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Knack

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The gameplay feels like a NES-era game, but for all the wrong reasons. Your attacks feel delayed, there is a notable period of time when you can't move after a dodge and the homing attack knocks you back and stops you doing anything for ages, couple this with enemies that can kill you in a couple of hits and it's just frustrating, most deaths feel like they're not your fault and some of the checkpointing means you'll have to re-do fights constantly. The one good thing about combat is a good variety of enemies, but a fair few will probably kill you straight away and a few times until you figure out their trick (which doesn't feel satisfying, just makes the whole game feel like you're just re-doing the same segment over and over with the hope of getting lucky.

Everything outside of combat is very basic. There's some simple platforming, although with some very bad camera angles at the time. Knack will sometimes do the platforming in a little cutscene, which feels very pointless and means that some of the coolest moments are when you're not actually doing them (this is the same for bosses). There are some "puzzles", if you can call them puzzles, and exploration to find hidden stuff by smashing similar-looking holes in walls. 

The main mechanic - Knack collecting more relics and getting bigger - is extremely underutilised and is not a gameplay mechanic in the slightest. Sometimes relics will make you slightly bigger, sometimes they'll just fill your health and sometimes they'll cause a big increase. You have very little control over your size, it's all entirely down to what the level designers wanted you to be at that stage. This takes all the enjoyment out of the idea as it doesn't feel earnt, and then Knack will choose to get rid of parts in cutscenes and between levels (leaving behind a heap of these supposedly powerful objects behind as though they are meaningless). There are sections where you can absorb other items (like ice), but again, this is entirely when the game wants you to. There's no choosing some over the other, mixing types or anything like that, it just seems like a completely wasted idea.

It's kind of fascinating, because it's an absolutely terrible game, but is technically well made.

Rain

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Short but sweet. The idea is quite unique: you play as someone who is invisible, but can be seen out in the rain - the same is true with the enemies. You have no attacks, so you have to figure out how to get past (or run away) from the creatures you encounter. It has some interesting areas and some intriguing set pieces, it uses the fairly simple mechanics well in different ways.

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Three more games to add to the Completed pile!

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

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After finding myself listening to some wonderful Castlevania music I was thoroughly in the mood for some whiptastic action; and I wanted to play a Metroidvania CV game that I haven't played in some time... so COTM it was!

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was THE standout launch title for the GBA back when it was released back in 2001.  It was, by far, the most meaty and feature complete 32bit game that you could buy for your shiny new GBA on launch day, and as a result? It became the single best selling game in the entire series; selling over 1 million copies worldwide.

Interestingly, this game wasn't made by the same team that made Symphony of the Night (who would also go on to make every single subsequent Castlevania game for the GBA and DS), but rather it was made by Konami's Kobe studio; the same team that made the critically panned Castlevania 64 and its glorified expansion pack "sequel", Legacy of Darkness.  It would also have the rare honour of starring a vampire hunter who is NOT of the Belmont clan, Mr Nathan Graves.

Given these facts, COTM has gone on to be somewhat forgotten within the wider Castlevania pantheon; disavowed by series producer Igarashi and officially considered non-canon.  It also gets some harsh criticism by some of the series' most hardcore fans, widely considered one of the weaker Metroidvania Castlevania titles.  But is this criticism really fair?  Going back to it? I'd say... yes and no (but mostly no).

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Iga, is that you?

 

The first point of critcism, and perhaps the most obvious at a glance, is the rather basic visuals on offer here.  Even as a launch title for the GBA, it looks decidedly low-fi; almost like a Gameboy Colour+ game (Personally, I'm subscribed to the theory that this was originally a GBC game that was pushed back and upgraded for the GBA; it would certainly explain a hell of a lot about this game's production).  Another huge point of contention is the very dark colour pallette in use with this game, making it near impossible to actually play on an original model GBA.

Just for fun, here's a photo of me running the game on an original, unmodified GBA that I happen to have lying around feeling sorry for itself.  The photo is absolutely representitive of the original experience you would've had back on launch day (bare in mind, there were no other options back then! No GBAsp, no screen mods, no Gameboy Player, no Wii U Virtual Console; this was it!)

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Squint and you can just about make out something!

 

This game is half the reason why Nintendo hurried along to make the GBAsp.  It is dang near impossible to play on original, unmodified hardware and all of the jokes & criticism regarding its dark colour pallette are absolutely justified (again, hinting that it was originally designed for the GBC's brighter screen before getting ported over to the GBA...)

But it's 2021 now and I'm not playing it on this old, scratched up hunk o' junk anymore.  We have plenty of options for playing the game on modern backlit screens now, so this problem is a problem of the past now.  And though the visuals are quite simple and more reminiscient of the GBC than the GBA? they're generally pleasant on the eyes and get the job done.  A worthy sacrifice for having such a meaty & substantial exclusive game available on day 1 of a new console launch! And a 3rd party game no less!  How rare it is to see such a thing!

I'm gonna rustle some feathers here by saying this, but it's true.  COTM has better level design than SOTN; oh yes! I went there!

The map is not as large & expansive as in SOTN, and it doesn't have the same level of production values & variety of gimmicks; but it makes much better use of what it has than what SOTN does.  Rarely does any part of the map go to waste in COTM, no room ever leads to a total dead end, you don't have the myriad of flat corrodors with enemies haphazardly spewn about; and the game actually has some meaningful platforming challenges! (Especially in the clock tower!).  The game also does a great job of intuitively signposting its secrets; you can generally tell when you come across an area that has a breakable wall, just through the way the map is laid out.  That's the mark of good level design!

Another thing worthy of praise is the enemy & boss designs.  You get your standard assortment of Castlevania baddies of course (zombies, skeletons, medusa heads and the like), but you also get some unexpected enemy designs thrown throughout too; and the bosses are all generally really fun to fight; though I wouldn't say that any of them are amongst the series best (you're not getting anything like Gergoth or Brachyura here!)

