Jump to content

Your Gaming Diary 2023

Recommended Posts

On 30/11/2023 at 2:43 PM, Glen-i said:

Seriously, the tips section in Smash Ultimate will teach you stuff!

Oh wow, to think it was that close! Great find :)

On 30/11/2023 at 2:43 PM, Glen-i said:

The heavy characters (...) slide less on slippery tracks



On 30/11/2023 at 7:55 PM, lostmario said:

Finished Metroid Zero Mission today.  Been playing it at work on my GBASP during my lunch breaks for the last week or so.

Got an everdrive for my GBA so if anyone has any recommendations for my next lunch break game, let me know.

Very nice :) For general GBA recommendations, my recommendations are:

  • For something in the vein of Metroid, with an explorable 2D map, there's Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Metroid Fusion;
  • For fun 2D platformers, there's Wario Land 4 and Drill Dozer;
  • For something more challenging and fast-paced than those, there's Mega Man Zero or Astro Boy: Omega Factor.
Edited by Jonnas
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
  • Haha 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Knocked out another of my recent purchases.


When the game was announced it was said they were going to try a mimic the feel of both Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy. This got a lot of people excited, myself included. Sadly, it was all talk because it doesn't feel like those games at all. 

Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy were slow in comparison to other WWF games out on the market at the time but that made for a more interesting grappling and reversal system, rather than just punching your way to victory. This game falls somewhere between those games and the Smackdown games. 

The game was clearly made with a tight budget. Some of the character models look very bad by today's standards. It's as if they couldn't settle on whether or not to have a cartoon look or a realistic one. What you end up with is a bit of a mish mash.

There aren't that many modes to play around with either. Again, go back to No Mercy or Smackdown 2 and there were a wealth of options and different matches to play around in. With this game, not so much.

The story mode does its best to imitate No Mercy. For me, that is still the standard to beat when it comes to wrestling game campaigns. It had a stupid amount of paths that could be taken that offered a lot of replay value. AEW has a similar system but just not as effective. You have 4 months to play through (not even a full years schedule) and certain decisions will change the outcome of the path you take in the next month. The problem is that sometimes it appears that the path you end up on is pure RNG. Also, when you've completed a season there's no way to see the decisions you've already made so that you can try something different on your next run.

It's not a bad game but it's not amazing either. Had it been given a bit more time and money I think they could have expanded on what they've got here but it's clearly undercooked and need more development time. Sadly, a common thing in todays industry. On the plus side, I got the slap around CM Punk and made sure how was the one I pinned to win the championship. :D

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

6 weeks later Yakuza Like a dragon has been finished. Had some trouble with Amon at the end but it was easy once I stopped the status ailments.

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ever since I got the expanded NSO, I have managed to clear at least one unplayed game from each system (and by "clear", I mean play it enough to either beat, complete, or confidently drop)... except for the N64. The games from that service are substantial, and require more time and investment to take seriously. But I did find one to clear before the year ended:

Dr. Mario 64


I do like Dr. Mario. It's relaxing and cathartic. Tetris is all about searching high bonuses and scores, while Puyo Puyo is all about frantically aiming for combos to beat an opponent. But Dr. Mario gives me a flask to clear and lets me do it at my own pace and method.

So, substantially, this game is no different from classic Dr. Mario, it's the same systems. Where it changes is that they tried to give this one some multiplayer focus.

Honestly, it's not a good fit. The pace is too slow, and the pills are too cumbersome, to be chasing those short Puyo-Puyo combos. And for what, a couple extra blocks on the opponent's side? It feels like too little when it happens to the opponent, but it's so annoying when it happens to you! Not only can it ruin a nice line you were going for (unlike in Puyo Puyo, it really needs to be lines. A blocked line is really frustrating to deal with here), but they fall so slowly that you can actually suffer in place for up to 10 seconds before you can move again.

Anyway, the entirety of the Story Mode is this, and it's more annoying than satisfying. Beat it on Normal, might go for Hard some day. I hear there are secret final bosses, but I'm not aiming for them. As a plus, the setting is entirely based in Wario Land 3 (one of the best platformers of all time), and every available character is blessed with a glorious, animated 64-bit sprite, which is a nice thing to do for such a great game. The soundtrack isn't bad, either.

One game that does work is Flash Mode. Essentially, two players aim to eliminate three specific viruses from the board, and whoever does that first, wins. I think this is a much better concept for Dr.Mario multiplayer, and it's a shame it's relegated to an extra mode. The entire game should've followed this objective, but alas.

In a nutshell, it's not exactly the best use of Dr.Mario, but the game has quirks and strengths. It's just... this is a weird game to exist on the N64 in the year 2001. I'm glad it's basically free, now. 3 stars

  My 2023 log (Hide contents)

-Mega Man V (1994) Beat

-Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon [Game Boy] (1997) Dropped

-Super Bomberman R (2017) Beat

-Samurai Shodown Neogeo Collection (2020) No Goal

-Samurai Shodown (1993) No Goal

-Samurai Shodown II (1994) No Goal

-Samurai Shodown III (1995) No Goal

-Samurai Shodown IV (1996) No Goal

-Samurai Shodown V (2003) No Goal

-Samurai Shodown V Special (2004) No Goal

-Samurai Shodown V Perfect (2020) No Goal

-The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog (2023) Completed

-Mechstermination Force (2019) Beat

-F-Zero 99 (2023) No Goal

-F-Zero (1990) Beat

-Fallblox (2012) Beat

-Pnickles (1995) Dropped

-Streets of Rage 2 (1992) Beat

-The Horror of Salazar House (2020) Completed

-Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (2005) Completed

-Flicky (1984) No Goal

-Castlevania Legends (1997) Beat

-Mario Kart: Super Circuit (2001) Beat

-Shadow of the Ninja (1990) Completed

-A.K.A. Block Block (1991) Completed

-Mega Man: The Power Battle (1995) Completed

-Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters (1996) Completed

-Dr.Mario 64 (2001) Completed

I don't really expect to clear any more games until the end of the year. But I am happy with pace I'm following right now, so who knows.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Even the great Shinji Mikami is done with Resident Evil because he knows they wrecked it by killing off Umbrella in the most pointless way. However, that he once said 5 and 6 have no Umbrella without mentioning 4 as he looked down at the floor in an interview he gave, suggests he was trying to stay civil by referencing a few games he did not collaborate on.

I think I will stay in 1998 with Capcom, as Capcom doesn't want to base games in other cities with new animal names, like a Panda County or something. I will just play the old PS1 and GameCube era titles, as that's where the series died for me.

Since the original RE3 destroyed Raccoon City with a nuclear blast, they have been content on going back to that time period just to milk it dry. Yawn.

Typos are bad, too.

Edited by CrowingJoe79

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Digimon Survive is a Visual Novel/Strategy RPG game that released on Switch, PS4, and PC last year. Developed by Hyde, published by Namco, it's, as far as I'm aware, new ground for this series. Credit where it's due, Pokémon hasn't dipped it's toe into Visual Novels (It's done a strategy RPG, though. It's good).

The game follows Takuma Momozuka, a secondary school student who, along with 5 other students, is on a historical studies extracurricular activities camp. He visits an unnamed village to study an old local temple that once was dedicated to the worship of "Kemonogami". However, a landslide has blocked access to that shrine. A local kid (Miu, on the right of that picture) shows two of the students another way to that shrine. Takuma and the other 3 notice this, and follow out of concern. They meet Miu's brother, Kaito, who's looking for her, and arrive at the Kemonogami shrine.
Things go wrong, some kind of rock monster attacks the kids, and another landslide seperates them all. Takuma is followed by that same monster, and before Takuma meets an entirely premature end, he's saved by some kind of baby dinosaur called Agumon.


Good to know

He's not the only one, the rest of the students also meet up with various Kemonogami that insist on protecting them. Takuma and 2 other kids he reunited with quickly decide to go back to the school their camp is located in, only to find it completely dilapidated and abandoned. Naturally, this is very weird, so Takuma decides to try and find the other kids, and find out what the hell is going on with the help of Agumon and the other helpful Kemonogami.

Man, talking about this game is an utter minefield of spoilers... If you're even remotely interested in this, avoid the following spoiler tag like the plague.


Boy, it quickly becomes apparant that this is not your average Digimon game. Granted, my knowledge of the Digimon series extends to the first season of the original anime series and Cyber Sleuth, but it's safe to assume that the tone of the general franchise is close to way bigger rival, Pokémon.

Not this game, though, this game ain't having that. The tone throughout most of the game is bleak, with a growing sense of foreboding not unsimilar to the Zero Escape series. It's just a constant feeling that something awful is going to happen. Still, it's Digimon, what's the worst that could happen?


Real talk, I don't like it when Agumon takes that tone of voice. It's disturbing, and a far cry from his usual raspy, silly voice. And it's never a good sign. Kudos to the voice acting there. That's some impressive range.

Anyway, Iguana Face was right. Shuuji went a bit mad, started kicking the Kemonogami that was trying to protect him in a desperate attempt to get it to evolve.
It worked, it actually evolved, only to then turn on Shuuji and bite the top half of his body off!

I'm not exaggerating, @Dcubed was there when it happened, he can back me up. What the hell!?

That wasn't the only casualty I had on my first playthrough, by the end of the game, 6 characters (And their respective Kemonogami, because their lives are intrinsically linked together) bit the dust. And just to really rub it in, the title screen gradually changes to reflect any deaths, that title screen got really empty by the end.

Most of the gameplay consists of the Visual Novel aspect, you read dialogue (No English dub, so yeah, reading for me) and point and click all over the place. The choices you make can strengthen your affinity with other characters and can also affect one of three karma catagories that Takuma has; Harmonious, Wrathfulness, and Morality. Those karma catagories determine various things, such as what Agumon evolves into as you progress.

Along the way, you'll inevitably be forced to fight hostile Kemonogami. This is where the Strategy RPG aspect comes into play, as you command the Kemonogami around the area to fight. It's not all fights, sometimes you have to protect something, or make a break for an escape point. There's a decent variety here. And the stuff you do in the Visual Novel sections can have an actual effect on the battles, both advantageous and disadvantageous.


Note the word "Evolution". Trust me, that's proper weird.

Positioning is important here. Attacking from the side or from behind is more effective, and attacking from higher places is also helpful. Having more then one Kenomogami near an enemy can activate chain attacks as well

Wait, three different catagories of morality? A format that's more Visual Novel then Strategy RPG? Position based combat? My word, this is basically Triangle Strategy! I'm gonna assume it's a massive coincidence, giving the long development hell this game had.
Don't misunderstand me though. Triangle Strategy does it better. The combat in Digimon Survive is servicable, but not overly complex. It does the job. And the Visual Novel part is the real star of the show anyway.

Said visual novel aspect is not without faults though. The localisation gets a bit slapdash around the middle of the game. With more then a few typos. It gets back on track after that point, but it's very weird.
What happens throughout is that a few of the Kemonogami keep getting referred to with different genders. The localisers couldn't seem to make up their mind on whether some of them were male or female. English localisation seems to be a constant afterthought with Digimon games (Cyber Sleuth was even worse in that regard). Namco don't seem to see value in it. And it's a real shame, because I really enjoyed the plot here.

The visuals are really good! Characters are depicted with gorgeous spritework that blurs the line between sprite and 3D model. It's a very convincing illusion, and really heightens the quality there. I can't sing it's praises enough there.


Some of the Kemonogami do still look really silly though

The soundtrack is... well... that would be spoilers. It's very good though.


About 15% of the soundtrack is light hearted, another 20% is more action-y to suit battles.

The rest is about as bleak as the tone of the game. Remember how I said that there's a sense of foreboding throughout most of it? Yeah, the soundtrack is partly why that is.

It's so unlike Cyber Sleuth (That soundtrack was lame), and it's truly excellent because of that. It's even way better then "I am Setsuna", which has the same composer.

Digimon Survive may not be quite as amazing as Triangle Strategy, and it's nowhere near my favourite game I played this year, but it's easily my surprise hit of the year. It's a bold direction for Digimon and I would honestly love for future games to follow its example. For the first time ever, I feel like Digimon has made steps to be something other then "that Pokémon copycat" with this game.

It's truly special.


Fire Emblem Engage
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
WarioWare Inc: Mega Microgames
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Metroid Fusion
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog
Octopath Traveler II

Kirby's Dream Land
Metroid Prime Remastered
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
Pokémon Scarlet
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Lil Gator Game
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed
Pokémon Colosseum
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Persona 5 Strikers
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Grandia II HD
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD
Shin Megami Tensei V (100%)
Fire Emblem Engage: Fell Xenologue
Trombone Champ
Digimon Survive


Edited by Glen-i
  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

After playing FFXVI, I was wanting a lighter experience and so picked up and played Lil Gator Game. Its been on my wishlist for a while now and it was finally on sale.


What a charming game this is and an absolute joy to play. It reminded me very much of A Short Hike. In that game you get to explore an island and are able to progress further as you upgrade certain abilities. Same thing here.

The narrative of the game is very touching and quite true to life. You play as a young sibling you wants his older sister to play with him and go on an adventure. She's too busy working on a college project and your character is too young to understand the responsibilities that occur when you are older. As the game progresses the lil gator realises that his sister still loves him and it's just that she has other things to take care of, but he still has the memories of time together when they were younger. In turn, the older sister learns that life can be stressful and it's sometimes best to put aside the adult in you and just have some fun. Lovely message.

The gameplay side of things takes inspiration from BOTW and even references that and past Zelda games in some of the dialogue, which can be quite funny at times. You basically have to explore the island and try to get as many friends to help out with building a big Fort. To do this usually involves talking to them and helping them out with a mission. The island is large enough to have fun exploring but small enough where it isn't too daunting. Plus, the traversal is really fun, especially when you get to upgrade your stamina and float around with a glider.

