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Your 2021 Gaming Diary

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12 hours ago, Glen-i said:

I've been busy.

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Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is 100% complete! You'd think that the Tunic of the Wild would be your reward, but nope! You get the Hyrule Warriors outfit instead. Which is a million times better. Badass scarfs are better than awkward shorts!

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Even more impressive is that I've uncovered every ? Panel in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. That previous picture ended up being the run and I've got a newfound respect for Heracross.

I might go for every shiny Pokémon at this point. Might as well after coming this far.

I do like how the last panel is essentially a pimp crown.

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So I went more on Soulcalibur VI and... did more than just create characters, I actually played the game!

 

Granted it was to play Libra of Souls and finally get round to getting the missing Soul Chronicles that I never got, I did part of Raphael's Story mission and just waiting until the final part shows up before I can actually unlock the mission that gives me stuff. Through grinding missions however I earned a ton of Gold so I decided to cash some of that in on Soul Points and FINALLY get round to unlocking all of the missing Custom Character parts that I didn't have. Granted, some of them were... a bit lacking in actual clothing to put it politely :/

 

 

But there was also the Horse's feet so I can finally make Donkey in Soulcalibur! I'll do him later, still involved in getting the extensive cast of Magic the Gathering into Soulcalibur!

 

 

I also made Jace but I'm not entirely happy with the final outcome. While Season 2 is out for SCVI and improves the game tremendously I am still missing the actual DLC content that requires the Season Pass, so there are a lot of Create a Character parts I don't have access to because they're behind the Season Pass. I would buy the Season Pass but... I'm waiting for it to get a price drop.

 

At least when creating characters the expanded music list means you get SO much more variety when listening to music. The entire stage soundtracks of Soul Blade, Soulcalibur I, II and III are in this game, in fact the entire series' music history is in VI! You need the Season Pass for the IV and V tunes but I've been listening to the music from I and III thanks to the game coming around and it has given me a few new favourite songs from when they've come on... like Immortal Flame from the first SC!

 

 

Yes, probably should go in the best VGC area but I've taken up the last few posts in that thread and don't really want to post again in there for some time...

 

If I keep at Libra I might be able to unlock everything in the base game that I don't yet have, that should be good!

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I finished all 190 goals on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 yesterday.

This game was the first to ditch the arcade style 2-minute sessions in favour of freely skating around each level, looking for goals to complete. I like this entry better than the previous for quite a few reasons.

- The 'Goal' system is vastly preferable to the old arcade style. Apart from the fact that each level has over double the amount of things to do compared to THPS3, it also allows a lot more set pieces and interesting twists to the gameplay.

- You don't have to do every goal with every character any more! You clear it with one skater, you clear it with everyone.

- That said, each skater does have a "Pro Challenge" which tends to be a hard-to-pull-off stunt based on that Skater's specific accomplishments. For example, Tony Hawk transferring between two disconnected half pipes while 6 stories up, Bob Burnquist skating through a loop with the roof taken off or Bam barreling downhill in a shopping trolley in an attempt to launch himself as far as possible into the sea (Because, of course he does).

- It's nice to have voice acting from the actual Pro Skaters. Tony and Bam really get into it, but others do sound a bit dry. Still, nice that they went there.

- Custom Restarts are amazing, and you really miss them when you play an earlier entry that lacks them!

Anyway, next up will be Tony Hawk's Underground, which was my personal favourite before starting this Tony Hawk-athon. It'll be interesting to see if it holds up.

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On 11/01/2021 at 11:33 PM, Jonnas said:

I'm also pondering a potentially fun way to help thin out my digital backlog... Hopefully I'll put it into practice this month.

So, about that. Essentially, I started thinking of last Halloween, and how I cleared 3 short games from my backlog in a single weekend (even if one of them I dropped entirely). I figured, maybe I can do that once per month, clear 3 or 4 short games from my backlog in a specific deadline, either a week or a weekend. Could even do specific themes.

And since January was the month that King of Fighters XV was to be revealed (and it was), I thought that should be the theme for January: SNK fighting games. I have several in my GOG backlog (most of them from discounted bundles), I can check a few, if I try not to waste too much time on each. So I picked four of them, gave myself a week to play them, and...

Spoiler

 

Fatal Fury Special

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I swear, each face is funnier than the last

This game is actually an updated version of Fatal Fury 2. The original FF2 had 8 playable characters, this one has 15! After Geese was seemingly defeated in the first game, his brother Krauser comes to take over his criminal empire, and Terry&friends take it upon themselves to kick his ass too. This entry is fondly remembered in Japan... but I didn't like it.

Sure, the graphics and dialogue are super old, but that's not an issue. The game is a bit sluggish, but that too was expected. What bothers me is the two-lane system. For those unaware, the Fatal Fury series tried to stand out by implementing a "foreground" lane (where 2D fighting games usually operate) and a "background" lane. Characters can hop or attack from one lane to the other, creating a pseudo-3D vibe. But the attacks are minor and impractical, if the opponent is on the other lane, pressing either up or down automatically rolls you to that lane, if you do try to respond to an attack with an attack of your own, you're just going to clothesline each other... It's a clusterfuck.

