Games Beaten 2023

Anything that is gaming related that doesn't fit well anywhere else
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MrPopo
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by MrPopo »

Previous Years: 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

1. Void Destroyer - PC
2. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights - Switch
3. Raging Blasters - Switch
4. Citizen Sleeper - Switch
5. GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon
6. Hands of Necromancy - PC
7. Project Downfall - PC
8. Chasm: The Rift - PC
9. Cultic - PC
10. Kirby Super Star - SNES
11. Kirby's Dream Land 2 - GB
12. Kirby's Dream Land 3 - SNES
13. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards - N64
14. Fire Emblem Engage - Switch
15. Mechwarrior 5: Rise of Rasalhague - PC
16. Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii
17. Kirby's Return to Dreamland - Wii
18. Mega Man 7 - SNES
19. Mega Man 8 - PS1
20. Conquest: Frontier Wars - PC
21. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line - Switch
22. Octopath Traveler II - Switch
23. Last Call BBS - PC
24. The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Switch
25. Dread Templar - PC
26. The Great War: Western Front - PC
27. GrimGrimoire OnceMore - PS5
28. Haegemonia: Legions of Iron - PC
29. Everspace 2 - PC
30. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - PC
31. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Switch
32. Warhammer 40000: Boltgun - PC
33. Diablo 4 - PC
34. System Shock (2023) - PC
35. Huntdown - Switch
36. HROT - PC
37. Armored Core V - PS3
38. Armored Core: Verdict Day - PS3
39. Aliens: Dark Descent - PC
40. Zone of the Enders HD - PS3
41. Trails into Reverie - Switch
42. Baldur's Gate 3 - PC

The Baldur's Gate series is a beloved CRPG series that was many's introduction to the world of D&D and RPGs in general. As a result, Baldur's Gate 3 has a lot to live up to, especially as it's not being handled by the original devs. How does it hold up? Short answer is brilliantly, capturing the magic that made the original land so well and adapting it to a modern era. But it's not just trading on the name; it is well connected to the previous games.

The game opens with a Mind Flayer Nauteloid ship kidnapping people from Baldur's Gate and implanting them with the brain tadpoles they use as part of their reproductive cycle. You are one of those captives, but you are freed when the ship is attacked by Githyanki dragon riders. Upon your escape your goal is immediate; find a way to remove the tadpole before you are irrevocably changed into a Mind Flayer. However, in the process of trying to find a cure you discover that this was not just a random attack, but part of a larger plot that threatens the entire Sword Coast.

The game is built on 5e rules and does its best to be as direct a translation as possible. This is not real time with a pause like the original games; this is full on turn based combat based on initiative order and conforming to the action/bonus action/move economy of the tabletop. There are some changes; aside from the unsurprising lack of being able to ready an action for a future reaction (trying to write that conditional system and then implement a decent UX for it is madness), there have been some balance changes around classes known to underperform, like Monk, or who are better suited for human DMs, like Ranger (whose favored enemy/terrain mechanics create very "you know or you don't" character building choices in the context of a fixed video game). Most notably, there is a change to skill checks and inspiration. Skill checks that come up in dialog will pause an allow you to toss out a quick cast of buffing spells for performing checks (so you don't need to pre buff), and failing a check allows you to use inspiration for a reroll. You can bank up to four inspiration, and you gain them from certain game choices made when you have given party members in your party. For the most part it's just "doing things that are in character for at least one person in the party", and they come often enough that you shouldn't be shy using the rerolls. Also, dialog skill checks have a critical success/critical failure system that is absent on tabletop. I think this was added mostly for player expectations for anyone who isn't already a 5e player.

You can form a party of up to four characters, with more hanging out in your camp. The camp is a separate screen a la Dragon Age: Origins where you take your long rests and can have intimate conversations with your party members. Taking long rests refills your resources, and it also tends to move certain plot threads forward, so don't be shy about using it. You can pretty much long rest at will, though there are quests that are time limited and will move forward without you if you long rest too much. For the most part it's fairly obvious which ones fall under this, but it is important to remember that a long rest passes the day. The party lineup is quite eclectic, with members available as late as the final act, and they are all quite well voiced and written.

Speaking of writing, that is one of the game's strongest suits. The characters and their actions are believable, and you have all kinds of different personalities both in your party and as NPCs. The plot grows over time, and while there are sidequests, the game does a good job of not having them be too involved if they aren't part of the main plot. You have less of a sense of telling the main plot to fuck off while you go faff about on random shit. And all the dialog trees have lots of different options based on what sort of PC you want to play and what sorts of abilities you have. There's even a special character background for the main character that adds a bunch of exclusive dialog options. This path is not for the faint of heart, though, for your will as a player will be tested as you go forward. The payoff is worth it, though.

The most important thing I can say about the game is it engenders that "I need to just see the next scene" feeling that is the hallmark of an engaging story. It builds up at a good pace and is highly rewarding for anyone who has more knowledge of the setting, though it does a good job of explaining things for those who aren't. There's lots of opportunity for roleplay to define your character, and the various party members have character arcs that you can shape, if you so choose. All in all, if you're an RPG fan this is a must pick-up.
Blizzard Entertainment Software Developer - All comments and views are my own and not representative of the company.
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MrPopo
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by MrPopo »

Previous Years: 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

1. Void Destroyer - PC
2. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights - Switch
3. Raging Blasters - Switch
4. Citizen Sleeper - Switch
5. GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon
6. Hands of Necromancy - PC
7. Project Downfall - PC
8. Chasm: The Rift - PC
9. Cultic - PC
10. Kirby Super Star - SNES
11. Kirby's Dream Land 2 - GB
12. Kirby's Dream Land 3 - SNES
13. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards - N64
14. Fire Emblem Engage - Switch
15. Mechwarrior 5: Rise of Rasalhague - PC
16. Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii
17. Kirby's Return to Dreamland - Wii
18. Mega Man 7 - SNES
19. Mega Man 8 - PS1
20. Conquest: Frontier Wars - PC
21. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line - Switch
22. Octopath Traveler II - Switch
23. Last Call BBS - PC
24. The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Switch
25. Dread Templar - PC
26. The Great War: Western Front - PC
27. GrimGrimoire OnceMore - PS5
28. Haegemonia: Legions of Iron - PC
29. Everspace 2 - PC
30. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - PC
31. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Switch
32. Warhammer 40000: Boltgun - PC
33. Diablo 4 - PC
34. System Shock (2023) - PC
35. Huntdown - Switch
36. HROT - PC
37. Armored Core V - PS3
38. Armored Core: Verdict Day - PS3
39. Aliens: Dark Descent - PC
40. Zone of the Enders HD - PS3
41. Trails into Reverie - Switch
42. Baldur's Gate 3 - PC
43. Quake 2 64 - PC

The recent release of the Quake 2 remaster included a special bonus; a port of the levels of Quake 2 64. Due to hardware limitations, when Quake 2 was ported to the N64 they created a completely new campaign. This set of maps had been locked to the N64, with a handful of community attempts at recreating the maps from scratch that never went very far, but now it's available for everyone to experience.

Rather than the setup of having a large Unit consisting of multiple maps that have connections to each other (and often require you to go back and forth between maps), Quake 2 64 has a bunch of small independent maps. That said, the exit for one logically leads to the next one, so effort was made to have everything still fit together in that "this is a series of real places" sense that would eventually culminate in the level design of Half-Life. Many of the level themes come from the original, and a few have some segments that are lifted straight from the original (e.g. the communication array segment). But for the most part, the actual levels are unique. They tell the story of you starting in the outer area of the Strogg system before hitting the orbital base, capturing a ship, landing on the moon, and eventually assaulting Strogg proper.

The change in level design creates a bit more of a Doom feel to the levels, with larger encounters appearing faster. The arsenal also comes quickly; you get the shotgun first thing in the first level without exploration, and the super shotgun before the end as a non-secret pickup. The full set of weapons is here, without any cuts, though the items have been pared back. Due to controller limitations there is no inventory system. Instead you use any power ups immediately, so no hoarding that quad damage. I found the quad several times, invisibility once, a single instance of the enviro suit, and one instance of the power shield. I'm unsure of whether the power shield persists if you run out of cells or not, as by the time I got it I had already found the BFG and wanted to save cells.

The game has most of the bestiary, though there are a few notable omissions. There is no longer a machine gun guard (just the blaster and shotgun), the technician and brain are missing, and there is no medic (which is very much not missed). And finally, the final boss setup is very different. Instead of your fight against the Makron, you take on two tank commanders followed by two hornets at the same time. You also get to fight a super tank midway through the game. One interesting component is that the levels tend to feature a restricted set of enemies, rather than having all enemies available. This will affect your weapon selection (due to different useability and effectiveness) and consequently your ammo management.

