Julius

Your 2020 Gaming Diary

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I've been revisiting some of my older Switch games during my week off, because I couldn't really settle on a big game and wasn't in the mood to continue Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition. So first I got back to Breath of the Wild. I was surprised by the things I still could do! A while back I got the DLC and did the first two parts of Trial of the Sword plus the fifth Divine Beast. So now I started by getting a bunch of the EX treasures. I was also sitting at around 97 shrines but I found a couple more so now I'm at 103. Found plenty of Koroks, and I did a couple of normal sidequests but to be honest they are quite dull. Will try to go for all shrines though, because it's great to return to this world again. 

Also I never did any of the post-game in Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu. So first task was getting Mewtwo which was a matter of poisoning him with Toxic and throwing about 50 Ultra Balls at him. Next stop will be to get the Mega Evolutions and complete the Pokédex. It's interesting to go back to this after Pokémon Sword. The Go-style capturing is still pretty fun, but it's just silly you need it for the XP as well so now my box is filling up with dozens of duplicates. Still, it's a very charming game.

Also a friend lend me his copy of Super Mario Party, so I've been playing that a little bit with the misses. She's not much of a gamer but party games she can enjoy from time to time. We've done the River Survival once, one of the 2vs2 boards and one of the regular boards. So far River Survival is our favourite, as it keeps things at least a bit up to speed without the need to wait for other players to roll. The rest is pretty straightforward Mario Party I guess.

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Man, Payback Fang in Birth By Sleep just flat out sucks, huh?

Hopefully, Aerial Recovery won't lock me into an endless cycle of getting hit.

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Okamiden (DS) can finally be crossed off my backlog.

I can see it being impressive in the DS-era and is a fully fledged 20+ hour Action-RPG. While it is kind of open world it is very linear in that there’s little to do if not following the storyline, and even then isn’t always clear where you should be going.

Like Okami before it, the gesture based combat and abilities are used throughout and are identified well when specific shapes are drawn on the touch-screen.

The distinct visual design actually works well on the handheld and helps the game stand out.  Ultimately though, I got a little bored with the game, finding it too repetitive for my liking, combat lasting a little too long (boss battles especially seemed to last forever!), and I was just wanting to get to the end of it hours before the credits finally rolled.  Maybe just a product of it’s time, being nearly 10 years old!

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I really wanted Three Houses to be my last game in 2020, but alas, those last few maps are giving me sass trouble. Still, since I started the year with an 8-bit 3DS Inti Creates title, let's bookend it with something similar:

Blaster Master Zero

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More like "Blaster Master Theta", eh?

My first ever contact with Blaster Master was a flash game on Newgrounds. A Super Mario Bros. romhack of sorts that allowed you to play as characters from various other NES titles, such as Link, Mega Man, or Ryu Hayabusa. It was an excellent game (no glitches with the various mechanics, and it was polished to the point that it included music from those titles), but that game's last update added character I'd never heard of before: SOPHIA from Blaster Master. It was a tank that could fire in any direction, fly around, and crawl on walls and ceilings. Super fun, super OP.

Fast forward to 2017, and I'm a new 3DS owner. As I perused the 3DS eShop, what do I find? Blaster Master for the NES of course, but also... Blaster Master Zero? The description says "a reimagining of the NES classic, made by Inti Creates". Dang, what a concept, and there's even a demo. I tried it, and I was mildly pleased, but disappointed that I couldn't latch to walls.

Anyway, earlier this year, around TGS, Inti Creates held a sale on their titles, and I got both this and Azure Striker Gunvolt. Since this one was shorter, I decided to play it now in December (try to finish at least something before the end of the year). I was mildly pleased, but still disappointed I can't latch to walls (gotta climb them from the ground).

...

Fine, I'll say more. IC is great at making solid action games that feel good to play, and this game is no exception. The tank SOPHIA is super fun to play, while the on-foot sections with Jason are adequately underpowered. The top-down segments are creative, consisting on an "all-or-nothing" weapons system where you're either dominating or fighting very steep odds (though the sub-weapons you eventually gain always give you a fighting chance). My only gripe is that those top-down segments are slow, with no way to increase or modulate movement (which can make them tedious at various points). Everything else is great, with SOPHIA having a varied arsenal of weapons and sub-weapons that feels balanced and keeps things fresh.

So why wasn't I more impressed with the game? Level design. BMZ is a Metroidvania, and yet it doesn't do anything particularly interesting with that. The game is divided by "Areas", which might as well be levels, and you pretty much stick to those until you clear everything in them (or just the bosses with the required upgrades). There's only one place where you need to backtrack (technically two, but it's the same trip), and it's such a slog - not to mention highlighted and telegraphed by the game - that it doesn't really add anything. If you're looking to 100% the game (and you need to do that to unlock the final level), the game even conveniently tells you where the remaining items are.

Furthermore, even on a smaller scale, the game is filled with paths and treks that don't lead to anywhere of value (various paths are filled with enemies, only to reveal at the end... a dead end with a health pickup. Thanks, Obama). Not to say it's a boring time, because the bosses are great, and the regular enemies are fun to fight, but as an exploration game, it's quite lacking.

Nevertheless, I do see the potential for improvement, and this game did convince me to add Blaster Master Zero 2 to my wishlist. Hopefully that game will allow me to latch directly onto walls.

I do want to show my appreciation for this game's weird story, though. To my understanding, no version of Blaster Master has ever managed to present a story that makes sense (the Famicom version was straightforward with a war on aliens. The NES version changed it to a pet frog that got mutated, and a tank that popped out of nowhere to fight underground mutants on earth led by a skull emperor... then other games in the series continued to have convoluted plots), so this reboot also went with a convoluted story that involves a post-climate-change world, a runaway frog, inexplicable mutants out of nowhere (who seemingly don't count as valuable life forms), a climax that involves space travel, and a script that doesn't know what an android is. Shlocky fun, and I like that the game eventually introduces optional banter.

I got the game's true ending (which was pretty great to play through, I adore the pun on the name of one of the final bosses), so I decided to quickly check out the original Blaster Master on the NES service on Switch. I appreciate that that game was trying to be a Metroidvania long before the genre was properly codified, but some things don't jive. Bosses bring sudden difficulty spikes, the gun during on-foot segments doesn't improve well enough, enemies respawn on top of Jason whenever I leave a mini-dungeon, and most egregiously, no in-game saving (only two lives, too). Hence, I'll let the classic game rest in history, and recommend Blaster Master Zero (also available on Switch) as a more adequate upgrade to it.

Not planning on playing through the extra modes, nor purchasing the DLC characters, but it's pretty cool that Shantae and Shovel Knight are playable in this game. I'm betting these characters play very differently from the usual SOPHIA, which is something I always respect in a 2D action/platforming game.

Gameplay.........4/5
Exploration.......2/5
Story................3/5
Extra Content...5/5

I'd say Inti Creates did a great job at reviving the franchise, though there are a few rough edges to iron out before it truly shines. I'll see for myself when I eventually buy BMZ 2

  My 2020 log (Hide contents)

Played/Beat/Completed:

-Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (2018) Completed (January 13th)

-Mr.Driller: Drill Spirits (2004) Beat (January 30th)

-Dragon Ball Fighterz (2018) Beat (February 22nd)

-Advance Wars: Dark Conflict (2008) Completed (February 25th)

-Capcom Beat'em Up Bundle (2018) No Goal (March 13th)

-Professor Layton and the Curious Village (2008) Completed (March 23rd)

-Kirby's Pinball Land (1993) Completed (March 28th)

-Pikuniku (2019) Beat (March 31st)

-Ori and the Blind Forest (2015) Completed (April 18th)

-Atomicrops (2020) Beat (May 24th)

-Infliction: Extended Cut (2020) Beat (June 28th)

-Bravely Default (2013) Beat (June 28th)

-Super Mario Land 2 (1992) Completed (July 13th)

-Pokémon Puzzle Challenge (2000) Beat (July 19th)

-Snipperclips (2017) Beat (August 15th)

-Yoku's Island Express (2018) Completed (August 18th)

-Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions (2017) Beat (October 4th)

-Projection: First Light (2019) Completed (October 7th)

-Dandara (2018) Completed (October 28th)

-Distraint (2015) Completed (October 30th)

-Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (2013) Dropped (October 31st)

-The Fall (2014) Completed (November 1st)

-Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) Replay (December 1st)

-Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido (2018) Suspended (December 4th)

-Blaster Master Zero (2017) Beat (December 30th)

 

Currently Playing:

-Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)

-Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (1990)

 I started the year "currently playing" a Fire Emblem game. Ended the year "currently playing" two. Classic Jonnas.

2020 is at its end, and while I made hefty progress on my DS/3DS, the rest of my physical backlog did not progress so well, unfortunately. I guess my 2020 gaming resolution did not pan out so well. I did prioritize a lot of digital games in the end (and FE Heroes did worm its way back into my free time during this year's second half). Might change my approach somewhat in 2021.

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Made quite a bit of progress on Crash 4 to round out 2020. Got as far as the parade level which is absolutely fantastic, really enjoyable level that one. I will do more at a later point. Would definitely recommend this game based on what I've played so far though I also fully understand not wanting to financially support Activision...

 

For now, I also want to embrace 2020 as a year where I started more actively posting gaming content on Youtube, including two Let's Plays and a few standalone videos so here is the highlights of 2020 for the Youtube channel. Some things that I ended up catching on recording were kind of ridiculous really...