Yeah, really fun and charming game. I can see why Playtonic decided to publish this one. Look at that. @Glen-i here's another game we both enjoyed. :p


  • Like 4

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished a bunch of games today. I enjoyed Lil Gator and Metal: Hellsinger so much that I went for double platinums and played them again.



Next up, I played through Metal Gear 1 and 2. 


I've never played either of these, despite loving the series. I enjoyed both of them, with each of them showing signs of where the series would go.

Metal Gear 2 is remarkably similar to Metal Gear Solid. Certain events, characters and places are pretty much what is seen in MGS. Holly is essentially Meryl, getting attacked in the elevator, climbing up a large amount of stairs, fighting a Hind D, plus more...all of these things take place in both games. 

The character art during codec calls is pretty similar to what we would end up with in MGS. Speaking of which, there's obviously no VA in the game but every line I read that came from Snake, all could hear is David Hayter's voice as I read along. 

I'm now looking forward to playing MGS. Its been a long time since I last played it.

Lastly, I finally finished Kirby's Dream Buffet. It's taken over a year but its done.




I bought this at launch and have been playing it on and off since then. The servers are pretty much dead but thankfully you can play against the AI. It's taken over 40 hours of racing to eventually reach the highest rank. It was a total grind but I wanted to fully complete it as I like to try and 100% Kirby games where I can.

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

fighting a Hind D,

Soooo, you got the MGS collection or are MGS 1&2 available somewhere else?

  • Haha 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
55 minutes ago, drahkon said:

Soooo, you got the MGS collection or are MGS 1&2 available somewhere else?

If I'm remembering right from the random Konami news drops, they're included in the Master Collection or bundled with MGS if you pick that up individually :peace: & I think I remember seeing H-o-T mentioning that he picked up the Collection somewhere :p


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Yeah, @Hero-of-Time is right, Krusty said it best.


BTW, H-o-T, I checked the trophy list, you played through the game two and a half times!?


Anyway, Krusty may be right, but I'm gonna explain why.

Chrono Cross is a PS1 turn-based RPG that released in 2000 in America. Yep, Europe would have to wait until 2022, when the Radical Dreamer's Edition came out for the Switch, PS4, and XBox One. The more modern version improves the resolution, shortens loading times, and allows access to the feature that lets you speed up the game on your first playthrough (Thank god for that one!)
As the name suggests, Chrono Cross is the sequel to Chrono Trigger, so it's already got the downside of being directly compared to one of the greatest RPG's ever made.

The game follows Serge, a villager in the seaside town of Arni Village. On an errand for his childhood friend, he gets caught up in weird phenomenal lights and tidal waves, but gets through it without harm. Upon returning to Arni Village, he soon realises that he's stumbled into a parallel universe. In this parallel universe, Serge has been dead for 10 years. While trying to figure out why this has happened, he meets up with Kid, a feisty girl with an Australian accent, who claims to have an idea of what's going on, she promises to help if Serge assists her in getting the "Frozen Flame", a mythical treasure. She's not the only one chasing it, however. An anthropormophic panther, named Lynx, is also looking for the Flame, and seems to have an unusual fixation on Serge.

Things get complicated...

This plot, man. I suppose I should use a spoiler tag, but trust me, this plot is dreadful! And insulting, to boot. You're not helping yourself keeping it secret for a future playthrough.


So, credit where it's due, the story is actually quite good during the first half, and Lynx hijacking Serge's body is a cool little twist. It meant I had to go without MVP party member Glenn (No, Julius, don't get excited, it's not that guy. He's too cool to appear in this game) for quite a while. Still, Draggy was very useful for the rest of the game.


Damn it, Draggy! Would you please STOP BLOWING OUR COVER!?

He kept doing that, it was really funny. Unfortunately, I was enjoying it too much, because then the plot decided to derail and explode all over my face.


My thoughts exactly

Chrono Cross, for reasons I can only describe as "dumb" decides to try and link this game to Chrono Trigger. It does this in the most hamfisted, and insulting way.

  • Everything that Crono and his friends did to save the world didn't matter because Lavos just came back to life because of parallel universe BS. Chrono Trigger made absolutely no difference!
  • And just to really kick you while you're down. Lucca is killed by Lynx.
  • Crono and Marle get it worse, they're killed because of Dalton, yeah that utter joke of a boss from the first game.


  • Despite being set in 1020 AD, Robo manages to show up! He delivers 3 lines of dialogue, then gets killed off-screen. Just completely unneccessary, and mean.
  • The whole alternate Lavos thing was because the Reptites won in the alternate universe and became the dominant species. Yes, really. Those silly dinosaurs from Chrono Trigger turn out to be the main reason Lavos came back. It's all explained in an infodump near the end of the game, so you don't even get to see dinosaurs in labcoats studying stuff. There is an image of humans fighting the Reptities with fighter jets, and it's somehow really lame! That's how much this plot sucks.


You know it's bad when even sudden reptiles can't make me like your plot


Oh, and Kid is actually Schala's clone. Because why the hell not, at this point!?

CC_TRDE_03-17civ3cq4.jpg?quality=65  150px-Schala.jpg

Spitting image!

  • Oh, and Lynx is a computer, and the Dragon Gods are robots, made by the Reptites. And Lynx is Serge's dad, that last one has no impact on the story at all! It's just told to you right before the final boss. Serge isn't a computer though. I think...

It's just all really stupid and massively contradictory to plot points in Trigger.

The plot is so bad that "Chrono Compendium", a website dedicated to figuring out the links between the Chrono games for the past 20 years, gave up on trying to figure out Chrono Cross, and declared it nonsensical after they read an interview with one of the writers prior to the 2022 remaster and realised it was mostly made up on the spot.

I highly recommend clicking that link I provided just now. It's full of spoilers, naturally. But it goes into much more detail on all the massive plot holes Chrono Cross has. But here's a snippet that sums it up nicely.


With this little attention given to the plot and its internal consistency, we have to ask ourselves at the Chrono Compendium—why should WE care? Why spend so much time and effort trying to add coherence to such a jumbled, contradictory plot, especially where it conflicts with the rules set up by Chrono Trigger or undercuts the theme of that game? It appears that much of Chrono Cross was written without any respect to a fundamental set of internal principles or in-universe logic, nor was it even fleshed out beyond what was shown on-screen for immediate effect. It's the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster with an inflated budget—the actors are big names; the CGI is great; the soundtrack is top notch—but the story? Utterly nonsensical, which kneecaps all the emotional poignancy of the game. Does anything the characters do matter in Chrono Cross, considering it was all planned by Schala and Belthasar, and in context of the implication that the player characters forget the entire adventure once it's done? If it didn't matter to the chief writer of the game, why should it matter to us?


Thanks, I hate it!

Unfotunately, the plot isn't the only confusing thing. The battle system tries is best to outdo it.


I'd explain it, but honestly? I can't be bothered, it took me 25 hours just to get my head around it. Forget it. This game doesn't deserve the effort.
The leveling system sucks as well. You only ever level up after beating a boss, which sounds like it cuts down on grinding, but you get stat boosts from random encounters after each level up, so you have to do around 10 battles to get the most out of each level anyway. I became very acquainted with the first area in the game. It sucks in Final Fantasy XIII, it sucks here.

You know what else sucks? The fact that this game has 45 characters. Chrono Trigger has 7 playable characters, and all of them are useful. Chrono Cross has 45, and only 10 of them are any good! It's very easy to accidentally put effort into building up a character who is complete rubbish. Luckily, I had a guide to hand to tell me who I should focus on.

Yes, I used a guide. I don't care. PS1 RPG's are amongst the worst for having impossible-to-find secrets, I have no regrets.

It's not all awful, mind. The graphics are really impressive for a PS1 game, and the soundtrack is mostly really good as well. Silver linings, I guess.

Chrono Cross not only fails to make a cohesive plot, but it also retroactively makes Chrono Trigger worse by association. Seriously, the plot was so bad, they had to add extra content to the DS version of Chrono Triggger to try and get Chrono Cross to make some sense. It didn't work.

Play Radical Dreamers instead, it's way better.


Fire Emblem Engage
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
WarioWare Inc: Mega Microgames
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Metroid Fusion
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog
Octopath Traveler II

Kirby's Dream Land
Metroid Prime Remastered
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
Pokémon Scarlet
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Lil Gator Game
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed
Pokémon Colosseum
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Persona 5 Strikers
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Grandia II HD
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD
Shin Megami Tensei V (100%)
Fire Emblem Engage: Fell Xenologue
Trombone Champ
Digimon Survive
Radical Dreamers
Chrono Cross

Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Super Mario RPG


Edited by Glen-i
  • Like 3
  • Haha 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nah, @Glen-i. I made saves at certain places so full playthroughs weren't needed. Still had to finish it a bunch of times but never had to go through the game fully again.

Hey, look at that! It's another game we share the same opinion on. The end of the world must be nigh.

  • Haha 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you.  Now you finally understand why I hate Chrono Cross (and Chrono Trigger DS) so much.  Fuck that game, and fuck Masato Kato; the hack writer responsible for this trash!

I didn't even know about that Chrono Compendium article prior to watching @Glen-i play through Chrono Cross.  That article is incredibly cathartic and hilarious, because I remember my kid-self trudging through all of that site when I first played CC back in like 2005-2006 or so? (Not long after I played through CT for the first time in around 2004 ish), and desperately trying to make any sort of sense I could out of its plot.  It's so significant because Chrono Compendium were the biggest defenders of Chrono Cross and its story on the internet... so seeing them now completely disavow CC, following the release of the Radical Dreamers edition and that new 2022 Masato Kato interview is the most utterly hilarious thing imaginable to my childhood self! Ahh... catharsis :D

Radical Dreamers is still rad though.  And Chrono Trigger is still the best RPG ever made, screw Chrono Cross!

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Oy! You can't abandon this thread yet! I've still got a few more 2023 games to add! Get back in here!

Ghouls N' Ghosts



I took one more trip to The Heart of Gaming before the end of the year, and I was still in a Castlevania sort of mood (having just finished Castlevania Legends and Vampire: Master of Darkness).  So I came across the original CPS arcade Ghouls N' Ghosts running on a Naomi candy cabinet and thought... yeah!


Gaming's most fetching boxers

Ghouls N' Ghosts is the confusingly titled sequel to Ghosts N' Goblins.  The Series That Can't Make Up Its Mind is known for its unique blend of run & gun platforming gameplay, its light-hearted take on demonic beauty, and its brutal difficulty.  Much like Konami's own Castlevania series, GN'G follows a similar design philosophy with tightly crafted level design that takes advantage of Arthur's set jump arc, careful enemy placement and pacing to deliver a finely tuned platforming experience that is equal parts shooter and platformer.  It's a difficult game that offers enormous satisfaction as you overcome its challenge; tough but fair...

... my playthrough however was anything but fair... because I was lumped with a particularily nasty handicap.  Chances are that if you've played this game before, you're probably most familiar with either its Megadrive counterpart, or some form of re-release of the original arcade verison on more modern platforms.  What you might not know, is that the original arcade CPS version of GN'G was specifically designed to use a 4-way joystick in its original arcade cabinet; where the lever is locked into moving up/down/left/right only.  If you were to put the game into a cabinet with an 8-way joystick however? Diagonal directions result in no input being detected by the game, and any such attempts to move diagonally mean that the game just eats your input and Arthur acts as if you've just let go of the lever; standing completely still.  Now, most of this game's re-releases account for this by just treating diagonal inputs as either left or right respectively... but this isn't a re-release... this is the actual original arcade board.  And of course, the arcade operators decided to be cruel to me by putting the game into a cabinet with an 8-way joystick...


Get used to seeing this screen


Still.  I marched on unabated.  I've beaten the original arcade game before, I can do it again!  I wasn't going to let this handicap beat me.  Stage 1 wasn't too bad, couple of deaths, but I managed to get through it after wrestling with the diagonal inputs issue.  Stage 2 ramps up the difficulty pretty quickly, but it too fell after a game over or two (I always forget where the trap doors are).  But then comes Stage 3, and here's where the kiddy gloves really come off.  It's just an absolute gauntlet of relentless scum & villanry, crushing walls and nightmarish jumps over moving platforms and death pits, but almost an hour later? I finally emerged victorious.

Stage 4 is an odd ball in that the first half is reletively breezy compared to Stage 3... but it's the latter half of Stage 4 that lives in infamy, as you fight... OHME!



This bastard comes right at the end of its own crucible of torment, as you're tasked to slide down an icicle river, followed by a downwards lift of evil.  You're almost certainly going to be getting to him in your boxers as it's near impossible to not take at least one hit along the way.  A frigging incubus in its purest sense.  But still, I eventually won this war of attrition; and it was on to Stage 5.  This is essentially a glorified boss rush, and it's naturally tough as nails.  But nails are meant to be hammered, and finally the nail was struck! At last! It was done! I could finally res...



You mother...

Of course.  You knew already that this was only the halfway point.  But the weird thing about the GN'G games, is that the second loop always ends up being so much faster than the first.  It's strange in that you can literally feel the muscle memory in your hands just kicking in as you charge right through the game on the second time around... and so it was.  Even after being lumped with the mandatory Goddess Bracelet (which, despite its plot significance, is actually a pretty crummy weapon), I smashed through the game again in record time; and laid waste to Lucifer.  True victory was mine!


Or is it? Nah, actually it is the end.

Great game then, great game now.  While Super GN'G is still my favourite of the series, this one is still a great time and an arcade classic for a damn good reason; 8-way stick handicap be damned!