But the worst part is the AI, because they keep running away to the other lane, with frame-perfect reflexes! In fact, the game's pretty hard as it is, with the CPU hitting charge moves while walking forward, and now I have to deal with them scurrying to another plane of existence in the very moment that I'm about to hit them with a low attack? Worse, if I'm charging a down-up move (like Rising Tackle), the enemy changing lanes forces me to change lanes, cancelling my attempt. And the cream of the crop, if I try to hit them with a cross-lane attack, the enemy punishes it with... an instant charge move.

If not for that, this would be a neat game. The cast is original and memorable, since FF2 was the game that introduced Kim and Mai, plus Terry and Duck King are here too, and I got introduced to fat businessman Cheng, a comedic character I hadn't seen before and I'm surprised never appeared in KOF (the villains aren't so imaginative, though. They include a brute boxer, a Spanish matador with a blade, and a guy who can shoot fireballs high and low... did they find these fighters on the street?). The music is cool, the dialogue is super goofy, in that classic SNK way (not included in that link: "I may be old, but I have... I forgot what I have"; "The stories are true. You are not a weenie"; "So muscular! It will be a pleasure to tangle with you"; and more). Plus, the game occasionally tells you how to do special moves for your character, which I'm sure was very appreciated in the arcades back in the day.

To be fair, this isn't a very good port. It's just an emulator with limited settings, doesn't even allow you to remap buttons. The weird button configuration that my gamepad got is partially to blame for my displeasure as well. But the two-lane system and cheap AI are not the fault of the port.

Fun fact: Ryo Sakazaki from Art of Fighting is a secret fighter in this game. His cameo inclusion was so well received, it gave SNK the idea to make King of Fighters in the first place. Such humble origins.

Verdict: Sadly disappointing. Time was not kind to this game.

 

Spoiler

 

Art of Fighting 2

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Every person in the background cracks me up. Especially the bloke near the weights, his pecs dance to the music.

Another second entry in a series, this time it's Art of Fighting. How appropriate! After AOF1, in which Ryo saved his sister from kidnapping and his father from blackmail, it is revealed that the perpetrator, despite being called Mr.Big, was actually small fry working for the real mastermind of the operation... Geese Howard! Yeah, that's the guy from Fatal Fury! And in this game, he looks young, with long hair and everything (basically, the appearance that his spirit fight in Smash Bros. is referencing). This would mark the first official, canon, crossover element in SNK's shared universe. It also confirms that the AOF series takes place roughly 15 years before Fatal Fury.

Anyway, as a fighting game, there's a lot to like. The sprites are chunky, faces get bruised along the match, matching their lifebars (you can see Eiji up there is bleeding all over his face, while Yuri only has a scratch on her cheek), the camera pans out if the fighters move too far apart, the cast is (imo) more diverse, fleshed out, and original than the one in Fatal Fury (despite how much Ryo, Takuma, and John look like Ken, Ryu, and Guile), the backgrounds are top-notch, the music is quite catchy, and there are individual endings for every character.

There's also is a ki/energy bar that is spent every time you do a special move, making this the first game, to my knowledge, to implement such a system. You can even charge it like a DBZ character, or reduce your opponent's by taunting. I'd say the system is still a bit rough around the edges here, since it expends way too quickly (each match will inevitable pause so both players can recharge), but it's a decent start.

Unfortunately, the rest of the gameplay isn't so easy to forgive. Characters walk at a weird pace, they don't jump properly, and the game is filled with niggles of bad design (so many times I was punished for actually hitting my move... a special move at that!). It's hard to explain, but this game does not feel smooth at all. The inability to remap buttons didn't help either.

The single player was given more attention than normal, compared to other fighting games of the time. Not only does it have a story to be followed, there are moves you actually unlock by playing the arcade mode.The sad part is that, coupled with the gameplay niggles I mentioned, this game is also brutally difficult, meaning that even enjoying what the single player has to offer can be a task in itself.

Finally, the dialogue is its own brand of goofy. The typical SNK silliness comes from mistranslations, or misinterpretations of what is "cool". But this script seems to be intentionally silly, with characters being inappropriately sarcastic towards one another, and making jokes and quips whenever possible. Sure, the occasional typo appears ("I am woman. Feel my kick" being a good example), but more often you'll see dialogue like this actual exchange between Geese and one henchman:

"He may interfere in my plans. Rub him out."
"Rub him off, got it."
"Out! Twit."

From what I understand, a conscious choice by the English translators. The Spanish version is more serious.

Fun fact: Before becoming KOF staples, this was literally the only playable appearance of Yuri, Takuma, and King. That's kind of crazy.

Verdict: More intriguing than "good", but I can respect it.

Spoiler

 

Samurai Shodown II

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Love the art direction

Can you believe I had never tried a SamSho game? I've always wanted to, but never had the chance. Until now. Set somewhere in XVIII Century Japan, evil demons are about, and it's up to the local brave warriors to stop it.

This series feels very distinct, as far as SNK properties go. Semi-historical setting, no references to pop culture, plenty of blood (!), and a very, very traditional Japanese presentation. Menus look painted in watercolour, music is minimalistic, made entirely of traditional Japanese instruments, and even the pace of the matches seems to match Samurai films... even when the character designs are outlandish.

Thanks to the 2019 Samurai Shodown, you might already know this, but if you don't... Samurai Shodown is a series that prides itself on slow matches, with careful pacing, and a good amount of pokes and mindgames. After all, this is a game where a single heavy hit can take 40% of your health. Projectiles exist, but they're just as slow, and "fake-out" moves are frequent among the cast.