One thing that is kinda disappointing though is the lack of meaningful permanant powerups that you aqquire throughout the game.  There are basically 4 major mobility powerups and the rest of the abilities you aqquire throughout the game are just glorified keys.  Not that interesting; but at least the movement abilities you do get are fun to use.  The game also generally has a very nice & brisk pace to it; Nathan runs fast (yes, runs! No power walking here!) and gets around the castle quickly.  Likewise, you only get the whip in this game and the standard assortment of subweapons as you'd typically see in the classic 2D Castlevania games; so your offensive options aren't particuilarily extensive (and the Cross is so ridiculously OP that there is basically no point in using any other subweapon at any point).

And so we come to this game's big main new gameplay gimmick.  The DSS system (Dual set-up System).  Basically, throughout the game you can collect special cards that imbue Nathan with various abilities.  There are two types of cards (Action & Attribute) that, when mixed together, have a variety of effects.  Say for example, you get the Salamander card (Attribute) and the Mercury (Action) cards, the Mercury card modifies your whip and the Salamander card is a fire elemental; so you get a fire whip when you use those two cards! Or you could get a Jupiter card (creates a shield and the Thunderbird card (lightning element) to have a lightning shield that reduces damage by 50%!

It's a neat idea and great on paper... unfortunately there's two really big problems with the DSS system...  First off, the drop rate for these cards is hilariously low! (card drops can be as low as 0.4%!!!); worse still? Only certain enemies carry these cards, and there is absolutely no way of knowing which enemy carries what card unless you're using an external guide.  There is a very good chance that you will go through the entire game and never get a single card; and even if you do? The game doesn't actually tell you what the card combinations do until you work it out for yourself! (And some of these combination abilities requre arcane Street Fighter esc moves to actually execute!  Good luck working them out on your own!)  You most likely wont ever actually get to experiment with the damn thing!

 

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Rarer than a Rathalos Plate.  Got it from a random Slime

Secondly? The DSS system is ludicrously unbalanced.  There is basically only one card combo that you should be using; and that's Uranus & Thunderbird (Summon + Thunderbird).  The Thunderbird Summon is a screen clearing attack that slices through bosses like swiss cheese and there is no point in using any other combination ability because it is so utterly, ridiculously OP.

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Click Summon.  You Win

 

Thankfully, the game still puts up a good fight in terms of difficulty.  In fact, the game takes a sudden, HUGE spike in difficulty within the final 1/3 of the game; so you had better be hunting down those broken cards & combination abilities if you want to stand a chance! (Just use a guide, you'll never find them on your own!)

Overall though? I still really like COTM, despite its problems.  While it was clearly constrained by development time & budget, KCEK did a great job with making the most of what they had.  There isn't really any fat on this game's bones, it's all meat.  And to be able to pull that off in time for the launch of a brand new console? My hat is off to them! They certainly made up for Castlevania 64 with this gem of a game! COTM deserves more love.

 

Sabrewulf (GBA)

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Continuing my current Rare binge, I've been plugging away at this one on and off for some time now.  The oft forgotten revival of the original Ultimate Play The Game mascot; ol' Sabreman himself!

While this game is based on the ZX Spectrum game of the same name? In actuality, it plays absolutely nothing like the original game.  While the ol' Speccy game was a maze game, where you were tasked with finding amulet pieces across a large map before kicking the bucket, this GBA revival is actually a puzzle platform game!

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Though it's new it's also old, See this writing? Grunty's sold!

 

The best word I can use to describe this game is... odd.  The game is split up between 2D sidescrolling puzzle stages and a top-down overworld which acts as a level select hub of sorts, where you can talk with NPCs, read funny dialogue and do the odd fetch quest here and there.  The 2D sidescrolling puzzle stages are the real meat & potatoes of this game and they too, can be split up into two sections.

The basic gameplay structure sees the non-titular Sabreman make his way through past various bad creatures, using a variety of good creatures, to get to the treasure that Sabrewulf is guarding.  From here, all of the obstacles then disappear and the game becomes a mad dash as Sabreman legs it back to his tent for dear life, while he is relentlessly chased down by the Wulf.  Super simple, but pretty unique, as you are tasked with making your way through each level both forwards AND backwards!

Now, Sabreman is getting on in his years and isn't the most agile of characters (and yes, the game’s dialogue gets a lot of mileage out of this).  While he can certainly leap as good as the best of them, his poor knees can give out after a nasty fall; so you best be careful as you escape the Wulf!  This makes for some interesting pacing, as the game is decidedly slow & cerebral in nature when you first make your way through each stage; carefully considering which of your limited good creatures to use to make your way through each stage, some of which might blow away baddies, or might be used as platforms, or might be used to launch ol' Sabreman high into the air, or be used to squash a foe and use as a foot stool, or maybe even hold a baddie in place.  There's a good variety of good and bad creatures for you to both use and contend with; and the game never stops introducing new types throughout its surprisingly lengthy runtime.  But there's also a nice sense of reward once you get to the end of each puzzle stage, as the game suddenly turns into a fast paced platformer as you run like hell back to your tent.

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LEG IT!!!

The gameplay structure doesn't really change much at all throughout the entire experience, despite a few unique challenges thrown in throughout the overworld map from time to time; as well as the End of Area Lab stages that are basically timed action platforming challenges that act as a "boss stage" of sorts.  As a result, the game can end up feeling somewhat repetitive and one-note.  In light of this, I found it much more enjoyable to play in short bursts; making for a pretty great bedtime game.  I don't recommend trying to binge play this game, as the repetition will likely sink in pretty quickly, but as a slow-burn kind of game that you might play on the side? It's a good time.