 

 

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Yo Timmy, you miserable git. Here are the remaining games I've played in 2020. Can't be arsed to write down the little "reviews" so I'm gonna make it quick and just give you the titles and my the ratings I gave 'em:

The Messenger - Picnic Panic DLC (5/5 - more of the same of the best game I've played in 2020)
Slay the Spire (5/5 - no need to explain :p)
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne (4/5)
OneStepFromEden (5/5)
RIVE: Ultimate Edition (3/5)
Doom (2016) (4/5)
Picross S (3/5)
Bug Fables (4/5)
Rogue Aces (2/5)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered (3/5)
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockdown (5/5)
Cadence of Hyrule (5/5)
Final Fantasy VII Remake (5/5)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (All-Star Version) (5/5)
Kirby Superstar (4/5)
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (3/5)
Hades (5/5)
Super Mario Sunshine (3/5)
Final Fantasy VII (4/5)
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint (3/5)
Mark of the Ninja: Remastered (5/5)
Dragon Quest Heroes (3/5)
Burnout Paradies Remastered (4/5)
Astro's Playroom (5/5)
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (3/5)
Cyberpunk 2077 (3/5)
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (4/5)

There you have it (and my last two posts here)...my gaming in 2020.
Pretty pleased with it.

The Switch has turned into an Indie machine, because there's fuck all else coming out on that system.
PS4 went out with an absolute banger of a year (and is still going strong for a while) and what I've played on my PS5 so far has me very excited for the future :peace:

Now the app says "0 games finished" and "playing 3 games". Demon's Souls, Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Not a bard start, I'd say. Let's see how long it'll take me to finish them as work, studies and lab work will start again on Monday :(
 

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I kicked off December by finally starting the PS4 remake of one of my favourite games Shadow of the Colossus and it was absolutely worth the wait. I fell in love with the game all over again, I adore the desolate environments and atmosphere, the whole tone of the game is such a perfect balance between macabre and beautiful - soundtracked by one of the greatest musical scores in any medium. It is a fitting send off for my PS4 Pro, or at least it would be if I could get my hands on a PS5 anytime soon - I'm holding off playing some PS exclusives I missed so I can play the best versions on newer hardware but it doesn't seem like PS5 is going to be readily available for a good while yet.

I played through a very short one next, One Eyed Kutkh on Switch. It's one of those games I spotted on the eShop and loved the art style and it was really cheap so I took a chance on it. Despite it's simple presentation it's a bit ropey technically and is very simple in its mechanics, it's essentially a stripped down point and click adventure and it's charming enough but there isn't that much to get your teeth into - it only takes 45 minutes or so to play through.

I thought I had played Silent Hill 2 quite recently but looking back through my lists it turns out I finished it in October 2016 so it was quite a gap until I got around to experiencing Silent Hill 3. It's as clunky and awkward to control as the previous entries in the series but it's somehow still compelling to play through, has the same creepy and surreal atmosphere that made the second game such a classic. Heather's story wasn't quite as effecting as James' but it's still many levels above most survival horror efforts, it handles such a mature story in fantastic fashion it's such a shame that Konami let the series die - hopefully the rumours about a Sony revival are accurate and the dev team can bring that same level of maturity to a modern reboot.

Finally to round out the year I dusted off my Wii U to play through Metroid Fusion. Metroid is a series I hadn't touched at all outside of playing the Hunters demo for a few minutes when my friend first got his DS but over the last few years I've made my way through most entries in the franchise (after this Other M and Hunters are the only ones I need to get to) and Fusion has a lot of the same qualities that made the series what it is. In terms of visual presentation it looks fantastic, I'm really impressed with how capable the GBA hardware was (although there were a few moments of slow down during heavy fire, not sure if that's an issue with Wii U emulation or just the way the game is). It feels more linear than Super Metroid, the AI partner handing out orders to Samus appears way too much through the game which takes the mystery out of exploration somewhat although they do make up for that in some respects by including the data rooms which you have to work out how to reach. I definitely had a lot of fun with the game but it falls into the same category as Samus Returns for me, an enjoyable Metroidvania that you don't need to think about too much, lacking the sense of loneliness and discovery that makes the best entries so immersive and compelling.

I received Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity for Christmas and I'm currently making my way through that so that'll be the first game I complete in 2021, it's my first ever musou game and I'm having a blast so far. Looking back it was quite a varied year, several different genres represented on my list but I'm disappointed that my backlog only grew as the year went on - I need to make a big dent into that before I can think about buying any more now. Have a good 2021 everyone!

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Posted (edited)

Been a while since I've posted in here, been a bit busy with life, and work, and being ill. I'm going to try to keep it pretty brief compared to my previous entries, because there's a lot to get through. This post will be covering the 11 games I played from July up to the end of the year, so buckle up! 

JULY

BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM | 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum - Revisiting the Game 10 Years Later | Den of Geek

Awesome responsive combat, which has been aped by many games in the decade since. Dark and brooding world, both thematically, and, well, quite literally - it can be hard to see what's going on at times! Maybe one of my least favourite Batman costumes? A novel plot, but a great way to set a defined scope in Arkham. Solid 3D Metroidvania gameplay loop, with plenty to explore, and numerous gadgets to deploy to reach new heights (or distances). Memorable boss encounters with solid voice-acting throughout, and some interesting boss fights; on the other hand, very forgettable encounters with foot soldiers paving almost every corridor. An awful final boss fight which left a poor taste in my mouth. Noticeable screen-tearing and framerate dips throughout. Fun Riddler trophies to find (no, I didn't find all of them!). A really strong introduction to the Arkhamverse, setting up a Batman who feels experienced, and has storied relationships with friend and foe alike. 

Batman: Arkham Asylum by no means blew me away, but I had a fun time with it, and it's certainly got me excited for whenever I decide to check out Arkham City. 

 

GHOST OF TSUSHIMA | 2020

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It had been a while since I'd sunk my teeth into an open world game, and Ghost of Tsushima was a great way to return to one.

Lighting and atmosphere from the world surrounding you in this game adds so much, I constantly found myself stopping and just taking this world in, and it's so natural to traverse or finds things to do. The combat is generally fun and intuitive, though it does get quite repetitive later on in the game; my biggest gripe with the combat is the lack of an option to lock-on, and so you inevitably find yourself fighting against the camera at times. Similarly, it also took me a bit of getting used to using R2 for most interactions. Also, for combat, because there are different styles to use with each being stronger against certain enemy weapons, the game occasionally basically pauses itself to force you to change your combat style, which is a bit of a pain when I'm attacking someone from behind after having jumped behind them! In terms of the story and characters, I think it starts out really poorly paced, to be honest: this is an open world game, so why on Earth am I being teleported from one area to another? I understand if you want the player to hear there immediately, but fence them in, or have them ride the distance on horseback, it really isn't that hard a thing and would have added a lot for me; instead, a bit like some films, it feels shoddily assembled in its opening hours. But once it opens up, it gets much, much better, with a sprawling world filled with activities to do and tougher enemies to seek out. It also gives us one of the best title card reveals in video games this year (alongside Final Fantasy VII Remake, of course!):

However, the story gets much better as it goes on and once characters have had more time to breathe, and Jin I feel grows as a character quite a bit throughout. That being said, the choice between becoming a 'Ghost' and being a 'Samurai' felt really overstated, as even if you do use stealthy tactics in line with the way of being the Ghost of Tsushima, it doesn't really impact the story in any way? I haven't played any of Sucker Punch's previous games, but I do know about their good/evil decisions and bars, so I feel like this would have been the most obvious and natural way to have gameplay determine the story. That being said, the way in which this story ends felt natural and epic to me, and I was stuck there for five minutes thinking about what it was I wanted to do. What did I want to do as the player? What would Jin want as a character? Both options felt like the right one, so Sucker Punch did a really nice job of writing those I think. 

It's one of the best looking games of the generation, so playing on a base PS4 I was surprised I didn't experience too many technical issues (the normal frame rate drops and such) throughout my adventure. My final special mention has to go to the fast travel: 2 - 5 seconds to load into another spot in this beautiful open world means, for once, it's viable as a way to just hop back if you think you might have missed something, and it often loaded much faster than I could read the tips. It just lacks that final bit of polish, and I feel like it could have done with a few more months in the oven. An example of this was with how Jin's feet, when, walking up a hill, regularly would disappear into the ground, or the usual open world jank where quests don't pick up on you clearing an area or doing what was asked. On the other hand, though, being able to run with NPC's from one area to the next for a quest was a great way to immerse yourself in the world, and show every other open world developer how to do it right. Also, swiping right on the touchpad to wipe your blade clean? Has there been a greater dopamine release this year? 

The main story starts out with some shaky pacing, but is otherwise great at the best of times, and a solid Samurai story at the worst, but the real strength here lies within the side quest storylines, sword combat (easily the best I've experienced), secrets, stellar soundtrack written and composed by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi which I still listen to regularly (Sacrifice of Tradition is my favourite), and the absolutely gorgeous open world. Obligatory spoiler tag filled with only a small selection of the 1000+ photos I ended up taking (I've just thrown tweets in there from my gaming Twitter account so it's easier to look through, but I will warn you, there's still a lot in there!), and a quick shout out to recognise how great a decision it was having Photo Mode mapped to the D-pad by default:

Spoiler

 

There's a lot of respect for Japanese culture and samurai cinema on show, and judging from the reactions over there, I'd guess that the feel is mutual. I have never cared about an open world so much, there's just so much life and vibrance to it all, despite it being quite dark and serious throughout. It didn't pull any punches, and I think that's important, because it didn't shy away from the brutality of war, and sugarcoat it like so many forms of entertainment do. 

It's an unpolished masterpiece of a game, one I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in, and remains one of my favourite open world experiences to date, and perhaps one of my favourite games of the generation. Kudos, Sucker Punch, you knocked it out of the park. 