Overall, it's a fun play, though the original is the better game. Since there is no backpack you'll find ammo management is definitely tighter than the original (especially if you bust out the chain gun). If it were a standalone game it'd be harder to recommend, but since you're getting it for free with the original as part of the remaster there's no reason not to play it.
Blizzard Entertainment Software Developer - All comments and views are my own and not representative of the company.
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MrPopo
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by MrPopo »

Previous Years: 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

1. Void Destroyer - PC
2. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights - Switch
3. Raging Blasters - Switch
4. Citizen Sleeper - Switch
5. GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon
6. Hands of Necromancy - PC
7. Project Downfall - PC
8. Chasm: The Rift - PC
9. Cultic - PC
10. Kirby Super Star - SNES
11. Kirby's Dream Land 2 - GB
12. Kirby's Dream Land 3 - SNES
13. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards - N64
14. Fire Emblem Engage - Switch
15. Mechwarrior 5: Rise of Rasalhague - PC
16. Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii
17. Kirby's Return to Dreamland - Wii
18. Mega Man 7 - SNES
19. Mega Man 8 - PS1
20. Conquest: Frontier Wars - PC
21. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line - Switch
22. Octopath Traveler II - Switch
23. Last Call BBS - PC
24. The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Switch
25. Dread Templar - PC
26. The Great War: Western Front - PC
27. GrimGrimoire OnceMore - PS5
28. Haegemonia: Legions of Iron - PC
29. Everspace 2 - PC
30. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - PC
31. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Switch
32. Warhammer 40000: Boltgun - PC
33. Diablo 4 - PC
34. System Shock (2023) - PC
35. Huntdown - Switch
36. HROT - PC
37. Armored Core V - PS3
38. Armored Core: Verdict Day - PS3
39. Aliens: Dark Descent - PC
40. Zone of the Enders HD - PS3
41. Trails into Reverie - Switch
42. Baldur's Gate 3 - PC
43. Quake 2 64 - PC
44. Quake 2: Call of the Machine - PC

Like before with the Quake remaster, Machinehead Games produced a new campaign for Quake 2: Call of the Machine. It is divided into six units of 3-4 stages each, and then a final boss stage after the six units are done. Unlike base Quake 2, here you can tackle the units in any order. In that way, they're like selecting episodes in the Dimension of the Machine campaign from Q1. The setup starts with you inside a space station calling down marine missions in six areas. Each one starts with a drop pod landing, and then you need to collect a data disk and get the information uploaded; once all the disks are up the marine in the space station will know where the Strogg threat is originating and can go and kill it.

Because it's a different marine for each unit, you don't carry over your inventory from unit to unit. This means you are incentivized to use your power ups, as you know that you won't have something to save them for, and indeed the mission pack likes to toss giant hordes in key areas that are just ripe for a BFG shot or a quadded machine gun to clear. The level designs of the units are quite varied; some are more tunnel hunts, while others are wide open. And there is a variety of terrains beyond the standard Strogg base that makes up much of base Quake 2.

In terms of weapons and enemies, the game features everything from base Quake 2 and then cherry picks the good parts of the two expansions. So no turrets show up here, which is a blessing. They even add in some new content; an unused Ground Zero weapon is now available in one map, and there's a new variety of Gunner that will kick your ass. Each unit has one or more boss mobs in it that is signified by a health bar that shows up at the top of the screen; while these are usually the boss mobs from the base game, sometimes it is just a tank commander that is souped up. And as it turns out, medics can revive said souped up tank commanders, so be prepared for that.

Call of the Machine is a celebration of Quake 2, and is well worth the price of admission on its own for the remaster.
Blizzard Entertainment Software Developer - All comments and views are my own and not representative of the company.
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REPO Man
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by REPO Man »

First game on my new PS5 that I beat was the excellent first-person puzzle game Viewfinder. In it you map 2D images onto a 3D world. Like in one part you can use a picture of a bridge to make a bridge between two points. And at some point you can use a camera to take a picture of an area and recreate that area in 3D space. This is often used to replicate items.

Amazing but too damn short, especially for its price.

I also beat the Switch version of the We Love Katamari remaster. Loved it!
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RobertAugustdeMeijer
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by RobertAugustdeMeijer »

Up to 40 now!

1 Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
A lot of slowdown. Smart level design. Fun to practice! Seemed like endless continues on the last level, took me a couple of hours.
8/10

2 He Fucked the Girl Out of Me
Personal story about doing sex work to pay for transgender medication. Hits hard. Glad to see the creator acknowledges that some sex workers love their job.
7/10

3 Dragon Age: Inquisition
Too long and simple. But the supporting cast has its moments. Some great ones even.
6/10

4 Dragon's Dogma
Open world with many quirks and surprises. Combat never gets old. It's really exciting finding out what this game has in stock for you!
9/10

5 God of War 2
Everything in this game is dumb. Unfortunately, it's bad in a mundane way. I guess combat is occasionally engaging?
2/10

6 Gargoyle's Quest 2
This is exactly like the Game Boy version. Amazingly the same.
6/10

7 Automaton Lung
Fascinating world to explore. Within seconds you feel like you're on an unforgettable adventure. It becomes a bit gamey towards the end though.
8/10

8 XCOM 2
Interface is horribly unclear, making the huge range of options a taxing choice. By the time I had confidence in my choices, it was almost over! Could be a bit faster, too. Exciting combat, though.
7/10

9 System Shock 2
Prey 2017 heavily improves on this game's premise. There's still good resource management to be had, and intriguing world. Screw the respawning enemies and monkeys.
7/10

10 Lego Star Wars: The Video Game
Fantastic tutorial (you pay coins for tips and that's all the explaining it has), and cute. But haphazard controls and overly simple combat often makes it a chore.
5/10

11 Twinkle Tale
Pocky & Rocky is better, but this adventurous shmup has some fun level design.
6/10

12 Super Adventure Island II
Borrows a lot from Zelda 2, but the levels are a maze and combat is dumb. Bare bones metroidvania.
4/10

13 Inscryption
Reminded me of House of Leaves: scary because there's no clear boundary between the medium and real life. Play on a PC with internet connection!
8/10

14 Just Cause 3
Too many bases/towns to blow up. Main story has some awesome bits. Occasionally I felt like a hero! Very creative in ways to clear missions, but it should last 20 hours, not 40.
6/10

15 El Viento
It's fast but unruly. Bad level design and feedback. Subpar run 'n' gun.
3/10

16 Super Meat Boy
Sprites are so small I couldn't trust the hitboxes and when exactly I would stick to a wall. But it's fast and really well designed.
7/10

17 Sin & Punishment
Looks and feels awesome when things go well. Still, targets/enemies aren't always clear, and it's taxing to aim at things and dodge other things at the same time.
6/10

18 Kuukiyomi: Consider It
The minigames are fascinating but it's frustrating how what you want to do often doesn't match what you think the controls are for it. Is this supposed to be funny?
4/10

19 Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
This game has so little respect for the player. I guess being unsure what things are is a part of the mental disorder it's trying to portray? Bad puzzles, lacklustre combat, only 8 hours long but still felt way too long.
3/10

20 Demon's Souls
The jankiness and unpredictability of this game is unique: doesn't have the polish of Elden Ring and that's the best part. Fascinating to see how this series started.
9/10

21 Castlevania III
Finally beat it without skipping to later levels. Peak old-school Castlevania, with an amazing amount of great levels and bosses.
8/10

22 Ender Lilies
Well-crafted but terribly lacks originality. A poor man's Hollow Knight. I'm surprised it wasn't made by the same folks who made Momodora!
7/10

23 StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
Everything just works so smoothly, pure RTS delight. The missions are mostly tutorials introducing concepts, yet I found myself engaged by the narrative.
8/10

24 Arms
A lot of personality, but even though the combat is deeper than it seems at first glance, I'd rather be playing Fantasy Strike
7/10

25 Psychonauts
Sub-par platforming action in a world that fondly reminds me of the cartoons I grew up watching. The characters are too silly to be seen as representations of the human psyche.
6/10

26 R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
All the extra cars, teams, and divisions add little to the excitement of the core gameplay. Surprisingly difficult and not in a good way.
4/10

27 Dusk
It's fast, funny, and physical. Level design is great. Makes me yearn for more boomer shooters, but can they surpass this?
8/10