Graphically, the game isn't anything particularily special; with fairly limited animation frames and not much use of the GBA's 2D horsepower on display.  But it's ultimately pleasant on the eyes, with a nice art style the befits the somewhat down-to-earth main character; nothing really feels ugly or particularily out of place here, unlike most of Rare's other GBA titles.  Meanwhile, the music is fairly minimalist, but pleasant on the ears.  I particularily like the main theme, which is nicely arranged for the overworld sections; I do find myself humming it from time to time and feel that it's a perfect fit for this octogenarian explorer, so I was quite surprised to see that it was actually originally composed for Project Dream, before being repurposed for this game!  I’m also very fond of the various bluhduhbluhduhbluhbluh voices for all of the various NPCs, while Sabreman’s voice is as spiffing and stereotypically British as you could hope for (For the Empire! Wot!).

What’s also nice is that the game is absolutely filled with little nods to Rare/Ultimate’s Spectrum era.  Whether you’re spelunking through the Underwurlde mines, or scouting through Knightlore village; there’s plenty of references and witty dialogue to bring a smile to even the most jaded of faces.

Overall, I think it's a nice little hidden GBA gem, that sadly never had a real chance at retail.  It's a very unique little puzzle platformer with some nice Rare charm, funny dialogue and a very unique gameplay structure.  It may be repetitive, but it makes for a great slow-burn game to play on the side over a longer period of time.  While it might not have allowed our elderly British chap to come roaring back with a bang, it's a splendiferous note for him to end on.

 

Actraiser

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Quintet's first ever game, and another launch title for a brand new console! (Released less than a month after the Super Famicom came out in Japan; it's close enough to count!).  What a hell of a way to make an entrance!

30 years later and there's still absolutely nothing else like this game out there.  It's a brave mixture of a Castlevania style platformer and a simulation God game! Two things that absolutely should not go together on paper, and yet it works so incredibly well!

To start off, lets talk about the platfomer stages.  These take a form that is similar to classic Castlevania.  You have to fight your way through each stage, hacking & slashing enemies along the way and jumping & dodging everything that wants you dead; until you make your way to the stage's boss and make it dead!  Much like in classic Castlevania fashion, your humble Christian Crusaider warrior statue has a stiff & deliberate arc to his jump; with an interesting mechanic that sees the warrior fly forwards upon taking a leap, where you can "steer" him through the air to land your jump.  The combat is also simple fare, with a basic sword slash that is married to an ability to duck and utilise limited use magic.  The core movement is very satisfying however, and its all put to use by great level design that tasks you to carefully consider each & every leap, with careful and considerate enemy placement & enemy design.

The bosses are also all well designed, though perhaps aren't the most challenging to beat (at least in the US version; where the difficulty was significantly toned down from the Japanese original).  It all feels very Castlevania lite, in a good way; with a fair difficulty level that doesn't require quite the same level of committment as the classic Castlevania series.

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Watch out for that hole.  That Castlevania Knockback is gonna get ya!

But then you get to the Simulation sections and it's a whole different game entierly!

Really though, calling this part of the game a "simulation" is a bit of a misnomer, as it certainly isn't really anything like Simcity at all.  While it is presented in a similar fashion, it's actually kind of a top-down action game where you can't really lose, but rather sloppy play merely slows down your progress.  Everything is kept rather simple, you can tell you people to build in a certain direction, you can use your God Powers to perform miracles that remove roadblocks & solve problems; and that's about it really.  You have a clear goal in mind (seal all of the monster lairs), and that's all you really have to do.  Everything you do inbetween is simply to clear the roadblocks that get in the way of directing the humans towards the monster lairs; it's fast-paced, tightly focused and not overly complex, and I think that this is why this strange combination of game styles ends up working out so well.  Though it's painted as half action game, half simulation; the truth is that Actraiser is really just an action game.  The "simulation" sections aren't so much a real simulation game, so much as an action game wearing the clothes of Simcity.  As a result, the simulation sections end up complimenting the action stages extraordinarily well, and don't end up bogging down the game's pacing, but rather they act as a nice breather inbetween the platforming action stages.

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Burning houses, demon monsters and insolent unbelievers.  Never a dull moment!

 

Of course, we can't talk about Actraiser and not also mention its legendary soundtrack.  This was really the first video game to really have a proper, classical orchestral score, and it set the standard for the platform (and really, the future of the medium as a whole) going forward.  Actraiser's soundtrack was so impactful, that it famously caused Nobuo Uematsu to rescore the entierty of Final Fantasy 4's soundtrack in direct response to Yuzo Koshiro's masterpiece here!

Not only that, but Actraiser was also the first ever video game to get its own live symphonic orchestral suite! (Yes, there was a Dragon Quest symphony before the 1991 Actraiser Symphonic Suite, but that was for an entire series, not one specific game).  Filmore is probably the most famous song within Actraiser, but the entire score is equally as good and equally as legendary.  From the sweeping herorism of The World Tree, to the lonely & melancholic Northwall, Actraiser rightly earns its place in video game soundtrack history.

For your listening pleasure...

Go on.  Listen to both the whole things!

 

I really don't much bad to say about Actraiser, but if there is any real criticism to be had? It's that the game does start to feel somewhat repetitive after a while.  The simulation stages do start to feel somewhat formulaic as you go on, as they don't really play that much differently from each other.  As such, I found myself splitting up my play sessions; even though it's not a long game.  The simulation stages don't really become more complex or difficult as you go on either.  But ultimately, that doesn't really matter all that much, because they serve their purpose as breathers between the platforming stages.  They make for wonderful intermessios throughout a beautiful symphony.

And really, Actraiser is a game that is ultimately far greater than the sum of its parts.  To look at each part of the game seperately is to miss the point; it's how everything comes together to create such an unforgettable & wonderful experience that really matters.

