Games Beaten 2023

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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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Markies' Games Beat List Of 2023!
***Denotes Replay For Completion***

***1. Dragon Valor (PS1)***

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I completed Dragon Valor on the Sony Playstation 1 this evening!

Back at the end of 2017, I picked up Dragon Valor from a local retro gaming store. I was given a gift certificate to the store and it was the most interesting game I could find. It was a game on my PS1 RPG List that I had never heard of and it was relatively cheap, so I decided to take a shot. Later in 2018, I played through the game and went through the first path. The game was only 10 hours long, so it was relatively short and I enjoyed my time with it. With two more paths to play, I always wanted to replay it and I knew it wasn't going to take too long. I wanted to play a shorter RPG after Doom 3, so this one fit the bill and since I have so many beaten Playstation 1 & 2 games, I figured it would be time to tackle that mountain top.

Dragon Valor is mostly a hack and slash game with some platforming elements thrown into it as well. The majority of the game is the hack and slash combat, which actually plays out rather well. Your sword is giant, so you have plenty of opportunity to kill the enemies around you. The combat never feels cheap, so it is very enjoyable to plow through the enemies. The platforming is mostly fine, though some 3D Depth Perception issues peak their head in every now and then, but it is nothing major. The game is structured rather interesting as you play through each Chapter with a different character. That character then settles down with somebody and they pop out a child and then you play as a child. You take some elements from both of the parents, so that is fun and unique to see. Also, there are some small choices and that affects the stories you go down as well. For such a simple game, this idea is kind of novel and unique.

Besides some issues with the platforming, the bosses can be a bit annoying. Every enemy has a shield on them after hitting them a few times making them invulnerable for a few seconds. Most of the time, it is fine, but with bosses, that window becomes much shorter. Some were a bit frustrating, but nothing too major. After playing a bit, the game does feel a bit repetitive as well. The combat only has so much depth.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Dragon Valor. It's a simple experience with some very interesting ideas. I wouldn't say anything in the game is fantastic, but I would say everything here is solid and worthwhile. If you like action RPG's and hack and slash games, check this one out!
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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Great reviews, everyone! You are all playing some awesome games this year, especially @Markies who plays the coolest stuff!
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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prfsnl_gmr wrote:Great reviews, everyone! You are all playing some awesome games this year, especially @Markies who plays the coolest stuff!


Awe! Thank You!

I'm a little behind with so many people impressively beating games already this year, but hopefully, this week, I will make up for lost time.
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Note
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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Great review, Markies! I've never heard of Dragon Valor, so it's cool to find out about a PS1 game after all this time!
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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1. Northern Journey (PC)(FPS)
2. Hatchpunk (PC)(FPS)
3. Might and Magic IX (PC)(RPG)
4. Star Wars: Empire at War (PC)(RTS)

Finally, the Star Wars war crime simulator I always wanted.

Empire at War is a real-time strategy game that focuses on the events going on around the construction and unveiling of the first Death Star. You choose to play as either the Empire or the Rebels. I am not Rebel scum and therefore chose to play as the Empire, because why would I not want to throw Stormtroopers at my problems? Anyway, over the course of the game, you slowly spread your forces out through the galaxy, defeating pirates, taking down traitors, and wiping out the opposing team. This is done through a three-tier system of conflict.

At the highest tier, Empire at War plays like a full on strategy game. You must manage construction of space stations and planetary production and defensive buildings. You can also transit your troops throughout the galaxy as necessary. Planning a major offensive on Naboo? Produce the required AT-STs in nearby systems and then fly them in to attack your foes. Production requires credits, which you pull daily from taxes and other potentially lucrative methods (I filled Kessel with mines, because of course I did). You also have a maximum population for your military, which increases as you take over more worlds, so if you're getting too high, you might consider throwing some units' lives away in one of the other tiers of conflict. You also have specialty units, some of which impact production speed and costs, some of which give benefits in orbital or planetary invasions, and some of which spy, steal credits from the enemy, or even take out and kill their leaders.

Once you intend to invade a target and you have an idea of what you are up against and have finished preparations, you then launch an invasion of the second tier, the orbital tier. This means a space battle, where you must take on fleets or armadas and destroy space stations. As your various ships are destroyed, military capacity opens up for you to bring in reinforcements based on your need. For example, if I needed to knock out the hanger bay on an opposing satellite, I could bring in missile cruisers to fire back and blast away while defending them with my TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers. Many of the larger ships have multiple target points for weapons systems, shields, hanger bays, and even tractor beams and gravity wells, so you can pick and choose to tackle the greatest threats.

These space battles are not without hazards, as you have asteroid fields which can damage your larger ships and sensor-disrupting nebulas around, though sometimes you can use these to your advantage to hide your ships and launch ambushes at crucial moments. A sudden strike from a well-hidden team of TIE Bombers could destroy that Mon Calamari cruiser's engines, rendering him a sitting duck for the rest of your armada to crush as you bring them in to fire into his broadside. And if you own the planet and have the right defenses in place, you might even be able to fire massive energy blasts up at enemy ships, ripping them to pieces and turning the tide of the battle.

These space battles are also where the Death Star eventually comes into play, as you fight delaying actions while waiting for it to come into position, so you can then literally choose to throw a switch and wipe out an entire planet, reducing that system to just an asteroid field. True, it gives fewer resources and has no option for ground production, but if you really don't want to have to crack the tough Rebel nut on the ground, it's the best way to take out the problem.