28 ROMGADR
Free browser shmup. Dozens of bosses to chip away at, all of them interesting. But why can't I move with WASD or joypad??
7/10

29 Donkey Kong (1994)
Clever design and is full of charm. But also limited in scope compared to proper Super Mario games.
6/10

30 Super C (NES)
Eight more levels of 8-bit Contra. Not as explosive or challenging as the 16-bit versions.
7/10

31 Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order
Well-produced yet shallow mishmash of the usual AAA tropes. The Souls-like respawning adds nothing to the experience.
5/10

32 The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Too much content is collectothon, which disturbs the potential sense of adventure. But everything is well thought out. Often too well thought out.
8/10

33 The Room
A box made out of just barely good enough puzzles. The overarching story is cliche and dumb. But it works well on a phone.
5/10

34 My House
Doom II .wad that goes far both in technology and lore. The way it references the 90's, House of Leaves, and Doom level building culture is sublime.
9/10

35 Streets of Rage 3
This one adds a dash button and tactical use of desperation moves, but the music is just bad.
5/10

36 The Guardian Legend
Grinding around in this adventure/shmup hybrid is fun until this one gets stupid hard and the limited game design gets in the way.
6/10

37 Death Stranding
Helping others online is neat, but all the jank, cutscenes, weirdness and just outright horrible design make it a painful experience.
1/10

38 Magical Pop'n
Fast paced platformer that does little wrong, but neither anything novel
5/10

39 Gato Roboto
To the point Metroidvania that reminds you why the genre is an indie darling, due to its malleability and strong fundamentals.
8/10

40 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The RPG world is crazy easy but occasionally has interesting bouts. Nice to see all the references. 9/10 competitive experience, but as single player:
7/10
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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Ack »

1. Northern Journey (PC)(FPS)
2. Hatchpunk (PC)(FPS)
3. Might and Magic IX (PC)(RPG)
4. Star Wars: Empire at War (PC)(RTS)
5. Chasm: The Rift (PC)(FPS)
6. Real Heroes: Firefighter HD (PC)(FPS)
7. CULTIC (PC)(FPS)
8. Consortium (PC)(FPS)

9. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PC)(FPS)
10. Forgive Me, Father (PC)(FPS)

11. Teomim Island (PC)(FPS)
12. Regions of Ruin (PC)(Action RPG)
13. Void Bastards (PC)(FPS)

14. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad - Single Player (PC)(FPS)
15. Quake: Scourge of Armagon (PC)(FPS)
16. Quake: Dissolution of Eternity (PC)(FPS)

17. Bioshock Infinite (PC)(FPS)
18. Chop Goblins (PC)(FPS)
19. Ravenloft: Stone Prophet (PC)(RPG)
20. Halfway (PC)(Tactical Strategy)
21. Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (PC)(FPS)
22. Might and Magic X - Legacy (PC)(RPG)
23. Civilization IV (PC)(4X Strategy)

24. Operation Body Count (PC)(FPS)
25. WW2 Rebuilder (PC)(Simulation)
26. Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos (PC)(Action-Adventure)
27. The Ascent: Cyber Heist (PC)(Top-Down Shooter)
28. Bright Memory Infinite (PC)(FPS)

29. Tuin (PC)(Farming Sim)
30. Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun (PC)(FPS)
31. Warhammer 40,000: Shootas, Blood & Teef (PC)(Run and Gun)

32. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (PC)(RPG)
33. Subnautica (PC)(Action-Adventure)
34. Frog Detective 3: Corruption in Cowboy County (PC)(Adventure)
35. The Shore (PC)(Horror Adventure)
36. Embr (PC)(Action)
37. That Which Gave Chase (PC)(Horror Adventure)
38. Witch Hunt (PC)(Horror FPS)

39. Amanda the Adventurer (PC)(Horror Adventure)
40. Shadows Peak (PC)(Horror FPS)
41. Berserk Mode (PC)(FPS)
42. Soul Calibur 2 (Arcade)(Fighting)

43. Zortch (PC)(FPS)
44. Bloodhound (PC)(FPS)
45. Poker Night at the Inventory (PC)(Traditional)
46. Ghostlore (PC)(Action RPG)

47. TimeShifters (PC)(FPS)
48. Beacon Pines (PC)(Narrative Adventure)

49. Amid Evil: The Black Labyrinth (PC)(FPS)

Amid Evil was one of the big titles when the Boomer Shooter craze kicked off, bringing a unique throwback art style of twisted polygons and unusual geometry alongside an array of medieval weaponry that could be used to slaughter. It was Hexen in ethereal colors, where space contorted on itself, and god-like power was your basic weaponry. The Black Labyrinth is an expansion episode that works as a prequel, telling how the hero of Amid Evil finds his basic ax and proves himself worthy of tackling the greater elder beings of existence. It drops the hubworld and the large array of bosses. What does it give you?

The ability to pummel enemies into goo at blazing speeds and to rip space and time apart so your foes simply cease to be.

The Black Labyrinth is a preset collection of levels where you enter the titular Black Labyrinth, less a maze and more a series of bizarre locales, great fortresses, dank caves, and all manner of places to mercilessly massacre the poor bastards that stand in your way. Many of the major weapons return from the base game too, including the trident that can be used to overcharge foes with electricity until they explode and shock everyone nearby, a mace that shoots out crystal shards which can pin foes to walls, and the planet launcher, which grabs random worlds from the cosmos to launch them at enemies in an explosion that is devastating to the millions that live there in the universe and meanwhile makes you just shrug your shoulders, because who cares about insignificant beings when you have gods to kill?

The big additions though are your gauntlets, which let you give the old one-two to any poor sap who gets close enough. They remain useful throughout the game and are needed to activate a variety of triggers and platforming segments (get used to punching things while flying through the air). Amid Evil also has you collecting souls like Painkiller to then unleash a special Soul Mode that changes how your weapons function, turning your hand armor into a Fist of the North Star screaming yellow flash of obliteration. There is an achievement in the game for massacring 15 enemies in under 10 seconds with these things. I did that in the first level. Glory was had.

Also, there is a new superweapon, a scythe known as the Void Splitter. Amid Evil's super ribbon gun thing is gone, replaced by a blade that can sends out a shockwave capable of carving through even the toughest opponents and their armor. Ammo is more scarce, so I'd save it for special occasions, but it can toast a room in an instant if you need it to. And it's soul mode? You delete enemies from reality. Hell, you delete bosses from reality with it. If you wondered whether The Black Labyrinth could keep up with the power fantasy, oh Hell yes it can.

And that's not even getting into the crazy level design, which involves things like leaping across massive pits from swinging pillars, some of which may disintegrate when you land on them, or tricking hordes of foes into giant crushers to turn them into goo. My favorite level involved demons hidden in distant mountains hurling swords the size of houses at you, which you must then use to scamper across the outer wall of a giant fortification.

And then there is the big bonus for beating the game, which is to unlock the expansion weapons for the regular campaign. You mean I can now punch space wizards? Oh Hell yes!

The Black Labyrinth is a massive success for me. While it's not as diverse as the craziness that was base Amid Evil, it offers fun new levels and challenges to navigate and then bolsters the main game even further. I had a fantastic time with it and recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the base game.
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by MrPopo »

Previous Years: 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

1. Void Destroyer - PC
2. Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights - Switch
3. Raging Blasters - Switch
4. Citizen Sleeper - Switch
5. GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon
6. Hands of Necromancy - PC
7. Project Downfall - PC
8. Chasm: The Rift - PC
9. Cultic - PC
10. Kirby Super Star - SNES
11. Kirby's Dream Land 2 - GB
12. Kirby's Dream Land 3 - SNES
13. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards - N64
14. Fire Emblem Engage - Switch
15. Mechwarrior 5: Rise of Rasalhague - PC
16. Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii
17. Kirby's Return to Dreamland - Wii
18. Mega Man 7 - SNES
19. Mega Man 8 - PS1
20. Conquest: Frontier Wars - PC
21. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line - Switch
22. Octopath Traveler II - Switch
23. Last Call BBS - PC
24. The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Switch
25. Dread Templar - PC
26. The Great War: Western Front - PC
27. GrimGrimoire OnceMore - PS5
28. Haegemonia: Legions of Iron - PC
29. Everspace 2 - PC
30. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - PC
31. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Switch
32. Warhammer 40000: Boltgun - PC
33. Diablo 4 - PC
34. System Shock (2023) - PC
35. Huntdown - Switch
36. HROT - PC
37. Armored Core V - PS3
38. Armored Core: Verdict Day - PS3
39. Aliens: Dark Descent - PC
40. Zone of the Enders HD - PS3
41. Trails into Reverie - Switch
42. Baldur's Gate 3 - PC
43. Quake 2 64 - PC
44. Quake 2: Call of the Machine - PC
45. Amid Evil: The Black Labyrinth - PC

The Black Labyrinth is a DLC episode for Amid Evil which is set prior to the main game; it sets up how you find the axe that is your melee weapon in the main game. The plot is threadbare, as to be expected, and frankly the setup of "you have to go through all this for an axe" doesn't really fit well with the fact the axe is a backup weapon (soul power up aside). And in the process you theoretically lose access to an incredibly powerful superweapon (though beating the DLC lets it show up in the main game).