 

So that's that! Two more games under my belt so far this year.  Actraiser got me to finally get off my butt and start playing Terranigma for the first time at last as well! (I snagged a cartridge a few months back for a decent price, but hadn't been in the mood to get started proper until now), so you should be hearing my thoughts on that pretty soon.  I've also started playing Advance Wars 2 as my bedtime game again too! So look forward to my diary entry for that one soon too!

And with that?

Spoiler

New Super Mario Bros 2

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (MSU-1 Switch Remake Music Edition)

Pilotwings 64

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Super Mario 3D World (Switch Version)

Perfect Dark Zero

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Sabrewulf (GBA)

Actraiser

 

Edited by Dcubed
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I like Circle of the Moon plenty, it's got a lot of strong points, from level design, to the soundtrack (hey there, Catacombs), to the legit challenge its later bosses present... but the DSS system blows for sure, for the reasons you mentioned. I'd welcome a remaster/remake of that game that did nothing but patch the flaws out of it.

By the way, I did defeat the later bosses without those obscure card combos. Adrammelech and the Zombie Dragons got nothing on me! (after, like, dozens of tries) I also think I'm on the minority that loves Dracula's final form in this game, it's pretty trippy and a tad biblical.

2 hours ago, Dcubed said:

Another thing worthy of praise is the enemy & boss designs.  You get your standard assortment of Castlevania baddies of course (zombies, skeletons, medusa heads and the like), but you also get some unexpected enemy designs thrown throughout too; and the bosses are all generally really fun to fight; though I wouldn't say that any of them are amongst the series best (you're not getting anything like Gergoth or Brachyura here!)

Nonsense. This game objectively has the best enemy in the series, Hyena with Gun

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I've been playing two fantastic games this week but haven't finished either of them yet.

First of all - Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. I'm finally up to 48 bees and about to tackle the final stage. I'm sure it's going to take me quite a few goes so I need a bit of mental preparation before I do it. I've had so much FUN playing this game. I alluded to it in the OT, but this is Retro Studios DK but better. The level design is top-drawer and the overworld is such a pleasure to explore and find secrets in. I had to use a guide for a couple of the tonics as the clues were a little cryptic, but I don't feel bad about it. Still well on course for 1000G once I've done the final level and bought the remaining tonics. Stealth edit - I have 178 T.W.I.T coins, so a few levels to go back and 100%

I've also been playing The Medium on Game Pass. I've put in 4 hours so far and have to admit I'm really, really enjoying this game. I don't know if anyone here listens to Defining Duke, which is Last Stand Media's newest podcast focusing on Xbox and PC, but Karik and Matty were not too hot on this game. I can honestly see why, but I've been enjoying it so far. I concede that there is very little "game" to it, and while it definitely has the old-school Silent Hill / Resident Evil (PS1 era) vibe in absolute spades, it definitely plays much more like What Remains of Edith Finch. By that I mean there is largely nothing in the way of puzzle solving, exploration, combat or anything else to be honest. It is a very linear experience which doesn't demand an awful lot from the player. Having said that, I find the story and the setting absolutely mesmerising! I've loved exploring this abandoned hotel and switching between the real / spirit world, which is the game's "hook" if you will. Technically, it's very impressive. Even on Series S, the visuals are supremely impressive, bordering on photo-realism at times thanks to cinematic camera angles and good lighting effects. I'm sure it's miles better on an X, but it still looks fantastic here. 

I do have a couple of complaints though. Firstly, when you have split screen gameplay between the real / spirit world, the visuals take a massive hit and the framerate absolutely tanks. I'm talking 15-20fps, it's awful. Luckily these sections are rare, but it's a massive pain and looks terrible. The game also seems to be quite buggy still, and a lot of the textures don't load properly. You'll zoom in on something to inspect it, for example, and it takes 2-3 seconds for the hi-res texture to load in. Really takes you out of the experience. My biggest complaint though is with the voice acting. The characters are super interesting in this game, but the voice acting is really bad. I don't mean this in a "they can't act" way, but the fact that everything is American. The game is set in Poland in 1999, made by Polish developers and is very strongly based on the recent history of a very specific region of Poland. I just do not understand for the life of me why they went with the most mainstream voice acting they could find and neglected to include Polish VOs in the game. It would fit the atmosphere so well if they'd done a native audio version of the game and at least pronounced all the place names and character names properly. Maybe a minor complaint, but I really despise it. The game is absolutely crying out for it - subs would be fine! I dunno, is that too nit-picky? I feel like we should be passed that era of gaming by now...

Perfect GamePass game, again though. I would not pay £50 for this, but have LOVED playing through it so far. 

Edited by Nicktendo
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I've done it, I've completed a game on my Mega Drive Mini (That isn't Sonic 1 or 2)!

I hope you're ready for un-centered images!

Shining_Force.jpg

Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention is the first game in the Shining series. Despite being the first entry, this game felt the need to have the stupidest subtitle I have ever seen.

No, I'm not moving on. I'm gonna rant at this a tad more!

First of all, why even have a subtitle? It's the first entry! "Shining Force" would have done the job perfectly fine, but no! You have to elongate things unnecessarily! And then there's the actual subtitle itself.

Legacy? What legacy? Nothing gets inherited in this plot! There's no legacy! Especially not one of "Great Intention". And what does that even mean!? What's intended with this legacy, and why is it so great?

I mean, when you're out-stupiding "The Sword of Haj..." When you're out-stupiding "The Sword of Hajy..."" The Sword of Hajyagdjwosvdjak", then you know you've messed up. At least the Sword of Hajdualsbdjajdbsiaj referred to a plot-relevant item in that game.

Anyway, you might remember that I played that Game Gear Shining Force a while back. That was the first game in the series that I tried. I very much enjoyed The Sword of Hajydvwlagdkdiwgag, so how does this one hold up?