Castlevania: Dracula X



Keeping with the season of Xmas cheer, we have Castlevania: Dracula X.  Richter's... debut game? Sort of?

Even amongst the Castlevania series, Dracula X is a strange game.  Hell, even before we get into the game itself, we have another example of a game that can't make up its bloody mind about what it wants to be called! We have Castlevania: Dracula X in the states, Akumajō Dracula XX (yes, double eccs!) in Japan and, for some bizzare reason, we got it as Castlevania: Vampire's Kiss here in blighty! How the hell did they manage to coax "Vampire's Kiss" out of that!?


Dracula X isn't even in this release! Don't make it even more confusing!


Anyway, Vampire's XXX is a kind of, sort of port/remake/reimagining/bastardisation of the original 1993 PC Engine CD game, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood.  It purports to be a SNES remake of an awesome import game that we never got in the west, because the Turbografx CD was a dismal failure outside of Japan and Hudson/NEC decided that they didn't want to release their console's best games outside of Japan, because that would be the smart thing to do.

So instead, Konami decided that they didn't want to let such a great game go to waste and tasked their best scientists to make the game work on the SNES... Choices were made, and the scientists didn't stop to ask if they should, because there was always one big insurmountable problem...




The SNES CD addon had already been publically cancelled and abandoned well before Rondo of Blood had even released in Japan in October 1993, so this was an odd choice of console.  They could've chose the SEGA CD, they could've chose the 3DO, they could've chose the PS1 or the Saturn; all of which sported CD drives.  But instead, they chose to attempt to cram a 650MB CD game into a 2MB SNES cartridge (That's 16mbit, or SIXTEEN MEGA POWER, in old money).  And to tell the truth, Konami were cheaping out here with the choice of cartridge, because 4MB/32mbit cartridges had started to become pretty common on the SNES by 1995; even lower-mid budget releases were starting to use 3MB/24mbit cartridges as standard as we came to the end of the console's life.  This was pretty typical of Konami, as they were fairly notorious for cutting corners where they could (Sunset Riders on the MD being a pitiful 4mbit compared to the 8mbit of the SNES version being a prime example); and the cheapness continued here, because this game not only uses a pretty tinchy cartridge size for a SNES game in 1995, but it doesn't even come with battery backup SRAM, instead relying on old fashioned password saves (what is this? 1986!?).  And no special chips either, in fact, this was a LOROM cartridge as well; meaning that the game couldn't even run at the SNES CPU's fastest clock speed.  Konami chose the cheapest and nastiest cartridge that they could feasibly get away with.

You might not think these technical details matter in this day and age, but back in the 16 bit era? Every single megabit counted.  Developers were desperately fighting against the storage limitations of the cartridge format, and the quality of the game was often directly proportional to the amount of cartridge space that their publisher was willing to pay for.  Unfortunately, this really shows in the final product...


Poor Richter certainly has the odds stacked against him

As far as we can tell (Konami were still forcing its developers to use psuedonyms for the most part), nobody who worked on Rondo of Blood was involved in the creation of Dracula X for SNES, instead, the team largely consisted of people who had previously worked on conversions of Konami's arcade games to the 16 bit consoles of the day; but who were all new to the Castlevania series. So while the team may initially seem green, they'd actually already cut their teeth on difficult downports in the past, in fact, some of them would actually go on to join Koji Igarashi's team later on and take up promenent positions on future Castlevania titles (most notably Hiroto Yamaguchi, who became a lead designer on games such as Aria of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin).  There was actually some pretty significant talent involved in Dracula X, and despite the bad hand that they'd been dealt? That talent actually does manage to shine through in many ways.

First off.  Dracula X is a very good looking game.  While it of course, couldn't hope to match the animation frames seen in the original CD title, they managed to carry over many of the original sprites in fine form; and even bested the original Rondo of Blood when it came to special effects and such.  The SNES was a more powerful console than the PC Engine after all, and the team behind Dracula X took good advantage of the SNES' graphical capabilities to pull off some really nice raster effects and some very colourful visuals that certainly outperformed the original game from a technical standpoint.


She's a looker alright!

And when it comes to the music? (A particular standout feature of the CD powered original), they actually did a surprisingly solid job here.  While some conversions sound better than others, the soundtrack comes remarkably close to the original Redbook audio at times!  That SPC700 certainly punches well above its weight here, and while all Castlevania music is great, I'm just gonna post a couple of highlights that I feel come really close to their source material...


But the original Rondo of Blood didn't just use its CD format for fancy music and voice acted cutscenes (it did have that), it most notably used the unlimited power of the CD to introduce multi-tiered level design with extensive branching paths that would essentially lead you through different levels entierly, and sometimes even to secret exits and hidden boss encounters! In many ways, it is the bridge between the classic Action Game style of Castlevania and the Metroidvania style of game that the series would become (I mean... there's a reason why Symphony of the Night was a direct sequel to Rondo of Blood after all); and it is here where the SNES developers would have the biggest challenge.  And this wasn't some sort of hidden thing that they could skirt around and pretend wasn't there in the original... Rondo's multi-tiered level design and gameplay setup was well known to the public even in 1995... to the point where it was even a back-of-the-box feature advertised for Dracula X!


See! They did say that.


So how could the designers possibly convert such a massive game to the humble cartridge format and retain the multi-tiered level design that made the original Rondo of Blood so beloved?  Simple.  They didn't.

Instead, Dracula X completely redesigns the stages from scratch.  They keep the same basic level themes and story in place, but they essentially made a completely original game that aimed to retain the flavour of Rondo.  And to be fair, they did manage to retain some of the basic ideas seen in Rondo at least.  There are two hidden stages that you can access.  One is found by accidentally falling down a particular pit in Stage 3 (which forces you onto the path for the bad ending), while the other requires you to hold onto a key to go through a hidden exit in Stage 4.  Otherwise though? Most of the cool multi-tiered level design is heavily stripped back in favour of a pretty streamlined and linear path; and there are definitely some very questionable choices with the level design and enemy placement in general.  It's just nowhere near as tightly designed as seen in Rondo, or indeed many of the other entries in the series.  With plenty of bullshit enemy placement that seems designed to frustrate the player and waste your time as you wait for enemies to just fucking move out of the way so you can jump!

Oh? Speaking of jumping... The jump physics are also not as finely tuned as in Rondo, lacking the nuance to really allow for the tight platforming that game offered, and also lacking the tightness to make Dracula X feel fair.  Artistically, the game also doesn't look as cohesive or detailed as its CD forebearer either; despite being more technically accomplished, the art ends up often looking drab and washed out.  Oh, and the levels end up feeling overly long, as they lack the interesting setpieces and scripted moments that made Rondo so fun.  In fact, the enemy variety is really quite poor compared to Rondo, as a huge chunk of that game's cast was just exorcised completely here; meaning that you spend much of the game fighting the same stock Skeletons, Bats and Spear Guards throughout the game's running time.  Also, around 3/4 of Rondo's bosses were just removed outright, with all of the remaining ones being heavily redesigned and much less fun to fight here, though there are a few new bosses to make up for it.  The game as a whole just feels somewhat sloppy to play as well as look at.  It feels like the team really didn't quite understand the careful game design balance that makes the best Castlevanias shine, and though they made the best of a bad situation, I feel that the level design really could've been much better.

But really.  The sloppy design culminates most obviously in the game's final boss battle against Dracula.  This game is infamous for having the most utterly BS, unfair final boss in the entire series; and the reason why becomes obvious the moment you look at it...


When you can simply hear a game's level design shouting fuck you at the player


One single hit? Yup, you're getting knockbacked into the death pit and you'll have to start all over.  Someone at Konami really didn't want players to beat this game in a weekend rental, and it really really shows here.  It's just awful.

But you know what? I can respect Dracula X for what it is.  Despite being a mere shadow of the real Rondo of Blood, it's still a generally enjoyable Castlevania in its own right that manages to impress in a number of ways.  One can only wonder how much better it could've been if the developers were given a 32mbit/4MB cartridge to work with, affording them the space they really needed to better capture the multi-tiered level design of Rondo.  But still, what they managed here is still impressive given the circumstances, and still worth playing.  Just be prepared to deal with some sloppy level design and some BS unfair difficulty in places.


Richter's battle is far from over... 

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood



Hey! That's some familiar box art! Yes! It's time to play the REAL Rondo of Blood! And what a fucking game it is!

I first played this masterpiece in 2010 when we finally got the first unmodified western release of this game on the Wii Virtual Console and I was just blown the fuck away.  The music! The art! The god-like level design with masterfully crafted setpieces, multi-tiered stages, secret exits, secret stages, secret bosses, unlockable characters, pitch perfect pacing, awesome enemy/attack pattern design! This game has it all!

To give you an idea of how much more intricate the level design is than seen in Dracula X... here's an overview that renders the game's stage layout in the style of its Metroidvania sequels...


Choose your destiny

You can really see how Rondo started to lean the series more in the direction as seen from Symphony of the Night onwards.  But make no mistake, this game is not a Metroidvania title.  This is classic Action Castlevania at its finest.  Every single pixel is carefully placed to perfection, filled with tiny little interactions like how the skeletons burst from each individual window in the first stage, to the crumbling castle bridge that falls behind you in Stage 2, to the little frogs that jump around in the background (that can also land on the player) in Stage 4, or even the foreshadowing of enemies that you'll later fight when you look through the castle windows!  Every stage is filled with so many tiny little touches that you could be mistaken for thinking that it's a Metal Gear game.  The game always feels perfectly fair, with just the right level of challenge; enough to pose difficulty, but never so much as to piss you off.  And it's always super satisfying when you do manage to complete each stage.  Every stage also has multiple bosses you can fight, and they're all amongst the best in the series.  The backflip move also kicks so much arse, allowing you to bypass foes and jump back away from danger in such a stylish fashion that it would make Bayonetta blush.



MJ has nothing on Richter!


Castlevania Rondo of Blood is the best Action Castlevania in the series.  It's the apex of 16bit action platformers in general, and it's an absolute crime that it was never released outside of Japan in its time.  It has literally everything you could possibly ask for in a 16bit action platformer.  Just a pure masterclass in game design from start to finish.  The team behind Rondo of Blood would eventually reform in 1996, and go on to take over the series proper from Symphony of the Night onwards.  As such, Rondo is really the big inflection point that would go on to define the entire series onwards; and for damn good reason.  It's simply a perfect game.

Now, as alluded to before, this game did actually get another remake on the PSP in the confusingly titled Dracula X Chronicles, which also included a modified port of the original PC Engine Rondo of Blood (which itself was re-released in PSP emulated form on PS4 as "Castlevania Requiem"); but the Wii Virtual Console was the first time that we got the original version untouched here in the west.  And frustratingly, since the Wii Shop Channel got shut down? Rondo has only ever gotten one other re-release; via the Turbografx 16 Mini.  Thankfully, that version is absolutely perfect, so it makes for an excellent way to play this stunner.  Go get it right now! You won't regret it!

And that's the end of 2023! You can now go back to the 2024 Gaming Diary thread in peace.


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

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


Edited by Dcubed
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Ok, so I’d forgotten the other game I completed last year before Tears of the Kingdom started taking up all of my gaming time!

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS4)

I was leant this by my sister-in-law so felt the need to play it, despite my less-than-stellar experience with the Crash Trilogy.  Thankfully they did a great job of updating the gameplay and addressing many of the issues with the original titles, while still feeling like a Crash game.

Better highlighting where you’re going to land, having the camera pan out a little further for those levels you run towards the camera, and forgoing the lives system (as you’ll still die a lot!) all make a dramatic difference!

There’s more variety with more characters (even if I didn’t know some of them, having been introduced post-Crash 3) and gameplay styles and it looks lovely.

There are bonuses for doing well in levels (dying few times, collecting apples, finding secret gems) although you can complete the game without getting them.  These felt fairly rewarding until coming across some levels where I was never going to complete them dying so few times without investing a heavy amount of time to learn those levels.  Then finding out that for full completion I’d need to do this for every level TWICE that wasn’t for me.  I feel quite satisfied to have beaten the final boss and I’ve no urge to play through it again.

Happy to have played it and feel Crash has improved, and I feel quite content to give this back to my sister-in-law.


  • Like 2
  • Thanks 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

It's time to bring this up-to-date and finish the fight in this thread. I've posted once or twice here already, so if you want the complete picture: for the first game I played in 2023, the Artorias of the Abyss DLC for Dark Souls, go here; and for some thoughts about Storyteller and SANABI, two brilliant, short, and rarely discussed indie titles released in 2023, go here

Obviously, I'm not going to go out of my way to spoil games - in particular, I've tried to leave story elements and some other things which I think are best saved for when someone experiences the game for themselves completely out of my diary entry - but there are some games I will be talking about where I think discussion of certain elements - mainly mechanics - not necessarily advertised before a game's release are essential to discussion about the game. Everyone's gauge for things being spoiled is going to be different, so consider yourself kindly warned :peace: I'm also going to be going a bit more in-depth on some games than others, especially considering that there are some games I've talked about quite a bit in their own dedicated threads, so if there's a crazy variety of write-up lengths, that's why :p 

Anyways, enough talk; let's mosey. 

Bloodborne | 2015


Bloodborne is a living nightmare of a game. Beasts drunk on blood prowl the streets of Yharnam, a pretty traditionally gothic settlement all things considered, with ornate buildings and the spires of cathedrals and clock towers piercing through its dark, foggy skies. You, a Hunter from a foreign land, take to these streets with jagged and clunky weapons, tasked with unraveling the many mysteries of this place and finding a cure for the disease which has seen it all fall from grace. Blood splatters over you as you tear through beast and man alike, drenching your jacket and the cobblestone streets in crimson, you being kept on high alert as danger lurks around every darkened corner - eyes scanning constantly from right to left and back again - before the wretched blood-curdling screams of unholy creatures of all sorts take hold of the night.

