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Eliwood8

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Everything posted by Eliwood8

  1. In an alternate reality where arcades are a common feature instead of an increasingly rare piece of 80s nostalgia, one sleepy arcade's fortunes may soon take a turn for the better. Arcade Spirits is a visual novel, a game with minimal gameplay input but an emphasis on storytelling as you follow the protagonist's journey and mold their personality. The player base this game will appeal to is decidedly niche, but fans of the genre can expect a cute if somewhat plain story. You play as a recently unemployed and rather depressed adult who, thanks to the prompting of a roommate, lands a job at a modest video arcade. You soon meet the quirky cast of fellow employees and arcade regulars, all of whom are potential romance partners (though despite the romcom game description, you don't have to pursue any romance options if you don't want to and instead can just be friends with everyone). As the down-on-your-luck protagonist, you soon connect with others and the arcade itself, which helps to stir you from depressed apathy. The writing is, obviously, key for a visual novel, and Arcade Spirits' is a resounding: okay. The story never feels wildly unique, but it's a decent down-to-earth story about following one's dreams. The humor is pretty hit or miss with perhaps too much reliance on cheesy meme references (which almost never suit a game's writing) and the romance subplots are predictably rushed (just a couple of interactions and you're ready to profess your love for one another). But if you can overlook those foibles Arcade Spirits clearly has heart, as even the more stoic or abrasive characters in the story can't seem to help but be friendly, outgoing, and encouraging. The game's overwhelmingly upbeat charm makes it hard to dislike entirely, but for a visual novel it does leave something to be desired. The gameplay of Arcade Spirits is entirely conversation driven: you can choose from a handful of responses which all fall into one of five categories: Quirky, Kind, Gutsy, Steady, or Basic. For normal conversations you can always choose any available option, but these will influence your personality, and during the more serious moments of the game you may be locked out of certain choices based on your dominant personality traits. It's a modest level of variability and replay value—the core plot obviously plays out the same no matter what—but it's still nice to have some control over your personality throughout the game, even if it mostly comes down to a couple different lines of dialogue. Arcade Spirits also features some inclusive customization options, including changing your preferred pronouns. You can also choose from three hair styles and adjust skin tone, hair color, and clothing color. Sadly that's it when it comes to customizing appearances though—being able to adjust clothing options, accessories, or even having a couple of facial feature options would have been nice. The game's presentation straddles a strange line of quality and quantity. The character portraits are colorful and lively and the background scenery is decent (and clearly playing up the 80s arcade nostalgia), but there's so little variety to either that they become stale pretty quickly. The game even lampshades its own reused assets when one room looks identical to another, but poking a bit of fun at itself doesn't change the fact that the visuals can be pretty boring. The audio has its own odd problems, including finnicky sound balancing that can make the soundtrack either incredibly hard to hear or too loud. Even adjusting the levels in the options menu doesn't fully alleviate the issue. It's also rather jarring that the background music will stop any time a voice line plays, even when it's a brief, one-word line. The voice work quality is a mixed bag as well which only makes the sudden interjections more jarring. Fans of the visual novel genre will already know and appreciate what they're going to get with Arcade Spirits: a cute story with minimal gameplay interactions, buoyed by its cast of somewhat cliche but likeable characters. For a game focused entirely on storytelling the writing isn't always up to par, especially when it comes to lazy game/meme references, but if you're willing to overlook the occasional clunky line, there's a decent story of hope, dreams, and arcades to be found here. Rating: 6 out of 10 Arcade Cabinets
  2. Top to bottom, as playable characters: Byleth – Like all the FE characters a good balance of speed and strength. Also very easy to pick up since I already play FE so much. Joker – I like Joker's gimmick, and while his ranged attacks don't have the punchiness that I normally like his melee game works for me. Getting a KO with his Final Smash is also super satisfying. Hero – I also have a lot of trouble using his spell list efficiently but otherwise he's pretty solid for me. Banjo – Overall decent for me but I don't love their egg moves, they just don't flow with my usual playstyle. Piranha Plant – I like how weird PP is but admittedly am not great at actually using him (it?). Fun to mess around with though. Terry – I'm not great with Ryu/Ken either but at least with them they have some nostalgia value. I never played Fatal Fury so Terry just doesn't do much for me, and trying to learn his combos now in Smash is kind of tricky. As far as video game icon additions I think they're all pretty great (except for Byleth. Even as a huge FE fan the series has more than enough representation in Smash), with only Joker being a bit odd since Persona 5 isn't on the Switch and at the time neither was P5 Scramble, but ultimately still a good representation of the long-lived Persona/SMT brand.