The game follows Max, as he is tasked with leading Guardiana's Shining Force against the army of Runefaust, who are trying to revive something called a Dark Dragon.

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How nice of him to let you prepare for doom.

And that's about it for the plot. There's really not much there.

Shining Force is best described as "Sega's answer to Fire Emblem". There are some key differences between the two, however. The first being that permadeath isn't a thing in Shining Force. Instead, when a character loses all their HP, they spin around and then explode. That sounds worse, but all you have to do is go find a church and pay up some cash and they'll be back, good as new. If Max goes boom though, you're forced out of the fight and lose half of your money, so he needs to be protected at all costs.

Secondly, weapons don't break. Equipment works much like you'd expect from your typical RPG, although there's only weapons and accessories. And finally, instead of magic being cast via equipment, Shining Force follows a more typical MP system.

Now that I've played two Shining Force games, I'm even more confident that I prefer Shining Force to Fire Emblem. I like having the option to grind if I feel I'm underleveled, and thanks to Max's ability to do a runner and reset the battle, this is always an option. I also just generally dislike permadeath, so it's good this game doesn't have it.

I also really like the variety of character designs here. Fire Emblem does have it's occasional oddball, but Shining Force really taps into it's imagination to give some proper weirdos. You have your standard warrior people and a few typical mages, but as you progress, you start getting the likes of centaurs, bird people, a baby dragon, an old man in a helicopter thingy, a magical flying octopus, fox wizards, a robot, a werewolf, and an armadillo in steam-powered armour to name a few. No, really, not making any of it up.

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That guy was definitely the MVP of my playthrough. He just steamrolled everything with a mobility ring equipped! If you have to ask why would you put an armadillo in steam-powered armour, then you're no fun.

I wish more RPG's these days would go more off-kilter with their playable characters. Makes things more interesting, you know? Quite a few of these characters are optional as well, so it's worth exploring each town you come across and speak to everyone, just in case.

That said, it's not all good, the game is a tad slow-paced, not as slow as the NES Fire Emblem, but it is slower than the Game Gear Shining Force. I can forgive it though, first installment weirdness and all. The music is also a bit repetitive, you're gonna hear the same songs quite a bit throughout.

Shining Force is fun, but it's not quite as good as "The Sword of Hajacalifragislisticexpialidocious"

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I want a new Shining Force... Come on Nintendo! You can just call it Golden Sun Tactics and boom! Done!

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13 minutes ago, Glen-i said:

If you have to ask why would you put an armadillo in steam-powered armour, then you're no fun.

What if my question is "Why is he wearing human armour?". Poor thing, he can't even curl up like a ball that way! Some custom armadillo gear would increase his efficiency tenfold, I'm sure.

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23 minutes ago, Jonnas said:

What if my question is "Why is he wearing human armour?". Poor thing, he can't even curl up like a ball that way! Some custom armadillo gear would increase his efficiency tenfold, I'm sure.

Counterpoint...

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He's also a car!

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Posted (edited)

Oh yeah! I almost forgot! There was actually one other game I've completed this year that I forgot to mention... or should I say... THREE games?

Sonic Delta

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This is one of the absolutely insane & most impressive ROM Hacks I've ever seen.  This crazy mod takes Sonic 1, 2 and 3&K AND COMBINES THEM ALL INTO ONE SEAMLESS GAME!!! 

Now, this would be an incredible feat in of itself, but the mad lad responsible for this has even gone ahead and added the cut stages from Sonic 2 into this absolute Sonic marathon too! 37 Zones! Back to Back!!

What they've essentially done is that they've ported Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 into Sonic 3&K.  This means that you not only get the spindash in Sonic 1, but you also get Knuckles, the elemental shields, the save game feature, the new bonus stages, ALL of the new mechanics introduced in the later titles spread across all three games!  The insanity doesn't even end there, as they've even made all new transition cutscenes that tie the three games together! It's bonkers!

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Lock-on Technology gone wild!

The way that they handle the special stages is also really interesting.  The Sonic 1 stages bring up the classic Sonic special stage (only this time, collecting all of the emeralds does indeed grant you Super Sonic/Tales/Knuckles), but once you get to Sonic 2? The Sonic 1 stages now start showing up as the Bonus stages that you get from checkpoints!  The game selects one of 4 bonus stages depending on the following rules...

Quote

Collect 20 or more rings and then hit a lamppost. The formula for selecting which Bonus Stage will be played is "RING" count divided by 4 and the remmainder of operation will give the stage to be played:
0 - Slot Machine;
1 - Glowing Spheres;
2 - Gumball Machine;
3 - Sonic 1 Special Stage.

Sonic 1 is a LOT more fun with Knuckles than regular boring old Sonic! Being able to climb up through the slow vertical sections makes it a LOT more fun to play! They've even added a few extra areas for Knuckles to find!  They've also chucked in a few elements from the Beta version of Sonic 1, like the weird rolling ball in Green Hill Zone; not really all that major, but neat to have a few new things to play with!  The pacing is much faster than the vanilla version of Sonic 1 and there's a lot less waiting around for stuff to move.  Great stuff!

Sonic 2 however? To be honest, this part of the game just drags on and on.  Sonic 2 does NOT benefit from having more guff added to it; and quite frankly? The beta stages suck.  They're not fun; they're dull, empty & boring.  Vanilla Sonic 2 already drags on for too long as it is and runs out of steam well before the end of its running time, so it does not benefit from having more junk added onto it at all.  It was fun to be able to use the elemental shields in Sonic 2 though, that helped spice things up a bit.

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A Beta stage that looks a lot nicer than it is to actually play

Another thing that's interesting here is that they use the Beta version layouts for a lot of Sonic 2's levels; so things play out a bit differently than in Vanilla Sonic 2.  While this makes things a bit more interesting, playing through Sonic 2 for the billionth time, the level designs do feel more sloppy than in the final versions of these levels.  Still, thank God for the save feature! Really helps lessen the feeling of tedium going through Sonic 2.