That might sound boring, but when you're playing, you feel the tension with every blow, every block, every clash of weapons. And did I mention you can lose your weapon in this game? It's exciting, the way only a Mexican Standoff can be. And once the match ends, and if you struck a particularly clean finishing blow, you get a couple seconds of quietude... and then blood gushes out of the mortal wound, potentially cleaving the opponent in half. A classy and tasteful Fatality, if such a thing exists.

Not to say that the game can't get silly. There's a masked referee in every match (even the final boss), and occasionally, a muscular dude runs up from the background and drops a health pickup in the middle of the field. There are also a few goofy playable characters, like Gen-An the creepy demon with a steel claw, or Cham-Cham the wild cavegirl from the jungle. The script itself actually tries to be serious, but due to a poor translation, it gets a tad undercut (but still entertaining: "All creature will die and all the things will be broken. That's the law of samurai")

One more thing, you know how fighting games of the time usually had box or barrel around just to see them destroyed during the fight? Samurai Shodown instead gives us certain parts of the environment getting slashed clean after certain blows. They don't even do that for characters without blades (it truly is the law of the Samurai to break all the things, huh?)

Fun fact: One of the characters is called Nicotine Caffeine, he's a monk of the Koka-In temple. Can you believe this man hasn't been added to SamSho 2019?

Verdict: Excellent. This game feels ahead of its time in many ways. I have immediately added the Samurai Shodown Collection to my wishlist

Spoiler

 

The Last Blade

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Is this a Samurai Shodown spinoff?

I had heard of this series, but only just. A bit of a cult classic, very obscure, only two games. So I didn't quite know what to expect.

I was blown away. This game... looks like Garou: Mark of the Wolves! Beautiful spritework with smooth animation, but with swords, and a somewhat slower game pace, somewhere between Samurai Shodown and Soul Calibur.

The opening to this game was left in Japanese, so I didn't immediately get what was going on... But I soon figured out this game takes place during the Bakumatsu (read: mid-to-late XIX Century Japan), the last civil war before the country opened up its borders. I'm a Rurouni Kenshin fan, so it was natural to recognize the Shinsengumi uniform. Anyway, some evil dude wants to open the gates of Hell, the main characters get caught into that situation, despite some personal drama between them.

Gameplay-wise, this does feel a bit like a faster SamSho, but there are a couple of key differences. First, there's a dedicated counter/parry button, which feels a lot like Soul Calibur's Guard Impact, and is immensely satisfying to pull off. The second main aspect is the Power/Speed dynamic: before every match, you must choose "Power Mode" or "Speed Mode". Power Mode means stronger moves, and an extra Super Move when in low health. Speed Mode means quicker moves (meaning combos are easier to do) and a souped up Speed Boost when in low health (not just move speed, but you get to cancel any move into any other move during that time). I didn't spend enough time with this game to understand the full nuances of this system, but it does feel like both gameplan and matchup advantage change depending on which you choose. It's surprisingly straightforward, nonetheless.

The roster here is much more subdued compared to Samurai Shodown, and I think I like it better this way. Nevertheless, the main character can turn Super Saiyan, turning him into someone that looks like a cross between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. So we still have our fair share of Anime nonsense. The script is mostly serious... though there is the occasional occurrence of a stoic character calling someone "bub" or "pal".

In a way, this game felt like a very natural evolution of Samurai Shodown, and one that I think... I enjoyed more. This was one of only two ports of the entire GOG collection to allow button remapping (and in-built movelists too! Joy!), but there's more to it. The presentation and gameplay just clicked with me on every level, and I felt like I wanted to play more (though please with a better controller than the Xbox one). Seriously considering getting the Switch version, to have it alongside Garou.

One glaring flaw: severe lack of soundtrack in this game. I heard less than 5 tracks throughout the game, and fights would mostly be absolutely silent. Samurai Shodown provided us with minimalist music, but there's a difference between that and utter silence.

Fun fact: The character Hibiki (from Last Blade II) seems to have outgrown her own series. She somehow made it to both Capcom vs SNK 2... and as a recently announced DLC character for Samurai Shodown 2019!

Verdict: A delightful surprise. I'll try to add the sequel to my Switch library.

 

And that was it. That was the plan.

But then I entered a quarantine, and suddenly I had more free time. I figured "Fuck it, I have 4 more to clear, let's do those as well!":

Spoiler

 

Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 - The Newcomers

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OK! Score one for Terry .B

Now that's a mouthful of a title. The first "Real Bout Fatal Fury" was actually meant to be Fatal Fury 4, justifying its fancy new name with revamped presentation and mechanics. This sequel is not FF5 like one would expect, but instead a "Best of" celebration of the series up to this point, since it doesn't seem to have a plot. This would be the last 2D Fatal Fury entry, before the series soft-rebooted into Garou: Mark of the Wolves.

Featuring smoother sprites than ever, bombastic portraits, vibrant colours, a soundtrack of fan favourites, and - like the title says - two newcomers to the roster, this title should mark a strong send-off to the series.

...But the two-lane system is still there. I just... I can't work with it at all. It's not as awkward as in FF Special, but it's still super unnecessary. There are now moves that interact with it, like being able to launch enemies to the side, or being able to catch them on a side-leap, but it's still very unintuitive. At least I'm no longer rolling back and forth according to my enemies' whims, but I still don't like to work around it. There are stages that actually lack the two lanes (thankfully), but all it does is make me wonder why the two lanes were ever necessary in the first place.