The few people you do meet - can they be trusted? The places you go, the things you hear - do they unsettle you? The few answers you do find - are they really answers, or just the beginning of a deeper dive into the abyss that is the foils and folly of man? 

What I love about Bloodborne is that, unlike so many other From Software games of this ilk, it provides you with much more story and context this time around - and yet you are kept guessing by the answers you don't have, and the greater truth you find yourself seeking about the nature of this world and its inhabitants, man and beast alike. This game's narrative wraps you around its finger and slyly grins at you, as you find yourself diving deeper, and deeper, and deeper yet into the cruelty depicted - how could anyone commit such inhumane acts? And, perhaps more importantly: why? - and just when you start to think you have some understanding of what's going on, it rapidly unfurls, pulling the rug from under you and unveiling something so much more. It's rare that a game with so few answers is able to grip me with its story so tightly, and yet here I am, nearly a full year after starting the game, still watching videos and reading articles on different interpretations of the game's events, its characters, and its place. The way in which the unveiling of this through certain mechanics and triggers in the game astounds me, and perhaps my only regret with the game in this regard is that those same mechanics and triggers weren't applied more widely to the game. 

Bloodborne takes after Demon's Souls and Dark Souls both in its level design; like Demon's Souls, there is a hub you will regularly return to in the form of The Hunter's Dream in order to level up and craft your weapons, whereas, more like Dark Souls, there is also an intricate web of exploration spun by the streets, paths, and buildings you come across your journey, and there were several instances I found myself grinning from ear-to-ear at the absurdity of realising that certain places link to others, and then thinking about it deeper - why, contextually, these places are linked, and why it makes perfect sense. The game does an excellent job of funnelling you in the right direction despite it often feeling so unnervingly cramped, especially while you find yourself in Yharnam early on, and despite the game being so visually dark, it does such a great job of making new areas feel unique in how you explore them. Yharnam as a whole - from top to bottom - might be my favourite place in a From Software game period just for how much is hidden away and overlapping, and I am also a very big fan of Castle Cainhurst and just how different it looks and feels: like a truly gruesome realisation of the Castlevania art I've seen so much of. More than any other game of From's that I've played, it really does realise so much of that Metroidvania-style DNA and apply it in wonderful fashion to what From Software wanted to achieve with this game. 

The crazy thing is, I've already highlighted a bunch of excellent things about this game, but there is so much more to get to - such as this game's combat! In Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Elden Ring, I found myself playing slowly and meticulously, a sword in one hand and a shield raised in the other - not necessarily how I wanted to play those games, as that is not really my style of play given the option, but with how overwhelming those games and their enemies can be at times, and the bosses in particular, it is the path I think most first-timers will find themselves taking. Bloodborne, on the other hand, plays exactly how I wanted to be playing in those other games, which made my time with the game much smoother of an affair than what I'd encountered in From's earlier games - and it achieves this with combat which is fast and fluid, heavily reliant on parrying and dodging, and begging you to slash away at whatever you come across.

It does this in a few ways: firstly, there is one shield to find in the entire game, you can't start with it, and it's pretty much a joke just how useless it is. Because of this, dodging is a necessity, and coupled with some wonderful i-frames and how quickly you can dodge from side-to-side, it feels great to dance around an enemy and have that flow and back and forth to battle where stepping in and out of their reach, darting around the place, feels so damn satisfying. But you know what's more satisfying than dodging? Visceral attacks. Either through staggering them after a long beatdown or a well-timed shot of your offhand weapon (most likely a gun of some sort; for me, this was the good old faithful Blunderbuss) enemies will keel over, allowing you to run up to them and jam your weapon into them to deliver a visceral attack, which does an insane amount of damage to them, more often than not resulting in blood spraying all over the place and soaking you red. All weapons are trick weapons, too, meaning that your right-hand weapon of choice comes with additional variety, such as the Saw Cleaver being able to extend out for greater range and reach, but this comes at the cost of delivering slightly less damage - a wonderful give-and-take which keeps every weapon feeling fresh and unique from others. 

Now, all of this is all well and good - in fact, it's great - and perhaps would have already been enough for Bloodborne to differentiate itself from its predecessors and everything which has come since, but there is one more mechanic in the game which truly ups the ante on how great the combat flows, and breaks you out of the mould of From's previous titles: and that is with the rally system. For a brief period after taking damage, so long as you have not been killed, the health you lost from an attack of an enemy's will be highlighted orange on your otherwise red health bar, and you have the opportunity to regain that health by slicing away at them in turn. This risk/reward system doesn't just feel great by itself, but it ties into the game's core of going wild with bloodlust, in the same way that the visceral attacks deliver on the promise of exacting cruelty with a heavy hand. This is genuinely some of my favourite combat in all of gaming. 

And, well, what is great combat without great bosses in games like these? And Bloodborne delivers with all of its bosses, whether it be from a narrative perspective in learning something new about the truth that you seek or simply in delivering the thrill of the hunt. Bosses takes all shapes and forms in this games, whether it be a human or a beast, a massive spider or something else all together. One boss in particular is probably the weak link here, but is an optional boss, and I don't think does anything at all to drag the rest of the game's excellently designed boss's down. I won't go into particular boss names simply to avoid spoiling anything, but something I really liked in this game is that I could contextually figure out the best effect to use an enemy from their environment or the enemy type themselves: beasts being burned at stakes implied that beasts take more damage from fire-infused attacks, and other enemies surrounded by water would clearly be weak to lightning-infused hits. This is of course helpful to know during most of the main game against some awesome compositions of mobs, but it's especially useful and unique, I find, for a game like this to do such a great job of subtly telegraphing the best way forward. The music, for me, is also the best in any From Software game I've played - I'm a big fan of classical music and bombastic choirs, and the overwhelming majority of this game's bosses have epic tracks which just fit the bill so well for me and my tastes, and there's an easy argument to be made that some particular tracks could well be some of the best gaming compositions of the 2010s. 

This game isn't quite flawless, but it is pretty damn close. I think the biggest issue with this game is simply its performance: it struggles, at times, to run at even a solid 30 fps, which is what it caps out at. This is despite numerous patches since its release, and in a game like this, performing so poorly really could have hindered my enjoyment of the game. Thankfully, for me, it didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the game because I didn't run into issue at vital points, but if I did - in a game as brutal as this one can be - I could see it being very frustrating. I don't know if I agree that this game needs a remake, and I'm aware that there are some technical hurdles getting in the way of this, but that it hasn't yet received a 60 fps re-release despite every other modern From Software title being available to experience in that way in some form or another is a travesty, in my eyes. The other issue I have with this game is the totally optional Chalice Dungeons - they have some cool new bosses and unique enemies down there which tie into certain parts of the main game's lore, but they feel like prototype takes on Elden Ring's catacombs and are generally just a bit of a slog to get through, with some having strange effects in play to try and shake things up as you hunt down particular materials to explore other Dungeons and eventually come face-to-face with a boss hinted at being heavily tied into the main game. Still, it's more Bloodborne and it can be played with friends, so for some people I'm sure it will be less of an issue and more of a lure, but for me it was the only hold-up in me completing the hunt. 


I do want to speak about the DLC for this game briefly, and that is of course The Old Hunters. This piece of DLC is much more linear in its design than the base game, though it does stick to having some hidden areas and paths to take which overlap at times, but this is excellent in that it provides you with a push to explore new locales with some incredibly strong examples of more excellent level design, fight new and unique enemies - many of whom, as you might have guessed, are hunters; or were, at some point or another - and experience a number of new boss fights, three of which I'd argue are three of the best in the game, and also just three of the best bosses in From Software's tapestry of greats, and, well, gaming in general. The music, once again, is brilliant here, and while I don't want to name bosses or tracks, I do need to highlight the two best tracks I'd argue are the greatest in the game: this one and this one. To provide a little bit of context for those who haven't played the game or this DLC, the first depicts a struggle and dance between a beast and man, whereas the second depicts one of the strongest hunters in the game intent on keeping her secret safe, both doing incredibly interesting things in terms of their composition that I think make them worth listening to even if you haven't played the game or this DLC, especially if you never plan to. The Old Hunters has ruined the bar for what I expect from a DLC - and is, quite easily, the best piece of DLC I've played through, just again for how much it adds to the main game in how it recontextualises certain events and provides a new lens to see the game and some of its characters through. 

Taking a look at Bloodborne as a whole, I'd say that you don't even need to closely examine Bloodborne to find that every facet - every seam, every thread - of this game is masterfully crafted and beautifully realised, but what ensures its timelessness, relevance, and greatness is that once you start pulling on those seams and those threads, there is so much more for you to discover. Having played them I understand how great Demon's Souls and Dark Souls were before this, so for From Software to then take the risk and violently shake up so much of that tried and true formula really speaks to the talent and ambition of Hidetaka Miyazaki and everyone else over there - to then do it to this degree, and to such a degree that I would declare that Bloodborne doesn't just escape the shadow of the great games before it but usurps those games and overshadows them in almost every way, for me, leaves me simply speechless. 

Bloodborne is, quite simply, a dream of a game, and if these types games are for you, then I implore you: just go out there and kill a few beasts, it's for your own good.

Go ahead, and join the hunt. 





Sniper Elite V2 | 2012


To avoid sullying the Favourite Games of 2023 thread and to not waste anyone's time here, I'm just going to come out and say it: this was the worst game I played last year. No, I don't mean weakest, in that everything else I played just so happened to be better - this is the worst by merit. 

The enemy AI sucks. The story and characters are one-note, entirely derivative and very easily forgettable. The enemy AI sucks. The flashback, "I remember the day when..." voiceovers are boring and lifeless as all hell for a guy who was a sniper in WWII. The enemy AI sucks. The level design is about as bland as it could possibly be in a game like this. The enemy AI sucks. You can't change difficulty after starting and realising that the enemy AI sucks. Oh, and the enemy AI sucks. 

The kill animations where time slows down and you watch a bullet pop through someone and bust their guts out while their bones get crushed are pretty sweet, though. And hearing better things about its sequels and being sure I'll be looking for dumb fun at some point or another, I'm sure I'll get to them...eventually. Maybe. Hmm. 


Star Wars Jedi: Survivor | 2023


I found Star Wars Jedi: Survivor to be a game of blissfully high highs, but host to a weird and overwhelming amount of middling lows. 

The highs: Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab returning to compose the score, building on the extremely solid foundation they laid in Fallen Order back in 2019, with Fields of Dusk being my favourite track in the game; the story getting its hooks into me much, much earlier than it did in Fallen Order, albeit after a bit of a slow start; some excellent character work with some great emotional and epic beats throughout the course of the story; plenty of new and fun characters (Turgle and Pili being the standouts for me); getting to see and hear High Republic era stuff in action (!) at long last; excellent antagonists, some of the best we've had in a Star Wars game in a very long time, in fact; some particular fun challenges via the optional Force Tears; it's one of the best-looking third party titles to date; and one of my favourite boss fights in the last few years at the time I played the game (don't worry - we're getting there). Fast Travel with plenty of Fast Travel points, a vastly improved map, unlockable map upgrades for the completionist in all of us, and other general QoL improvements made the game a much, much smoother ride than Fallen Order often was. The customisation options here are once again great for Cal and BD-1, but stealing the show is the level of detail and options available when customising your very own lightsaber. 


Main game:




And now, for the lows: as I was concerned about going in, a whole lot of bloat to experience when you start dabbling with the game's side content and trying to explore 100%, made worse, perhaps, by areas being more wide open with some really poor level design outside of the occasional isolated puzzle, meaning the game - by design - can lead you down the wrong path more than once or twice, with a few occasions where I found myself asking "okay, game, where do you want me?" while staring at the map (ahem, Koboh); a hilariously excessive amount of foreshadowing of its Metroidvania elements, coming across tens if not hundreds of opportunities to use an ability you won't get until hours down the line, and not at all being subtle about it in the way the better games with Metroidvania elements handle these moments of foreshadowing; the return of traversal jank from Fallen Order, such as floaty platforming, weird moments where it can be tough to judge distances and falling to your death, to being able to very jankily make your way to somewhere you aren't supposed to be by committing to jumping up an enbankment, for example. There's also the combat, which feels so incredibly unreactive - why no animation cancelling available across the board (apparently it is available for a certain lightsaber stance? But whatever, it rquires a block and isn't at all in line with what I think this game calls for when it comes to animation cancelling) in a game where my character has Force abilities, why no i-frame dodges in bosses clearly calling for it, why am I getting stunlocked by stormtroopers of all things - when I'm playing the role of a heroic acrobatic space wizard with a glowstick capable of disembowling any- and everyone which I can pull from across the room? It's really bizarre to so clearly take inspiration from From Software titles and then completely miss the mark. 

While this game got a six week delay, it should have been delayed further. Playing it at launch I experienced a crash just five minutes in, and experienced several throughout my playthrough, whether it be during cutscenes, during or event after completing puzzles (again, take from From Software, add fast travel points and treat them as bonfires/lanterns - but then no auto-save on your multi-hundred-million dollar AAA game which crashes all the time, meaning you need to go through things again?). At the time I also experienced some really egregious pop-in, devastating framerate drops (to the -teens, and very much reproducible), and screen-tearing for the first time ever in a game released on PS4 or PS5, on what at the time was a next-gen exclusive, mind you! Shocking that it's since been announced that it will be getting a last-gen version, when by all accounts, it seems like it still isn't quite up to snuff for this gen. It was absolutely embarrasing how much of a mess this game was back at launch. This game isn't a masterpiece, by any means, but it deserved so much more time and attention than it clearly got, and really should have been delayed further, in my opinion. 