The levels are larger than the base game, so it ends up being approximately two episodes worth of content when you look at the total playtime. However, I ended up finding most of the levels felt very padded; you would reach a point where it felt like "ah, this is where the level should finish" and it would keep going for quite a while afterwards. That sort of cohesion is important in level design, and the new gimmick of various switches that violently push you rapidly through the air didn't make up for it, though it did make for some exciting traversal at times.

The episode has a fairly restricted set of enemies, and to be honest most of them were shockingly frustrating to fight. The ranged enemies tended to have large AOEs on their shots, while the melee enemies were too fast given their large health pools. And the less said about the shield guys, the better. And something I noticed is the sound design was quite weak. This was especially jarring coming from Quake 2, where every enemy has a loud and distinctive sound for "sees the player" and "killed". Here, if you're listening close, you can hear both of those events, but it's far softer and often fades into the background. This causes a lot of surprise attacks and wastes of ammo on dead enemies. It made me appreciate the work id put into making enemies identifiable in Quake 2, whereas here the enemies end up being a lot blobbier in terms of silhouette and are often obscured by a high number of particle effects.

The weakest part definitely felt like the boss fights. The first boss has a ton of randomness in the trajectory of his attacks, and things only get worse the further you get in the fight. At the end you have extremely limited windows of attack, so if you made some bad choices on what ammo to use early you can find the end of the fight neigh impossible. Similarly, the final boss starts off straightforward, but as you progress the phases your ability to dodge damage becomes drastically reduced; again you are best served by saving your biggest stuff for the end to just barrel through the bullshit of his final phase. At times the combination of boss patterns and regular enemy attacks felt like the devs had run out of ideas for fair challenge and went with "fuck it, you WILL take lots of damage".

Reading back over this, my critique comes off as overly negative, but I did have fun with the game. There are some genuinely good setpieces in the game. However, it is much more uneven compared to the base game. It's a solid play, but only snag it if you really enjoyed the base game and want more.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by PartridgeSenpai »

Partridge Senpai's 2023 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
* indicates a repeat

1. Super Hero Operations (PS1)
2. Lil' Gator Game (PC)
3. Disco Elysium: The Final Cut (PC)
4. Dragon Quest VII (PS1)
5. Dragon Quest III (SFC)
6. Dragon Quest VIII (PS2)
7. Dragon Quest Monsters (GBC)
8. Mario Party 6 (GC)
9. Last Bible 3 (SFC)
10. Mario Party 4 (GC)
11. Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Switch)
12. Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SFC)
13. Chrono Trigger (SFC) *
14. BoxBoy + BoxGirl! (Switch)
15. The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog (PC)
16. SaGa (GB)
17. Wario Land 3 (GBC) *
18. Sutte Hakkun (SFC)
19. Kane & Lynch 2 (PC)
20. Burger Time Deluxe (GB)
21. Super Mario Advance 4: World e+ (GBA)
22. Bomberman GB 2 (GB)
23. Mario Party 5 (GC)
24. Klonoa: door to phantomile (PS1)
25. Mario Party 7 (GC)
26. Mario Party (N64) *
27. Crash Bash (PS1)
28. Balan Wonderworld (PS4)
29. From TV Animation One Piece Tobidase Kaizokudan! (PS1)
30. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 (Vita)
31. Atelier Iris: Grand Phantasm (PS2)
32. Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis (PS2)
33. Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy (PS2)
34. Crusader of Centy (Genesis)

35. Shadow Hearts (PS2)

This is a game and a series that a close friend of mine has been telling me is great for years. I’ve actually even owned the first two Shadow Hearts games for years as well, but I’ve always been a little too intimidated by the mechanics to properly give them a try. But over this summer break, I resolved to finally play through the Shadow Hearts series, and that’s just what I did~. It took me about 38 hours to play through enough to get the good ending on the Japanese version of the game on real hardware.

Shadow Hearts follows the story of Yuri, a young, foul-mouthed young man with the power to fuse with the souls of monsters he destroys. The year is 1913. At the directions of a mysterious voice in his head, he saves a young woman named Alice on a trian in Japanese occupied Manchuria. The powerful and dark sorcerer that he saves her from seems to let them get away purely out of whimsy, and so begins our tale. A tale that is often as dark as it is camp, and it really begins as it means to carry on in that regard x3

Coming out barely a month before Final Fantasy X, Shadow Hearts was then and is now very much a game living in the shadow (excuse the pun) of other great games on the system, but that isn’t to say that it doesn’t have excellent writing itself as well. It has an approach to myth, legend, and history that blends the three together in such a way that gives its places a delightfully uncanny presentation, and the game is delightfully creepy as often as it is just silly with how oddball its, at times incredibly joyfully anachronistic, characters can be. Given the time and location of the setting, there is a LOT that could’ve gone wrong in this game’s depictions of the places and people that appear in it, but by and large it very deftly handles its respective subject matters. The main writer of Shadow Hearts has said that a major inspiration was the original Devil Man manga, and it really shows with how painstakingly he goes out of his ways to paint villains and heroes alike in shades of grey, never settling comfortably into flatly evil archetypes. The major theme of depression and overcoming it with the help of those around you (or not doing that) is handled really well, and this is easily one of my new favorite written games on the console as a result.

The only real negative I can give about the writing is a really awful homophobic stereotype found in one of the merchant NPCs. Given the skill that the rest of the game’s subject matters are handled, it was a really uncomfortable and unfortunate pitfall of the game’s writing, and while it is just a minor character, it’s hard to overlook it when the stereotype is quite as bad as it is. It wasn’t a deal-breaker for me (and I tend to be pretty strict about that kind of stuff), but I absolutely understand it being too uncomfortable a depiction for others, as it’s really no better in the English version, by all accounts.

The mechanics of Shadow Hearts really show the nature of a company composed largely of ex-SquareSoft developers. It’s a pretty standard turn-based game RPG with two rows for your party of 3 to occupy, but with a few important and ever present gimmicks here and there. First and foremost among these is the Judgment Ring system, which is something all of the Shadow Hearts games have but none more than this. Upon selecting an attack, a quick time event of a spinning ring pops up, and you need to press the command button when the spinning dial is over the colored sections. For normal attacks, each successive press gets you another hit in your little combo, and for spells, you need to hit more and more successes for successively more powerful spells (meaning the QTE’s get tougher as the game goes on). Later Shadow Hearts games have the ability to turn off the Judgment Ring system, but that is not the case in the first game . It’s not super difficult to get a hold of (and the whole reason I thought it was so hard at first was because I’d been doing it wrong ^^; ), but it’s something that’s ever present enough for both combat and out of combat mini-games that, if you don’t like it, it’ll likely drive you crazy.

The other major mechanical gimmick is the sanity point (SP) system, which other Shadow Hearts games would also continue to use. For every turn you take, your sanity ticks down by one until it hits zero. Once it hits zero, you go berserk and you can’t control that character anymore. This means you need to keep on top of keeping people’s sanity up with healing items (whose use *also* requires use of the Judgement Ring), especially during longer fights and boss battles. This is especially true for Yuri, who takes far more sanity points per turn when he’s fused into a more powerful demon form. While a lot of Yuri’s fusion forms really don’t matter much (the balancing of the game means that more often than not, less than half of them end up being really necessary or useful), you basically always want him in his fusion form if you can help it because it makes him just SO much more powerful, and he also doesn’t get spells to use outside of fusion forms. This ultimately just adds more balls into the air to juggle in boss fights, and it’s one more thing to keep track of in addition to health and mana and such. It’s not a great mechanic, but it’s not an outright bad one either.