 

AUGUST

SUPER MARIO BROS. | 1985

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I don't play many platformers, but I do genuinely want to play more of them; I even made a thread back in August asking for recommendations, in which many here pointed me in a good direction on which platformers to check out. 

But, well, what better place to start with platformers than with Super Mario Bros.

This game is still inherently fun to play three and a half decades since its initial release, with its whacky, timeless character designs; charming and instantly recognisable 8-bit soundtrack by the awesome Yoji Kondo; and, of course, that trademark, tightly refined Mario platforming. It's rare that I play shorter games, which is a shame, because I loved beating this in one sitting over the course of a few hours on a relaxed, sun-filled August evening, and for the most part, I really think it holds up well. 

I think my favourite world is probably World 3, simply because of how fresh everything still is, and almost every level introducing something new (as far as I can remember). 3-1 admittedly gave me a bit of trouble, with a lot of Flying Green Koopa Troopas about, the introduction of the Hammer Bros. (though, in fairness, I didn't find myself falling to them!), and a trampoline which might have sent me flying off a cliff to my imminent doom (guess Peach wasn't getting saved on that day, huh?). 3-2 was the first time I got a Super Star, which put a huge smile on my face; 3-3 introduces pulleys, and your platforming skills are tested a bit further with the moving platforms; and 3-4 introduces those jumping fire balls. Oh, those are fun. 

Now, there are some things which I'm not the biggest fan of: namely the fearless Cheep Cheeps, whose intimidation as a species know no bounds. 2-3 is great when things go smoothly, and you're running and hopping around like a maniac...but not so great when you want to take those fish, barbecue them, grind them up, and feed them to their kids. Screw Cheep Cheeps. How easy the Bowser battles are when compared with some of the other enemies is a bit odd, too? The water levels are mostly quite enjoyable in the earlier parts, until it devolves into praying a Blooper doesn't decide to head your way after you are chased into a corner by them, in the later stages of the game. Probably why World 7 would be my last favourite, and while I think World 8 on the whole is much stronger in its consistency of challenge (and the fun in doing so), 8-4 is definitely the most archaic element of this game playing it today: it depends on trial and error throughout when trying to figure out a way through, and even though modern versions of the same idea, the lack of an audio or visual cue to hint that you're going the right way is a bit of a letdown. 

But, in the end, it doesn't really matter. This game was fun and a great time, even if it does date itself a little at times. Looking forward to playing more 2D Mario games in the future! 

 

YAKUZA 4 | 2010

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Splendid game, though there's not much to say without me gushing about the usual Yakuza stuff :laughing: to keep it brief, I think Yakuza 4 is a worthy continuation of the series with how it ties many things together, and also a great way to carry on from 3, doing so much more I feel than previous games. It's especially amazing when considering they ended up splitting a similar total length for the main story (about 20-22 hours?) across four different playable characters when compared with the three entries released prior to this one. Akiyama and Saejima stole the show for me, and it has probably my favourite first half of any Yakuza game I've played so far because of them. The plot is much more focused than in previous games, doing so much to further the backstories of characters like Majima too. Solid soundtrack as always, many, many, many fun side activities and quests to lose yourself in, and a great evolution in combat from 3 - it honestly handles just like 0 and Kiwami, astounding considering that 3 was so sluggish by comparison. The finale definitely runs a bit long in the tooth, but other than that, it's a great game, with a great story, with great characters. 

Play these games if you haven't already!

 

SEPTEMBER

FINAL FANTASY IX | 2000

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Final Fantasy IX is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and life. It's an epic story with a wonderfully endearing and nuanced cast, breathed into life by a spectacular Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack which by its end brought me to tears.

It's arguably his best and most emotionally resonant work, which is high praise considering just how true that is for so many of his other works, too. I could reel off every track in the game and have zero regrets, because it really is just that great. In particular, it has my favourite town themes of any Final Fantasy I've played so far; introduces a great variation of the Main Theme, which we've heard time and time again since; utilises a singular leitmotif perhaps more than in any other Final Fantasy game I've played, with the main melody of Melodies of Life (which is probably easiest to recognise in the world map track, Crossing Those Hills) heard in probably more than a third of the tracks used in the game; the use of the Prelude and how it is distorted into this much darker track in Crystal World; Kuja's Theme being a sinister track - not too far in its makeup I feel than One Winged Angel - and then going full on We Will Rock You! in Dark Messenger; probably my favourite airship theme in Hilda Garde; and, of course, Melodies of Life in the credits, the song which brought me to tears. I genuinely think that it's one of the most beautifully written, composed, and sung songs I've ever heard - I'm even listening it to again now, and I find myself welling up again, it's just one of those rare songs which begs to be felt rather than listened to. And, as always, I found myself in the dark just soaking it all in as the Prelude played after completing the game. 

This game is the epitome of everything a Final Fantasy game should aspire to be, in my opinion. It's charming, fun to play yet difficult to master, and pays homage to earlier entries in the series in such great ways. For me, without question, it's on the same level as both VI and VII. 

It doesn't hesitate to explore humanity in a way few games do, with deep attention clearly paid by the developers to the player and their emotions as the game and certain scenes play out, often asking players to do more than just play the game. It wants you to slow down and just think about what it's trying to say, and what it's asking of you. What does it mean to have lived?

It wants you to aspire to be a better person. And it succeeds. 

 

SUPER MARIO 64 | 1996

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It kind of feels like cheating, but...I've already written up my thoughts on Super Mario 64 in the 3D All-Stars thread, so I'm just going to copy that :p 

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This game is a classic, and even as a first time player nearly 25 years after the game's initial release back on the N64, I could still get an overwhelming sense of just how special this game is: charming and (mostly!) upbeat soundtrack, diverse and masterful course design, and this great sense of exploration all come together into this great game which stands the test of time to this day. Mario himself controls just as tightly as you could want him to, even by modern standards, which is a feat I'm still astonished by after finishing the game.

I feel like a large part of this game's timelessness comes down to just how sprawling some of these areas are, in every direction. You have the wide grassy fields of Bob-omb Battlefield to test and acclimatise your skills and power over the controls, the sweeping depths of Jolly Roger Bay (the water levels in this game are GOOD! I think that's the first time I've ever said that :p), and the heights of Whomp's Fortress and Cool, Cool Mountain to experience all of that in the earliest parts of this game. Grabbing Power Stars is a lot of fun, as is familiarising yourself with courses. I generally would at least get to the point where I got the Power Star awarded for collecting for the Red Coins in each course, just because it feels like a good test of your understanding of the course.

And Mario's moveset perfectly complements that. You have the Backflip to get to new heights in tight spaces; the Triple Jump to audaciously flip over obstacles, and keep momentum; the Cartwheel Flip to sharply return to the direction you were running from, then flip over anything in your way; and - my favourite move in the game by far - the Long Jump to instantly thrust yourself through the air at a breakneck pace. Chaining these moves together and gaining some level of mastery over them instills a great sense of awe and accomplishment which feels great to this day. 

The way all of this is accessed is through Peach's Castle, which is an interesting enough place to explore, but my favourite part of Peach's Castle by far is jumping through paintings into new levels, and especially those ones when/where you enter the paintings having an actual impact on the course. It took me a few tries to notice when they were doing this, but once I did, I was honestly taken aback a bit, because it's such a simple thing which could easily go overlooked, yet has such a huge impact in that you can then influence courses once you have it figured out. The level design is fairly consistent in layout, mechanics, and theme, but almost all of them feel distinct, and so you end up with a great catalogue of courses to explore. It just feels so fresh to enter a new course, and even somewhat similar ones (such as Jolly Roger Bay and Dire Dire Docks, or Whomp's Fortress and Tall, Tall Mountain) are spaced far apart in a way that it stills manages to feel fresh. Throw the caps into the mix for good measure and each course feels so different to the next, I really enjoyed that aspect of it. 

All of this being said, my least favourite parts of the game - and those which I think have aged the worst - are those tighter spaces where you can't exhibit this mastery over jumping around and leaping long distances which I feel the stronger courses in the game offer consistently, because it is so difficult to control Mario in those scenarios when you have so little control over the camera. These tighter spaces also typically find themselves matching up with some puzzle platforming, and the camera just doesn't work with you on some occasions where in more modern games it would. It's definitely most noticeable in Tick Tock Clock I feel, which is a shame, because I enjoyed so much of what that level was trying to do (though I have to question why they didn't slow the music down when you slowed the mechanical components in the course...).

It's a shame, it really is my only biggest knock against this game as a first time player. The skill-based platforming far outclasses the puzzle-based platforming in my mind: in more open areas when traversing across narrow spaces (a small land bridge on Tall, Tall Mountain comes to mind) the camera sweeps in this organic way which perfectly matches the gameplay, and in those moments this game is unstoppable.

The only other thing which comes to mind is very minor, and that being forced out of a course after picking up a Star, but I know that's something Odyssey doesn't do. It's not really an issue now that I think about it, and at worst it just helps you familiarise yourself with the courses. 