  3. Not to call into question this translation, but surely if the official localization was that inaccurate this would have been brought up before, right? Or maybe it has, I admittedly have never looked into this before.
  4. The "Big Window" add-on is the most hilariously egregious example of "create a problem, sell the solution" that I've seen recently. And yeah everything about this just seems kind of absurd, from the four versions with different games to the pricing at ~$50 a pop. I wonder if this sort of thing would resonate better in Japan though, in terms of the collect 'em all appeal. Have retro mini-consoles officially jumped the shark now? To be honest there are still some consoles that I might be interested in getting the mini treatment like the N64, or maybe Dreamcast or Saturn since I never had either of those. This feels like peak saturation though.
  5. Original estimate was for my copy of the game to arrive later this week, but it just came so I guess it's Reyn time.
  6. The idea of combining Picross puzzles with another gameplay genre seems so obvious now that I'm surprised there aren't more examples of it. Organizing the satisfying repetition of solving nonogram puzzles into a 2D exploration adventure adds a nice touch of personality and pizazz to the experience, and in the case of Piczle Cross Adventure from developer Score Studios and publisher Plug In Digital, a good deal of humor as well. Make no mistake though, this is still first and foremost a puzzle game, and a perfect one for fans of Picross. Piczle Cross Adventure stars Score-chan and her animal(?) companion Gig as they solve one puzzle after another to rescue the world from being pixelated by Dr. Mona Chromatic as she attempts to turn the entire world into black and white pixels. It's a charming, goofy premise and as you might expect the game doesn't take itself too seriously. This is a light, bubbly adventure story that is oftentimes keenly self-aware of video game tropes. Even if it's not too deep, the writing is fun, and it's hard not to smile at the quirky humor. Plus, for Picross game fans, it's a nice change of pace to contextualize the puzzle-solving process into a story with an actual goal. Even given the genre mash-up of Piczle Cross Adventure, the core gameplay is still very much a Picross or nonogram puzzle game. You'll explore the map to find objects that have been pixelated, and then solve a puzzle to restore it to its glorious full color form. For those that don't know, Picross is a portmanteau of "picture" and "crossword," which succinctly describes what these puzzles are: by following clues on a grid (like a crossword puzzle) you create a picture. These can range from fairly simple 5x5 grids to much bigger, more complex challenges. Seasoned Picross players will find that Piczle Cross Adventure is rarely mind-bendingly challenging, but it's also nice to enjoy a puzzle game with a comfortable pace of progression. And novice players may enjoy using helpful features like the hint roulette, at least while learning the ropes of this puzzle format. Unlike most other Picross games, you're not just given a long list of puzzles to solve, you have to go out and find them. For the most part this means just exploring the environment—ranging from dark caves to sprawling deserts, all conveniently within walking distance—but Piczle Cross Adventure also takes a page from traditional adventure games. Sometimes you'll need to find an item to progress, such as finding a way to move a fallen tree blocking your path. The game doesn't throw anything too complex at you but just having a reason to explore and find items is a nice change of pace for a puzzle game. There's also a small amount of freedom as you can tackle regions in slightly different orders (until you run into an obstacle that you need a specific item for) and it's cool to have the opportunity to tackle puzzles in whatever order you like. Plus it is awfully satisfying to enter a new area of the map, see all of the blank, pixelated spots in the environment, and then restore the area piece by piece. If there's one area the gameplay feels slightly lacking, it's in one small aspect of the controls. You actually have a great deal of customization options with the controls, which is great, but one feature I was missing compared to other Picross games is a "maybe" option to fill in squares when you're not sure if a square should be filled in or not but you want to make a note of where it might be. It is perhaps slightly unfair to compare Piczle Cross Adventure's features directly to other Picross games, but it's a valuable feature for puzzle-solving and it's a shame it isn't available here as well. Like any puzzle game your time with Piczle Cross Adventure can vary quite a bit depending on how quick you are at solving nonograms, but you can expect at least ten hours or so. There are also a few optional objectives that aren't needed to complete the story, but are great for completionists. You don't need to finish every puzzle to complete the story (although there are some checkpoints where you need a minimum experience level to progress, so you do still have to finish most puzzles to progress). It's hard to imagine playing a Picross game and not hunting down every puzzle available though, and you'll likely end up addicted enough to explore every puzzle the game has to offer. Piczle Cross Adventure leans hard into the retro look with not just an old-school pixel look but even CRT scan lines (these can be turned off if you're not feeling the retro vibe though). The visual design is cartoony and cute, and honestly having even a bit of visual flair in a Picross puzzle game is a welcome change of pace. The soundtrack is pretty catchy, but also a bit too repetitive. A bit more variety in background tunes, especially given the wide variety of environments, would have helped shake things up a bit. Piczle Cross Adventure offers a fun, fresh twist on the typical puzzle game format without actually changing the familiar puzzle gameplay. A cute story and simple adventure game elements provide a charming frame for puzzle-hunting and puzzle-solving, one that gives you a bit more incentive to keep playing. For Picross fans, this is another great selection of nonograms, while new players will appreciate having a story/adventure to focus on while completing puzzles. Rating: 8 out of 10 Puzzles Review copy provided by developer Piczle Cross Adventure is available now on the Switch eShop for $9.99.