Other than that, it's a decent, fun game. It's not as fast-paced or deep as its contemporaries of Street Fighter Alpha series, but it's got a charm all of its own. The AI is much more manageable than the one in FF Special, too. Sadly, there's no script to this game, though we have some delightful comical endings all the same (Andy's in particular is grade A).

The roster has a few faces I recognize from KOF (like Yamazaki, Xiangfei, and mah girl Blue Mary), as well as a few I hadn't seen before, like Hon-Fu (blatant Jackie Chan kind of guy), the Native American pugilist Rick Strowd, or the creepy Chinese twins. There's also a stoic exorcist called Sokaku for whom I have a soft spot (I remember using him when I was a wee kid, and figuring out some of his moves on my own), but seeing him now, it's weird how he doesn't fit the "typical 90s action flicks" roster of FF that much.

Fun fact: One of "The Newcomers" for this game is Xiangfei, who would go on to appear in a few KOF titles. This means that the only canon story she has to her name is in that series, but her origins in Fatal Fury has basically none whatsoever.

Verdict: Serviceable, but way below the mark of what I was expecting out of the last game in the series before the excellent Garou.

 

Spoiler

 

King of Fighters 2000

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Man, that logo feels so much like the year it represents

Aw yeah, I had a KOF title here too. One of the story-focused ones at that, featuring K' teaming up with a secret agent group to deactivate a weapon of mass destruction, manned by "Tom Selleck look-alike" Zero. This was the last KOF title to be released before SNK's bankruptcy.

The gameplay feels like KOF, and I ease right in with my faves, except... the teams are made of 4 people instead of 3. This is part of something SNK was looking to try around this time: the "Striker" system. Like in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, you're able to call in assists from whomever you assigned as the 4th team member (the Striker).

I will say I wasn't too much of a fan. Sure the assists themselves are solid, and limited in uses, but I don't like the frantic rhythm their presence brings to KOF matches. They're chaotic already in MvC, and I don't think I want that madness to be so present in KOF as well. I understand this is just personal preference, as there are those that liked the change of pace.

Other than that, it's a solid entry in the series. Good roster with some nice team variants (and as I understand, the debut of great characters such as Whip and Vanessa), some of the best character portraits I've seen in the series, a great chill soundtrack, and the fights themselves are what I'm used to already (besides the assists). I just prefer the other ones, is all.

Fun fact: Beyond the 4th team member, you're also capable of calling in other characters from SNK history, such as past KOF participants, Samurai Shodown characters, and even from Metal Slug! Even silly, "alternate" versions of roster members can appear. It's a degree of silliness I appreciate in any crossover.

Verdict: Very solid, though the Striker system isn't my cup of tea.

 

Spoiler

 

King of Fighters 2002

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And yet it somehow feels incomplete

Wait a second... Didn't I play this one already a few years ago? Yeah, almost. The version I played at the time was a severely upgraded version from 2009 called Unlimited Match, whereas this is the original version from 2002. I remember this one being free on GOG, hence why I had it.

It's basically identical to UM, except the backgrounds are muted and less detailed, the music is nothing special, Max Desperation moves aren't here, and there are a handful fighters missing (including my main King. Like, why even? HER NAME IS IN THE TITLE, YOU ABSOLUTE BELLE-), which means this version is essentially made redundant by UM. Even the silly dialogue is the exact same.

...Not much else to say. I gave this a whirl more out of curiosity, and the only things that UM doesn't have are A.The old portraits, which are pretty decent; and B. The character called K9999, technically speaking (and if I'm being frank, I like Nameless better).

Fun fact: Despite being made obsolete, this version of the game is still widely played in Latin America (every Brazilian video I searched for it spoke only of this version, and annoyingly omitted King). Nostalgia's a hell of a drug.

Verdict: A nice history lesson, but Unlimited Match is the Ultimate Deal.

 

Spoiler

 

Samurai Shodown V Special

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I hear there was a previous SSV, but this one's Special

Samurai Shodown V Special marks the end of the SamSho storyline, before the 2019 reboot came along. This is also the only other game I played to have a decent port on GOG that allows button remapping.

And yet... I wasn't feeling it. It feels like a generic fighter, with wacky characters, super moves, overabundance of systems and mechanics... and a much faster pace than what I was expecting. None of the tension from SSII could be found here. Oddly enough, moves can still deal a hefty ton of damage, which only leads to ridiculously short matches. Heck, I picked Mina (a bow&arrow girl, one of the more grounded designs on the roster) and I found myself winning matches by simply shooting Heavy arrows over and over. I got bored.

I get the feeling this is a more multiplayer-focused game. Surely it's harder to abuse projectiles there, but I still think any match will feature more super jumps, super modes, and quick projectiles than what I would like in Samurai Shodown. Heck, one of the characters is a water spirit of sorts, with his powers stored on his somewhat thick wrists..? And another one is a grotesque monster that fights with his own exposed arm, and it just feels way off base.

This roster doesn't feature everybody from SS history (I can think of at least four from SSII that aren't here), and though some of the new characters I saw looked cool (like Rera and Mina), I just didn't feel too strongly about most of the new faces I saw.