I understand that this is a port, and that this game is a revered classic with a storied history and longstanding fan base (and as someone who wants to support game preservation and has been wanting to play this game for a long time, I'm glad I've finally got the chance to!), but something as simple as giving the option for more camera control and not having it switch between fixed angles would have modernised this game and done away with what is by far my biggest problem with it. I know that wouldn't have been an option on the N64, but it is now, and I don't think this is at all like the fixed camera angles of the older Metal Gear Solid games. Heck, default it to the classic camera by all means, but in a third-person 3D platformer being ported nearly 25 years after release, again, it would have fixed what is by far my biggest issue with the game; it's a rare occasion when even a remake might have been the answer to my problems. I would have been happy to continue to collecting Stars if not for the camera, but I'm still really happy with how much I enjoyed the game, and it's certainly not something I'll let sour my experience. I just hope Sunshine's camera will be better!  :p

But, not wanting to end on a sour note, I've got to mention some of my favourite moments in this game. Tall, Tall Mountain is easily my favourite course of the game, its variety of short and long horizontal areas while spiralling up this huge mountain is awesome. Even falling from way up in the course to near the bottom back at the start didn't feel too bad, because it was just so much fun to run around the course! I would say that discovering the underwater town in Wet-Dry World was one of my favourite moments, and collecting all 8 Red Coins to get that Power Star with some precise platforming was a whole load of fun. It was probably my favourite Power Star to get in the game. Getting frustrated for 30 minutes at being unable to get to the Star above the Thwomp in Tick Tock Clock wasn't so fun, but what was fun was taking a short break, and doing it first time when I got back. The most typical gaming thing of all! And lastly, getting to the spinning platform on Rainbow Ride for the second time after not figuring out how to get to the Tricky Triangles area, and taking this enormous Long Jump of faith across the course and landing felt so good. Getting over there and immediately realising that I just couldn't see the path over because of the draw distance from where you start? Certainly gave me a chuckle! :laughing:

There is so much charm, and fun, and game to this video game. I had such a great time with it, and camera issues aside, it's a timeless classic with movement for Mario which I'm sure would make most other 3D platformers - both modern and of the era - blush. 

 

MAFIA: DEFINITIVE EDITION | 2020

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Mafia: Definitive Edition is such a strange game. Developed by Hangar 13, it's a remake of the 2002 cult classic Mafia, with all of the flaws and shine modern remakes seem to have. 

Set in the fictional city of Lost Heaven in the 1930's, it follows the rise of American-Italian Tommy Angelo in the Salieri crime family. The story itself is an intriguing one which keeps you hooked, even if it is a bit derivative at times of other works in the mafia genre, and I do sincerely feel it is stronger than Mafia II (which I played earlier this year) in this regard. How it links tothat game is pretty awesome, too, and the setting and era are stunningly captured, with the entire city rebuilt from the ground up from the original game, as well as an onslaught of licensed music from the time, which can be listened to on the car radio. Speaking of which, the orchestrated soundtrack, and the Main Theme in particular, is very strong too. 

But this was a budget title, and so it felt like there was always going to be a catch, especially looking back at Mafia II. And that catch is simply put: the moment-to-moment gameplay just isn't fun, once again. Characters outside of the main trio feel like shallow caricatures of what they should be, the gunplay isn't all that exciting. In fact, the most fun I had was an incredbily short racing segment of the game, which for some silly reason, in an open world, you never get the chance to return to. While, yes, I was playing on a base PS4 at the time, even outside of the screen-tearing, framerate issues, and texture pop-in, other issues, such as getting caught on environments, were very much in my face. 

While it's stronger than Mafia II, and I've yet to play Mafia III, Mafia: Definitive Edition ends up a stunning recreation of 1930's Chicago, and not much more. 

 

OCTOBER

MARVEL'S SPIDER-MAN | 2018

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In preparation for Miles Morales, and knowing I wanted to hop right into that game as soon as I got my PS5 in November instead of playing through the remaster, I booted Spider-Man up on my PS4. This time around, instead of aiming to complete everything in the main game like I had before, I was instead just going to critical path the main story, and then dig into the DLC The City That Never Sleeps, as I had bought it on offer a while back but just never got around to it. I also wanted to get my trophy percentage for the game back to 100%, as the New Game+ and DLC trophies meant it had slipped to 62%.

This meant playing through the game on Ultimate difficulty, after having only played on Amazing (normal) before, and though it took one or two fights to get back into the swing of things, it was an absolute blast, and something I barely noticed after a couple of hours. The swinging and zipping across the roofs of New York in this game was better than I remembered, the story and characters are still well written, and the combat is so snappy, it was just an absolute delight returning to this game! Even parts of the game I wasn't a big fan of the first time around (playing as other characters in stealth missions) was much better this time around, I think because if you're only critical pathing the game, it's actually a decent change of pace, though this certainly wasn't the case when I was collecting everything on my first playthrough. I played through it entirely in the Raimi suit, which was so much fun, as it was the Spider-Man I grew up with alongside the 90's animated series. Yuri Lowenthal really nailed his portrayal of Spidey, because he genuinely sounds like Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield at times! Oh, and the music - the Main Theme in particular - remains as awesome a Spidey theme now as it was back at release. 

As for The City That Never Sleeps DLC, it continues the story with Black Cat and Yuri, in ways much bigger than I was genuinely expecting considering that this was post-release DLC. As in, some pretty major things go down! It also serves as a great bookend into Miles Morales, as Miles is constantly calling you throughout the DLC content. The DLC offers more collectibles (which I had to collect to get my trophies!) which really helped me get back into the swing ahead of Miles Morales, as well as a few boss fights, which are generally more difficult than in the main story, and the same can be said for the new enemy types introduced. Overall, a welcome addition to the game, which was absolutely worth checking out. 

Spoiler

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NOVEMBER

MARVEL'S SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES | 2020

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Spider-Man: Miles Morales doesn't do much to deviate from the foundation set in the previous game, instead continuing to focus on what the first game did so well. The combat additions, world traversal, and the addition of next-gen features in as Performance and Fidelity Modes (the latter meaning you can play with ray tracing and enhanced, crisp visuals, the latter offering a lower resolution but consistently smooth 60 fps) really does a great job of sprucing things up, especially with load times being as short as they are, too. Haptic feedback wasn't super noticeable, but the tension felt in the adaptive triggers certainly was, and I really enjoyed that addition. The newly introduced Venom attacks are really fun and snappy to use, and there are so many great set pieces throughout the game, and an excellent montage sequence too. I would argue the soundtrack is perhaps even stronger here than it was in the original game, just because of the sheer variety; I think the best example of this is the use of trap beat throughout the soundtrack, specifically in the Main Theme, which also does an excellent job of utilising a choir and having a tremendous orchestra involved too, with some great triumphant moments which gave me goosebumps every time I heard them when swinging around. 

I was surprised by just how strong the cast was this time around, which has me hoping that some of these faces pop up again in Spider-Man 2 down the road. The game does a great job of communicating how new to this Miles is: there are a lot of moves and gadgets from the first game which just aren't available here, and the animations for his swinging add a lot to this side of his character, too. Spinning to look at you when he runs and jumps off a roof, or slamming his face into the ground if you're too late to swing out of some tricks, just does so much to establish the confidence and rookie nature of Miles in the game. Having the level cap be lower than half of the original game with Peter is an excellent way of communicating this too! 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: an excellent way to kick off this generation. This game was visually stunning, so much fun to play, and resonated me with emotionally a bit more than the original game did. Can't wait for Spider-Man 2!

Spoiler

 

 

ASTRO'S PLAYROOM | 2020

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Astro's Playroom is pure bliss, to the point that it's biggest problem is that it's as short as it is!

Incredibly fun soundtrack, Mario-like precision when it comes to movement, great level design, and just so much joy packed into this game. The references to a legacy of PlayStation hits throughout the years, the quips in the artefact viewer, and the way the bots interact with each other never struggled to put a smile on my face. And at the same time, it also does a brilliant job of capturing that Wii Sports-like showcase of what the controller is capable of; in the case of the DualSense, that means feeling the tippy-tapping of Astro's feet as he runs around, the pitter-patter of the rain, or the smoothness of gliding across the ice thanks to the haptic feedback, and some really fun uses of the adaptive triggers which I'll avoid spoiling here. 

Essential playing on the PS5, and I know many here agree. I can't wait to see what Asobi Team does next, and in any case, I seriously hope PlayStation hurry up and put out PSVR2, if only because I'm trying to not pick up PSVR just to play Astro Bot Rescue Mission!

 

DECEMBER

DEMON'S SOULS | 2009 / 2020

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Having never played a From Software game before, and being fully aware of their difficulty, I went into Demon's Souls fully convinced that I knew what I was getting myself into. Just stick with it, smile through the adversity, and it'll all be fine. 

I could not have been more wrong. This game kicked my ass, and just when I was on the brink of walking away - frustrated with myself, and the game, and haunted by its motifs and imagery of man's ability for evil - it all just clicked, and my entire outlook on the game changed. 

This is a hard video game, and I genuinely do think that. You will more than likely die in the tutorial area; souls, the currency of the world of Boletaria after being covered in a thick fog and left in a cursed state, can be lost temporarily if you find yourself killed (which leaves you in soul form, knocked down to 50% of your health, and having to begin from the start of the level, having to face all of the adversity found in a level once again), and lost permanently if you don't get back to and retrieve them with your next life; enemies hit hard, bosses hit harder; and traps, pitfalls, and enemies lurk around most corners. 

It punishes players who don't respect the game and their adversaries, and having not played a From game before, it definitely took some time to adjust, and a lot of deaths to get to grips with so much of it. But it's not difficult in a way which is unfair; instead, I think it's a lesson in being proactively patient. Absolutely don't stand still, but wait to strike, and strike hard when you do. The sense of accomplishment I felt when felling Tower Knight, or the adrenaline pumping through me when taking on Flamelurker to the point I almost threw up, or even just knowing exactly when and where I needed to be when sprinting across the bridges of Boletaria Castle to avoid being burned alive by the Red Dragon, it's something I can genuinely say I haven't felt playing a game before. This game terrified me at times, in its imagery and depiction of a world turned by man's cruelty, and yet I still loved it. That genuinely says a lot. 