  7. Wholesome Games put together their own video showcase of upcoming cute, friendly, or compassionate games from indie developers. Looks like some of these are coming to the Switch but most seem to be PC. Still, it's a good opportunity to find some indie games to keep an eye on over the next year.
  8. I really need to get around to playing the copy of XCOM 2 I have for my PS4. I can't imagine the Bioshock games will run as well on the Switch as on any other platform, but if it's your only option they're some of the best games to come out of the last generation and are absolutely worth playing. Borderlands is also a blast and a great time sink. As far as time sinks are concerned though, my next super long game project will be Xenoblade Chronicles. Looking forward to exploring that world again.
  9. - Wandersong (Switch) Very cute game, glad I finally got around to playing it. Perfect for a light, uplifting little adventure game. - Bioshock 2 (PS4) I can understand why some people were underwhelmed by 2 since it really is quite similar to 1, but it also made some valuable quality of life improvements to the combat and hacking mechanics. Besides, Rapture is still a blast to explore. Also played Minerva's Den for the first time which was a great side story. - River City Girls (Switch) The game nails the classic beat 'em up experience, but I found myself wanting more from the game than a retread of familiar genre beats. Still fun, but not as engaging as I'd hoped. - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) The game is, of course, a masterpiece, and the perfect distraction to lose oneself in these days. Master Mode though, eh, I didn't really love it. Really the problem was the regenerating health, which sort of requires you to fight more aggressively and makes fun, silly tactics like dropping boulders or shooting exploding barrels much less effective. Mostly it made me just want to avoid combat which is kind of a shame since normally it's pretty fun to sweep through a bokoblin encampment and destroy everything. It definitely makes the early game more intense though, and of course the Trial of the Sword—hoo boy, that took a couple of years off my life from stress. - Bioshock Infinite (PS4) Rounding out the Bioshock trilogy. God this game is beautiful, and I love the soundtrack, especially examining each song's thematic connection to the story. For some reason I enjoy using the Vigors more in this game compared to Plasmids in previous games—I think it helps that you don't have to buy them, so it doesn't feel like needlessly spending ADAM, but also since you're limited to two guns at a time it makes more sense to rely on Vigors more. Console: 50 Overall: 50
  10. Back to the original topic: if there were a new Hunters game I wouldn't mind seeing it lean more toward a team-based, abilities-driven multiplayer experience, a la Overwatch, Paladins, Apex Legends, etc. rather than a straight up shooter like Call of Duty. I think these days I'm much more interested in an FPS that gives different experiences with each character rather than just changing what gun you're using. And the original Hunters was already a little like that, and they could push the idea further. I'm also always interested in co-op game modes in shooters, so I'd definitely be down for a Metroid II-style "eradicate the Metroids" game mode. I could also be interested in something like an asymmetrical mode, like one player is Samus and four or five other players are hunters, and they have to work together to take down Samus who is significantly stronger or can respawn or something.