I've railed on the game a good bit, but I did really enjoy my time with it. If you're a Star Wars fan or just someone looking for a summer blockbuster type of game, I think this game is good fun and a great escape, but I still find myself all these months later scratching my head at how this game received the review scores that it did. With Stig Asmussen, director of both Fallen Order and Survivor, having left EA since this game launched, I am very curious to see how the third (and presumably final?) entry in the Jedi series shakes out under new direction. 




Final Fantasy XVI | 2023


Final Fantasy XVI is, hands-down, not just one of the most epic games I played in 2023, but one of the most epic games I've ever had the pleasure of playing through. I really do think that it's set a new bar for how epic a game can be, and there were times where I could just sense how much it was trying to push the PS5, and squeeze every last drop out of it - the first and so far only game I feel I've really had that experience with a console I've now been playing on for a bit over three years. The music, the boss fights and their varied approaches (ranging from an on-rails experience to a 3D brawler), the story, the pre-rendered cutscenes weaved between and around in-engine cutscenes almost seamlessly, it all just comes together to create an epic experience which is gripping from the very early hours of the game. Active Time Lore (or ATL), a feature which you can access during cutscenes to view details on characters, events, or locations present or referenced, is an awesome addition which I hope more RPGs take note of moving forwards. 

And yet, as a Final Fantasy game, it feels deeply flawed in some pretty important ways, which splits it fairly down the middle for me across the board - ironic, I think, given that the game flows so well in its first half in and out of different locales, story beats, and forms of play, but the second half of the game lags behind in comparison, feeling more like a checklist of activities between the game's mesmerising setpieces and boss battles. Perhaps this is in part down to Creative Business Unit III's storied history with Final Fantasy XIV, but the vast majority of quests are stale and relatively lifeless outside of a few at the very backend of the game - at which point you might have, understandably, given up on them; on the other hand, some really cool MMO-like elements, like attacks being telegraphed with patterns and lines drawn across from the floor, feel really fresh to the space, whereas as QoL features clearly inspired from their learnings with XIV, like quest markers and just overall quest tracking, are very welcome. 

The main draw for me with the game, though, which I've said it before, and I'll gladly say it again, is its soundtrack: it's the best OST for a game I've heard in a very, very long time, and Soken knocked it out of the park with his variety of approaches to the game's soundscape with a diverse approach to genres on display between tentpole bombastic displays of orchestral mastery during the game's key moments, and boss fights in particular. To name a few favourites, there's Away (the theme of Phoenix); the main battle theme, Sixteen Bells, which I think is up there with some of the best in Final Fantasy; CatacecaumeneWinter's BoundFind the Flame; To Sail Forbidden SeasA Far Cry From Heaven; Hide, Hideaway; All as One; and Lovely, Dark, and Deep, a wondrous forest theme. My favourite track in the entire game, though, has to be Ascension, a track heard partially in one of the game's trailers before release, which punctuates the most intense and epic boss battle of all in the game, and just the way the strings and choir escalate...it's just perfect. What makes this soundtrack so strong, as well, is that while it certainly pushes for fresh and new, it makes sure to pay homage to the feel and styles of older Final Fantasy games. Masayoshi Soken nailed it, as he has for years now in XIV, and I'm so glad that he finally got to put his stamp on a mainline, single-player Final Fantasy with XVI. I also just have to mention how masterfully the environmental tracks seamlessly transition into their respective battle theme variants, and also how the game handles its boss fight music, balancing the point at which you reach a battle cutscene and altering the music to allow it to catch up. 

The biggest problems with the game are that it lacks the levity and fun distractions of past Final Fantasy titles to break up the pacing and the oftentimes incredibly heavy plot; the combat lacks any serious depth and need for variety, even with flashy and fun combat, it rings hollow when there isn't much else to it and I can spend the entirety of the game with the abilities I pick up and have selected by default as the story progresses, which is doubled down on by the lack of weaknesses and strengths to elements as we've come to expect not just from Final Fantasy but of the genre as whole; and its abhorrent lack of any real sense of RPGness - story, characters, and music aside, there isn't much RPG to experience in this Final Fantasy, whether it be experimenting with different builds or really having an in-depth armour system, which is a huge letdown. 

Final Fantasy XVI can be a bit of a mixed experience; though at times brilliant, what it lacks so much is the mechanics and subtle mini-joys of a great Final Fantasy, because everything else which makes this series great is here. It has the soul, but not the body, of a brilliant Final Fantasy game. As a first crack, I think Creative Business Unit III did an excellent job and I think this is a really solid foundation to build from, so I can't wait to see what they could possibly do for mainline single-player Final Fantasy next, having seen how keen they are to learn from their perceived shortcomings at times with XIV. 




Armored Core VI | 2023


Let's not beat around the bush with Armored Core VI - I absolutely adored it. 

It took a little while to get to grips with the game, simply because it plays and feels so different to what I've come to be used to from the From Software titles I have played through, not to mention the slew of options at your disposal from relatively early on in the game to head towards a particular build for your bot; the almost overwhelming level of customisation you can do to your AC unit is incredible, and would be something I'd love to see translate over to other From titles (I mean, come on, at least let me re-colour everything so that it all somewhat matches!). Legs dictate your maximum load, your generator dictates your energy supply to keep everything turned on, you can equip a variety of weapons to your arms and shoulders, there's the core and arms which determine proficiency with weapons and obviously can add weight, there's the booster to help thrust you up into the air or to support your legs with dodges, the FCS (Fire Control System - essentially the main CPU in your AC, determining things like lock-on time and weapon range), as well as the head unit, which stores visual sensors. What you're left with, should you choose to play around with it, is an opportunity to create a mech perfect for your style of play - for me, based on what I love about mechs in anime and what I find cool in combat scenarios, was a focus on speed and flashiness, delivering precise blows and looking awesome while doing so. I probably spent upwards of 10 hours in the game designing mech after mech, tweaking colours, metallics, and the luster to create some designs I adored, all of which was a whole lot of fun! 

While combat is present throughout the game, it really comes to the fore in one-on-one scenarios, either against other AC pilots (my personal favourite fights) or in boss fights. This is where I think Armored Core VI shines and where I think the most fun comes from mastering the game and, similar to other From games, how you master your mech, learning rough times for deploying your arsenal, reloading, and the like as the game goes on. The game is heavily reliant on staggering your opponents and delivering heavy blows, and some AC and boss fights were absolutely awesome in that I found myself tweaking my AC unit further, perhaps needing a little more speed or sliding in a new generator for more power, but then perhaps this is offset by needing heavier legs to support the weapons I fitted the generator for, and so on. Now, while there is a need to learn enemy patterns and to learn your build (certainly one or two bosses feeling more like they'd belong in a Souls game rather tahn this one), what makes Armored Core so unique compared to other From games is that they are truly three-dimensional, in that they are omni-directional battles - for example, think back to other From titles (or most titles these days, honestly) and battles may be presented in a three-dimensional way, but they'll be completely two-dimensional in design, focusing mainly on the horizontal component of a battle, such as circling an opponent and dodging their attacks, making use of terrain, and so on. In Armored Core VI, however, verticality comes into play, as so many bosses and enemy units will fly around and take the battle into the air, and when combined with having so much to keep track of - your energy, your AP (health), your ammo.capacity for four different armaments, keeping your enemy centred, paying attention to audio cues - it can get very overwhelming at times, and there were definitely moments in first encounters with particular ACs or bosses where I felt a bit lost and found myself spamming buttons a bit. 

This is where a bit of a problem in AC's design shows itself: an almost one-size-fits-all solution is to get into the face of enemy ACs and just start wailing on them with heavy attacks, which is especially effective if you have a highly defensive and heavy build, with powerful armaments attached. This is a problem in a way because it removes the vertical component of combat, and heavier builds, by their very nature - big legs, tank tracks, quadripeds - have a much higher carry capacity - missiles, machine guns, etc. - and also a much higher health pool; this isn't how I approached the game, at all, but I've played around with heavy builds in revisiting the campaign and online, and I think while you should play how you want to play, it's a good way to get the least enjoyment of the game for someone like me. If you're a function over form type of person aiming to simply beat the game, then have at it, but for me, I found that this game is much more enjoyable with lighter builds and more of a focus on skill when it comes to dodge and attack timing. I played with a friend in 1v1 PvP and beat him for a few hours straight while playing with my lighter build from the very start of the game, before he eventually started to lean towards testing a heavier build, which ultimately meant that the tables turned: my weapons were effectively useless, my speed didn't matter, and his health pool and damage output and range from heavy armament attacks simply meant that he could fly up into the air and rain terror down on me. It took a lot of fun out of duking it out for the both of us, but then, why should my friend rely on a weaker build when he's having trouble fighting me or bosses? Similar to Elden Ring at launch, certain builds and weapons are very simply broken in AC VI, and so I seriously hope that whatever's next for AC, they do a better job of balancing things so that everyone can enjoy the approach they choose to take with the game. 

To touch briefly on the mission structure, this game felt like an old-school PS2 game, loading into individual missions, at times getting the chance to choose missions from branching paths, and this all feeds into earning more credits to spend on your AC. Missions aren't particularly long - perhaps 15 minutes or so at their longest, if there's a particularly tough boss you come across? - which means the game can probably be beat your first time around in 10 to 20 hours (depending on skill level, and obviously much, much longer if you love to customise your AC!), with alternate endings available through NG+ and NG++, both of which I throughly enjoyed. Replaying the missions you can also go for S-ranks based on the time it takes to complete the mission and credits earned (balanced out by credits spent on your loadout usage - for example, missiles can be pretty costly to use, as can aimlessly unloading a chaingun!), and while some of these can be a bit of a pain because there'll be some trick to getting the highest rank, I had loads of fun going through this game, what, at least four times? NG, NG+, NG++, S-ranks in all missions, not to forget the missions I replayed and didn't S-rank first time. The characters in this game and the overarching narrative from NG to NG++ is really intriguing, I loved learning new bits about certain characters or seeing how different endings played out by aligning with a different faction, and this is all propped up on the shoulders of perhaps modern From Software's best character dialogue (in fairness, driven by a lot more character interaction than in their other games) and some wonderful lines delivered by voice actors who seemed like they were simply having a blast in the booth, with a great sense of levity rarely - if ever - touched upon in their other titles. 

Armored Core VI was my first Armored Core game, and it certainly won't be my last. This has me interested in seeking out some of the older titles, and praying that substantial DLC or a sequel is already in the works so that I won't be waiting too long for my next mission. 




Marvel's Spider-Man | 2018


We can keep this one short, I think, seeing as it's a game I've spoken about before when replaying it in the Gaming Diary 2020 thread in preparation for its spin-off/sequel as well as initially playing it back when it launched in 2018, and that is of course Marvel's Spider-Man (the PS5 remaster, which looks awesome). Guess what? It's still awesome. Snappy combat, awesome soundtrack by John Paesano, some really great story beats which still get me emotional returning to the game now, addictively good web-swinging which is a good enough reason to visit everything highlighted on your map, and some awesome voice and motion-capture performances. It also has the same problems as before, such as the pacing tanking early into its final act due to certain world changes slowing your traversal down at times, and a silly amount of crimes to resolve becoming available for the first time in said third and final act. 

I also replayed and 100%'d The City That Never Sleeps DLC, bridging the gap between this game and Miles, and well, it was more Spider-Man, albeit in bite-sized chunks with some new enemies changing how you approach fights in very subtle ways, which I thought was really awesome. Also, getting more Black Cat was awesome. 





The Order: 1886 | 2015


Ready at Dawn made The Order: 1886 look absolutely incredible - in fact, it still looks visually better than most games releasing today. You work in an elite taskforce in an alternative world's London, tackling rebellions and hunting beasts as a conspiracy unfolds which threatens to tear London down, and all at the same time Jack the Ripper is lurking the streets. This all comes with some really fun and unique weapons available at times, such as an a thermite gun or a lightning-casting gun, and generally fun gunplay - but, weirdly for a cover-based shooter, enemies are out of focus when taking aim and the camera can often be so close you can barely see where around your cover. There's some stealth gameplay, too, and a uniqe mechanic I haven't come across in other stealth games where the takedown is tied to timing your attack with a repeatedly converging circle - it's a very small thing, but it just adds some stakes and an opportunity for failure, so I'm surprised we haven't seen this implemented in other games of the like. And speaking of other games of the like, it is very much a Naughty Dog-type game, sharing a lot of similarities for me with the first Uncharted - some great ideas, but not stellar execution, but a clearly defined direction, albeit with some shaky and uneven pacing. 

Considering the leap Uncharted made to Uncharted 2, it's a real shame, then, that this game was perfectly set up for a sequel we'll likely never get. 


Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales | 2020


Another game I revisited in preparation for Spider-Man 2 is, of course, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which shares so much of its DNA with the first game that, well, you'll need to forgive me for repeating: it's still awesome. Snappy combat, awesome soundtrack by John Paesano (and some excellent new energy infused with the licensed songs added for the game), some really great story beats which still get me emotional returning to the game now, addictively good web-swinging which is a good enough reason to visit everything highlighted on your map, and some awesome voice and motion-capture performances. It is a bite-sized version of its predecessor, and this in some ways allowed Insomniac to react to the lapsed pacing in the final act of the first game, or the insane level of crimes, which you can now trigger at will rather than needing to wait for RNG to come into play. 