The subtle story, the Shadow of the Colossus-like scale and melancholy, the interactivity with the world and NPC's, the level design, the reward in going off the beaten path to find an NPC or make yourself a shortcut, it's really, really well done. There's a heft to character movement and combat which forces your hand into learning your character through and through: how many hits they can take from certain enemies, how much damage they can do to certain enemies and how many hits it will take to take them down, the reaction time for dodge rolls, enemy attack patterns, the best way to parry or back stab them, the range of ranged attacks. Then it's the same for enemies, bosses, and the environment itself. 

Now, this 2020 version of the game released for PS5 isn't perfect. While Bluepoint has done an excellent job at bringing the game up to speed with modern visuals, layering this over code which is a decade old shows at times, such as when enemies can strike you through walls or, in one case during a boss fight, where I was hit through the floor. I don't think it's a coincidence that it was at that boss that I nearly found myself quitting the game. And one particular boss, the Old Monk, is just as potentially unenjoyable played in the "proper way" as it would have been in the PS3 version (not faulting Bluepoint here for staying honest to the original game, but do think it's something From overlooked to some extent in designing the game originally).

Having listened to the original soundtrack for the PS3 game and comparing it to the new soundtrack for this release, I can certainly see and appreciate the argument from some fans that the soundtrack is weaker this time around, as everything feels substantially more epic - way more choir, a much higher orchestra volume in contrast - which in some locations, I feel, actually altered the atmosphere, and didn't quite capture what the original game was going for. But, that's not a serious issue for me, and I think that Shunsuke's Kida's compositions for the original game, and his work helping on this version's soundtrack, are nothing short of brilliant. Environments and music bleed together in a way which oftentimes feels overwhelming in intensity or malice, and these tracks are purposely designed to not sound good. They sound ugly, in many cases, which just adds so much to the despair you encounter through your journey in Boletaria. Standout tracks for me are the Main Theme, Maiden Astraea, Flamelurker, Old King Allant (basically the most epic version of Demon's Souls in the game), and The Old One. Return to Slumber, the credits track, certainly lends itself to the feeling of a melancholic victory, a feeling of hollowness, but is also, perhaps, the only slightest hint of hope and light in the game; it's easily my favourite track. It's such a tragic piece at the beginning, but the way in which it climbs upwards starting from 01:50 is divine. 

It floors me that Demon's Souls is the only video game credit to Kida's name, and that his list of work elsewhere is relatively short, because his compositions are perfectly matched to this game, and his talent is clear. 

Ultimately, challenging as it can be to get to grips with, Demon's Souls - the story, the soundtrack, the game - is a reflection on man's ability to pursue and persevere unrelentlessly, bouncing back in the face of adversity and cruelty to go another round, and the feeling of overcoming what once stood before you as some insurmountable challenge is such an empowering one. This has been one of my favourite gaming experiences of the year, and I look forward to trying, dying, and trying again in Dark Souls in the future.

 

Now that my Gaming Diary for 2020 is finally up-to-date - and complete! - I can share my final list of games completed in 2020, and I also want to reflect on how I did with my aims I set for myself gaming at the start of the year. 

Spoiler

January

1. Titanfall 2

2. Chrono Trigger

February

3. Yakuza Kiwami

4. Yakuza Kiwami 2

March

5. Final Fantasy VI

April

6. Final Fantasy VII Remake

7. Metal Gear Solid

8. Mafia II

9. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

May

10. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

11. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (+ Jedi Temple, Tatooine, and Hoth DLC)

12. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (+ Endor DLC)

13. Valkyria Chronicles

14. A Way Out

15. The Last of Us

16. Yakuza 3

June

17. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

18. The Last of Us Part II

July

19. Barman: Arkham Asylum

20. Ghost of Tsushima

August

21. Super Mario Bros. 

22. Yakuza 4

September

23. Final Fantasy IX

24. Super Mario 64

25. Mafia: Definitive Edition

October

26. Marvel's Spider-Man (+ The City That Never Sleeps DLC)

November

27. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales

28. Astro's Playroom

December

29. Uncharted 4

30. Demon's Souls

And that's not counting any 'ongoing' games I had, such as Animal Crossing, which I spent over 50 hours with; Fall Guys, which I spent around 15 hours with; and FIFA and GTA V, which I'm not even going to look at how many hours I spent with :laughing: overall, though, by a longshot, the most games I've played in a single year. Looking back at my original aims for gaming at the beginning of the year...

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- Continue my Final Fantasy adventure - my first and only Final Fantasy adventure ended nearly two years ago in Final Fantasy VII, easily one of my favourite games to date. While my FF conquest has been on pause, I've since picked up both Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX on sale for PS4, but mostly I've been waiting for Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI to come to modern consoles. Ideally I would love to play Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX this year, however, given that the former is yet to come to modern consoles, I think it's more realistic that I will be playing Final Fantasy IX and then picking up Final Fantasy X and playing through both of them at some point this year. 

Well, I played both Final Fantasy VI and IX, which I ideally wanted to play through from Final Fantasy in 2020. So that one went well!

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- Continue my Dragon Quest adventure - invested over 100 hours into Dragon Quest XI on PS4 over a year ago, and absolutely adored it. Going to continue my DQ adventure by picking up where I left off some 20 hours or so into Dragon Quest VIII on my 3DS, which I loved, but put on hold for my first Chrono Trigger playthrough – don't worry, even though it's been a while, I actually remember most of the story as I started my Metal Slime hunt very early into the game once I figured out what was going on with the overworld monster refreshing, so I hadn't actually made that much progress into the story. Alongside that, I would also like to pick up and play either Dragon Quest IV or Dragon Quest V on DS - I've heard great things about both, and they sound like wildly different adventures, so I'm curious to see which one I'll end up choosing! 

I didn't play a Dragon Quest this year...

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- Continue my Zelda adventure - following something I'll mention below, I want to continue my Zelda adventure. I have Ocarina of Time on 3DS, and have bought A Link to the Past on 3DS previously, but seeing as it's now available on Switch through the SNES app, I might just play it there instead. Dabbled with both previously, but didn't get very close to completing either of them. I want to try to get through both!

Didn't do this one either... :blank: 

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- Continue my Yakuza adventure - after playing Yakuza 0 a few months ago for the first time, I picked up Kiwami and Kiwami 2. Whilst I'm aware that the Remastered Collection including 3, 4 and 5 releases next month, I want to take my time with these games and spread them out, so my aim is to at least get through those next two installments by year's end.

Kind of went above and beyond on this one! I ended up playing Kiwami, Kiwami 2, 3, and 4 throughout the course of the year. I don't think I'll have any troubles continuing that this year, either :p 

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- Play The Last of Us - picked this up a couple of months ago on eBay to avoid picking up the not-so-great looking PlayStation Hits case. Had it on my radar since forever ago, and with Part II coming out this year, and after having completed the Uncharted Collection back in 2018, I think I'm finally ready for my next dose of Naughty Dog in the coming months.

Done. Loved it. It's now one of my favourite games of all time. 

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- Play more indie games - I love indie games: they're often short, quirky escapes with interesting ideas to bring to the table. I really need to play some more of them this year. 

I feel like this one's the worst, because I didn't get to a single indie game this year... :blank:

Think my only aim for 2021 is to play some shorter games too, which will probably help me get to some indie games and platformers I've had sitting on my console for a while. That and posting to the Gaming Diary thread more regularly to the point where I don't feel overwhelmed by catching up, I might start forcing myself to write something up after every or every other game! But at least I'm all caught up for now :D

Edited by Julius
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So, uh, I just realised that I somehow completely missed another game I played in December: Uncharted 4. Probably because of the mess that was the Cyberpunk launch and everything else going on immediately following me completing it, but yikes :blank: 

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In short: visually stunning, great music, though the story really, really took its sweet time getting it's hooks into me. Once a certain character makes her appearance in the second half it got so much better, and I really think Nate played off better against her and Sully than he did any of the other characters in the game. The chemistry and the pain of their relationship really comes across well, and I felt both of their frustrations throughout, it was really well performed. I wish we spent more time with them in this game. But hey, at least the ending comes together in a solid way once they turn up.

Favourite scene in the game without a doubt is...

Spoiler

The Jeep ride with Elena on the way to New Devon. 

Taking a moment to breathe like this is one of my favourite things in narrative driven games. Similar vibes to Snake Eater's ladder scene.

People like to point at the Last of Us games for stale and repetitive gunplay...yet I think Uncharted is almost objectively worse when it comes to it. The AI can be temperamental at best, getting wiped out by you with ease in one firefight and easily surrounding you the next. In the end, I just threw the difficulty down because I was far more interested in the story by the second half than I was the gameplay, which is something I've never done before. 

It's not Naughty Dog's best in my eyes, but I definitely don't think it's there worst modern game, either. In terms of their Uncharted offerings, I'd slot it in a peg or two below Uncharted 2, probably on an even keel with Uncharted 3. And it's still definitely worth playing, just to see how it all wraps up. 

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Posted (edited)

It might not be 2020 anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it’s too late for me to play catchup.  So here we go!

A Link to The Past/Super Metroid Randomiser

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Why not both!

 

@Glen-i and I finally played through this masterpiece of a smooshing of masterpieces! And it was AMAZING!

This is our game of the year (if indeed it was eligible for such an award), and was an absolute riot from start to finish!  It’s one of those fever dreams that you couldn’t imagine actually working on real hardware for real, and yet it does! It’s Magic!

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Way better than a crappy level 1 sword!