  11. It would probably surprise most Western gamers to learn just how expansive and long-lived the Kunio-Kun series is—it certainly surprised me. Over thirty years of history and dozens upon dozens of games—though, granted, most being Japan-only releases—makes it a legacy series in the world of video games, despite limited acclaim outside of Japan. A new game developed by one of the biggest names in indie game development might help spread the word, though. River City Girls from developer WayForward takes the classic side-scrolling beat 'em up gameplay of the River City Ransom games and gives it a fresh facelift, perfect for a new generation of gamers, though the antiquated gameplay makes the experience a bit of a slog at times. The original River City Ransom follows two high school guys on a quest to rescue one of their girlfriends, so naturally River City Girls flips the script with two female protagonists fighting to rescue their boyfriends. It's a simple, straightforward plot buoyed by the larger-than-life personalities of all of the characters and the absurdity of punching, kicking, and otherwise beating up endless waves of thugs and gang members all over town. The developers are well aware of the humor of the situation and slip plenty of tongue-in-cheek jokes, and even if not all of them land perfectly, there's still a lot of charm in the writing. The gameplay is straight up classic brawler action: you have quick or heavy attacks at your disposal, plus a small variety of other attacks—grappling dazed enemies, picking up items to bash with or throw, special attacks that drain your special meter, etc. You'll also earn experience points and level up throughout the game, adding more attacks to your repertoire and allowing you to buy new attacks from dojos scattered across the city. The game follows a pretty constant, basic formula: enter a new area, fight or dodge a few minor enemies, then eventually hit a locked screen where you have to defeat all enemies before progressing. Beat 'em ups tend to be highly repetitive, and that's not too different for River City Girls either. Your enjoyment of the game hinges entirely on how much satisfaction you glean from beating down the same handful of enemy types over and over again. It feels clear that the developers sought to preserve the classic brawler formula as closely as possible, even if it comes off as a bit dry for a modern game. It seems like a missed opportunity not to add some more variety to the experience or even jazz up the combat with more interesting combo varieties. And it certainly doesn't help that there are only so many different types of enemies that you'll see over and over who seem to level up with you, so you never really get noticeably better at beating them up, you just have a few more combo options. Most significantly, River City Girls is beholden to the somewhat slow, slightly awkward controls of classic beat 'em ups, meaning you have to be on the same plane as an enemy to actually hit them, and adjusting up or down the screen can feel finnicky, or at least not fast and snappy. Obnoxiously it often feels like enemies don't have to be lined up as perfectly as you in order to hit you with a stunning combo. Ultimately this is a game for brawler fans, one that doesn't so much modernize the gameplay experience as preserve it, warts and all. If the game does click with you though there's a decent amount of content to enjoy. Finishing the game once can take as little as seven or eight hours, but there are also side quests to pursue, co-op mode, and additional features that are unlocked after beating the game once. The gameplay never fundamentally changes but completionists will enjoy maxing out all of these slight variations. You can also purchase and equip up to two pieces of gear which grant small buffs, such as regenerating health or increased attack power against certain enemy types. Again, these don't wildly change the experience but they add some welcome customization. The purchasing process can be rather annoying though because you can't see what effect items will have until after you buy them, which sometimes makes it feel like you've wasted your hard-earned money. It should be no surprise for a WayForward game, but River City Girls looks great. The in-game graphics feature smooth pixel artwork and slick animation for all of the various attacks you'll be dishing out, while the fully animated cutscenes look beautiful. There are also stylish black-and-white manga-style cutscenes that feel right at home in the game's universe. The synth-pop soundtrack is also excellent and adds some valuable pep and energy to beating down opponents over and over. There's also some solid voice acting, though at times I did wish I could simply speed up the text to move things along a little more quickly. River City Girls faithfully recreates the RCR experience, but perhaps could have done more to improve upon it instead. Even with WayForward's stylish visual design and catchy soundtrack, the simple repetitive nature of the beat 'em up genre can be draining, especially when little aspects like the controls feel like they haven't changed in decades. Still, River City Girls offers a fun co-op adventure tailor-made for the fans that long for the days of NES or arcade brawlers. Rating: 7 out of 10 Punches
  12. Do it! Embrace the call of the wild! Collect all the Korok seeds!
  13. Trial of the Sword in Master Mode is one of the most stressful video game experiences I've had in recent memory, but I'm glad I beat it.
  14. In the game's opening scene, the protagonist learns that he is, emphatically, not the hero. But just because he can't swing a sword doesn't mean he can't go on a globe-trotting adventure to save the world. Wandersong puts you not in the role of a dashing swordsman, but a humble and almost ridiculously friendly bard, whose gift of song may be the key to saving everything and everyone. Not surprisingly this makes for an utterly charming adventure, one with simple but fun side-scrolling puzzle platforming and a lot of heart. As you might expect for a game about helping people through the power of music, Wandersong is extremely cute, extremely silly, and extremely heartwarming. There is a lot of goofy humor here, not just in the way the bard interacts with people but in the odd little lives of the villagers you meet throughout the adventure. There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek jokes to discover, and also a lot of text to read through (but it's worth talking to everyone as much as possible). The