Sonic 3 ends up playing out more or less exactly the same as the vanilla version then; barring the use of the beta (non Michael Jackson/Brad Buxer) music for Ice Cap Zone/Launch Base Zone/Carnival Night Zone.  Outside of the bonus stage changes, it's pretty much the Sonic 3&K you know and love; and yeah, it's the best Sonic game for a damn good reason.  Every single zone is a masterpiece of level design craft; the pacing is perfect and no stage ever outstays its welcome.  It absolutely puts the first two games to shame; and absolutely deserves its place as one of the best games ever made.  Here though? It definitely ends this marathon on a high note!

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Now THAT's a Sonic marathon!

Overall? I had a blast processing playing through this crazy thing! It was absolutely wild playing through the thing as one seamless game; and it's shocking how well it all works! (Even working on real hardware!).  It's incredibly well made overall; though I think I would've preferred it without all of the Sonic 2 beta guff added on top.  The three games combined are plenty of content as it is!

I guess it really shows just how iterative the Sonic Mega Drive games really were, that they can literally be combined together into one game like this.  Still, I'd wholeheartedly recommend trying it out, it's a really fun way to revisit these games again!

And man, I would KILL to see some crazy fool give the SNES DKC Trilogy the same treatment! Imagine having one game with ALL of the stages & mechanics of DKC 1-3 combined into one game!? It'd be nuts! :D 

And with that?

Spoiler

New Super Mario Bros 2

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (MSU-1 Switch Remake Music Edition)

Pilotwings 64

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Super Mario 3D World (Switch Version)

Perfect Dark Zero

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Sabrewulf (GBA)

Actraiser

Sonic Delta (Sonic 1,2 and 3&K Combined!)

 

Edited by Dcubed
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That's amazing! Next time I feel like playing the Mega Drive Sanics I'll definitely give this a go. :D

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So I've gone and done those two games yesterday.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair - 16:30 to 100%, which was actually much shorter than howlongtobeat.com suggested! Maybe I've still got it? :heh: I just need to buy a couple more potions for 1000G but I'd had my fill yesterday after hunting down the final 20 or so T.W.I.T coins. It honestly gives me a nice feeling to know that 35 years after Super Mario Bros., I can pick up a platformer like this (or Celeste from the other end of the spectrum) and still have a really great time. Although YL does nothing particularly new here in terms of straight gameplay, it gives a very good account of itself in the classic DK platformer mould. Things like the interactive overworld and the final boss stage are something a bit different and a bit innovative, but the levels themselves are still very much classic gameplay fashioned on mechanics established in the 1990s. The impossible lair took me 8 goes, which was less than I anticipated in all honesty. I don't know if this is an update, but it's possible to start from each 25% increment using your best bee score. I got to the final boss on a complete run though and then died in the escape section, so doing the final boss a second time and starting with 11 bees was actually pretty easy in the end. Maybe @Hero-of-Time or @drahkon can shed some light here. Did you have to do the entire thing when you played? 

A great platfromer overall. Highly recommended for anyone who loves the DK games or the genre in general. I must say, getting 100% is far easier in this game than in any DK game I've played. I've still never found everything in DKC2 or the Returns games, this was a walk in the park in comparison. 

The Medium - I played the back half of this on Saturday night and through yesterday. I've also sat down an watched a few reviews to help me solidify an opinion on it and fairly surprised that I'm hotter on this game than 80% of the reviewers. I had a great time, again, playing through this. The story is the obvious selling point here, and it's true that the game is pretty much a walking simulator with (very light) puzzle elements and (very annoying) quick time events. Undoubtedly, the setting and the audio are the real starts in this game. It is an absolute treat from a cinematic point of view. Some great performances from most, but not all, of the cast members and an extremely eerie vibe that never lets up. As I mentioned the other day, the game has very strong influence from the PS1 horror game days. I also see a little bit of Eternal Darkness in here too. No bad thing at all.

It took me around 8 hours to beat and the best thing I could compare it too is a 10-episode interactive Netflix season, both in terms of length and enjoyment. As a game, it starts to wear a little thin towards the end as you're occasionally thrown into situations where you have to do something which is unclear or react quickly when you're not really expecting it. Instadeath is never fun in anything, and is annoying here too when it kicks you back 10-15 mins and you have to repeat stuff. The conclusion to the story may leave a sour taste in some people's mouth, but the build up to the climax is solid, with plenty of twists and turns and some awesome moments of revelation. For that alone, I think it's worth giving a shot.

I'm glad I got to play through this on Game Pass and agree with most reviewers who said "wait for a sale" or "rent it". I couldn't recommend it at full price. I missed a couple of achievements but won't be playing through again any time soon to get them. Maybe after a couple of years. I read that the game's development was heavily impacted by COVID-19, which is a shame. The Polish VOs were something that was scrapped because of that and the went with the US ones for mass-market appeal. Fair enough, I guess. If they ever did add the Polish voiceovers, I would definitely run through it again. 

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Yeah, @Nicktendo the checkpoints were added a while after release of the game. Originally you had to do it in a single run, which I found to be absolutely fine. It harkened back the classic platforming days where you had to learn level layouts and enemy placements. It's good that the update arrived to allow more people to see the end of the game but I think the final level loses something special with the checkpoints in place.

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33 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Yeah, @Nicktendo the checkpoints were added a while after release of the game. Originally you had to do it in a single run, which I found to be absolutely fine. It harkened back the classic platforming days where you had to learn level layouts and enemy placements. It's good that the update arrived to allow more people to see the end of the game but I think the final level loses something special with the checkpoints in place.