I don't think it's as strong as the first game, but it's still brilliant, and was an incredibly fun way to keep us somewhat occupied while waiting for the sequel. 




Marvel's Spider-Man 2 | 2023


Spider-Man 2 is a technical marvel, being one of the prettiest games to release on the current generation of consoles. The lighting, the shadows, those traced rays! It's simply beautiful, and I took plenty of screenshots throughout my time with the game. Haptics and adaptive triggers got special attention this time around, and were a noticeable step up from playing the Remastered version of the first game and Miles Morales. I rarely used it - because traversal is so fun in this game - but the speed of fast travel from one area of the map to another in this game is simply astonishing, as are the transitions from playing as Peter to Miles and back again. 

In terms of gameplay, while they definitely took a minute to get used to, I grew to love the Web Wings - it's just such a pleasant thing to glide around New York, and especially with the map being bigger this time around, the added speed included thanks to the game being exclusive to current consoles is very much warranted. The decision on top of this to do away with Ubisoft-style towers and instead have a map which unravels bit by bit as you see and explore new areas was a really smart move to keep this game feeling fresh compared to its contemporaries, and there's so much to naturally find yourself swinging towards thanks to some awesome environmental cues; I will say, though, that New York felt different this time around, and despite having completed 10 playthroughs in Insomniac's New York between Spider-Man and Miles Morales replays, there were times where I found myself feeling a bit lost. Is it the bigger map? The new coat of paint and new engine? The faster travel? Or is it simply a case of not having got used to this particular NY in this particular game? I'm not sure - maybe my next replay will help me figure that part out. I also adored being able to thread my own web lines across hideouts, which made engaging with the game's stealth so much more free and rewarding than I found it to be in the earlier two games. I was also a big fan of how they decided to shake up the MJ sections returning from the first game, with TLOU-lite sequences, and I'd genuinely be down for a little bit of DLC which fleshed this out some more. 

Something I found to be pretty hit-and-miss in the game, though, was its newly introduced Parry system, as it seemed superfluous as a mechanic everywhere but in particular boss fights where you had no choice but to rely on it. It can lead to some cool combat moments, but the game simply doesn't call for this added layer of mechanical depth in the way other games might, so I didn't feel a need to learn how to use it because it didn't feel like I was gaining much from using it, which made it even more jarring when I was being forced to use it. This in turn isn't helped by it most commonly being appropriate to use in instances where you're facing off against brutes and a swarm of grunts, who are going to overwhelm you while you try to use a Parry on the brute. I also wasn't a big fan of the AoE attacks that required you to jump to avoid them; perhaps it's because I've spent so long with the first two games now, but while I get it's a fresh idea, I again don't think it was a necessary addition and that dodging would have been fine in those moments. 

The game's story and characters are once again greatly realised, and I love so much of it that I think it's a bit of a shame that I found it falling apart - in its pacing, in its absurd scale, and in its character motivations (especially a certain one following the final battle) - in the final act. That aside, though, it feels so much like the Spidey I grew up with in the Raimi films, the 90s Animated Series, and the PS1 games, to the point that I'm happy to forgive it. This game also had the best side quests of the year last year, in my opinion, because I was surprised again and again by the direction they would take in setting things up for the future, the pay-off/time investment ratio felt super high (and thus they often felt incredibly rewarding), or just how much they would emotionally resonate with me. They just hit hard in ways I simply didn't expect, some of these quests will stay with me for a long, long time. Peter and Miles also felt much more involved in their communities, too, and the way the game weaves their inclusion and some great moments of inclusivity around this was great to see, on one occasion in particular in a way perhaps only video games can do. 

I had an absolute blast playing through this game, and it was yet another diamond in the crown that was 2023 for gaming. I can't wait to see what Insomniac do next. 




Yakuza: Like a Dragon | 2020


I love the Yakuza games; many of us here do. So, when it was announced that the next main series title, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, would be a job-centric, turn-based JRPG way back in 2019, a colossal change in genre and mechanics from the brawler routes of the series, while I think it's probably a bit harsh to say that we were scepitcal, we were certainly taken aback and a bit confused by the prospect - I mean, how couldn't you be?

And yet, by and large, as Ryu ga Gotoku's first attempt at a JRPG, the game hit the mark. Almost all of them, in fact. It was certainly helped by the series's long and loud history with the gaudy and peculiar, reeling you in with laughter before punching you in the emotional gut and masterfully dancing between these two extemes, meaning that virtually nothing about the game's tone needed changing in the transition to JRPG-hood as might have been the case for other series making such a drastic leap. Substories were already a natural stand-in for typical side quests, as were many of the long-form side activities available, and in this game they're all a doozy: a business management mini-game which feels like a mobile gaming great without any of the trappings, the wacky and wonderful Mario Kart-like Dragon Kart, the many quizzes of a vocational school, a particularly fun reaction-based game where you need to stave off goats trying to make you fall asleep in the cinema, and a game about racing around on a bike to pick bottles and cans up to recycle. All of this generously feeds into the natural JRPG progession of obtaining money (boatloads, in the case of the management game, fairly early into the game's story), gaining EXP and levelling up (be it your character or their assigned Job), or forming meaningful bonds with your party to perform absurd team attacks. What's more, so much of this is contextualised, with you changing Jobs at a job centre, silly names akin to Dragon Quest being assigned to enemies and Ichiban's role as a hero clearly paying homage to that series through RGG's and Ichiban's clear affinity for those games, the turn-based nature all being a reflection of Ichiban's love for DQ too...it's simply wonderful. 

To briefly touch on the story - I think it's the best I've played through in the series since Kiwami 2, and probably right up there alongside 0 as the best paced, presented, and told. It benefits greatly from being slowed down by the turn-based nature of the game at times, and in a series at this point known for stunning twists, it perhaps manages to outdo even the best in the series in this regard. I was left floored by the end of the game. 

Now, there are some elements of this game I'd certainly question or describe as being rough around the edges: there are simply far too many street battles; the combat is pretty boring for the first two thirds of the game, until the difficulty begins to pick up and you have access to more healing and elemental attacks; one particular job having a fairly important out-of-combat ability tied to them but not being pointed out to you, the Foreman, which allows you to break through weak walls/obstacles with a hammer but is accessible by simply swapping to that job and back again, making me question why we need to bother with that at all; the battle menus need some serious tuning up, especially the items; dungeon design is, for the most part, incredibly bland, mostly comprising of a bunch of lifeless hallways; and Part-Time Hero is a bit of a lazy excuse to include fetch quests and have a stupid amount of collectables and craftables in the game. There are points in the game with difficulty spikes which will catch you out if you aren't immediately making your way to dungeons - while the game does point you towards these, they might as well have been made mandatory. I do also think that as the series's first jump into the genre that, and I say this simply because I have a friend who has played through all the other Yakuza games up to this point but had never played a JRPG before, perhaps the game could do a better job of introducing players to the genre, and while I love how it turned out by the game's last act, I do think that there's an argument to be made that, as the first game in the transition to JRPGs for the series, characters should have been assigned particular roles as you'd expect in an entry-level JRPG, and that the job system should have been saved for the next game. The lack of any true post-game leaves you with a bit of a mountain to overcome in terms of grinding when it comes to taking on the post-game dungeon, especially in its second form, and so I hope that Infinte Wealth does a better job of bridging the gap. 

The game walks the fine line of managing to take from and reference so many of the greatest JRPGs - be it Dragon Quest, Persona, Final Fantasy, or many others - in what should end up being a messy and confused Frankenstein of conflicting styles and aims, but the love and attention given to the game and the clear understanding of what makes a JRPG great means that you do end up with a game much greater than the sum of its parts. It beats out pretty much every other game available today for fun side content; the best way I can describe it is that it's the fun and addicting rewards of the early days of mobile gaming, without all of the gross baggage that comes with modern mobile gaming. The substories remain stellar beacons of hope that a side quest doesn't need to be longer than 5 minutes to make you feel something, and that you can have a side quest have both payoff now and a further 15 hours from now, but that a long string of quests should not be the norm to get to the heart of its message. If you take their not-so-subtle hints and grind when they want you to (when introducing new locations for the first time with a very obvious grind attached to the invite), it's really well paced and a decent enough challenge just at or a bit below the level they want you at. The story, while structurally not too far out from what we've come to expect from RGG, is arguably their most refined since 0, with twists and turns constantly bonking (honk-honking?) you on the head, knowing just when to pull you up for air before throwing you back into its deep end. The characters and all of the ways you can interact with them make you feel like you're actually on a modern day adventure, and they're all so perfectly captured in their voice and motion capture performances. The bow on top of all of this is that it's all stitched together with the soul of a hearty bowl of ramen. 

Like a Dragon is one of the best turn-based JRPGs to release in a long time, and a serious contender for being one of the best modern JRPGs. This game - and this series - is something special; they continue to cheer me up whenever I'm down, and, for me, I can't think of any greater testament to what this game and RGG continue to achieve and the message they seemingly strive to get across than the way they always make me feel: that there is no price to be put on a lasting smile.




Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name | 2023


And after Like a Dragon, it was a blast to the past - in both story and returning brawler mechanics - to Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. The game focuses on the fallout of Yakuza 6, and what Kiryu has been up to in the gap between 6 and Like a Dragon, as well as during the events of LAD. 

This game is awesome, and yet  there's not so much I really feel driven to say about it? It's by far the shortest Yakuza game since 4, yet despite this is once again another great addition to the series with a stellar - but fairly silly, melodramatic, and at times pretty stupid - story which left me weeping by the time credits rolled, propped up by some fun side content (especially The Castle - well, for the most part), which certainly made up the bulk of my time with the game, as well as some awesome arcade escapes. Swinging guys around with Spider-Man like powers as Kiryu is so daft but just feels so satisfying, too, and I'm excited to see where the customisation options for outfits goes from here. Amazing ensemble, as always in these games, but special shoutout to Takaya Kurada's VA performance as Kiryu in this game; he's aways great, but this time it felt like he crushed this opportunity to show off some greater range and subtle differences to his performance, meaning no punches were pulled in the more exciting and heavier moments in the game. 

This all being said, there's some weirdness to this outing. The live-action footage being blended in during the game's opening was actually really cool - and smart, I feel - but encounters with real-life hostesses often felt out of place and eerie, a ring light clearly reflecting in their eyes and their performances felt rather stilted. It probably saves them money on developing models and animations for the game - or means that they can put that money towards the girls they want in these games - but the end result has you swinging through this awkward uncanny valley time and again. 

Overall, this was a worthy and relatively fast escape back into the shoes of the Dragon of Dojima, and a worthy title to bridge the gap between 6, Like a Dragon, and plant the seeds for whatever comes next in Infinite Wealth. I'm really excited to see if RGG decide to pursue another Gaiden outing at some point with a different character, because I think this would be an excellent way to return to and flesh out some previously playable characters, as well as see some new perspectives in the world of Yakuza/Like a Dragon. 




It's dangerous to go alone! Read this!

Going into this last game in particular, I want to reiterate that while I won't be going out of my way to spoil things (particularly in terms of story beats), I will be talking about parts of the game not shown in pre-release footage - both in terms of my experiences, and in a more general sense. If somehow you've successfully actively avoided Tears of the Kingdom until now as part of some sort of media blackout, I suggest coming back to read this if and when you play the game for yourself, if you'd like to read my thoughts on it. I'd hate to spoil something for you, but it's impossible to talk about this game analytically without considering what it does and does not do differently to its predecessor, Breath of the Wild. 


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom | 2023


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a game which came out to much critical acclaim back in 2017 for the way that it tackled its open world, rewarding players for their exploration and giving them the freedom to traverse Hyrule, complete puzzles, and handle combat situations how they saw fit. However, here at N-E, the game split opinion, and I'd go so far as to venture that there are likely more people here who weren't fans than were, whether it be down to the combat, the menus, the overarching narrative being weak and scattered, the open nature of puzzle solutions, the game's perceived poor excuses for dungeons, the overwhelming silence of much of Hyrule during your adventure compared to Zelda soundtracks of old, the game feeling pointlessly vast and wide, and much more. While I don't agree with all of the criticisms I've seen of Breath of the Wild on here, I can certainly sympathise for longtime fans of the series who came away underwhelmed, and after experiencing the game for myself back in 2019, I do share the sentiment that there were a number of ways the game's sequel could look to improve on the foundation set by Breath of the Wild. I've said it before, but for me, Breath of the Wild is a good, if not great, game, overshadowed by it being a truly magnificent and unique experience in the landscape of gaming. 

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, then, I found to be a sequel filled with having taken half-steps forward in some spots, and strides forward in others, held back at times by the familiar. 

Tears of the Kingdom borrows much from Breath of the Wild's open world Hyrule at the surface level; though the world has started to change and rebuild in the wake of Breath of the Wild's Great Calamity, though, the vast majority of these changes just don't feel as meaningful and plentiful as they perhaps should do. Vast plains and fields often remain vast plains and fields, and though changes in the world, like pirates taking hold of Lurelin Village seeing its inhabitants scattered across Hyrule while their home remains unsafe, many of these changes are tied to quests and are often short-lived. In the few places where changes have been made, though, they are stark and heavily contrast with Breath of the Wild, injecting some much-needed freshness to the world and adventure of Tears of the Kingdom. My favourite addition to the land of Hyrule was with its caves,which felt like mini-adventures for me to experience along my stay in Hyrule, and which repeatedly wowed me into realising new things about the game or viewing how to traverse the world slightly differently might give me more options for exploration. 