game balances out this happy-go-lucky vibe with some affecting, heartfelt moments as well and isn't afraid to get a bit serious at times, which makes it easy to care about these characters and their silly little lives. Wandersong nails the "child's game that adults can enjoy" aesthetic, and most players would be hard pressed not to get misty-eyed at the game's climax. The gameplay is essentially a side-scrolling puzzle platformer, but instead of using items or gaining magic abilities, the bard uses his voice to move through the environment and overcome obstacles. For example, there might be a high ledge that you can't jump to, but by singing the same song as a nearby bird, the bird will help carry you up to the ledge. There's a decent variety of puzzles and obstacles that you'll face, enough to keep the gameplay engaging throughout. You can sing different notes by hitting one of eight directions with the right control stick, and these notes are also color-coded for clarity. Using the right stick to hit notes can be a little imprecise at times but thankfully the game never really requires fast, precise songs, so a bit of looseness in the controls isn't a big deal. Wandersong isn't really a difficult game in any sense, but its casual, breezy pacing still makes for an enjoyable adventure. Plus there's a button dedicated to dancing, so you can literally dance your way through the game, and that has to count for something. You might expect the game to be incredibly short given its low sense of difficulty and relatively straight-forward story, but you can expect a good eight or ten hours with Wandersong, and a captivating eight or ten hours at that. Depending on how much you talk with villagers and other side characters throughout the game your experience might be even longer. And although the game is quite linear there's a sort of side quest in that you can learn new dance moves in each act of the game. It's not much but it's worth seeking out to see the bard bust a new move. The game's paper cutout art style may immediately bring to mind comparisons to Paper Mario, but Wandersong's aesthetic is hardly derivative. The colorful, simple, and charming visuals are the perfect match for the bubbly and breezy tone of the story and gameplay, and even if the shapes are rather simple the colors are beautiful and striking. On the Switch the edges of objects can get rather jagged though, and it's a shame that these stylish graphics aren't at their best on the system, but it's not too disruptive. And of course the music is fantastic—this is a game all about singing after all. The soundtrack is broad and varied with plenty of catchy, soothing, and touching songs for the bard's journey, culminating in a particularly harmonious final number. Wandersong's musical take on side-scrolling platforming is absolutely charming, and honestly a great break from typical sword and shield combat gameplay. The singing mechanics are simple but make for a fun variety of puzzle-solving challenges, even if the game is never truly difficult. Wandersong is an uplifting, feel-good adventure, and perhaps now more than ever that's what we want and need from video games. Rating: 8 out of 10 Songs
  15. Well I didn't see any stickers, so that's a good sign. The battle system looks kind of fun too, with the whole ring-battlefield and lining up enemies to hit them all at once. Reminds me of Radiant Historia.
  16. I had the same thought; I can't see why a remaster of 20 year old games wouldn't be able to run on the Switch. But the trailer did advertise 4K graphics, and maybe they just don't want to go through the effort of making a build of the game specifically for the Switch. Hopefully we'll just get a Switch port at a later date though.
  17. Honestly a little surprised that Pokémon Sword/Shield isn't higher, but obviously 17M is still huge. Will New Horizons finally be the game to unseat Mario Kart 8 Deluxe from the number one spot?
  18. Side by side I definitely see the similarities. Nice to see that Retro's work still had an impact. I can understand Nintendo might not have gone for this direction back then, but nowadays I think they'd be totally open to a third-party collaboration for a spin-off focused on the Sheikah tribe, and I'd be curious too.
  19. - Vampyr (Switch) I was pretty disappointed with this one, from the story to the gameplay to the way it ran on the Switch. The concept is great, I just didn't enjoy the execution. - Persona 5 (PS4) First time playing a Persona game, though from playing other SMT games and Tokyo Mirage Sessions I mostly knew what to expect. Really enjoyed it, and the music is going to be stuck in my head for weeks. Would've preferred a more even balance between palaces and real-world activities, but I did enjoy both aspects of the gameplay. - Trials of Mana (Switch) There are definite areas where the remake should have further improved over the original (??? seeds are still needlessly annoying to collect and grow), but even after having played the original last year the remake is a blast and has some fun new features. - Picross S3 (Switch) Color Picross is a pretty fun addition. Once I got the hang of it I really liked the new perspective on solving picross puzzles. - Bioshock (PS4) Felt like replaying this since I got it on PS Plus a couple months ago; I'll probably go through the whole trilogy in fact. Man, I still absolutely love the aesthetic of the game—just that opening scene of entering Rapture alone is worth the price of admission. But for all my fond memories of the game I had managed to forget that you are constantly hacking shit, and I even like the hacking mini-game but it is exhausting to do so frequently. Console: 45 Overall: 45