Aren’t the checkpoints optional? That’s the “Not so Impossible Lair” IIRC.

I do agree though, the addition of checkpoints does kind of ruin the whole gimmick behind the final level (and the game itself really).

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1 minute ago, Dcubed said:

Aren’t the checkpoints optional? That’s the “Not so Impossible Lair” IIRC.

I do agree though, the addition of checkpoints does kind of ruin the whole gimmick behind the final level (and the game itself really).

As far as I know they are optional. 

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34 minutes ago, Dcubed said:

Aren’t the checkpoints optional? That’s the “Not so Impossible Lair” IIRC.

Not quite. The Impossible Lair not only takes away checkpoints, it also takes away all of the Bee Shield. So you have to do it all with just the two hits you get with Yooka and Laylee.

Yeah, good luck with that.

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, Glen-i said:

Not quite. The Impossible Lair not only takes away checkpoints, it also takes away all of the Bee Shield. So you have to do it all with just the two hits you get with Yooka and Laylee.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Yeah, this is right. It's without the Bee Shield.

As for the Not So Impossible Lair, you can always choose to start from the beginning if you don't want to cheese it and start right near the end if you do. It works by saving your best bee score at the beginning of each of the (four?) boss fights. 

At my first attempt I lost 20 bees in the first section, then 17, then 11, then 8. So I could always start section 2 with 40 bees after that. Basically you still have to complete the Lair in under 49 hits, but you don't have to start from the very beginning each time. Definitely much easier. It allows you to learn section 2 / 3 / 4 without having to do it right from the start. 

I could probably do the whole thing in one run now, but never bothered :heh: When I died in the escape section I was trying to improve my bee totals in each part, didn't expect to almost make it to the end. Hence why I started from the last part when I actually finished it. 

Edited by Nicktendo

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Sound Shapes

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A fun music based platformer. The game comes with a bunch of levels inside “albums'' from artists like Beck, DeadmouFive and I Am Robot and Proud, with some great visuals to go with it. You play as a sticky ball who can travel up light coloured walls (but not darker ones), or can lose its stickiness and become a smooth ball that can travel faster. It’s simple mechanics, but utilised well and controls feel extremely tight. The levels are quite a spectacle.

There is a level creator, but unfortunately the sharing servers are no longer available, I would love to have seen what other people could have made with it.
 

Flower

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Despite being an early PS3 game, Flower still looks really nice, with stunning grass and some lovely views. Apart from some control tips, Flower doesn’t explain anything at all, but is intuitive enough in that it’s easy to figure out what you need to do. The motion controls work well and it’s a really nice and relaxing game.

flOw

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I just didn’t really get this, it seemed more like an interactive screensaver. It looks nice visually, but is fairly simple and the motion controls feel extremely wonky with no options for inverting or just using a stick. The game involves eating animals to become bigger, you can unlock different creatures but they all feel the same. The goal is to get to the deepest level of the ocean, so it ends up feeling more about dodging other creatures more than eating them.

Gravity Rush

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A fantastic game all about falling with style. You can manipulate gravity for yourself in order to “fall” in any direction. The gyro assisted aiming helps massively with getting the right angle you need and pinpointing landing spots. The city in the game is lovingly made, and feels extremely unique with how up in the sky it is (it’s attached to a giant tree, but you never see the ground), while most people will just “fly” everywhere, I like trying to walk around sometimes and it’s quite surprising that the city is connected.

Most fighting will be against an enemy called the Nevi, black creatures with glowing orbs that you have to attack, they come in many shapes and forms with different attacks. Most attacking will be your homing kick, but it’s really satisfying to use. Gravity Rush is an extremely fun game.
 

The Saboteur

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An open world city “crime and drive” game set in Paris during World War 2. It feels a lot like what a WW2 Assassin’s Creed game would be like. You play as a foul-mouthed Irish racing car driver who, after getting caught up in some Nazi scheeme, flees to Paris and ends up joining the Resistance. Your main tool is dynamite, which you set, run away and watch the chaos. You can also steal uniforms, scale buildings or use gunfire to cause distractions. 
Some missions force you to play in a specific way, while others give you a bit more freedom. The main story is fun, but I do wish there were more side quests and activities. There are an immense amounts of Nazi equipment to blow up across the city (and surrounding areas) but it’s doing the same thing over and over. 

One thing that is really nice is the black and white style (with a few choice colour highlights) that the game starts out with. As you spread hope, the colour comes back, and the contrast between grey/colour areas is really nice to see. 
 

The Witness

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A puzzle game with an interesting concept where figuring out the logic behind a puzzle is important to figuring out - the game doesn’t tell you, just displays symbols. The “puzzles” are a series of lines and you have to trace a pattern from beginning to end, following the rules of the puzzle if you have figured out what they are. These puzzles are found dotted throughout a lovely looking island.

Unfortunately, some of the puzzles have an artificially increased difficulty by simply making them difficult to see (especially some of the final ones), and these are not fun at all. Combined with this are large issues with contrast, colour and audio perception.

Lots of colours have black dots on the path, however as the puzzles are in various forms of light, different colours and sometimes issues like in-game glare, the black dot will be on a very dark path and are almost impossible for me to see. Some puzzles also require working things out in relation to colour, with some poor colour choices that make it impossible for colourblind people. There are no accessibility options whatsoever. An option to show numbers (or lines doing different ways) in different colours would completely solve this.

This meant I had to keep a guide handy for when I met a puzzle that I couldn’t see properly, partly because the game focuses too much on looking nice than it does on being able to be perceived correctly.
 

ABZU

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An absolutely beautiful underwater swimming game. There’s no danger in the game, it’s just a wonderful journey throughout some amazing underwater landscapes. It’s a very calm and chilling experience. There’s no speech, no text other than controls and the names of fish, but everything you do is intuitive. It’s not challenging or long, but it’s just an amazing spectacle from start to finish. 