 

So how does this insane mashup actually work in practice? I’m glad you asked! Depending on the ruleset you choose in the randomiser, you are tasked with completing both games (i.e, Kill Ganon and Kill Mother Brain), and all of the items in both games are spread across Hyrule AND Zebes.  This means that you could find a set of Super Missiles in ALTTP’s Eastern Palace, or Link’s sword in the depths of Norfair (This actually happened to us, meaning that we spent a good chunk of Link’s adventure with no sword!).  Specific rooms in Zebes and Hyrule become warps that act as a link between worlds, and saves can be made in either game (both games are saved simultaneously; making the experience seamless).

 

There is an incredible amount of customisation available to you when setting up the randomiser, and the settings allow for a seed that does not require glitches or any advanced speedrunner tech; making the game very approachable to anyone who is familiar with both games.

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Not gonna lie, would rather have gotten the High-Jump Boots here

 

This turns both games into a huge scavenger hunt, where you desperately search for anything that will allow you to get past each game’s respective roadblocks.  It’s a test of your knowledge of both games and a test of your ingenuity in figuring out ways to get past enemies and parts of each game without the items that you would normally have at that point in the game.

Massive amounts of fun and laughs were had, as we struggled to find anything that would help us, and as we desperately made use of bushes and pots to kill enemies in ALTTP!  Cheers were had when we found Samus’s Speedbooster & Wave Beam, and cries of despondence had when we found yet another set of 5 rupees after killing Kraid!

Absolutely massive fun all the way through.  If you ever get the opportunity to play this? DO IT!

 

Metroid Prime: Randomiser (Gamecube version)

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Hot off the heels of the ALTTP/SM randomiser, I jumped into the Metroid Prime Randomiser!  Like with the previous randomiser, there’s a large variety of settings that you can tinker with to tailor the experience to your liking; making this randomiser pretty approachable for most people familiar with the original game.

 

First item I got was the Plasma Beam, that was nice!

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No kidding Olivia!

 

Hilariously, the second item I found was the Grapple Beam… but it was at the top of the upper platform in the main area of Chozo Ruins, tantalisingly out of reach for most of the game…

 

The Phazon suit followed shortly after, followed by missiles (conveniently placed in the place that you normally get them… is this even randomised!?).  Of course, the Varia Suit would be one of the last things I would end up getting, necessitating a Hell Run through Magmoor Caverns to progress through the game.

 

One particularly hilarious moment occurred when I went in to get the item that occupied the space that the Ice Beam normally takes up… (It turned out to be a set of missiles), when I forgot that the game ends up locking the white coloured door as soon as you get the “Ice Beam”… Making it impossible to escape the room! (Remember kids… Save often.  Save your sanity!).

 

Unlike with the ALTTP/SM randomiser, it turns out that Metroid Prime isn’t as kind with randomisation, as it turns out that there are lots of places you can get softlocked; especially before you get the morph ball Bombs (You REALLY start to miss the Spring Ball here as you get permanently stuck in crevices and holes without the Bombs you need to get you out of them!).  Bit unfortunate, but it’s all part of the fun; so long as you have a bit of patience for experimentation and failure.

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It’s not as easy as Wario makes it look

 

Overall it was a real fun time.  It’s not as polished an experience as the incredible ALTTP/SM randomiser, but it does a great job of making a game you’ve played to death feel fresh and new again!

 

Soul Blazer

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Soul Blazer is Actraiser 2 (the REAL Actraiser 2; not that trash bearing Actraiser’s name!); I mean this both figuratively and literally.

The gameplay structure is remarkably similar; as it is split between action stages and city-building ish sections.  However, each portion of the gameplay isn’t hard demarcated like they are in Actraiser; but rather you will find that parts of the town will reappear as you progress through the action stages, and you have to jump back and forth between the two in order to complete each action stage.
Thematically, Soul Blazer is also remarkably similar to its forebearer.  You are basically a messenger of God who is tasked with descending from the heavens to purify each portion of the world, by exorcising demons and restoring the populace of each town (If you’ve ever played Actraiser, you could easily be fooled into thinking that I’ve just described that game!).

Of course, unlike Actraiser, Soul Blazer features a top-down perspective; with core action gameplay that is more reminiscent of Ys, but with the sword swinging combat of 2D Zelda.  The combat gameplay feels good, if a bit clunky in places; not that dissimilar from the early Ys games.  The town gameplay follows your typical RPG gameplay of talking to townsfolk and solving puzzles/fetch quests etc.  While the core gameplay loop is fun, it does become very repetitive very quickly; with not all that much variety found between stages.  
Actraiser had varied & interesting action stages, with increasing complexity & hazards introduced into the simulation gameplay; however, Soul Blazer ends up feeling a bit one note all throughout.

One part of Soul Blazer that stands out though is the surprisingly good localisation! Well beyond the standard that you would expect from 1992; with a script that put the likes of Squaresoft to absolute shame.

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Good Plan

 

There’s a sense of levity and weirdness that permeates throughout the game too.  Despite the gameplay feeling somewhat repetitive, I still found myself enjoying going to each new town and seeing the weird characters and little vignettes that each place offered.

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Don’t have to put up with your husband’s rambling? That’s every wife’s dream!

 

Overall, you can tell that this game was developed on a smaller budget than Actraiser; clearly reusing its engine and art assets (hilariously, the little 7 year old boy you play as makes the same manly grunting sounds as The Master from Actraiser!).  As a result, the gameplay doesn’t feel as fleshed out and polished as its predecessor, but I still enjoyed my time with the game.  If you ever get round to playing it? I’d recommend playing it in short bursts to reduce the feeling of repetition.

 

Metroid Zero Mission: Randomiser

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I was in a Metroid mood and decided to jump straight into the MZM randomiser after Metroid Prime.

 

I’m sure you all know the score by now about how these randomisers work… however, I was not prepared for just how strict the scripting is with this game.  Unfortunately, Zero Mission doesn’t play as nicely with randomisation as I was expecting; as scripting still plays out as it does in the vanilla game.  As a result, randomisation can make for a frustrating experience, as it becomes very difficult to make progress without resorting to advanced tricks.  Particularly, navigation can be infuriating without the Power Grip; which I didn’t get until well into the run.

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Oh how I wish that was my first item…

 

There’s also a very nasty softlock that can completely ruin your save file if you decide to venture into Chozodia early (which you can do as soon as you get the Power Bombs).  Go there without your regular bomb and you cannot leave unless you are lucky enough to find them.  Save your game here and aren’t lucky enough to find them? You’re completely stuffed and are left with no choice but to re-roll the seed and start over.

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Figuratively, this was my experience with the MZM randomiser

 

Overall, this was a harsh lesson that taught me that not every game is well suited to randomisation.

 

Donkey Kong Country: Pacifist Mode

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This is a dumb mod of Donkey Kong Country where you are not allowed to kill any enemies.  If you harm any Kremlings? You get hurt instead!

This was surprisingly fun! Considering how the game really encourages you to kill baddies, especially to gain speed? This mod actively encourages you to play in a very different way to your regular garden variety DKC!

But wait, I hear you say.  How the hell do you get past the bosses? Surely you still have to kill them? Right!?

 

WRONG!

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Shouldn’t have tried jumping on him, you gnawty monkey!

Every boss has been turned into a timed survival challenge, where you simply have to survive for an allotted time; by which, the boss will simply just get fed up and give up.  It’s simple and effective.

Anyway, it’s dumb, it’s really funny, and it’s a fun way to replay DKC in a bit of a different way.

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You monster

 

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Randomiser

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Me and @Glen-i played through this randomiser masterpiece earlier on this year; and you can get a detailed breakdown of our experience with it in his previous post here.

Ocarina of Time makes for a fantastic randomiser game! This randomiser is extremely mature and features a huge bevy of options, married with highly polished logic, dialogue manipulation (Gossip Stones have been repurposed to provide hints to item locations, making the Mask of Truth actually really useful!) and some fantastic QoL additions, including permanent mapping of the Ocarina and the Iron/Hover Boots to the D-Pad (ALA OoT 3D!) as well as fast block pushing & climbing!  They even managed to combine vanilla OoT with OoT Master Quest dungeons! It’s a shockingly well made randomiser that completely transforms the way you play the game!

 

All of the various cutscenes & scripting are manipulated in fantastic ways that play into the way that items are randomised; you’ll find yourself purposely finding ways to trigger specific cutscenes in order to get items that are normally associated with them.  You will find yourself scrounging for every possible way to break the game that you can think of in order to find more items that allow you to make progress.  You’ll laugh and cry as you find yet another single green rupee in a Big Chest!

 

Absolutely amazing experience, loved every moment! :D 

 

Paper Mario: The Origami King

 

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Click me to see my review on the main site

 

Shantae & The Seven Sirens

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Click me to see my review on the main site

 

Advance Wars (Normal & Advance Campaign)

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I love Advance Wars.  You love Advance Wars.  We all love Advance Wars.

 

Quite possibly the best GBA game, topped only perhaps by its own sequel, the series’ western debut blew the doors open for turn based strategy fans.  No other series quite manages to marry the complexity of a strategy game with such accessibility and charm.  This game is pure digital crack, and does for the GBA, what Tetris did for the original Gameboy.

The map design is exquisite, the music is outstanding, the gameplay (mostly) well balanced, the strategic gameplay both fast & snappy and oceans deep, the cartoony visuals super charming and the dialogue hilarious and lovable.  It’s just such a complete package, and such a ridiculously tremendous leap over Super Famicom Wars (to the point that it literally includes the entirety of SFW’s maps as bonus content!) that I am happy to point to this and its sequel as the definitive GBA experience.