  20. I really hadn't intended to play and write a review about a game set during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 while we're all facing another deadly virus pandemic, but, well, here we are. Vampyr takes an unconventional approach to vampire mythos, framing it not around the allure of immortal power (or around glittering teenagers) but around temptation and morality in the midst of a crisis. It's a breath of fresh air for a vampire story, but trying to balance a morality narrative with vampire-powered combat results in a clumsy action/adventure game. You play as Jonathan Reid, a doctor who specializes in blood transfusions but is turned into a vampire as the game begins. Thrust into the undead underworld of London society, Reid struggles to understand how he became a vampire, what is the cause of the recent rash of vampirism in London, and how to stop the Spanish flu epidemic, all while fighting against his own urges to drink blood. Vampyr sets up a fantastic setting for a moral conundrum of a game, one that promises a wonderfully unique approach to essentially a monster story. The actual execution of the story leaves a lot to be desired though. The characters, including Reid, are a bit dull and lackluster—more importantly, the relationships they build and foster are so terribly rushed that it's hard to actually feel invested in any of them. Long-winded dialogue saps a lot of the energy from cutscenes and doesn't allow for much chemistry between characters. Given more space to breathe and time to develop naturally, there could have been a great story here. As is, the narrative is disappointing at best. The gameplay in Vampyr is action-RPG in a semi-open world environment: you'll explore London to complete quests, battle vampire hunters and feral vampires, and interact with NPCs to either heal them by crafting medicine or luring them into a dark corner to feed on their blood. Here's where the moral question of the game comes into play: feeding on NPCs provides you with a huge boost of EXP, far more than you get by fighting enemies, but killing too many NPCs plunges London into chaos, not to mention the toll it takes on Reid's own code of ethics. Even a small bump in EXP can be a game-changer though, so essentially the "good" path of not killing makes the game significantly harder, while the "evil" path makes it much easier (and also makes it easier to experiment with abilities). Good/evil paths in a video game aren't new but Vampyr makes the contrast particularly stark—playing the good doctor can be exceedingly difficult since being even a few levels below your enemies makes a serious difference. It's a bit frustrating that there aren't more tangible rewards for suppressing your vampire urges, but ultimately it's the player's choice whether to feed or not. It is awfully tempting to feed though since the combat system is so frustratingly clumsy, and being killed in two hits because you're underpowered makes the game incredibly tedious. There are also frequent difficulty spikes clearly pushing you to indulge your vampire needs. Combat ends up being something of a chore throughout the game, something that you feel forced to do rather than get to enjoy doing. You have a small variety of weapons and vampire skills at your disposal but the floaty, weightless movements of Reid and enemies isn't terribly satisfying—the game doesn't have that satisfying sense of physicality that makes dodging and attacking feel rewarding. It doesn't help that enemies can so easily interrupt your attacks with their own, which almost seem magnetized to you even as you dodge repeatedly. These battles definitely require an element of strategy, which can be engaging, but for the most part they're so mindlessly repetitive that they just aren't enjoyable. Vampyr's semi-open world system can be rather frustrating as well. I say semi-open world, because everywhere you go you'll run into locked gates that require taking a circuitous path around to open, and these paths are often tied to story progression. The game's wayfinding system also leaves a lot to be desired. There's a compass at the top of the screen pointing you in the right direction, but this vague arrow is woefully inadequate when you're facing locked gates or inaccessible buildings. The game's restrictions can also be rather disappointing, such as Reid's ability to teleport short distances. This could have been a lot of fun in an open world environment, but you're actually only able to teleport at specific times (often to a high ledge, but the game doesn't always make this clear). Vampyr has too many conflicting ideas like this, which one might argue reinforces the doctor/vampire conflict, but in reality just makes for a poor gameplay experience. The game's dark, dreary visuals are perfectly suited to the story's setting, though the drab environments can be rather uninteresting after a while. The music is suitably somber and rather forgettable, while the voice acting has some serious ups and downs. To be fair, the low points seem to have more to do with the script than the acting, but even undead characters don't need to sound so lifeless. More problematic is the game's performance on the Switch, which leads to rather muddy visuals and some persistent technical issues. It's not uncommon to see the frame rate stutter, and the slight delay when you open the inventory menu is a constant reminder that this game is not running as smoothly as it should be on the Switch. This is all paired with some tedious load times, including random little buffering scenes when you're running around London. It makes it hard to ignore the fact that this simply isn't the best system on which to play the game. The story will take you a good fifteen hours to finish, though Vampyr offers a whole host of side quests to complete that revolve around the NPC population. You might want to tackle these out of the goodness of your heart or to make NPCs more valuable feeding targets, but either way there's a good amount of side content to explore. The game also naturally lends itself to at least two playthroughs so you can experience both the good and evil paths, plus there are actually four different endings that vary slightly based on your choices throughout the game. These are really just slightly altered ending cutscenes, but it's something to consider for completionists. Vampyr has a lot of interesting ideas that fail to come together into a cohesive, enjoyable game. The story, like the difficulty level, is all over the place, and a study of vampire morality might have worked better if this were a purely narrative driven game and the player didn't have to contend with a clunky combat system that awkwardly encourages killing NPCs. Just the contrast of being both a doctor and a vampire would have made for an engaging story if the characters had more time to develop instead of being forced into an action-RPG system. The game's performance on the Switch is the final nail in the coffin—this port is best left buried. Review: 5 out of 10 Fangs
  21. Love the battle theme preview; it's so upbeat and breezy though, sounds more like exploration music than battle music. I've seen other details about Future Connected have come out but I'm trying to avoid them as much as possible to play it with fresh eyes. Only question is whether I'm going to play through the entire game first or jump straight to FC.