Which leads us to the game's Sky Islands, where your journey truly begins, and a plane which you will often find yourself returning to, which I personally loved to explore. Seeing certain spots above the clouds from up in the sky or even down at ground level adds this feeling of cohesion to the world, where you can find yourself seamlessly thrown up into the air and gliding blindly through a storm, adding a whole new layer of "what if I do this?" when it comes to exploration and traversing this enormous world. The game also smartly uses a unique mix of white stone and golden leaves and grass on the Sky Islands to make these locations feel so distinct visually from what is at ground level, as well as taking a softer approach to its music here with subtle shifts in composition to, again, retain that sense of identity for this particular plane. I loved diving off the edge of a Sky Island to swiftly make my way to the ground below, as well as many of the unique challenges found in the skies above Hyrule, and, for me, the Sky Islands never once got old during my playthrough. The way the structures and islands in the sky also interact with the sun rising or setting, or the Blood Moon taking hold of the sky, casting shadows across the land, just felt amazing to witness at times. 

This is all in stark contrast to The Depths, the black-as-night underbelly of Hyrule introduced to players relatively early on into the game. Chasms emanating gloom - this game's rebranding of malice from Breath of the Wild, I guess, because it is visually almost identical in appearance as a dark sludge giving off wisps of red - are easily identifiable on ground and at sky level, and diving into these chasms take you into an underground section you'll soon discover is as large as the entire map of Hyrule. Brightbloom Seeds acquired elsewhere in the game can be used to light up small areas in this abyss, surely one of the visually darkest areas in gaming in a very long time to the extent it almost feels like it was a risk to have this plane exist, and during your travels down in The Depths you'll find Lightroots which, when interacted with, will light up a pretty large area and unravel some of The Depths in your map. The place is infested with unique flora, such as a tree which looks like it blooms with the feathers of peacocks, and it all just adds to this sense that perhaps you shouldn't be down there. It would almost always be a relief to find Lightroots because of this, and similar to how I would go about marking Skyview Towers when in view and adding them to my map to seek out later on in my journey at the ground level, I also did the same here for Lightroots, their soft orange hue subtly piercing the dreadful black of the underground area. The Depths is filled with hard-hitting enemies, especially at the start of the game when you'll have very few hearts and little stamina to use to run away, and to make matters worse, each strike by an enemy down there will temporarily disable your hearts for the damage dealt until you either interact with a Lightroot , make your way back up to the surface, or through eating food cooked up with a certain ingredient for the desired effect of restoring these temporarily disabled hearts. This results in needing to cautiously make your way from one Lightroot or point of interest to another, and for me in particular, this meant treating The Depths more as something to be charted and traversed - like planning your route up a mountain face - rather than somewhere I would be going out of my way to seek out fights. There are many benefits to exploring The Depths, such as finding legendary armour and clothes previously tied to amiibo in Breath of the Wild, as well as finding rare items, unique enemies, tough challenges, but I think I only really see one unique biome while I was down there.

Because of the approach I felt the game coaxed me towards - planning routes from Lightroot to Lightroot while avoiding combat - as well as the lack of diversity to the place, I honestly probably had most of my fill of The Depths some 5 or 10 hours into exploring it, and in later parts of the game this resulted in me only diving down chasms to light up the nearest Lightroot, see if anything interesting took my fancy in the immediate vicinity, and if not, to then move on, rather than taking the slow and measured approach of charting paths from one Lightroot to another to uncover large swathes of the underground map. It's a bit of a shame, really, and ultimately I understand Nintendo's decision to not reveal this before the game in pre-release footage because that initial "oh, wait, they did what?!" moment was amazing for me, but I find myself wishing there was more diversity to the biomes found in The Depths and would much rather they were dedicated pockets designed with certain ideas in mind rather than what they ended up being, which in turn might have freed up some resources to make more drastic changes to the ground level of this game. 



Sky Islands




Land of Hyrule




The Depths




This brings me onto the new abilities introduced in the game, which were so vital to this adventure. I loved them. Perhaps it's just the way my mind works or how I've grown as a player since my last visit to Hyrule, but I much prefer the abilities added in this game to those present in Breath of the Wild. In Breath of the Wild, with the Bombs in particular, I found myself having rough ideas but having a bit of a finicky time executing on them, whereas there is very little room for interpretation when it came to realising what I was trying to do in Tears of the Kingdom, whether it be using Recall to summon a thrown weapon from across the room to catch it mid-fight or grab onto a chunk of rock recently fallen from the sky to ride it back up for a better view and an angle to glide down form; using Ultrahand to carefully place objects or items where and how I wanted, and construct structures, vehicles and weapons of varying degrees of craziness and mass destruction; or using Ascend to quickly make my way up to the summit of a mountain from a cave deep in its underbelly. What I loved most, though, was using all of these in conjunction with one another; one combination I found relatively early on in the game which supported much of my puzzle-solving throughout was to use Ultrahand to have, for example, a plank of wood move from one area to another carefully from the ground and through the air, before then climbing on top of it and using Recall to take it back through that line of movement, and hop off at a higher point and then glide down, oftentimes to open up a chest I had trouble reaching otherwise. Zonai devices being gacha'd out to you throughout the game are really fun to use on the fly, and while it does take a bit of time to get used to Ultrahand, once it clicks, I found myself constructing exactly what I wanted within the space of a minute, and then being able to test it out. I loved that these devices weren't doled out without care, but instead that accessing more of them were paced with your exploration, meaning that unless you were grinding for the currency required to use the ancient Zonai gacha towers, you typically found yourself in a risk/reward situation of deciding whether or not you wanted to make use of, say, your rockets, which almost definitely would get you to where you want to go...but I would find myself second-guessing those plans, asking if it was worth risking being wrong about that and losing out on using these rockets later?

The other ability in the game, Fuse, is also a really interesting idea, giving you a way to add item effects to arrows during combat, or to recover the durability of a weapon (by fusing it with another), but because you find yourself inundated with weapons as reward for your exploration throughout the game, you often don't have any choice but to fuse weapons together long before the message pops up about them being at risk of breaking, meaning that this supposed workaround and fix for one of Breath of the Wild's biggest issues - weapon durability - isn't well, fixed. Adding item effects to an arrow is cool, and can be down by holding up on the D-pad with an arrow being aimed, but because you end up with so many types of items throughout the course of your journey and because Nintendo want to give you the option to do whatever you want, you end up needing to swipe right or left through a temporary menu of tens of items to decide what to attach; and, sure, you can sort by most used or most powerful, but this then almost immediately narrows down the options you'll have visible and will be likely to use, thus going away from the central idea at the core of these new abilities, which is to try new ideas out. Along similar lines, to fuse weapons together, one must be equipped and the other must be on the ground, meaning that you'll either be accessing the sub-menu which pops up when you aim to throw an item and then swipe around to select and throw a weapon you want to fuse at the floor, or just going through the standard menu and selecting an item to drop on the ground before fusing it with the weapon already equipped. Unfortunately, this slows down the possibility of creativity when it comes to Fuse greatly when compared with the other new abilities, and I found myself questioning why you couldn't save certain weapon fusions in a similar way to how at some point you unlock the ability to save items crafted with the Ultrahand, then use materials to build those saved fused weapons immediately. But then...why not just use the blacksmith strengthening idea so many of us hoped for after experiencing weapon durability in Breath of the Wild? I get what they were trying to go for, but I said it when it was first unveiled - this is the most Nintendo-like solution to this particular criticism, and having now played the game, I think it falls far short of having truly solved the issue so many had with weapon durability from before. Some other abilities you gain access to elsewhere in the game are good, but perhaps not all-around as strong as their Breath of the Wild counterparts, and needing to dig into menus to constantly to turn these particular abilities on and off was nothing short of an absolute pain. 

With the talk about abilities out of the way, I want to move onto Shrines: which, generally speaking, I think were just as good as, if not overall better than, their alternatives in Breath of the Wild. This, of course, is down in large part to me preferring the abilities available to Link from the start of the game this time around, but I also think the ideas showcased were unique and fresh in the face of being a sequel to a game which was already host to a crazy number of these things. Learning perhaps from how Eventide Island was such a widely talked about place in Breath of the Wild with how it took away your items and weapons, a number of Shrines in this game do the same for some short-lived Eventide-like challenges, but fall far short of the overall challenge and freshness Eventide Island injected into Breath of the Wild when compared with almost every other location in that game. 

Temples, on the other hand, weren't very well represented back in Breath of the Wild, with many - myself included, despite Breath of the Wild being the first Zelda game I saw to completion - left gutted by the shared design tenets across the Divine Beasts meaning they lacked any real traits which made them each feel unique, the sameyness of the bosses which lacked any serious challenge, and disappointing music. Tears of the Kingdom, thankfully, fixes much of that, and while I don't think these will go down collectively as the greatest temples in a Zelda game, the gauntlets leading up to each temple, seeing how the events of each temple was impacting the locals, their design philosophies and themes, puzzles and use of unique abilities means that it does signify something of a return to form, or at least the regularly scheduled programming, when it comes to temples. One temple in particular outshined the rest, though, and even has a boss theme which could well go down as the most memorable we've encountered in this version of Hyrule; I know my hairs were left standing on end when it finally kicked into high gear! What's perhaps most interesting, though, is that this is likely the first temple most players will reach first, purely down to the game seemingly pushing you towards it early on, which does does mean that the experience in temples in this game probably peaked for most with the first one. I mentioned before when talking about abilities that Ultrahand + Recall could be an OP combo throughout the game, and one minor annoyance when it comes to the temples is that with some smart use of these abilities, you really could find yourself completing a number of puzzles without needing to follow the intended path; similarly, in one or two instances, I would be able to awkwardly angle myself so that I could use Ascend to skip following the clearly intended path. Personally, I don't think this takes away from my experience with these temples or that it makes them broken simply because it was clear to me what was being asked of me, I just had a completely different answer to what was being asked, but I can imagine this might not be for everyone. 

To speak to this game's combat for a moment, I feel that it shares a very similar problem with the combat found in Breath of the Wild, with it probably peaking for each person's playthrough about 10 to 20 hours in and then becoming a chore, because it lacks any serious depth; although, this time around, I will say, I personally felt much more comfortable and confident in my ability to parry or time a dodge just right in order to gain access to a Flurry Rush. Similar to how I ended up avoiding fights in The Depths, I found myself eventually just skirting on by the majority of encounters simply because it seemed like a waste of resources and weapon durability, and also got in the way of me exploring, which is honestly a much bigger draw for me. They did, however, add much greater enemy variety this time around, with plenty of new and unique enemies found on each plane of this world, which is why I can't sit here and say that I could immediately pick up the combat where I left it in Breath of the Wild, because there was still more to see and new enemies to face down. The true highlight of the combat this time around was the bosses, whether it be in temples or just while roaming the overworld, with small but meaningful tweaks made to a lot of returning mini-bosses, and some really cool and unique ideas to be found in newly introduced mini-bosses. I particularly want to highlight Flux Constructs, because I would seek them out for bouts when I could see them off in the distance, as these battles felt much more in tune with what I thought the Divine Beasts would be like in Breath of the Wild, allowing you to use your abilities on these mini-bosses in a number of ways to gain the upper hand in puzzle-like showdowns, perhaps more akin to Shadow of the Colossus than anything else. Safe to say, I was a big fan! 

A lot of discourse around Breath of the Wild was centred around its story, or rather, its overwhelming absence of one. While I don't think every game needs a strong narrative, given that this is a series with a long history of clearly pushing hard for strong character moments and memorable story beats, going into Tears of the Kingdom, seeing the changes they made to their approach with the story was high on my list, and I think they genuinely delivered this time around. While there are still beats for you to experience through flashbacks obtained through interacting with certain elements out in the wide and sprawling open world, the decision to have players locate these through tracking down a spot on a geoglyph visible from tall mountains and up in the sky made it a much smoother experience than it was last time around in Breath of the Wild with its approach to visit previously photographed locations housed on the Sheikah Slate. There are a number of main quest lines in this game to shoot yourself down, too, some intertwining with others, and all giving you a great sense of direction should you want it, which I do feel the previous game was sorely lacking - despite loving the freedom I found myself with, a self-driven adventure can be a very difficult to push forwards with if you simply aren't in the mood. With Breath of the Wild I fell off some 40 hours into the game before returning to it later on that same year, whereas with Tears of the Kingdom I found myself falling off (due to other games coming out which seemed a bit more focused in terms of narrative) some 60 hours in, before returning to devour what was left of the game. A number of characters returned from Breath of the Wild, and I felt that they were all fleshed out much more than they were during that particular adventure, with some fun VA performances given across the board and every member of the secondary cast seemingly getting at least one moment to shine. This was reinforced by some wonderful updated music for a number of them, with the highlights for me being those for Sidon and Yunobu, and to touch on the music in a more general sense, while still absent during general exploration, I feel that this game did a much better job of providing you with a lot more moments to come across some excellent musical moments, as well as punctuating important story beats and boss fights with some great compositions, too. The sense of being a hero and trying to rebuild Hyrule is revisited regularly throughout the game with how frequently you end up helping out the strangers you come across, much more so than I felt was the case in Breath of the Wild, and this happens often in a variety of unique ways, which I really appreciated. 

I think the biggest problem I have with this game's story - and perhaps, even, the game overall - is just how little it acknowledges of Breath of the Wild. Long gone are the Sheikah Slate, the Sheikah Towers, the Sheikah Shrines, and the Guardians, having miraculously disappeared over night, but there's also so little said about the Great Calamity, and heck, even a number of characters will act like they've never seen Link before. For me, this results in the game at times feeling more like an enhanced, 2.0 version of Breath of the Wild rather than a true sequel, which I found disappointing, as I was really looking forward to seeing and feeling the impact Link and Zelda had been able to have in the time between the two games. 