All in all, the difficulty balancing is done really well, and it keeps a very persistent air of being just hard enough to be challenging while very infrequently being something you’d feel you’d need to grind to get past. The only real “well that sucks” aspect of boss fight design is usually getting to one and realizing that it has some status effect that it’ll inflict that will make your life miserable, so you’ll need to load your save and go grab some status immunity accessories at a vendor to take care of that. Thankfully, HP, MP, and even SP replenishing items are at shops as well as these immunity items, meaning you’re only ever a little bit of money away from making a fight or particular bit of grinding eminently survivable. It’s another aspect where I certainly wish the game were balanced in such a way that you didn’t *need* to rely on having stuff like a bunch of SP healing items or status effect immunity accessories to progress, but the game being that way isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s just a little annoying.

The presentation of Shadow Hearts is absolutely excellent in a way you’d really expect from a dev team made of ex-SquareSoft developers. From the way the 3D models look to the pre-rendered environments they move around on, this almost has the vibe of a super PS1 game in certain respects. The music is also excellent, and the creature and character design is awesome too. The game has a lot of really gross and creepy monster and boss design, and I don’t blame them for apparently implementing Yuri’s fusion system entirely to use more of the sick-ass monster designs they’d made. They’re great! X3

Verdict: Highly Recommended. From the writing to the presentation to the fun & engaging gameplay, Shadow Hearts is an incredibly strong RPG on a system with no shortage of them. The fact that it’s *such* an early RPG on the console makes that fact all the more impressive. If you’re a fan of creepy, myth-filled (think SMT-vibes) settings and turn-based RPG gameplay, Shadow Hearts is absolutely not a game to miss out on.


36. White Album (PS3)

The 2010 visual novel White Album 2 (no relation to the famous Beetles record ;b) is one of my partner’s favorite games ever. However, it’s a sequel to a much, much earlier visual novel from the late 90’s (though it shares basically no key staff with that game). She’s been curious about what the original game that inspired her favorite one is like for ages, and she absolutely lit up at the announcement that the late 2000’s PS3 remake of the original White Album was getting an official English release on PC this summer. To have a bit of fun indulging in media as a couple, I decided to pick up that old PS3 remake of the game to play through alongside her, and that’s this version here. It took me about 18 hours to play through the main heroine Yuki’s route in Japanese on original hardware.

White Album follows Touya, a university student in Tokyo in the late 90’s. He’s incredibly busy, but he manages to maintain a few friends he’s had since he was younger as well as work acquaintances. But there’s no one in his life more important to him than his girlfriend Yuki. Both socially awkward young people, they started dating in their last year of high school, but are both still quite bashful and awkward with one another. Near the start of university, Yuki’s aspirations as a young pop star became real as a talent agency picked her up and rose her to one of the biggest up and coming celebrities in the country… while Touya is still a struggling university student working any part time job he can find to make ends meet.

Unlike my partner who loves them, I don’t play many visual novels, so I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this game and its story at first. However, that didn’t stop me from completely falling in love with it by the end. The other people in Touya’s life help create a very fun and interesting tapestry of an insecure but kind young man, and he and Yuki’s love story is an incredibly sweet and heartfelt one. Their story of two people whose biggest obstacles to love are just respectively accepting that they’re actually worthy of one another’s affection really hit home for me in a big way, and both me and my partner just didn’t have the heart to try any other routes after that main one because the thought of breaking up Touya and Yuki was just too painful ^^;.

The gameplay is somewhat of a mix of a life sim and a more straightforward visual novel. After a brief prologue, you get to pick where Touya goes and, by extension, who he spends his time with that day. These interactions build up behind the scenes to lead you into later non-optional scenes later depending on whose route your choices have led you onto, but it’s something that’s very enhanced by just using a spoiler-free guide like my partner and I did to help you actually get the best experience centered around the person whose ending you want. It facilitates the gameplay very well, and it also helps create a sense of chaotic normalcy for Touya that these larger events in his life end up taking place in.

The presentation of the remake is gorgeous. Though this is of the style of visual novel where your main character almost never gets any screen time (as he’s kinda in that weird space between his own character and a player avatar), the art for all of the people and places in Touya’s life look excellent. The characters in particular have a good handful of outfits and expressions that are enhanced even more by the Live2D-like animation engine (as it apparently isn’t Live2D itself) they use for all of the characters, making them “breathe” and have a sort of idle animation as you talk to them. It looks a bit uncanny at first (especially if you’re familiar with VTubers or the like who use things like Live2D to animate themselves), but it was something I got used to pretty quick and really enjoyed. The voice work is excellent and so is the music, with the titular track White Album being one I really loved in particular~.

Verdict: Highly Recommended. It may be old, but it’s still a great story. While certain aspects of the gameplay loop make experiencing certain parts of the story a little more awkward than they perhaps need to be, that doesn’t take away from what a great story White Album 1 is. From what I’ve experienced from watching my partner play the English version, that translation is a very serviceable one, though not incredible, so if this is the sort of VN you enjoy, that version is totally worth picking up on PC~.


37. Shadow Hearts 2 (PS2)

After Shadow Hearts 1 it was on to the sequel! Called Shadow Hearts: Covenant in English, this is a direct sequel to the previous game in the series (and specifically a sequel the bad ending of Shadow Hearts 1). Though the first game came out in 2001, the sequel ended up coming out all the way in 2004, so a lot of time had passed in the gaming world by then, and the sequel to Shadow Hearts absolutely does its best to keep up with them (with varying degrees of success). It took me about 52 hours to get through the game in Japanese on real hardware.

Picking up about six months after the bad ending of the last game, Yuri managed to save the world but failed to save the love of his life. In these opening months of World War 1, Yuri (called “God Slayer” by those familiar with his deeds from the first game) is doing his best to find purpose protecting a small central European village from the ravages of the war. However, when an officer of the Vatican and a German minor officer come to that small village on the hunt for Yuri, he’s pulled back into a larger conflict whether he likes it or not.

I have very mixed feelings on the narrative of Shadow Hearts 2. Over the course of its two discs, though I more or less had a positive impression by the ending, the main takeaway I also left with was that the developers really just had no really great idea on how to make a sequel to Shadow Hearts. Almost the entirety of the first disc (which is 20~25 hours of gameplay, mind you) is spent effectively just getting the party together with very little in the way of actually meaningful storytelling. The villains of the first disc have quite little to do with the villains of the second disc, and it makes the first disc a real chore to get through for someone like me who was expecting something more, well, something more like Shadow Hearts 1.

The second disc actually starts to feel like what you’d expect a sequel to Shadow Hearts 1 to look like, but even then, just how much wasted breath we’ve spent getting here is dragging the story down all the way. Yuri already had his character arc basically completely finished in Shadow Hearts 1’s good ending, so a lot of the better bits of Shadow Hearts 2’s writing are just going over those same plot beats (and almost always more poorly than the first game did it), and the good writing that is there is often stuck between plot aspects (often borne from the careless use of fictionalized versions of real historical figures) that needlessly confuse and complicate the themes they otherwise seem to be going for.

In yet another step of being a quite poor narrative sequel, it does some really serious ret-conning of characters and events from the previous game that, while serviceable enough utilities in its own story, wind up coming off as extremely strange and outright wrong in regards to the story it’s allegedly building upon. Being that, like the first game, this is first and foremost Yuri’s story as opposed to each character having their own arcs that build towards a larger whole, Yuri’s story being so poorly paced and muddy makes for a much weaker story as a result. None of this is helped by just how clumsy and blunt this game’s writing is compared to the first either. Now, while I’m a firm believer that you absolutely don’t need to have subtle storytelling to have good storytelling, and quite often a blunt approach is simply better, the way Shadow Hearts 2 goes about this stuff feels more born from simple incompetence than a more distinct narrative choice. The story basically looks at the camera at several points to tell you Yuri’s Whole Deal as a character, and it comes off very unnaturally and at sharp contrast with how much more cleverly the first game handled such things.

While this game is a very similar mix of darkness & campiness that the first game has, it runs into the problem that a lot of its humor (though certainly not all) just isn’t that funny, either due to distasteful subject matter or just clumsy comedy writing. On that note, the homophobic stereotypes present in Shadow Hearts 1 are also even worse here and even more present, and this game manages to get in some pretty damn distasteful racist caricatures in the mix as well. In the end, it’s a very mixed bag that, while still quite decent in its own right, really aggressively fails to fill the big shoes its predecessor left for it despite sticking its own landing decently well.