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Fair statement there Sami

 

It had been a good few years since I last played the game, so I went ahead and completed both the standard AND the Advance campaigns.  Oh man… I completely forgot just how much of a crazy difficulty spike the Advance campaign really is! The standard campaign ends up just feeling like an extended tutorial by comparison!  Each map becomes an absolute war of attrition, with just the smallest of changes (be it the introduction of Fog of War, or the addition of a few more units on the enemy side); it really is a testament to just how deep the core gameplay is, and how well designed each map is, that such small tweaks (on the surface) can make such an absolutely tremendous difference to the gameplay experience!

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If you can beat this guy? Consider yourself a tactical genius!

 

It was an absolute joy to go through this game again.  Though it is worth mentioning that it does suffer from some balance issues (Max in particular is ridiculously OP in this game!), that would go on to be rectified in the sequel (and perhaps made worse in the insane Everything & Kitchen Sink DS sequel), it is still an utterly superb strategy game.  Nintendo.  PLEASE bring this series back already!

 

New Super Mario Bros Wii

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Welcome to the best 2D Mario game ever made!

 

I’ve always maintained that NSMB Wii is the best 2D Mario game and after revisiting it? I stick by that statement.  No other Mario game before or since has managed to present such depth, variety, novelty and pacing with its level design as in NSMB Wii.  This game proves, more than any other Mario game, that quality level design is king when it comes to making a platform game.

This game was designed in response to people’s continued complaints that Nintendo’s games had become too easy; and in response to the lacklustre level design as seen in the original NSMB.  Miyamoto and Tezuka returned to the trenches to get stuck into designing the actual levels themselves and it really shows!  The pacing is absolutely pitch perfect, no part of this game feels like it drags on; not even the autoscrolling sections! (which is a real feat!).  Every single level introduces something new and novel to the series, while steadily building on what you have seen before.  And each level encourages equal parts exploration and white knuckle speedrunning.

 

Most importantly though? This game has bite!

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Welcome to level 1-3!

 

NSMB Wii does not piss about.  It is not afraid to kick your arse and it is not afraid to make you sweat!  It’s brill!  And it’s all thanks to the introduction of the industry changing Super Guide feature; the virtual equivalent of passing the controller to your older brother/sister to get you past “the hard bit” of each level.  Assist Modes are commonplace these days, but NSMB Wii was the first to do it!

I haven’t even touched upon the sublime 4 player mode, but I have to; even though I did this runthrough in single player.  Quite frankly, this game does not get the credit it deserves for being equally as fun in single player as in 4 player multiplayer; the sheer feat they accomplished with the level design to accommodate this, cannot be understated!

After playing through NSMB Wii again? Going back to NSMB U feels like a sad joke in comparison.  That game’s level design is fucking LIMP in comparison and the game is not even in the same league as its Wii predecessor.  The fact that people keep bigging up NSMB U as the superior game (purely because it runs in HD) drives me completely insane!

But yeah, rant over, back to NSMB Wii.  The gameplay physics are, of course, spot on as you’d expect from a Mario game.  But really, I need to bring up something that NSMB Wii introduced in particular; the absolutely amazing mid-air spin move! The sheer amount of gameplay depth this innocuous little move offers is absolutely unreal!  On the surface it seems really simple, it effectively just increases your air time, but the way it breaks your fall? Absolutely game changing! And the way that it hijacks a natural implication for novice players to jerk their controller in response to the game? What an absolutely genius addition! It is a massive tool for speedrunners and for just granting an extra level of control while playing.  I can’t sing its praises enough!

Revisiting the game though? I had forgotten just how cool the boss encounters are in this game! While they still follow the standard, simple formula of Mario bosses, they’re surprisingly novel and interesting; requiring you to think on your feet.  Mario bosses are usually nothing special, but the bosses here are a clear step up from the bosses in every other 2D Mario game, and it’s a shame that they never really matched the design of the Koopaling fights here ever again afterwards.

 

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Though Mario & Luigi seem more interested in the cake than the Koopalings to be honest

 

This is the best 2D Mario game, and replaying it only solidifies that in my mind.  Long live the Penguin Suit!

 

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Randomiser

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Here we go again! Another one that me and @Glen-i played through, and another one that we had an absolute riot of a time with!

@Glen-i has already provided a play-by-play breakdown of our experience with this seed here, but here’s a breakdown of just a few of my favourite moments from this run…

 

Being stuck without a sword and having no choice but to fight Bokoblins & Wizrobes on platforms by throwing pots at them!

Finally getting access into the Wind Temple… and not having any keys needed to get anywhere!

Getting the Mirror Shield right near the start of the game, getting excited and soon realising that we couldn’t actually really do anything with it!

Putting off going to the Forbidden Woods for as long as possible because we didn’t have a sword… meaning that being caught by morphs would be an instant softlock for us!

Finding the Light Arrows… allowing us to delete almost every enemy from existence!

Finding all five Tingle Statues before finding any sort of reliable weapon!

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Probably not worth buying…

 

Given that The Wind Waker is actually an open world game, it makes for an amazing randomiser experience! You are plonked onto a random island in the sea, with naught but a sail, and the entire world is opened up to you from the start (The game basically starts after the point where you have visited Hyrule for the first time).  Do whatever it takes to find the 8 pieces of the Triforce and the two Master Sword upgrades (along with other smaller items you need to get to Ganon), and off you go!

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DEFINITELY worth buying!

 

Just brilliant, brilliant fun! Sadly we had a few technical problems for a while, trying to get it up and running on a real Gamecube; but eventually we figured out a way to (mostly) stop the game from crashing on the ol’ Cube, and had an absolute blast! :D 

 

Conker: Live & Reloaded

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So I got my fancy shmancy shiny new Xbox Series X.  What’s the first thing I do with it? Why, I use it to play old tat of course!

I love Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but I had never actually fully played through the Xbox remake before.  I knew that lots of things had been changed & altered, and I was never a fan of the remade visuals.  So I was apprehensive going in, but also really curious to experience a favourite of mine in a wholly different light.

First thing that struck me is that, like the N64 original, the game is a technical masterpiece on the original Xbox.  The visuals hold up remarkably well in 4k and I could absolutely believe that it was an Xbox 360 game if I didn’t know better!

That being said though? I still don’t feel that the art befits Conker’s BFD at all.  I much prefer how the N64 original looks.  Half the point of Conker’s BFD was how it was supposed to represent a fairy tale gone bad, juxtaposing the bright, colourful & cartoony visuals with mature content.  With the switch to a more realistic style? That juxtaposition is lost; and its just not as funny & charming as the original as a result.

You probably already know about the censorship.  Yeah, it’s here, and it really sucks.  The worst part is that the additional censorship feels completely arbitrary, with seemingly random swear words bleeped out without rhyme or reason.  It does end up taking away from the comedy.  What’s even worse than that though is the changes made to the subtitles.  For some utterly bizarre reason, the developers decided to change the original text boxes (which were timed to match the voice clips) and replace the static speech bubbles with scrolling text; text that runs ahead of the voice clips and spoils the punchline before you hear it.  It sounds like a minor thing, but it really does spoil the comedic timing that made the original N64 game such a riot.

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Not gonna shit you, he’s completely ruined here

 

The gameplay changes also feel really arbitrary and utterly bizarre!  For some strange reason, the designers thought it would be a good idea to chuck in a load of these jerks (see below) absolutely everywhere throughout the game!

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Hi.  I’m here for no reason whatsoever

 

Combat was never a focus of Conker’s gameplay outside of boss battles & the It’s War chapter; so quite why these idiots are scattered all around the game now is absolutely beyond me!  They end up being really annoying and just slow down the pace of the game (especially since they’re all dispatched in exactly the same boring way and require SIX HITS to kill!).

There are also some other minor changes made here and there to the level design; mostly to make things easier (the infamous Worm section with the lighthouse in the main hub now has extensions to the cliff that make them trivial to get around now, for instance).  The original game was notorious for being pretty bloody hard, so your opinion of these changes will likely vary.  Personally? I thought that the difficulty of the original game was just fine, and the difficulty spikes in service of the comedy; so naturally, I am not overly enthused by these changes really.

Other things just feel kinda arbitrary, like the Van Helsing costume in Spooky; which just ends up appearing randomly in a cutscene with no fanfare and then disappearing completely randomly at the end.  Or the removal of the Naughty/Nice sign in the opening cutscene; the game just has lots of weird, little changes like that.

However, that being said? It does still feel like Conker’s BFD at the end of the day.  Everything that was great about the gameplay of the original is still great here; and there’s even a few additions that are welcome, like the anus cam when you play as the bat (yes, really!).  Though I don’t feel that many of the changes made to this remake were ultimately for the better, the majority of what made the N64 original so beloved are still intact here.

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His bollocks are still big and still polished to the Nth degree

 

Overall? I walked away from this remake feeling like it is generally still Conker’s BFD, and that’s a very good thing.  It is undoubtedly the inferior version of the game, and I would never choose it over the N64 original, but it’s not a horrible version of the game and it was fun to re-experience the game in a fresh way.

 

Kameo: Elements of Power

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Like Conker Live & Reloaded, I had played this game before, but never to completion.  So here was my chance to rectify this shortfall.

Kameo gets off to a fantastic start, with a bombastic opening that has you storming a castle with a huge war going on around you.  For 2005? The visuals are stunning, the epic orchestral score sets an exciting tone and the gameplay appears varied & interesting; setting up strong expectations for an exciting Zelda esc action adventure.

This feeling does not last long however, as you are soon stripped of your abilities and lumbered with a sluggish start without much gameplay variety going on.  The pacing never really recovers from this point onwards unfortunately and the game ends up feeling like a bit of a slog throughout.