  22. Well I had never played Seiken Densetsu 3 so I was pretty equally interested in both versions when they were announced. It was nice to play the game in its original form in Collection of Mana, and I was also curious about what kinds of updates the remake would introduce to shake off some of the old fashioned annoyances older games can have. I think both versions are definitely worth playing, and playing the original in the CoM first helps you better appreciate the changes in the remake.
  23. Just last year fans of the Mana series finally had the chance to experience an official release of Seiken Densetsu 3, now dubbed Trials of Mana. The port included in the Collection of Mana preserved the original SNES experience, but now this fully 3D remake provides a new dimension of action-RPG gameplay. This remake provides more than a mere facelift, but rest assured the spirit of the original game is preserved, even if some features have been left behind. Possibly the most unique aspect of Trials of Mana happens right as you boot up the game. You're able to choose which three characters you want to play as from a selection of six, and your choice of main character has an impact on how the story progresses. Each character has a unique prologue that explains why they are on this quest to save the Mana Tree from the forces of darkness, and one of the nice additions in this remake is the option to play through the prologue of all three of your characters (you can also choose to skip them). It's a small change but it's great to get to see the full backstory of each character and further cement the sense of scale and world building that the game does surprisingly well. It's not presented in the cleanest, most "readable" way at times, especially since the early parts of the game have you bouncing between cities so much that it can be hard to keep them straight in your head, but fleshing out this world with multiple kingdoms with their own stories and struggles is fun to see, and if nothing else further encourages you to replay the game to see the story from a different character's perspective. Like the original game and Secret of Mana, this is an action-RPG with real-time combat. Unlike the original game, you have several attack options at your disposal. You have both light and heavy attacks and can string them together into various combos, including aerial attacks to hit flying foes, and can also unleash powerful Class Strikes by building up your blue strike meter with basic attacks. And of course there are magic spells as well, though most characters don't unlock these until changing class partway through the game. Dodging enemy attacks is also vital, and fairly easy thanks to the telegraphed red damage zones that appear when enemies are preparing particularly powerful strikes. All of this means combat is fast-paced and engaging as you time your attacks to knock down enemies and dodge away from their deadly blows. You might not have as many attack options as other, more elaborate fighting games, but combat remains satisfying throughout the adventure. That said, there are also some somewhat annoying elements. Aerial attacks, for example, could be handled better. Jumping up to take one or two swipes at an enemy is rather tedious and hampers the flow of combat a bit. Being able to dodge enemy attacks can almost make combat feel too easy at times, although the flipside of this is that your AI companions are pretty bad about dodging. They will avoid attacks sometimes, but not nearly as efficiently as a human player (and sadly this remake removes the co-op multiplayer of the original game). You can somewhat customize your companions' attack style in the pause menu, but unfortunately you can't change this during battle, so you can't rely on them to do anything too tactical or intelligent while fighting. And finally the camera during combat can be uncooperative at times, particularly when you're near a wall, which makes fighting in small spaces like caves more difficult than it should be. Even locking onto an enemy target doesn't feel quite ideal during the heat of combat. None of these issues completely spoil the experience, but there's definite room for improvement. This remake also introduces some valuable new features, including some minor quality of life improvements. You're now given a clear marker on the map to tell you where to go next, which can be hugely helpful when you have to run back and forth between cities. Having an ever-present marker does make the game rather easy—there's no way of getting lost—but you can also turn it off if you want. In the original Trials of Mana you would be given skill points when you leveled up to upgrade your strength, stamina, magic attack, etc. Now you're given Training Points, which can be used to upgrade stats but will also unlock passive abilities. These add a welcome bit of depth to the game and provide for plenty of customization options. For example, you might give Kevin, the heavy hitting brawler, passive bonuses to his attack and defense when his health drops below a certain amount, adding a risk/reward system to his combat style. There's a decent variety to passive abilities without being overwhelmingly elaborate so it's fun to play around with them to test what works well for you. The only other major addition to the game comes after you've defeated the villains and restored the Mana Tree. There is an entirely new post-game dungeon that adds particularly challenging battles and the opportunity to change classes a third time to new, even more powerful classes. The new content is a welcome addition, especially for a game that is fairly linear and lacking in side quest options. With the new post-game additions and the ever present incentive to replay the game to test out different party compositions and see the three different story variations, the roughly twenty-five hour length of the game ends up being quite a bit more. The game's visuals have been nicely translated to 3D, even when compared to the richly detailed sprites of the original. The graphics in this remake are bright and colorful, and