Mechanically, while we’re still a turn-based RPG based around the sanity points and Judgment Ring system introduced in the first game, there’s quite a lot more here introduced to attempt to make Shadow Hearts stand out among the very competitive RPG crowd of the mid-life PS2. The biggest changes come from spell crests and the introduction of positional combat. For spell crests, instead of characters just having a list of spells they slowly learn things from as they level up as they did in the first game, now you collect crests over the course of the game that can be equipped to characters (other than Yuri, as he’s got his fusions still which level up just like they did in the first game as you infuse souls of defeated monsters into them) that give that character the spells associated with that crest. It’s very much like Materia work in many of the Final Fantasy games of the PS1 era, but a bit clumsier. It can be quite hard to keep track of what spells you have and where, and ultimately I just sorta stopped caring because the really just isn’t hard enough most of the time to encourage you to really get to grips with the crest system.

Then we have the position-based combat. Instead of the class “your row vs. their row” combat that the first game had, now your characters will automatically move about the battle to attack different enemies as you direct them to. We even have an FFX-style turn order timer to help you take into accordance what slower or faster attacks you’ll want to use or how you’ll try to delay or advance enemy attacks and such. If your allies happen to be (or are directed to) stand close to one another, however, they can do a combo attack, where you chain their attacks together regardless of where they are on the turn timer.

However, while the combo system can let you do some interesting things with turn order, given that you need to use a turn to set them up, it usually just adds up to a lot of extra button presses (though you can put together hot keys to activate them super fast if you want to, though I never bothered) for not much actual extra effect. Like with the spells crests, the difficulty of the game just never really pushes you to bother interacting with this system outside of disrupting when enemies try to do combos, which itself doesn’t really necessitate doing combos yourself. The difficulty balancing of the whole game is honestly quite poor, being very needlessly brutal through the first handful of bosses, and then being incredibly easy all the way through the end of the game. Shadow Hearts 2 has some very ambitious changes to the Shadow Hearts formula, but like with the narrative design, the mechanical design too just ends up feeling half-baked.

Lastly, we have the presentation which is also a *very* mixed bag. On one hand, by its own merits, Shadow Hearts 2 looks quite good for a mid-life PS2 game. It uses all of that space between its two discs to throw together a lot of good music, really good voice work, and some really impressive looking pre-rendered cutscenes (with the one of Yuri and the airship being a personal favorite). On the other hand, as a sequel to Shadow Hearts, the presentation of this game was extremely disappointing. Shadow Hearts 1 has a very distinctive art style very evocative of the creepy, atmospheric Koudelka that it’s a sorta-sequel to. Its more realistic character models add to that atmosphere just as much as its super creepy monster design does. Shadow Hearts 2, on the other hand, really drops the ball on that front.

We’ve completely abandoned the more realistic graphical style for a far more generic looking, anime-inspired art style that feels far more interested in chasing trends than it does being more Shadow Hearts. This is doubled down on even further in a way that doesn’t even matter for if you played the previous game are not, as this game just outright includes bits of cutscenes or screenshots of certain events that happened in the last game. But as Shadow Hearts 2 has a completely different art style than the first, these come off as incredibly dissonant and strange as the player (who may’ve never played the first game) is meant to understand that that tall, lanky guy in the coat is meant to be Yuri.

One of the best examples of how unsure and self-conscious this game is can be shown in how the game so readily ruins a great original idea. There are some parts of the game where Yuri fills his new companions in on events that happened in the first game. This is portrayed in pre-rendered cutscenes of crappy drawings of events from the last game to try and get across that Yuri isn’t too great at portraying this stuff to his friends. It’s a great little touch and quite funny too. The only thing is that, I guess just in case the player is completely incapable of abstract thought, is that you have a picture-in-picture in the corner of that cutscene as it appeared in the first game, both completely ruining the stylistic choice of the crappy drawings as well as confusing the player with depictions of characters and places that look nothing remotely like how the game they’re playing looks.

Verdict: Hesitantly Recommended. I think I’d more easily give a simple “Recommended” to this game if it weren’t letting down its predecessor so aggressively. Shadow Hearts 1 is a really excellent game, but god damn does its sequel fail to live up to it in just about every way it conceivably could. Shadow Hearts 2 very frequently feels like a game *very* afraid to be its own thing. From the presentation to the narrative, so much of it feels absolutely terrified of not living up to the standard of either contemporary games or the original Shadow Hearts, and the whole experience suffers significantly as a result. This is absolutely a case where Shadow Hearts 2 is far from a bad game, but at the same time, it’s also a game I have a very hard time recommending as strongly as either of its sibling games.


38. Shadow Hearts: From the New World (PS2)

And so came to an end my time with Shadow Hearts. In truth, this game is actually the reason I started playing Shadow Hearts this summer to begin with. Looking into who wrote the Mana Kehmia games after playing them earlier this year, I was surprised to see that they actually share their main scenario writer (Toshiyuki Suzuki) with this game, and it was even his first lead scenario writing credit as well! That was simply too much for my curiosity to bear, and I set out to play these games from the first one (minus Koudelka, as you can see ;b). It took me about 43.5 hours to play through the Japanese version of the game and get the good ending on real hardware.

Unlike the other two Shadow Hearts games, we’re not following Yuri anymore. This story follows Johnny Garland, a young man working at his own detective agency to try and discover the truth to his mysterious childhood. On a particularly supernatural case, he fatefully crosses paths with Shania and Nahtan when they save his life from a mysterious monster. Johnny quickly becomes bound to their quest as they try and find the cause of the mysterious portals that give form to these monsters (as well as why Johnny can suddenly turn his simple dagger into a light saber X3).

During my time with Shadow Hearts 2, I couldn’t help but feel time and time again that the story would’ve been a lot stronger had they not tried to continue Yuri’s story but simply made a whole new story in the same setting, and From the New World finally gave me exactly that. Where Shadow Hearts 1 is a game about the struggle to overcome (or not) depression and despair, and Shadow Hearts 2 is more a story about accepting (or not) that you just can’t change the past, From the New World is a story about identity and why people fight for the things they fight for; why do they do what they do? Johnny and Shania’s relationship and goals are contrasted with the antagonists in a far better and more refined way than Yuri and the antagonist of Shadow Hearts 2 were. While it’s still a bit of a messy story and it muddles its themes here and there, I think this is a much better follow up to Shadow Hearts 1 than 2 managed to be.

That’s not to say that FtNW isn’t without its own interesting quirks and foibles though. As the earlier light saber comment perhaps implied, this game is cranking up the campiness meter a fair bit compared to earlier games. Where Shadow Hearts 1 and 2 have their fun with anachronisms and pop culture references, FtNW goes even more so. FtNW even manages to use real world people in its story in a way far better done than 2 did, whether for comedy or otherwise. I personally thought the comedy in this game was *way* better than 2 ever managed (and I even often described it not as a more comedic Shadow Hearts 2, but a Shadow Hearts 2 with actually funny comedy), I can see the references making this game feel of a different sort to its predecessor (especially because a lot of the references in 2 are easier to get for a Japanese audience, where FtNW had a lot more stuff easily noticed by a global audience).

The elephant in the room, however, really is how FtNW handles its depiction of the “new world”, that being North and South America, and particularly the First Nations peoples in its story. Shania and Nahtan are both First Nations peoples, so they’re a major part of the story from the word go, and I would say this game has a complicated relationship with how it depicts them. On one hand, this game honestly clears a lot of bars for representation that a ton of other media (from Japan or otherwise) doesn’t clear. For starters, it actually calls them “Native Americans” and not “Indians”. It also lets them be real characters in the story. Nahtan and especially Shania are characters with motivations, arcs, and flaws just like anyone else, and even the scads of First Nations NPCs you interact with get to be characters too. They’re not just boiled down to “Mystical Natural Connected Plot Knowers” like so many other video games (particularly Japanese ones) and media treat them. They’re never standard enemies in dungeons, and violence towards them (particularly that by white characters) is treated with the horror and gravity it deserves. This is not a game completely ignorant of the nature of the peoples that it’s depicting, and that was honestly very refreshing to see.

However, on the other hand, this is (like a lot of other games and media) ultimately not terribly concerned with accuracy or respect in regards to the more finer details of its representations. I may be very white myself, but I’ve read up enough on this stuff (not to mentioned talked with native friends about it) to know that you don’t need to look much farther than their character designs to get the idea that this means that we end up with some stereotypes that are not always negative but are certainly far from inspired. Nahtan being a hunter (his side-quest being cryptid hunting, no less) who is a strong, stoic man of few words, for starters. For Shania’s part, she’s the fusion-using character in this game, and her first fusion is the Thunder Bird (a very important religious symbol and not the kind of thing you just portray in a video game as a cool powerful monster).