Kameo sports a lot of promising mechanics.  Each Elemental Warrior comes equipped with bespoke mechanics that make each of them feel unique.  Some are more combat focused than others, but all of the Elemental Warriors have both combat & puzzle related actions.  Likewise, the action adventure gameplay style brings forth images of Pokemon Meets Zelda and conjures all sorts of exciting gameplay possibilities.

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The Great Deku Tree is sporting a cool new hair doo

 

Sadly the level and enemy design never really brings out the best of the promising gameplay mechanics on offer however.  It’s overly linear, features very limited interactivity, lacks in meaningful exploration and feels confused when it does try to be more open.  The game is also woefully lacking in enemy variety, with the same set of trolls appearing from start to finish, and the few varieties that do appear never really end up taking full advantage of the full range of Elemental Warriors on offer.  The Elemental Warriors themselves also range from useful to awkward in combat; as a result, you will most likely just end up sticking with the same 2 or 3 throughout most of the game’s combat sequences, since the game never really encourages or rewards you for experimentation.  There are some great mechanics in place, but the game doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be; and doesn’t really know how to make the most of what it has here.

 

This confusion also extends to the game’s overall tone; which seems to want to be deathly serious, while also whimsical & fun.  Kameo: Elements of Power suffers from an identity crisis that really reflects its troubled & protracted development cycle; leaving you with shades of a promising game that never ends up coming together.  Its confused tone also robs the game of memorable characters, music and set pieces; as everything ends up devolving into a big gelatinous gloop.  It’s all very bombastic, but it just lacks substance.

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Gotta Catch ‘em All!

 

Overall, Kameo ends up being the perennial example of a completely average game.  It has exceptional elements, but they never really come together to make a great game because the underlying level, enemy combat and puzzle design is just not strong enough to make proper use of these mechanics.

 

Grabbed by the Ghoulies

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Now here’s a rare example of a Rare game I had never played before.  Of course, its reputation is pretty dire; constantly maligned as The Death of Rare Itself.  But just how true is this? Does it really deserve its poor reputation?


I’m not gonna waste your time too much here, I actually really enjoyed this game! But now allow me to waste your time with my thoughts on this little gem of a game.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a hilariously titled classic Beat ‘em Up.  Think Streets of Rage meets Luigi’s Mansion and you’re on the right lines.  It is a very simple game where you travel from room to room in an entirely linear fashion and beat the snot out of everything you find.  The control scheme however is pretty novel; eschewing your typical range of button controlled punches & kicks in favour of a directional auto combat system that is controlled instead with the right analog stick!  Your character has a range of punches, kicks, elbows and nad smashing moves that are activated with repeated combos activated by hitting the right stick in the direction of the ghoulie.  Sounds terrible on paper, but actually works very well in practice! The core gameplay is simple and approachable; and true, the core combat isn’t exactly what I would consider to be Bayonetta calibre in terms of depth.  But that’s not the game’s focus; instead, each room is about crowd control, and the simple controls make it easy to direct your attacks without a complicated targeting system.  It’s an elegant solution to a problem that plagued hack n’ slashers of the era.

What really sells the combat though is the excellent animation and sound design that makes each impact feel… impactful!  Kicking enemies while they’re down and watching them fly across the room never becomes anything less than hilarious, especially when coupled with a hilariously cartoonish scream, brilliantly voiced by drunken Rare staff members.

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Quite possibly, the best Skeleton Nad Kicking Simulator ever made

 

Now Beat ‘em Ups always tend to universally suffer from a lack of variety in the gameplay.  No matter how fun the basic action of wailing on foes might be? It’s not often that a Beat ‘em Up doesn’t run out of steam before the end and doesn’t suffer from inherently repetitive gameplay… Surprisingly, that’s not the case here with Ghoulies! There is an excellent variety of enemies, far more than your typical Beat ‘em Up (More than 20!), but that’s not what allows the game to buck the trend.  No, it is the Challenge system that is the real star of the show here!

Almost every single room you go into presents you with specific challenges that must be overcome before the door to the next room is opened up for you.  These can range from killing all the enemies, to killing only certain enemies, to not getting hit once, to having time limits to complete the room, to having to use certain weapons, and many more.  If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, you might be familiar with this concept, as that game had a similar idea with its Judge system (and both games came out within about 6 months of each other to boot! Who copied who I wonder…).  Failure to complete a specific challenge will summon The Reaper, who will spawn into the room, chase you down and will kill you instantly with a touch of his finger; so you really don’t want to fall afoul of him!

Now, on their own these challenges add some much needed spice to the core gameplay, but they offer so much more when the game starts combining challenges together!  Oh, and there’s even more variety to come…

 

… as it turns out, Ghoulies actually features an emergent gameplay system that is more than a little reminiscent of Hitman and Breath of the Wild! Yes, really! It has a surprisingly sophisticated enemy in-fighting system, a fire spreading system, and a variety of power up items and associated status effects that can be spread around and abused to skirt around the various challenge rules!

To take one of my favourite examples I came across… One room in particular had me faced with the following challenges…

Kill 10 enemies

Kill enemies by only using your bare hands

Kill enemies by only using weapons

 

Now, no doubt you’ve realised something.  This room is impossible to complete.  The latter two challenges directly contradict each other, and as such, hitting any enemy in any way will inevitably summon The Grim Reaper.  So what can we do here? The answer: Make the enemies accidentally hit each other, have them start in-fighting and have them kill each other for you!

Another favourite of mine? A simple challenge where you are tasked with killing just a single mummy, without killing any other Ghoulie in the room.  Sounds simple right? But no! Mummies are invincible unless you can set them on fire… but there is no fire in the room and no weapons or anything you can use to set them on fire in this room… All you have are your fists and a bunch of non-fiery weapons.  What can you do?

The answer? Purposely fail the challenge by killing the Skeleton in the room, summon The Reaper, have The Reaper follow you around the room with his finger pointed out to kill you and have him accidentally touch the Mummy to kill it! And yes, this actually worked!

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Don’t fear The Reaper if you know what you’re doing

 

This emergent gameplay system keeps the game feeling fresh all the way throughout its running time.  A truly Rare feat for a classic Beat ‘em Up!

Like you’d also expect from a classic Rare game, it’s also filled with fantastic Grant Kirkhope music and oodles of British humour.  From the slapstick enemies to Fiddlesworth’s fiddlerisms (Rub my Radish!), there’s no shortage of subtle innuendos and sniggers to be had throughout your time with the game.  The visuals have also aged incredibly well, translating marvellously to a full 1080p/60FPS presentation in the Rare Replay remaster!  If there’s anything to ding the game’s presentation for however? It’s the kind budget looking and sorta ropey cutscenes.  They’re all presented in el-cheapo comic book fashion with limited animation; but much like with Bayonetta 1&2 (which used a similar trick), the game manages to makes the most of the obviously limited budget with great use of the very limited animations that are afforded to it.

 

Beat em’ Ups were a tough sell in the early 2000s.  A relic of a bygone era; and surely the last thing that people were asking from Rare when they made their grand exodus from their former partners at Nintendo.  And make no mistake, this is most definitely a classic beat ‘em up; far from the grand adventures that Xbox owners were clamouring for from the studio that brought us Donkey Kong Country and Banjo Kazooie, as is proudly displayed on the box art.

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Cooper is terrified at the prospect of having to make the jump from Nintendo to Microsoft

 

I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this game.  It was a great time all the way through! I even went back and found all of the hidden Bonus Books!  It’s a very simple game that makes fantastic use of a small budget and lots of little great ideas.  In many ways, it’s the exact opposite of Kameo; while that game had all the budget in the world, it could never manage to rise above mediocrity because it just never managed to make use of what it had.  Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a fantastic example of how to make the most of very little, and is easily the best game that Rare ever made following the Microsoft buyout.  If it had released on the Gamecube back in the day? It would’ve been much more fondly remembered for what it is, instead of what it isn’t.

 

 

Phew! That was a LOT to get through! Bloody hell! That was half a Thesis!

So that’s 2020 all wrapped up now.  I’m now currently playing through NSMB2 (Nearly finished), Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light (About halfway through and am absolutely loving it so far!), Superman 64 (UGH!), Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon (UUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!), Hotel Mario (Way better than you think!) and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (AWWWWW YYYYYEEEEEAAAAAHHHH!!!!).  Hopefully I’ll be able to get out my thoughts on those a bit quicker than I managed with my 2020 games; so keep your eyes out on the 2021 thread!

And with that…

Spoiler

Castlevania Bloodlines – Lecarde Hard Mode

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Super Mario 64… Splitscreen Co-Op

Super Mario Land 2 DX

Super Mario Land DX

Banjo Kazooie

Pulseman

Shinobi (System 16)

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge

Donkey Kong 94

A Link to The Past/Super Metroid Randomiser

Metroid Prime: Randomiser (Gamecube version)

Soul Blazer

Metroid Zero Mission: Randomiser

Donkey Kong Country: Pacifist Mode

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Randomiser

Paper Mario: The Origami King

Shantae & The Seven Sirens

Advance Wars (Normal & Advance Campaign)

New Super Mario Bros Wii

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Randomiser

Conker: Live & Reloaded

Kameo: Elements of Power

Grabbed by the Ghoulies

 

Edited by Dcubed
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Posted (edited)

It's been 5,000 years, but I've finally written something about...

Dandara

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Yeah, that game I finished back in late October. How come it took me so long to mention it?... Maybe because I chose to do an official review for N-Europe.

That's right, no joke. I figured the game could do with more attention, whereas I should review something outside of its launch window. So please, take a look at my attempt at reviewing a slightly older title.

Edited by Jonnas
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