Maybe I'd feel a bit different if I had experienced the full evolution of the Samurai Shodown series (I really should get that collection to see for myself), but as it is, this game did not impress me at all. Thankfully, Samurai Shodown 2019 seems to have gone back to the roots I liked.

Fun fact: This was the last title to ever be released on the NEO GEO. I suppose this is an adequate game for me to end my January SNK journey, then

Verdict: Underwhelming, and somewhat generic. Sad to finish my SNK retrospective with such a whimper.

 

Phew, that's all of them.

I think I can consider this experiment a success... although I most certainly will not be doing 8 games in a row again! I'll stick with 3-to-4 short games per month.

  My 2021 log (Hide contents)

Played/Beat/Completed:

-Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019) Beat (January 9th)

-Fatal Fury Special (1993) No Goal (January 17th)

-Art of Fighting 2 (1994) No Goal (January 19th)

-Samurai Shodown II (1994) No Goal (January 20th)

-Perfect Angle (2015) Dropped (January 20th)

-The Last Blade (1997) No Goal (January 22nd)

-Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 - The Newcomers (1998) No Goal (January 22nd)

-King of Fighters 2000 (2000) No Goal (January 23rd)

-King of Fighters 2002 (2002) No Goal (January 23rd)

-Samurai Shodown V Special (2004) No Goal (January 23rd)

 

Currently Playing:

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

-Harmo Knight (2012)

Huh, 10 games so far. I wonder if I can fit one more...?

Edited by Jonnas
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And that's Tony Hawk's Underground done. All 126 goals and every secret tape found as well as the 3 old skool levels.

The first thing that stuck out to me was how much quicker everything is. Less waiting around, more skating. I get the feeling that this game was actually optimised for the Gamecube, because the loading times are more than twice as fast as previous entries. They're so fast that the loading bar never actually gets full. It rarely even makes it halfway. Now, I've never played the PlayStation version, but I can't imagine it's bigger discs helped matters there. I mean, why make a loading screen with a bar if all the versions loaded as quick as the Gamecube one?

The second thing was that I still enjoyed the plot, you create a skater and control him/her as they team up with their best friend, Eric Sparrow, to get sponsored by the local skate shop and eventually turn Pro.

It's a pretty straightforward concept, but there's enough twists and turns to keep it interesting.

Spoiler

Man, I always had the feeling that my memory was bigging up how good of a villain Eric Sparrow is, but no. He's the kind of guy who you really want to punch.

The way he gets to live the pro life because he piggybacks off of your superior talents in the most underhanded ways makes it all the more satisfying when he gets too cocky for his own good and loses the Hawaii tape because he starts to believe that he might actually be better at skating, and then you own him in the final goal and the game ends on him shouting at you like a child claiming that you got lucky as you walk away calmly. It's SO cathartic!

It's even more cathartic if you play through the game a second time and the ending changes to you just decking him in the face instead of taking his stupid final challenge.

The big mechanic addition is being able to get off your board. Apart from the obvious benefit of being able to quickly regain control of your movement, it can also help you to regain speed mid-combo for longer combos. You can't do this too often because of a "walk timer" that ends your combo if it runs out. I dig it.

There are less goals compared to THPS4, I guess something had to give for there to be, you know, an actual plot. On the plus side, there's actual difficulty options, which is nice and can help with repeat playthroughs. Half tempted to play through Sick Difficulty.

So yeah, I still think this is the best Tony Hawk game, at least on Gamecube. Haven't actually played the 1+2 remaster. I was hoping for that to come out on Switch, but with the latest Activision acquisition, I'm not too hopeful there...

Edited by Glen-i
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Been through a few games

 

Bioshock: Personally, seems a bit weaker once you know the plot...some things early on just seem a bit odd. Still a great game, though, even though the final boss is still fairly terrible.

Bioshock 2: This time round, I actually enjoyed it more than the first game. One original complaint was how it seemed linear, but even though you could return to past areas in the first...there really was zero need to do so (you can find everything first time). I really like the more personal plot in it and it helped develop Rapture some more.

Bioshock: Minerva's Den: A brilliant side-game. A bit short, but also has a pretty good twist (which holds up more than the one in the first game). More background on how Rapture works is also great.

Bioshock Infinite: Still some disappointments like only being able to carry two guns, but still a great game. I love the ripped-from-time music, and Elizabeth is a wonderful character.

Bioshock: Burial At Sea: I didn't like this at all first time round, but loved it this time. I think it's because I played Infinite when it first came out so it wasn't fresh in my head when the DLC came out (I definitely seem to prefer games when you start playing them after all DLC is out). Amazing to see Rapture before everything went wrong, and some interesting things about the cycles introduced in Infinite.

 

Grim Fandango: Great characters and setting, but it's really bad as a puzzle game. It's very difficult to know what you can interact with, sometimes you have to be in very specific locations (sometimes I had to look up a guide only to find out I had to interact with something I'd already tried doing, I just wasn't in the precise location, and took a lot of tries even once I knew). The puzzles themselves seem less complex than stuff like Monkey Island, so it's not the logic that is difficult, just finding what tools you have at your disposal that is difficult.

 

The Crew 2: Figured it would be a fun racing game to pass some time. It could be good, but I got to free roam and got rammed by people with no way to turn other players off (no relaxing cruising around then) and my food shopping arrived and the game kicked me back to the main menu due to "inactivity" which is frankly ridiculous and I literally just uninstalled after that.