While this is something I do not want to speak about with any real sense of depth - I think I'll dedicate some time to doing that in the game's own thread, in spoiler tags - I do need to touch on this game's ending, which for me, was an epic culmination more than worthy of the adventure I'd been on. The story, characters, and certain game mechanics are weaved into the narrative so tightly at the end of this game that it felt so incredibly satisfying and rewarding to see it all play out, with my jaw left agape at certain points as credits neared because of what I was experiencing, and I seriously think this will be an ending remembered for a very long time. For me, having only finished Ocarina of Time outside of Breath of the Wild before this (I know...) but seeing how much that game nailed its ending - I think this one lives up to the legacy of the series. 

Ultimately, I find myself reflecting on my time with Tears of the Kingdom incredibly fondly, especially in the early going; just thinking about certain moments in this game restores a sense of childlike awe and wonderment in me. There's a level of cohesion and forward-thinking here that I adore, and the few times where the game mixed interactivity between the different layers of the world, or figuring out certain connections between the Lightroots and this game's Shrines, were probably the highlights of my 100+ hours with - and 118 shrines completed - in the game. I will also reiterate comments I've made before about how I found I enjoyed Breath of the Wild most by playing a certain way, because in this game I once again found the most joy by turning off the Shrine Sensor and turning the Pro HUD on (which thankfully excludes health until in combat, this time around, making for some cleaner screenshots!); I'm of the opinion that this is the best, and perhaps even intended, way to experience the game, as so much more of this game's excellent design becomes apparent once you've freed yourself of the burden that is being turned onto everything around you, and simply enjoying the journey you're on. I am also very firm in saying that this game's sequel - or the next Zelda, seemingly destined to follow in the open world footsteps of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom - cannot be set in this world again. It just can't. I think some of the magic was lost this time around with so much of the world being so similar, and while I think this was made up for more often than not by the new additions made as well as the new layers added, I came away feeling that this was the definitive way to experience this version of Hyrule, with the game perhaps serving more as an enhanced adventure rather than a fresh one which boldly and loudly continued on from what came before. Like Breath of the Wild, I think it is a great but flawed game at times overwhelmed and held back by its most simple functions, yet an experience truly unique unto itself, and I still find myself absolutely awestruck by some of the ideas I witnessed coming to fruition in this game, and that final stretch of the game was on a whole other level for me - it's going to be one talked about for a long time, I'm sure. 

There are very few experiences to be found in gaming like Breath of the Wild, and even fewer that I feel surpass the sense of freedom, adventure and respect afforded to you by that game, and yet here I am, willing and confident in saying that, while not perfect, I think Tears of the Kingdom did just that - and then some. 


  1. Dark Souls: Artorias of the Abyss (2012) - completed 5th February
  2. Bloodborne + The Old Hunters (2015) - completed 19th April
  3. Sniper Elite V2 (2012) - completed 26th April
  4. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (2023) - completed 8th May
  5. Final Fantasy XVI (2023) - completed 2nd September
  6. Armored Core VI (2023) - completed 20th September
  7. Marvel's Spider-Man + The City That Never Sleeps (2018) - completed 6th October
  8. The Order: 1886 (2015) - completed 12th October 
  9. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020) - completed 18th October
  10. Marvel's Spider-Man 2 (2023) - completed 23rd October
  11. Yakuza: Like a Dragon (2020) - completed 15th November
  12. Storyteller (2023) - completed 19th November
  13. SANABI (2023) - completed 21st November
  14. Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (2023) - completed 3rd December
  15. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (2023) - completed 2nd January 2024

Side note: yes, I did decide to include Tears of the Kingdom in this thread rather than in the 2024 thread despite beating it a couple of days into this year; I did this purely because most of my time spent with the game was back in 2023, and to avoid any weird crossover in my personal GOTYs this year. 


And that does it for me and 2023. To anyone crazy enough to read all that, thanks, and I look forward to talking games and what I'm playing in 2024! :peace:

Edited by Julius
  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Julius said:

To anyone crazy enough to read all that, thanks

No need to thank me. :D
I'd much rather read your posts than work :p

  • Haha 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll die on a hill defending The Order 1886. The game was harshly done over by critics. The story, characters and setting were very unique and begged for a sequel. This and Ryse were two of the most underrated games from last generation, IMO.

Any time I read something about Like A Dragon I get tempted to replay the game via the PS5 and earn another platinum. The game is that good and is up there with Dragon Quest XI, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Persona 5 as one of the best JRPGs on the PS4.

I'm looking forward to trying out Armored Core. I've never played any of the series so I'm not sure how I will fare with it. No idea when I'll get around to it though.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

I'll die on a hill defending The Order 1886.

Maybe I should finally play it...
*checks if it's on PS+*

I've been disappointed again.

7 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

The game is that good and is up there with Dragon Quest XI, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Persona 5 as one of the best JRPGs on the PS4.

I think it's up there with any JRPG ever!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, drahkon said:

No need to thank me. :D
I'd much rather read your posts than work :p


2 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

I'll die on a hill defending The Order 1886. The game was harshly done over by critics. The story, characters and setting were very unique and begged for a sequel.

looks up Metacritic scores for the game


Holy heck, I agree, those are some harsh scores! I feel like this game should very firmly be swimming in 7s – I wonder if it's down to being a year and a half into the gen and the game being so short for it's launch price, or people expecting a much more fleshed out experience while waiting on the first big hitter of the gen? 

Either way, I'm not sure whether it was put out to die or if SIE were just really stupid, but it certainly wouldn't have helped the game's commercial potential to have this release just one month before Bloodborne. I mean, come on! 

But yeah, absolutely needed/needs a sequel. It could've flopped, but I also do genuinely think we could've seen an Uncharted 2 type of situation where the next game could've come on leaps and bounds by building on the foundation of the first. Guess we'll probably never know ::shrug:

2 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Any time I read something about Like A Dragon I get tempted to replay the game via the PS5 and earn another platinum. The game is that good and is up there with Dragon Quest XI, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Persona 5 as one of the best JRPGs on the PS4.

Those PS5 load times were real nice :D

Yep, definitely up there with the best of last gen, and what I like is that just looking at those four, there's so much variety at the top of the pile in terms of approach, style, music, vibes, and mechanics. Doesn't really feel like we've really seen the genre kick on this gen, though I suppose those four games mentioned did all release in the latter half of the PS4's life, and this year of course looks stacked for JRPGs, so hopefully we come away from this year with some more excellent JRPGs we'll still be praising in a couple of years. 

2 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

I'm looking forward to trying out Armored Core. I've never played any of the series so I'm not sure how I will fare with it. No idea when I'll get around to it though.

I think there's a fairly decent chance you'll gel with it, though I think it really depends on how you approach it – perhaps more than any other From game I've played, the build people go with seems to have a massive impact on their enjoyment of the game. I mentioned how I'd like to see them balance things out more in a sequel/potential DLC, but obviously with the options being there and the game being balanced how it is, it's on From that I think the experience really varies from player to player based on selected build; I'll never fault anyone for taking advantage of what's available, that style of play just bored me and felt much less fulfilling. 

The game doesn't faff around too much with fluff, with the linearity of missions really making the game feel like it gets to the point; getting S-ranks in missions and the tweaks you can do numbers-wise feeling a bit GT-esque (just, ya know, hulking AC unit rather than a Toyota Yaris); and while it's difficult to speak to how the team's and director's expertise in combat in Sekiro translates to this having not got around to playing that game yet, there's a lot of fun to be had with learning your AC's moveset and honing in on fleshing out your chosen style of play. 

Plus: mechs. Mechs are just cool. :D

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Finally got around to listing what I played last year.

  • Triangle Strategy - Switch 
  • Nobody Saves the World - PS5
  • The Pedestrian - PS4 and PS5
  • Super Star Wars- PS4
  • Yet Another Zombie Defence HD - PS4
  • Omno - PS4
  • Syphon Filter 3 - PS4 and PS5
  • Super Stardust Portable - PS4 and PS5


  • Jumping Flash - PS4 and PS5
  • Kirby's Dream Land - Switch
  • Everybody's Golf - PS4 and PS5
  • Everbody's Golf 2 - PS4 and PS5
  • House of the Dead Remastered - PS5
  • Super Mario Land 2 - Switch


  • Kirby's Return to Dream Land DX - Switch
  • Wild Arms -PS4
  • Grim(Gal) Guardians - PS5
  • Horizon Forbidden West - PS4 
  • Final Fantasy: Crisis Core Reunion -PS4
  • Miitopia - Switch
  • Ape Academy 2 - PS4 and PS5
  • Tekken 2 - PS5


  • Maris Adventure - PS4
  • Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror - PS4 and PS5
  • Frogun - PS5
  • Locoroco Midnight Carnival - PS4 and PS5
  • Trigger Witch - PS5
  • Pumpkin Jack - PS5


  • Star Wars: Jedi Survivor - PS5
  • Star Wars Episode 1 Racer - PS4
  • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga - PS5
  • Pursuit Force - PS4 and PS5
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD - Switch
  • Star Wars: Battlefront 2 - PS4
  • No Heroes Allowed - PS4 and PS5


  • Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow -PS4 and PS5
  • Unpacking -PS4 and PS5
  • Super Mario Advance -Switch
  • The Light in the Darkness - PS4
  • Humanity - PS5
  • Legend of Dragoon -PS5
  • Control - PS5
  • My Friend Peppa Pig - PS4 and PS5
  • DC League of Super Pets - PS4 and PS5
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - PS4
  • Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups Save Adventure Bay - PS4 and PS5
  • Killzone: Liberation - PS4 and PS5
  • Master of Aquario - PS4
  • Cotton 100% - PS4 


  • Doki Doki Literature Club - PS4 and PS5
  • Ghosts and Ghouls - Switch
  • Flicky - Switch
  • Capcom Fighting Collection - PS4
  • Cyber Shadow - PS5
  • Cat Quest 2 - PS4
  • Kaze and the Wild Masks - PS4
  • Endling - PS4 and PS5
  • My Little Pony: A Maretime Bay - PS4 and PS5
  • Twisted Metal - PS4 and PS5
  • Twisted Metal: World Tour - PS4 and PS5
  • Melty Blood: Type Lumina - PS4
  • Fast and Furious: Spy Racers Rise of Shifter - PS4 and PS5
  • Life Is Strange: True Colors - PS4


  • MediEvil: Resurrection - PS4 and PS5
  • Pikmin 4 - Switch
  • Ape Escape P - PS4 and PS5
  • PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night - PS5


  • Super Mario Sunshine - Switch
  • Late Shift - PS5
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits - PS4
  • Metroid Prime Remastered -Switch
  • Moving Out 2 - PS5
  • Call of the Sea - PS5
  • Monster Boy - PS4


  • Resident Evil 4 Remake - PS5
  • Pikmin HD - Switch
  • Theatrhythm Final Bar Line  - PS4
  • OneeChanbara Origin - PS4
  • Death's Door - PS5
  • The Medium - PS5
  • Cursed to Golf - PS5
  • Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty - PS5
  • The Callisto Protocol - PS5
  • Pokemon Stadium - Switch
  • Gargoyles Remastered - PS4
  • Super Mario Wonder - Switch
  • Halloween Puzzle - PS4
  • Puzzle Journey - PS4
  • Monster Hunter Rise: - PS5


  • Ape Academy - PS4 and PS5
  • Spider-Man 2 - PS5
  • Gravity Crash Portable - PS4 and PS5
  • Pursuit Force : Extreme Justice - PS4 and PS5
  • Paw Patrol The Movie - PS4 and PS5
  • Octopath Traveler II -PS5
  • Disney's Illusion Island - Switch
  • Chrono Cross - PS4
  • Diofield Chronicles - PS4
  • Super Mario RPG Remastered - Switch
  • Jet Moto - PS4 and PS5
  • Like a Dragon: Gaiden -PS5
  • Coffee Talk - PS5
  • Double Dragon Gaiden - PS5
  • Sonic Superstars - PS5


  • Mortal Kombat 1 - PS5
  • AEW: Fight Forever - PS5
  • God of War Ragnarok - PS4
  • Bravely Default II - Switch
  • Eiyuden Chronices: Rising - PS4
  • Sunset Riders - PS4
  • Final Fantasy XVI - PS5
  • Lil Gator - PS4 and PS5
  • Metal Gear - PS5
  • Metal Gear 2 - PS5
  • Metal: Hellsinger - PS4 and PS5
  • Kirby Dream Buffet - Switch
  • Star Trek Resurgence - PS5
  • Streets of Rage 4 - PS4

As usual, the PS4/PS5 were my preferred way to play my games. There was a lot of usage from PS+ this year, with me often playing through games twice to get the double platinum. There were also a lot of games that I replayed thanks to some of them getting free PS5 upgrades. Looking through the list, I actually didn't buy that many games and the ones I did buy this year were often during a sale.

Games that I paid full price for were...

  • Pikmin 4
  • Kirby's Dream Land DX
  • Pikmin HD
  • Super Mario Wonder
  • Super Mario RPG Remastered
  • Metroid Prime Remastered
  • Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
  • Gargoyles Remastered
  • Baten Kaitos Remastered
  • Fire Emblem Engage
  • Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince
  • Advance Wars Remastered
  • Grim Guardians
  • Frogun

As you can see, a lot of them are on the Switch and this is because there is no real benefit to waiting as most of the time they stay full price anyway. I did drop a few of them though. These were Advance Wars Remastered, Fire Emblem Engage, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince and Baten Kaitos Remastered. I wasn't feeling any of them at the time and so ditched them to play other games.

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites