bootleg Castlevania.  Welcome to Vampire: Master of Darkness! A Game Gear title originally released in 1992 (which later got a port to the European Master System in 1993), developed by SEGA and SIMS.  This is literally SEGA looking at Nintendo's stranglehold on Castlevania exclusivity and saying "We have Castlevania at home!".  It's about as brazen a knockoff as you can get in terms of core gameplay.  But the setting is admittedly pretty unique.

    You play as a psychologist called Dr Ferdinand Social (Yes... really, Dr Social... no I am not making this up), who for some reason is really into Ouija boards bigtime and hears about some nasties roaming around the streets of London and killing people in the service of Jack The Ripper and later Count Dracula.  So he does the only sensible thing... and that is pick up his closest baselard sword, head out into the streets of London AND KNIFE EVERY LIVING THING THAT STANDS IN HIS WAY!!!


    That'll learn you some psychology!


    Aside from the surprisingly non-Engrishy dialogue and Victorian London setting & (slightly incomprehensible) story? This is a Castlevania knockoff through and through.  Knives and axes replace your whip, and your selection of subweapons range from boomerangs, to bombs, to guns, to... throwable fangs? The candles get replaced with floating masks? They at least tried to vary the iconography a bit here, but the core gameplay is vanilla Castlevania, right down to the use of stairs that work in exactly the same manner.


    They tried to hide it, they really did


    But unlike the real Castlevania games, Master of Darkness doesn't seem to understand the guiding principles that made Konami's series so beloved.  The level design is nonsensical, filled with stop/start pacing, iffy hit detection and enemies literally everywhere across the screen; placed completely haphazardly.  The enemies also don't follow set attack patterns, and can seemingly move however the designers felt like at the time.  In a normal Castlevania game for instance, bats always move in a particular arc, in a particular way.  Here in Master of Darkness though? They might move in a Z shape pattern, they might move in a sine wave (like a Medusa Head), they might just lunge straight in your direction, or they may move up and down in an S shape; who knows?  It's infuriating because the enemies have no consistency to them, and their haphazard placement makes the game an exercise in trial & error attrition.  To make up for this, the designers decided to give the player a crapton of health; allowing you to tank at least a dozen hits before you kick the bucket, while also generously handing out health potions.  They knew that their level & enemy design sucked, so they clearly made this change at the last minute as a band-aid solution.


    Clearly the only sensible reason behind the killings, he would know, he's a social dude


    Another significant problem is that the game is way too long for a Game Gear portable title... and there is NO SAVE FEATURE of any kind, not even Password saves! Thank Christ I was playing this on my 3DS, where I could put it in Sleep Mode, because it took me a good solid 4-5 hours to finish the game; there's no way that your Game Gear's batteries would've lasted that long!

    The bootleg nature of the gameplay also extends to the game's music... which sounds like a bargain basement Shinobi.  Not exactly very gothic, but not offensively bad or anything... kind of like the rest of the game really.

    Overall? I think I slightly preferred Castlevania Legends to this one.  It's... ok.  It's not a terrible attempt to rip off Castlevania, but Legends is the better knockoff.

    And... we're all caught up! So? How did we do...

    On 13/02/2023 at 6:10 PM, Dcubed said:

    I guess if I have a resolution to make this year, it's to finally get through at least some of the lengthy RPGs that are stuffing up my backlog.  It was only really around the middle of last year that I managed to get myself playing RPGs again (after being left sick of them for so long), but I finally played through Octopath Traveller and FE Shadows of Valentia at least, and am currently tackling Xenoblade 2 at long last (Probably about 1/3 of the way through thus far).

    Of course, there's plenty more still on the back-burner.  Including Bravely Default, Bravely Second, Bravely Default 2, Octopath Traveller 2, Triangle Strategy, Live A Live, Fire Emblem Engage, Fire Emblem Fates Special Edition (Oh God, that's THREE games in one; PLUS DLC!?), Lunar 1 & 2 (Both SEGA CD and PS1 Remake versions!), Fire Emblem Three Houses (Honestly don't really want to play this one...), Final Fantasy 7 Remake (@Glen-i is currently doing the honours for that one right now), Xenoblade 3 (Can't play until I've finished Xenoblade 2 though... that's honestly what's keeping me going with XB2 right now lol), and I'm sure there's a few others I'm forgetting.

    These RPGs are all just so damn long though! (Ok, maybe not the Lunar games.  They'll probably come next after I beat XB2 actually!)

    Ok.  This... didn't go so well in the end.  At least I'm currently playing through Octopath Traveller 2 though (and in THREEEEEEEE DEEEEEE no less!).  Next update coming... eventually.

    And with that?


    Xenoblade Chronicles 2
    Goldeneye 007
    The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog
    Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
    Advance Wars 1 Remake
    Advance Wars 2 Remake

    Metal Slug 3
    Lucky & Wild
    Let's Go Jungle: Lost in the Isle of Spice
    Jurrasic Park: The Lost World (Model 3 Arcade)
    Puzzle Bobble 2x
    Pokemon Trading Card Game
    Vampire Survivors
    Kirby & The Amazing Mirror
    Starfox 64
    Mario Party 3 Story Mode x2
    Castlevania Legends
    Vampire: Master of Darkness (Game Gear version)


    • Like 2
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  2. Quote

    It's not a competition - so I say this in jest and maybe half-seriously - but Insomniac have walked circles around Naughty Dog this gen in terms of game output and their technical prowess being showcased. They've got to be one of the best acquisitions of this acquisition era we've found ourselves in over the last few years. 

    To be fair, Insomniac are roundly trouncing everyone when it comes to productivity, not just ND.

    Also most AAA development studios are generally coalescing around single franchises and game types.  From Software have basically stopped making anything that isn’t a reskinned Dark Souls, Santa Monica have more or less only made God of War since 2005, DICE only do Battlefield etc.  So if anything, ND are falling in line with most of the rest of the AAA industry.

  3. F_FeaOGawAAJSRt?format=jpg&name=large

    Certainly not as sarcastic as Simon makes it out to be here

    @S.C.G decided that going round and round in circles in the middle of the map was a great idea... it was better than it should've been! Surprisingly close match, but sadly his Pirahna Plant's extra dice roll kicked in at the wrong time...

    Good game.  Next up, it's Simon's Belmont's Revenge tomorrow at 20:00.  Be there, or be low polygon! :peace:

    • Thanks 2

  4. 8 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

    With Octopath Traveler II done, it was time for another JRPG to be cleared from the backlog.


    Krusty said it better than I ever could...


    I knew this game would never reach the heights of Chrono Trigger but it didn't even come close to it. Awful, awful battle system and a convoluted storyline (this is coming from someone who has no trouble following Kingdom Hearts) made for a very rough experience. Baffling when you look what came before it.

    I can see why many fans were disappointed by this game. I suppose I'm lucky in that I missed out on all the hype for this back in the day, what with neither games being released over here. I can't imagine loving Trigger, seeing this sequel in gaming magazines, waiting months for its release and then getting whatever the hell this is. :D

    Still, part of me is happy enough to have at least played it. Unlike Trigger, I can't see me ever wanting to play it again. If anything, playing this made me want to fire up Trigger. :p


    You should've bought it for Radical Dreamers.  Chrono Cross is the bonus extra ;)

    • Haha 3

  5. 19 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

    That seems to have just came and went without much fanfare. BG3 looks to have sucked all the conversation away from it.

    I'd love to see what the discourse would've been like if the release dates of these games were swapped around...

    I bet that if TOTK came out after BG3, there'd be a lot more discourse in favour of TOTK... And that Starfield would've stood a much better chance of getting nominated.

    Recency Bias is a hell of a thing in the video game industry.

  6. I know I've been late on commenting, but I commend your committment to the cause :peace:

    Surprised at how positive you were on the EA era of Bond, didn't think you'd enjoy them so much.  And yes, Nightfire on GBA is an utter technical miracle! SO impressive!

    • Like 1

  7. 11 hours ago, Jonnas said:

    The Portuguese version of the Direct showed this in Portuguese! :eek: Not sure if it was just for the purposes of the trailer (and only this trailer), but I think it would be the first-ever GBA game translated into the language, if true.

    Anyway, the game looks terrific!

    Oh wow! That's awesome!

    I do wonder if the actual original GBA version would include Portuguese though, considering the inevitable cartridge space limitations in place (max of 32MB).

  8. 8 hours ago, RedShell said:

    Those vids I posted before are from the PC version though (managed to refrain from quadruple dipping on the Switch version :heh:) so it’s definitely an across-the-board optimisation, just a pretty rare one probably.

    Ahh gotcha.  They must’ve introduced that cheeky feature when they switched over to Unity for the PC version then (Both the Xbox and Switch versions already ran on Unity anyway).

    But yeah, seems to happen when the game goes ballistic with stuff onscreen.  Quite fun when it happens! Like a hidden secret passive power up :hehe:

    • Like 1

  9. On 09/11/2023 at 12:24 PM, RedShell said:

    I see.

    I'd heard there was a trick going on with how many gems can appear on-screen at once (where the total value will eventually get merged into and represented by a single gem or something) in order to maintain smooth performance, but walls turning off is a new one for me, and has never happened before in over 50 hours of playing the game. :hehe:

    Were thinking that it’s a Switch specific optimisation, because I’ve never seen it happen on any other version.

    But yeah, on Switch, whenever things get really insane, it seems that the game just quietly turns off collision detection with the environment and lets you just walk through anything; which can make the likes of Tiny Bridge pretty funny :laughing:

  10. @Glen-i didn’t even mention the long con I pulled off on him by not using that Barter Box earlier (yes, that Barter Box was originally mine); as I purposely let Simon take it in order for him to be able to use his Boo Bell to steal enough coins to eventually nick Glen-i’s star from the Boo Space.

    And yet somehow he still managed to win… (and you call Wario the cheater here… that game was shambolic!)

    • Haha 2
    • Angry 1

  11. 1 hour ago, BowserBasher said:

    Right, not a fan of RPG games but loved all the Paper Mario games, is this worth getting for me? 
    Im going to assume by watching that trailer it is more in line with Paper Mario games (being they were more based on this) than more traditional RPG games that have loads of different characters for your team and a million and 1 power ups and abilities. 

    If you’ve ever played any of the Mario & Luigi games, they’re more similar to SMRPG than the Paper Marios are (which makes sense, they were made by the same group of people after all).