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So this is a quote from the beginning of the 2020 Gaming Dairy thread... which is a follow up to something I wrote in the 2019 Gaming Diary thread

Quote

- Buy and play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Smash Ultimate got me more interested in the series but I have still yet to follow up on that.

 

I finally did it, in 2021 I went and bought Castlevania Symphony of the Night off the PSN Store on PS3.

 

Yet to actually play it though. I am also playing through the original Castlevania on the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on Switch, just reached Stage 10.

 

Also playing more Soulcalibur VI, I have most of the custom character items now, but there are quite a few locked outfits for the female characters and... let's just say I can see why they are locked. Bandai Namco wanted people to work for their um, minimalist outfits for female custom characters. >.>

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And one more to round out January!

Harmo Knight

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Tempo, you're going in the wrong direction...

Released on the 3DS eShop in 2012, Harmo Knight is a cute rhythm game from Game Freak. You might recognise them from famous titles such as Pulseman, Drill Dozer, Tembo the Badass Elephant, and their widely popular game about breeding animals and pitting them against each other in shady competition, Pocket Card Jockey.

So, you know those autorunner levels from Rayman Legends where you hop and whack to the rhythm of the background music? This is an entire game about that. A to whack, B to jump. Some segments vary the gameplay a tad (like having both buttons whacking at separate heights), but it's fundamentally the same principle. Boss encounters vary the formula by giving you short segments where you need to press a specific button combination according to the rhythm (a bit like a catchy Simon Says).

It's nice, but I have a fundamental issue with it: it's never clear exactly which note/beat/chord your button press corresponds to. Since the visual cues aren't precise, it's hard to tell if you're meant to hit a beat or a half-beat (please forgive my nearly-absent knowledge of music theory, btw), which makes playing this frustrating at certain times, like when you're expected to jump&hit a target (very hard to tell the timing for the jump), when the enemies come at you from weird angles, or when you need to do tighter jumps. Especially noticeable in Bosses, where the sequence itself is not hard, but figuring out exactly where the first note is can get tricky.

What really gets to me is during normal levels, when some segments are clearly meant to trip you up (like when the camera zooms in for no reason, giving you very little opportunity to react to anything). Like, Ryhthm games should give you the impression that you can theoretically clear stages on a first try, but Harmo Knight feels designed in a way that you must memorise levels (specific ones, because some share BGMs, with the actual stages being different) to do them properly. Sure, the rating system is lenient, but it's the principle of the thing.

A minor criticism is that boss battles require a perfect run to get the best rating. Boss battles don't really have these moments of cheapness, but they always have long cutscenes in-between button sequences. Going for a Great ranking ends up being boring due to that alone.

Beyond that... the game is perfectly nice and harmless, as long as you don't take your perfectionism too seriously. There are challenges to this game (redoing levels at double-tempo to unlock artwork), but I didn't bother to do them all. I didn't care to do perfect runs in normal levels, either. And if a boss battle was too boring for me (just the final boss: too long, too hard), I avoided going for the Great ranking. If I chill, this game's fine.

I unlocked every secret level, all the bonus music tracks (they're from some Game Freak series featuring red&white balls? Weird), and did around 50-60% of the double-tempo challenges. Okay game that doesn't overstay its welcome.

  My 2021 log (Hide contents)

Played/Beat/Completed:

-Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019) Beat (January 9th)

-Fatal Fury Special (1993) No Goal (January 17th)

-Art of Fighting 2 (1994) No Goal (January 19th)

-Samurai Shodown II (1994) No Goal (January 20th)

-Perfect Angle (2015) Dropped (January 20th)

-The Last Blade (1997) No Goal (January 22nd)

-Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 - The Newcomers (1998) No Goal (January 22nd)

-King of Fighters 2000 (2000) No Goal (January 23rd)

-King of Fighters 2002 (2002) No Goal (January 23rd)

-Samurai Shodown V Special (2004) No Goal (January 23rd)

-Harmo Knight (2012) Beat (January 25th)

 

Currently Playing:

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

Most productive January ever!

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After completing Yakuza: Like a Dragon and now that I'm playing Dragon Quest II I've decided to put away Wargroove for now. It seems to be a good game but I'm in the mood for something less "static".

So I'll put my focus on DQII.

I'm also currently installing the PS5 version of my Borderlands 3 copy and of Warframe.
Will give each a go and see whether I'm in the mood to play either BL3 again or try to finally get into Warframe :D

 

My mate and and I played through Castle Crashers Remastered again. And we will do so at least one more time. :laughing: We're going for the Platinum so we have to collect some stuff. It's not really necessary to play the entire game again, but we figured: Why not? It's fun :D

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As of today, I have gotten 7 Game Overs on the same level in Shadow The Hedgehog. (Before you ask, @Dcubed, yes, it's still the same level)

It's a good thing I have Tony Hawk to fall back on...

I was actually starting to think that it wasn't too bad. Janky, definitely, and an absolute joke of a concept, but not horrible.

I take that back now. This is dreadful! And I'm only on the fourth playthrough. You need at least 10 to properly finish it.

Edited by Glen-i
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I finished Panzer Dragoon DEmake last night. Yes, you read the right. 

What a fucking travesty this game is. The PC port is bordering on embarrassing. I had a couple of crashes in my hour-long play through. Audio was dropping on occasion, and the screen tearing is unbearable, especially during the cutscenes. 