All of the story important women are (as Shadow Hearts tends to do, thankfully) adults, but they’re all very sexualized in this game. This means that the particular degree of sexualization that Shania receives isn’t unique to the standards of the game (or even the series), but she is nonetheless still falling into the trope of sexualizing native bodies. Heck, one of the first dead give aways to this is that while Nahtan does have brown eyes, Shania’s eyes are bright blue (and this is never mentioned or pointed out at all. It’s just a casual aspect of her character). While FtNW thankfully tones back the homophobia a lot from 2 (though it is certainly still there) as well as the more explicit racist stereotypes, the aspects of simply not caring about the accuracy of what they’re depicting covers FtNW from top to bottom. While it’s not from malice (if anything they’re trying quite a bit harder than what I’d consider typical at the time to be respectful), there’s still a ton of rough stuff here simply by nature of being too ignorant of the subject matter to actually portray it properly, and while it didn’t bother me terribly much, I can certainly see it making others uncomfortable at the very least.

Mechanically, this is also a huge improvement from Shadow Hearts 2 that gives that system the fine tuning it really needed. They actually made FtNW on a really tight time schedule compared to Shadow Hearts 2, but with the level of polish the mechanics have, you’d honestly never guess it. We still have the Judgment Rings, the sanity points, and the positional combat, but we’ve polished that all up very significantly. Most importantly, combos are now handled regardless of position, so they’re something you’d actually want to use a lot more because they’re so much more intuitive. Now, as you take and deal damage, you build up Stock Points, and 1 point of stock can be spent to do a combo or do a double turn (taking two turns now at the cost of your next turn being pushed back, a lot like the Bravely Default games later would). The thing is, not only can you do this more easily, but enemies can too, and denying your enemies stock is a major part of boss fights in particular that just makes the whole system far more fun and engaging. The spell crest system has also been replaced with the star chart system, which while very similar is handled far better, and it’s a system actually worth using this time. The whole game is just balanced and fine tuned a lot better than 2, making for a far more fun play experience overall on every level, as far as I’m concerned.

For presentation, FtNW manages to achieve a much better happy medium than Shadow Hearts 2 did in regards to making it look less like a fancy PS1 game but also keeping a lot of the aesthetic styles that makes Shadow Hearts what it is (as well as having music just as good as always~). So while we still have a quite anime-based art style, we also have character and especially environment design that makes it feel a lot less generic than a lot of Shadow Hearts 2 did. Additionally, and imo most importantly, we’ve gone back and made enemies far more gruesome and monstrous, far more like they were in Shadow Hearts 1. We finally have big, awful fleshy horrors to fight again against instead of big cartoonish looking monsters, and it makes for a much better and far more “Shadow Hearts” experience as a result.

Verdict: Highly Recommended. While I certainly think that (even *if* you were to set aside the more problematic elements of the narrative) From the New World is yet another Shadow Hearts game that doesn’t manage to surpass the original narratively, this is a much more worthy successor to the brand than Shadow Hearts 2 was. It honestly boggles my mind why people like Shadow Hearts 2 so much when I’d argue it’s so easily the weakest of the trilogy, quite frankly XD. But regardless, while I think that this game certainly has its warts and negative aspects, it is an excellent game that manages to stand out from the pack of excellent PS2 RPGs. It may not be as good as Shadow Hearts 1 in certain estimations, but it is absolutely a game worth playing just as much (and you don’t even need to have played the earlier games in the series to appreciate it)~ :D


39. The Hunt for the Red October (GB)

I watched this movie a few months back with a close friend of mine, and it got me thinking about this GameBoy game of it. I’d always heard that this was quite a good GameBoy game, especially for a licensed game, and this seemed like a great excuse to check it out, but finding a Japanese copy proved difficult enough that I was ready to give up on it and focus on other things. But my friend is such a sweetie that she actually found a copy local to her and bought it for me! I played it on Twitch via my Super GameBoy, and it took me just about 2 hours to get to the end of the English (British, technically ;b) version of the game.

While the story of this does ostensibly mirror the film’s (even down to recreating the introduction of the film quite charmingly), in grand 8-bit fashion, they add a LOT more action and combat to things XD. The only story really in the game is that title crawl at the start, and the submarine kinda sorta following the path from Russia to America that the sub takes in the film over the course of its 8 stages, but it hardly matters. Given that it’s a 1991 GameBoy action game, licensed or not, a good or compelling story really isn’t what you’d expect here, and the game is perfectly fine even with such a threadbare story x3

The gameplay is you, as the titular submarine “The Red October”, dodging all manner of (Soviet, I would presume?) enemy submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers, jets, helicopters, and giant crazy undersea fortresses and robo sea mines in your quest to reach the end of each stage and make it to America! In your arsenal, you have equipped unlimited front shooting, weak missiles, a limited number of very powerful heat seeking torpedoes (which can even heat seak out of the water and into the air! XD), and the ever valuable EMP to slip by distant enemies while mostly avoiding their AI (as well as making their heat seeking missiles inactive). It takes a bit of getting used to how the Red October controls, as stuff like tapping left or right twice to change direction and only once to just move that direction without turning has a real learning curve to it, but thankfully you have a big radar of enemy movement at the bottom of the screen to help you avoid ambushes (and it even points out power ups too~). Stages are well designed, and even though the difficulty is a bit front loaded, it’s got a pretty darn good (certainly for the time) difficulty curve as well. I was honestly shocked I was able to beat it over just 3 tries (one of which was game over-ing basically instantly XD) over two hours, but I was certainly happy that I did it, and I had a fun time too! X3

The presentation is pretty much what you’d expect for a quite early life GameBoy game, but even still it does the job very well. Enemies and bosses as well as their projectiles are easily distinguishable (at least via a Super GameBoy screen), and your little sub marine is never confusedly stuck against terrain or anything. The music is also quite impressively good, with some stages having some really surprisingly good tracks. Though nothing can, of course, top the incredible 8-bit rendition of the Soviet National anthem on the title screen xD

Verdict: Highly Recommended. If you’re in the market for some 8-bit GameBoy action, this is a great place to find it! It’s not too difficult and not too long, but it’s also unique enough and well balanced enough to be a good time well worth trying out (and you don’t even need to have seen the movie to enjoy it either, even if it is a movie really worth watching x3).


40. Wild Arms (PS1)

I’ve really been in the mood to play some more PS1 RPGs lately, and I’ve also been meaning to play Wild Arms for a little while now. It’s an RPG series that I’ve seen around for years but I feel I just never hear anyone actually talk about. Given that they managed to make like six of these, I figured it was about time I actually check some of them out, and what better place to start than from the beginning~. It took me about 34 hours to beat the Japanese version of the game on real hardware.

Wild Arms is the story of three characters in the world of Falgaia. You have Rodi the wanderer, Cecilia the princess, and Zack the treasure hunter. You start the game by playing out each of the three (in whatever order you like) as they start on their own, but they very quickly meet up and begin adventuring together in this (at times quite shockingly dark and grim) setting of western fantasy, high technology, and (surprisingly) only just a bit of wild west flavor thrown in there too. I understand the wild west theming and stuff gets more and more present as the series goes on, but it nonetheless struck me as very surprising just how little there actually is in this first entry with how strongly I’d associated Wild Arms as “the cowboy RPG” up to this point XD. The setting isn’t terribly unique, and neither is a lot of the plot (though I certainly don’t think that in and of itself is a bad thing, mind you). It draws *very* heavily from anime and RPG narrative devices that were popular at the time (with some inspiration from Chrono Trigger some of the most obvious of it), and at points it can be downright distracting just how much you might be thinking “I’ve seen this before” x3. That said, it still honestly mixes this stuff with more novel elements in a way that I think manages to be executed pretty well, even if none of it is incredibly unique on its own.

Writing-wise, Wild Arms is a very mixed bag, but the kind of thing you’d expect from a relatively green company (the staff had a couple RPGs under their belt, but nothing like this as Media.Vision currently existed) on the relatively early PlayStation (barely a month before FF7 in late 1996). It’s a story about self discovery, a story about revenge, a story about love and what it means to fight for what you believe in, but it handles all of this rather imperfectly. Some of this is due to how the three stories of the main characters aren’t blended together *that* well (Zack in particular sorta has His Own Deal compared to Rodi and Cecilia who are much better narratively intertwined both in plot and themes), but the biggest reason I’d say is that they made the frankly inexplicable decision to make Rodi a silent protagonist.