seeing familiar Mana series monsters in 3D is a treat. It also runs fairly smoothly on the Switch, and although there is noticeable pop-in at times it never really affects the gameplay. The soundtrack has also been beautifully remastered, preserving the exact tone and style of the original but updated to be smoother and richer. If you're a purist though you'll be happy to hear that the original soundtrack is available as well. And finally there's the voice acting which is a real mixed bag of quality. Many characters sound fine and some of them are, unfortunately, quite true to the character (namely, Charlotte's odd baby voice), but there are also some that sound terribly flat and awkward. And these are main characters, voices you'll be hearing from over and over throughout the game. If the voice work proves too awkward though you can always switch to the Japanese voice actors instead. Trials of Mana provides an excellent remake and remastering of a lost RPG classic, one that has eluded Western shores for far too long. This version takes a careful approach of updating without completely rewriting the features and style of the original, and in that regard it's an overwhelming success. There are still some minor points that could and probably should have been revised, but overall the remake preserves the unique experience of the game and presents it for a new audience on the Switch. Even with the original available in the Collection of Mana, RPG fans should have no hesitation about diving into this charming entry in the Mana series. Rating: 8 out of 10 Mana Stones
  24. The Super Monkey Ball series has always seemed to have trouble matching the heights of its first two entries on the GameCube. Maybe the oddball gaming environment of the early 2000s was just the ideal place for a game concept as strange and endearing as this, but later entries in the franchise never seemed to roll as smoothly. That was also the case for Banana Blitz, originally a launch title for the Wii, and sadly the same seems to hold true for this remake. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD trades motion controls for a standard controller, but it's not enough to make the gameplay more engaging. AiAi and his primate pals are just hanging around when a villainous character steals their Golden Bananas, so our monkey heroes have no choice but to saddle up in their plastic balls and recover their fruit. Yeah, that's all you get as far as storytelling in this game, but what else do you need? It's a bunch of cute monkeys rolling around in balls, just dive into the gameplay. The main levels have been adjusted to accommodate a normal controller setup instead of the Wii's motion controls, and for the most part the transition works. There are definitely moments where you can tell that the delicate adjustments of motion controls would make more sense than a control stick, but the developers have revamped the level design with this in mind, so this version of Banana Blitz is still playable. Playable, but still somewhat mediocre. The level design is challenging but rarely inventive, even with the ability to jump which offers a slightly different twist on the Monkey Ball formula. Banana Blitz HD is a decent experience, but nothing about the game offers much of a reason for remaking the game. The mini-games, however, did not survive the transition from motion control to control stick very well. For the ten mini-games in this HD version (cut down from 50 in the original game), it's painfully clear that motion controls would make them, at the very least, more novel and interesting, if not outright easier to play. Whack-a-mole, for example, would benefit greatly by the speed that motion control provides. As is, the mini-games feel like even less interesting side features than usual, and even gathering a few friends to join in fails to liven things up. If, however, you want to show off your skills online, there's an online leaderboard feature for a time attack mode and a Decathlon mode where you play through every mini-game in pursuit of an overall high score. It's a pretty underwhelming online feature, but score chasers might enjoy measuring up to players online. There's also one aspect that is just atrocious and likely would not have been aided by motion controls: boss fights. The only thing these battles have going for them is the cute critter designs of the various bosses. Beyond that, these fights are tedious, repetitive, and frustratingly difficult because of the game's awkward camera angles. The camera automatically locks onto the boss, which makes sense since it will help you keep track of them while moving, but because the camera angle is so low to the stage you end up having almost no depth perception and very little peripheral range. While you struggle to judge distance and monitor nearby hazards, you have to contend with an exceedingly simple and drawn out battle where you hit the boss's obvious weak point over and over. The very concept of boss fights in a Super Monkey Ball game might be a mistake because they offer none of the charm or inventive design that characterizes the series. The addition of "HD" to the game's subtitle almost feels tongue-in-cheek since this is not a franchise that benefits from high definition graphics at all. Still, the monkeys are cute and the levels are colorful, even if there's nothing in particular that will blow your socks off. The soundtrack is also comfortably average with little that stands out. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD may seem like an odd choice for a remake, and, well, it is. Updating the game with higher def graphics is almost pointless for the franchise's aesthetic, and swapping motion controls for a standard controller doesn't make the level design any more interesting. Worse yet, removing motion controls actually hurts the appeal of the mini-games. Add in some truly atrocious boss fights and you've got a remake that simply didn't need to exist. Rating: 5 out of 10 Bananas
  25. I never get tired of dropping a rock on a Korok's head.
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