It’s a damn shame because the game itself is still very playable. I had fun going through each of the levels and there’s definitely some merit in trying to learn the levels and aim for 100% of the enemies killed. I was hovering around 85-95% on each of the levels. 

I died twice on level four as I couldn’t figure out how to kill the boss, and then once again on level 6 (which is set in a cool Venice like world). The music is decent, the levels are quite varied and the difficulty definitely ramps up over the hour. It made me take stock and think about the original game. 1995 and not too long after Starwing. In my book, that makes this game quite the achievement. I’d love to try the original and it’s a little disappointing it wasn’t included in this package (although I’ve heard the original source code has been lost). 

Can’t be too displeased as I got this in a Steam sale last year for around a quid. Money well spent on a unique retro-ish experience. Piqued my interest in maybe one day trying to pick up a Saturn. 

The developers of this remake are the worst though. Whoever thought “yeah, this’ll do” needs a trip to the job centre. Highlighted further by the awful translation. There’s barely any text in the game, but MegaPixel Studio are clearly just as confident in their English ability as they are in their programming skills. They shouldn’t be.

Ultimately, it’s an attempt to fleece people using the IP of a huge cult classic which has been utterly ruined by incompetency and complacency. It IS playable, but the problems really sour the experience. And just to kick the sorry souls who were waiting for this game when they’re down... the final achievement is 100 hours in game. Yep. 100 hours. In a game that takes less than an hour to beat. Fucking comedians. 

Edited by Nicktendo
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Yeah, it’s a real shame that the remake didn’t turn out better.

The really sad part here though, is that it wasn’t for lack of trying.  The developers at Forever Entertainment were clearly passionate about the original game, and clearly tried their best here (the fact that they actually managed to recreate the original FMV cutscenes on such a tiny budget is remarkable!); but it’s clear that they bit off more than they could possibly chew.

Quite frankly, they needed a much bigger team and a much bigger budget if they were to have any true hope of doing the original game justice.  Panzer Dragoon was a AAA game back in its day, and a small indie remake could never hope to do it justice.

Edited by Dcubed

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Thanks for the impressions, Nick. I was close to buying it the other day as it was dirt cheap on the eShop. Glad I decided against it.

It still annoys me that it got released in the state it was in. They knew fine well what needed to be done but pushed the game out anyway.

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3 hours ago, Nicktendo said:

The developers of this remake are the worst though. Whoever thought “yeah, this’ll do” needs a trip to the job centre. Highlighted further by the awful translation. There’s barely any text in the game, but MegaPixel Studio are clearly just as confident in their English ability as they are in their programming skills. They shouldn’t be.

Is it possible the bad English could be an overly faithful representation of the original? English text used to be like that back then.

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3 minutes ago, Jonnas said:

Is it possible the bad English could be an overly faithful representation of the original? English text used to be like that back then.

“Please wait next game of MegaPixel Studio” probably wasn’t in the original :D

I didn’t know they were such a poorly funded studio. Having read what @Dcubed wrote above, I can see how this might have happened.

However, now that the game has been out for a while and has been on sale multiple times, it’s a shame they haven’t reinvested that money in trying to fix the problems. 

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8 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Thanks for the impressions, Nick. I was close to buying it the other day as it was dirt cheap on the eShop. Glad I decided against it.

It still annoys me that it got released in the state it was in. They knew fine well what needed to be done but pushed the game out anyway.

I think @Nicktendo has been generous with his appraisal, if anything :blank:

I get the impression that despite the flaws, there's an appreciation for the game underneath but I just can't really see if myself, unfortunately.

I think you're right to avoid it!

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39 minutes ago, nekunando said:

I think @Nicktendo has been generous with his appraisal, if anything :blank:

I get the impression that despite the flaws, there's an appreciation for the game underneath but I just can't really see if myself, unfortunately.

I think you're right to avoid it!

Did you play it back in the day on the Saturn? I get the feeling it's one of those games that you may only enjoy if you have nostalgia for it. I liked it on the Saturn but have never played it since. I may just keep my rose tinted glasses on and just never play it again. :D 

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10 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Did you play it back in the day on the Saturn? I get the feeling it's one of those games that you may only enjoy if you have nostalgia for it. I liked it on the Saturn but have never played it since. I may just keep my rose tinted glasses on and just never play it again. :D 

I only played it for the first time just about 3 or 4 years ago or so and absolutely loved it!

It's nowhere near as deep as the likes of Star Fox 64, but it's a really good rail shooter with an absolutely unique and unparalleled atmosphere.

Also, Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the best RPGs ever made; end of.  Played that one for the first time just a few years ago and I absolutely loved it from start to finish!  That game absolutely puts up a fair fight against the likes of FF7 without even trying to put up a fight; there really is nothing quite like it!

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Ah well, probably best to move on that LRG physical copy of the game, get back what I paid for it a year ago and keep my fond memories of the original. :peace:

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I had a holiday from work today and was going to play on certain games but that didn't go to plan. I ended up hopping from one to the next, not being able to settle on anything. Late this evening, I looked on the eShop and seeing as I had a little a bit of credit left, I decided to pick up A Short Hike. It was just what I needed and after 2 hours of continuous play, I seen the credits roll.