 

 

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The Saboteur is a fantastic game that doesn't get the recognition it deserves. I played it back during the 360 days and loved it to bits. Getting the full 1000/1000 turned out to be a bit of a grind though.

I'll be playing Abzu soon as I recently downloaded it thanks to the Play at Home initiative. Game has no Platinum trophy though. Disgusting. :( 

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Posted (edited)

Gravity Rush has always stood out to me as one of the games with the most wasted potential.

It has a fantastic core mechanic, but does almost nothing interesting with it.  Honestly? If you’ve played the demo? You’ve experienced 90% of the gameplay that the full game has to offer.

There’s so much more that they could’ve done with the gravity shifting mechanic! It’s mind boggling just how little mileage they manage to get out of it! It’s so frustrating!

Edited by Dcubed
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Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair is on my "to buy" list at some point. Definitely very interested in playing it at some point considering the praise it got.

 

As it happens though late April is when the first 2021 game coming out that I was interested in playing comes out... so I have now started on NieR Replicant Ver 1.22474487139.... Birth by Sleep Final Chapter Prologue Ultimate Prepare to Die Edition Deluxe + Bowser's Fury & Knuckles featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry Series with a New Funky Mode. Better with Kinect sensor.

 

OK in all seriousness the bolded part is all this game is called so far. I appreciate how the prologue very quickly lets you get into action and fight the enemies as well as using all your abilities... I was wondering why I was levelling up so quick and already at Level 30... turns out this is just the prologue and the game is teasing all the abilities that you will get in the future. So now I'm in the proper overworld... I must say parts of this game actually remind me of Shadow of the Colossus, mainly with the shadowy creatures and the tone of the landscape.

 

That's as far as I've got so far as I realised I needed to attend to uploading this particular Youtube video.... the semi-finals of the Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Tournament. Only four fighters remain... whose your money on?

 

 

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I played and completed a few games over the past couple of months.

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The Gardens Between = Clever
River City Girls = Disappointing
Gal*Gunvolt Burst = Fun
Cat Quest = Grindy
Gorogoa = Boring

I will talk a little about the next game though and that is Dark Souls 2.

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Fantastic game and one that I feel doesn’t deserve the hate it gets. I was reluctant to start the game due to a lot of people saying the game was big on cheap deaths and forcing players to fight many any enemies at the same time. I honestly didn’t find it that bad at all. Many mobs can be easily taken out with the swing of a large club, which is exactly what I done. 

Some of the boss fights were really fun, with Fume Knight being the most challenging. That fight took some doing but the feeling after finally bringing him down was glorious. Sure, there are a couple of stinkers in the game, such as the Covetous Demon/Jabba the Hutt. Funny thing happened during my NG++ run. The stupid thing ended up eating me and this unequipped all my gear. I then spent the next five minutes trying to avoid it whilst putting my gear back on. I finally managed to achieve this without taking a hit, only for me to get eaten again straight away. :D  

The game has some great looking scenery, with many of the areas feeling really distinct. Some of them have a certain sadness to them, much like the first game.

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I was disappointed to see another area in a DS game that was a nightmare to navigate. I can’t remember what it was called but it was pitch black, up a height and you needed to light torches to see the way. It wasn’t bad during my subsequent visits but during my first run it was pretty rough. Same went for No Man’s Wharf. That area took some getting through but once you know the way it’s quite snappy to make your way to the end and open up the shortcut.

I checked my death tally after each of my playthroughs and managed to keep it under the 100 mark.

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Regardless if the death count is right or not, I said after finishing the likes of Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Nioh that these games aren’t nearly as hard as people make them out to be and that remains true here. Practice and patience pays off in a big way when playing them. I think the biggest obstacle in the game was playing it when it sunny was outside. The sun beaming through the window done me no favours when trying to navigate the darker areas. :p 

Demon Souls
Dark Souls
Dark Souls 2
Dark Souls 3
Bloodborne
Sekiro

Im nearly there....

I could move straight on to DS3 but I’ll take a break from such games for a while. I played and platinumed DS1, Sekiro and DS2 in the past 6 months and could do with a rest.

I’m now 3 platinum trophies away from the 450 mark. I need to think about what game deserves that place on my profile. Possibly My Name Is Mayo 2. :laughing:

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10 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Possibly My Name Is Mayo 2. 

I told you...there's no other choice.

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1 hour ago, Hero-of-Time said:

The Gardens Between = Clever
River City Girls = Disappointing
Gal*Gunvolt Burst = Fun
Cat Quest = Grindy
Gorogoa = Boring

1) Yes - it's great! I might go through it again on Xbox.

2) Agree, sadly. Didn't capture me, didn't like the combat, enemies are hit sinks, which ultimately became annoying.

3-5) No idea.

Dark Souls 2 looks extremely bright and colourful. Why? Honestly looks nothing like the first game. From all the FS games I've played - DS1, a bit of 2 and Sekiro, the latter is by far my favourite. 

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3 minutes ago, Nicktendo said:

Dark Souls 2 looks extremely bright and colourful. Why? Honestly looks nothing like the first game. From all the FS games I've played - DS1, a bit of 2 and Sekiro, the latter is by far my favourite. 

I could have taken pics of the darker areas but they wouldn’t make for a good pics. :p 

Out of the games you’ve played I think Sekiro is the best of them. Such an amazing game. :bowdown:

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Most people, focus on beating one or two games in a single month.

 

Hero-Of-Time: 100%s 6 games in one single update :p

 

Anyway, I've just got Grimoire Weiss in NieR Replicant. Seems like a fun character though not much has happened afterwards. I can't even buy the weapon upgrades at the shop because NieR is not in the mood for it... well, that's certainly different!

 

 

 

 

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