This might’ve worked well if he was anything like a player avatar, but he simply isn’t. He’s exactly as important as the other two protagonists, but he just inexplicably doesn’t speak, which means that all of his big character moments need to be communicated by long sections of other characters effectively speaking *for* him to tell the player what his whole ass deal is. That’s not to say the story is bad-bad though. This game still manages to have some moments that are really striking and touching moments (like Cecilia & Rodi’s dream, one of my favorite parts). For late ’96, I think it’s still a pretty well written if quite imperfect game, but it’s not one I’m surprised has ultimately gotten quite buried among the avalanche of much better written RPGs to follow on the PS1 in the years following it.

Mechanically, it’s a very bog-standard turn-based RPG. You go around and explore, you do turn-based battles. There are a couple of unique aspects here and there, like how you gain Cecilia’s spells just as you want from a big list as you find more spell tags to trade in for new spells (which means they don’t scale great and is honestly a pretty less than good bit of design) or Zack’s new techniques by clues you find in the world, but outside of that, it should all be extremely familiar to anyone who has played even a few old RPGs. The difficulty balancing is pretty rough, however, with most boss fights and such not being terribly hard unless they have an annoying status effect, but then there are bosses peppered throughout the game that you just need to get lucky to beat. Whether it’s because there are two of them and they both hit like a truck or because they happen to have a really nasty status effect (or even instant death from which you never get any defense), it makes for some very frustrating difficulty blocks at certain points. The puzzle design is also absolutely brutal in some places, and I absolutely recommend using a guide if you’re stuck, because this game loves environmental puzzles (a lot like Lufia 2 does), but damn if some of them aren’t viscous. It’s all a mixed bag, but it’s more often good than it is bad enough that I can still recommend it.

Presentation-wise, I think this is honestly some of the game’s strongest points. While battles are 3D (and look pretty darn cool with some really sick creature design for such an early PS1 game), the rest of the game is all 2D. It very often has the feel of what I called a “super Super Nintendo game”, even down to having what look a LOT like Mode 7 effects (and even a Mode7 airship! XD). But sprites are well drawn and expressive with lots of little bespoke animations for certain scenes, especially on the main characters. The music is also excellent as well. It has a very RPG of RPGs sorta feel to it, and gave me a lot of both Final Fantasy and Zelda vibes in a way that is absolutely a compliment.

Verdict: Recommended. While Wild Arms 1 has a pretty good amount of flaws or problems, it’s still an all around quite enjoyable time. There are certainly better RPGs to spend your time with, particularly on the PS1, but you’ll still probably have quite a good time with Wild Arms as long as you don’t need a narrative or systems that are particularly unique or distinct. Wild Arms still manages to stand alright all these years later, even if it’s been surpassed quite thoroughly since then~.


All spoilered for space :>
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
Limewater
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Limewater »

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017):

I have been playing this game exclusively since getting it in February. I defeated Ganon a few weeks ago, but took some time completing some of the side quests I missed and getting all of the shrines. I have not tried the DLC.

It very, very good, and I understand now why some people say it is the best game in the franchise and possibly of all time. I am not sure I quite want to use those superlatives, but I will say that I think it's the best game I have played in recent memory. I really appreciated the non-linear open-world gameplay. The thing I loved most about the original Zelda was exploring the huge overworld, so having a game that gave me so much more overwold, with so much more detail and few guardrails was a very cool experience for me. I did not mind the lack of traditional dungeons or lack of focus on the Triforce. Nor did I mind the breakable weapons, once I realized that the world essentially resets every blood moon.

I feel like I sort of abused the spirit bombs the entire game. I am not sure that the developers intended this, but it would be pretty hard not to.

I really liked how the game teased a huge world to explore in the first couple of minutes of the game and then, once you escape the great plateau actually delivers it. It's the sort of experience I dreamed of while playing the original in 1993 or 1994 (I was already five years behind the curve even then).

Phenomenal experience. I look forward to playing the sequel in five or six years.
Systems: TI-99/4a, Commodore Vic-20, Atari 2600, NES, SMS, GB, Neo Geo MVS (Big Red 4-slot), Genesis, SNES, 3DO, PS1, N64, DC, PS2, GBA, GCN, NDSi, Wii
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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Ack »

1. Northern Journey (PC)(FPS)
2. Hatchpunk (PC)(FPS)
3. Might and Magic IX (PC)(RPG)
4. Star Wars: Empire at War (PC)(RTS)
5. Chasm: The Rift (PC)(FPS)
6. Real Heroes: Firefighter HD (PC)(FPS)
7. CULTIC (PC)(FPS)
8. Consortium (PC)(FPS)

9. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PC)(FPS)
10. Forgive Me, Father (PC)(FPS)

11. Teomim Island (PC)(FPS)
12. Regions of Ruin (PC)(Action RPG)
13. Void Bastards (PC)(FPS)

14. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad - Single Player (PC)(FPS)
15. Quake: Scourge of Armagon (PC)(FPS)
16. Quake: Dissolution of Eternity (PC)(FPS)

17. Bioshock Infinite (PC)(FPS)
18. Chop Goblins (PC)(FPS)
19. Ravenloft: Stone Prophet (PC)(RPG)
20. Halfway (PC)(Tactical Strategy)
21. Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (PC)(FPS)
22. Might and Magic X - Legacy (PC)(RPG)
23. Civilization IV (PC)(4X Strategy)

24. Operation Body Count (PC)(FPS)
25. WW2 Rebuilder (PC)(Simulation)
26. Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos (PC)(Action-Adventure)
27. The Ascent: Cyber Heist (PC)(Top-Down Shooter)
28. Bright Memory Infinite (PC)(FPS)

29. Tuin (PC)(Farming Sim)
30. Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun (PC)(FPS)
31. Warhammer 40,000: Shootas, Blood & Teef (PC)(Run and Gun)

32. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (PC)(RPG)
33. Subnautica (PC)(Action-Adventure)
34. Frog Detective 3: Corruption in Cowboy County (PC)(Adventure)
35. The Shore (PC)(Horror Adventure)
36. Embr (PC)(Action)
37. That Which Gave Chase (PC)(Horror Adventure)
38. Witch Hunt (PC)(Horror FPS)

39. Amanda the Adventurer (PC)(Horror Adventure)
40. Shadows Peak (PC)(Horror FPS)
41. Berserk Mode (PC)(FPS)
42. Soul Calibur 2 (Arcade)(Fighting)

43. Zortch (PC)(FPS)
44. Bloodhound (PC)(FPS)
45. Poker Night at the Inventory (PC)(Traditional)
46. Ghostlore (PC)(Action RPG)

47. TimeShifters (PC)(FPS)
48. Beacon Pines (PC)(Narrative Adventure)

49. Amid Evil: The Black Labyrinth (PC)(FPS)
50. LEGO Brick Tales (PC)(Adventure)

LEGO Brick Tales is the story of a nameless LEGO person who must, with the aid of a interdimensional traveling robot, fix their grandfather's mistake. That mistake? Not repairing an amusement park in time. Since happiness is the most powerful energy source in the multiverse, you must use Grandpa's portal system to hop into other worlds and make the people there happy! And to do this, you must build with LEGOs.

Yeah, that's pretty much it. You explore five worlds (along with a couple of short one-offs that were added later but don't actually impact the base game), each with a different theme: jungle, Egyptian desert, medieval Western Europe, Caribbean pirate island, and the city...that has been overrun by other evil interdimensional robots. There are a bunch of collectables to find, as well as local currencies to acquire to buy new LEGO outfits for your person to wear as well as brick sets.

Why brick sets? Because you're playing with LEGOs! Initially you'll have challenges to work out, such as building a bridge and ensuring it can hold weight without collapsing. But once that's done, you're allowed to go back and redesign in sandbox mode, where all colors and brick sets you have unlocked are an option. Want a fire escape designed with a pirate theme? You can do it. Want to build a jungle bridge to look like an ancient castle? It's a possibility. That's the beauty of the game, it gives the sense of playing with LEGOs with a specific goal in mind, but it tries not to impede upon your imagination simply beyond making sure whatever item you are making does in fact complete the task. Go nuts.

And it does this with a competent control scheme that I had no issues with, to the sound of regional music full of related background noise. A chorus of monkeys greets you in the jungle, while the pirates island music sounds like a distant sea shanty. What's not to enjoy?

Now, if you're looking for complexity, you might not find it here, though some of the builds can be challenging while you try to figure out how the game wants you to make the initial construction. But it's fun, even when you can't figure out why your massive dining table can't hold the weight of a giant turkey. And isn't that what counts?
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