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It's a very lovely game and one that's full of charm. You could probably finish it in about 30 minutes but it's very much a game about the journey and not the destination. I really enjoyed running around the island, finding secrets and picking up items, so much so that I refused to climb to the top until I had found all of the feathers, as seen below.

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I will give a special mention to the audio work in the game. I played it with my PS Gold headset on and it was a wonderful experience. Hearing things like the rain falling, wind blowing and music fading in and out really help me be immersed in the world. Some of the tunes were so relaxing and fit really well with how the weather changed on the different sections of the island. It's times like this where I think that music is such a big part of games and often gets overlooked. We live in a time where people often play games whilst listening to podcasts or have another screen on in the background and as such they miss out on some wonderful tunes and world building moments.

I was surprised by just how much there was to do in the game. I thought it was just a question of getting to the top of the mountain and didn't realise there were side quests to finish and races to compete in. When I finished one of the quests I was awarded a Silver Feather. Again, this was another surprise as I thought they only came in gold. 

In a way, the game kinda reminded me of Journey. In that game you also had to climb a mountain and battle the elements, with music also being used to great effect. That game was obviously more artsy but I couldn't help but draw comparisons between the two games.

I did like the graphical style that the developers used. I also appreciated the options of being able to toggle the jagged edges down. I played it on the sharpest setting. It still looked blocky but more like a higher res version of a DS game.

I would certainly recommend the game but a sticking point for people may be the price. Paying £6.00 for an hour or two of game time may not appeal to everyone, especially if you don't want to explore the island and just head straight to the top. However, I will say that despite its short length I think the game will leave a lasting impression on me. Again, just like Journey done.

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Its great to see more people playing A Short Hike and enjoying it. I played it originally when it released on PC and loved the laidback nature of it. When it was announced for the Switch, I double dipped and enjoyed it just as much. Its just such a joy to wander that location, speak to the locals and search out little secrets. Loved the visuals and the soundtrack and audio design are just superb. Well worth a jaunt and well worth exploring the island for all its secrets, especially at that price. Its the game I wish Animal Crossing was, or at least took some ideas from.

So far this year, I've only managed to finish Call of the Sea on my Xbox One. I keep jumping between playing bits of this and bits of that but sat down and finished off Call of the Sea over a week ago and enjoyed it. Its very much in the same vein as The Shape of Water to a degree with where it goes but I found it an enjoyable first person puzzle game. Nothing too extravagant and nothing too taxing puzzle wise. Just a simple romp round a Pacific island solving some interesting puzzles. Story didn't really do much for me, which is a shame as the voice work is really nicely done. There were also plenty of technical issues, mainly frame rate issues and stuttering as well as a bizarre choice to darken the edges of the screen for your FOV, but for a first title from that studio, its was pretty good. It being on Gamepass is definitely a plus and if anyone is using the service, I'd say its worth a go of you want a 5 hour plus puzzle adventure.

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On Tuesday I picked up Cyber Shadow on the PS4.

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Ever since seeing it on the Nintendo indie showcase I'd been eager to play it. I know a few on here were excited by the look of it, especially seeing as Yacht Club were involved, but it appears nobody else picked it up. I've been putting time into it on and off during the week and have just finished it this morning.

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Lots of people said that this would be a modern take on the NES Ninja Gaiden games but I don't think that's the case at all. Sure, it features a ninja that slashes a sword but I think that's where the comparisons end. The game feels far more like the NES games Blue Shadow and Batman. Both of these were difficult but fair whereas Ninja Gaiden was quite brutal and cheap, with respawning enemies and awful placement of them.

This game is challenging. There are times where you will be overwhelmed by enemies and some checkpoints seem to spread  out a little too thinly. Because of this you are forced to learn where enemies will come from and generally just get good at the sections you struggle on. I had 313 deaths in the game but I will point out that some of these were from me trying to complete the trophies/feats, so you'll probably be below that should you choose to just play it without trying to unlock these extras.

The game does help you out a bit when you're in a tight spot. At the checkpoints you can spend the currency you collect to unlock special abilities. These can be things like shields, a laser that hovers around you or a little robot that dispenses energy for your special moves. These are all incredibly helpful and the good thing about it is that once you unlock these things at a checkpoint they will always be there for you to use.

Like Shovel Knight, this game features in game achievements/trophies/feats. Some of these you get on your normal journey but most require you to defeat a boss in a certain way. These add a bit more difficulty to an already challenging game. For example, in one boss battle you have to make sure you don't fall in the water you are fighting on and in another fight you can't take the easy option and hit the boss from behind.

The game is quite lengthy. I got nearly 7 hours play time out of it but there's still collectibles to find and trophies to earn. If I'm to earn the platinum I have to finish the game in under 3 hours and also finish the game without getting any health or special meter pick ups. Yeah, it's gonna be a toughie.

If I was to pick fault with the game it would be that the look of the levels could have been more varied. For a lot of the game it feels like you are going through industrial areas and torn down cities. I think have a couple of the 10 stages set in a more vibrant setting would have helped this issue. Given the narrative of the game, I suppose it makes sense why the levels are the way they are.

It's another fantastic indie game that has arrived and while it doesn't reach the heights of say Shovel Knight or The Messenger, it's well worth playing if you grew up during the NES era or just want a challenging platforming game. Oh, for those who have Game Pass, the game launched on that service. You've got no excuse not to give it a whirl. :) 

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