The other option is to commit troops to the third tier of combat, a planetside invasion. Here, you must face against enemy forces that have been constructed and garrisoned there, as well as enemy buildings that are constantly constructing troops, environmental hazards, and potentially hostile natives. If there are enemy heroes present, then you're fighting them and their special abilities, though you can bring your own heroes to turn the tide. There is also a military population cap that prevents you from using everything you have all at once, though there are reinforcement points around the map that can be taken to increase your cap and also act as places for you to unload troops. You can also find various points for turrets, healing, or sensor arrays to reveal the fog of war, but only certain units can capture these for construction, which can prove to be absolutely necessary depending on the types of units you face. And for the locals, sometimes you can recruit them (I enjoyed employing them as pointless shock troops to be thrown in waves against Rebel defenses while I marched a company of Stormtroopers into position), and sometimes they're hostile to both sides, so you can use them to distract your foe and draw them into conflict.

Land battles tend to go two ways, I've found: either you are immediately massed and must fight off immediate waves of enemies that threaten to overrun your single strategic hold, or you end up having to take out a base, sometimes with shields and dug in resources, where enemies are entrenched. In these battles, they'll often employ massive shields, so you have to either take out the shielding unit or the power generators. Now you do get the opportunity to launch bombing strikes, but shields serve as hard points that cannot be bombed, so if the generator's inside, you're doing things the hard way. And once you're in late game, the generator is always inside, so you're going to have to throw your units into suicide missions to get that shield down.

I was only kind of joking about committing war crimes earlier, because you actually do some terrible things in Empire at War, which includes destroying natives' living facilities, taking no prisoners, and even engaging in the occasional death march. One planet I invaded was excessively hot, so Stormtroopers would take damage over time from the fire raining from the sky. What did I do? I sent them to their deaths against far greater forces simply to try and draw out a couple of pieces of enemy armor so I could break it with my artillery before sending in my actual force, because AT-ATs are worth way more than the lives of Stormtroopers.

Of course, you don't have to do this. There is an auto-resolve option, where the computer decides the outcome of the battle. Usually you will lose more troops this way than you would if you handled invasions at either the orbital or planetside levels, but planet invasions are small maps that can grind like World War I, so I ended up ok having the computer handle those by the end...or simply blowing up the planet since I controlled 90% of the galaxy anyway.

That's where the game feels like a mixed bag to me. I liked the galactic level of strategic planning, and I loved the space battles, but the ground fights just weren't that interesting to me. It also doesn't help that eventually the computer relies heavily on unbreakable shields and some nasty artillery pieces. Seriously, Rebel artillery is both awesome and devastating. I don't recommend letting your infantry get caught in it. In fact, that unit alone became the greatest source of frustration with the ground game, because artillery was so incredibly devastating; nothing else the Rebels had would even get me to bat an eye in comparison. Second place was Rebel aircraft, which are tough to hit and can easily take down an AT-AT within seconds of the battle beginning, though you can usually counter those with capping turret locations for anti-air defenses. Just expect your hero Veers in his AT-AT to kick the bucket if you thought it was safe to start with him on the ground.

Star Wars: Empire at War. Space is cool, the ground game sucks, and both sides like committing atrocities and genocide. I'm kind of surprised no one used nerve gas, now that I think about it...
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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Markies' Games Beat List Of 2023!
***Denotes Replay For Completion***

***1. Dragon Valor (PS1)***
2. Breath Of Fire (GBA)

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I completed Breath Of Fire on the Nintendo GameBoy Advance this evening!

One of the main reasons I picked up the GameBoy Advance were the vast amount of RPG's on the system. With so many new titles along with re-releases of the SNES favorites, the system had a treasure trove of RPG's for me to discover and replay. One of the first ones I picked up was Breath of Fire. That was one of the first RPG's I ever played outside of the Final Fantasy series, so it had been at least 20 years since I played it. After wanting to play my first GameBoy Advance RPG, I thought it would be a perfect selection to replay an old favorite and start my long journey down the RPG Rabbit Hole.

Breath of Fire is Capcom's first foray into the RPG genre and it shows quite clearly. The game never really goes beyond the basic premise, you revisit so many towns and areas that you have been throughout the game and nothing feels new or exciting. However, that simple formula makes it a great RPG to get into the genre and one of the best comfort food RPG's you could ever play. It's such a fun and simple game that makes it perfect for people not wanting a crazy battle system or a convoluted plot. It is a warm, home cooked meal of an RPG and its these that I love so much. My favorite aspect in the game are probably the characters because each design is unique along with each one being tailor made for something different. The characters are all based off animals, so it was fun to see which type would end up in your party and what role they would play. Besides the characters, the battle system is just so relaxing. You have an auto-battle feature, which makes battles go incredibly fast, which is very nice because there are a ton of them. The bosses pose enough of a challenge where you can't use the Auto-Battle and besides the beginning of the game where you have to grind, I only stopped once to buy some new equipment, which made me over-leveled for the rest of the game.

Overall, I really enjoyed going through Breath of Fire again. The run button is a god send and the new translation of the game made everything so much clearer. But, yes, there are frequent random battles, you retread old areas and the game is quite basic, but it hits that JRPG sweet spot that I love so much. If you are new to JRPG's, this is a great one to try out as it teaches you many mechanics and is very simple and fun to enjoy. For a veteran like me, it's always an enjoyable time!
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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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

A very late SNES title (post N64), Dream Land 3 refines the gameplay of Dream Land 2 and adds more, thanks to the power of the SNES. The levels are bigger and more intricate, you get an additional power or two, and you get three more friends. Nago the cat can triple jump, Chuchu the legless octopus can stick to ceilings and move along them, and Pitch the Bird is notable for having the craziest power usages. They nerfed Coo's powers a bit, made Kine not garbage on land, and gave Rick a Mega Man X style wall jump, though notably there is not that bit of stickiness on the jump which makes it feel really hard to use.

The game is the second in the Dark Matter trilogy, where Dark Matter is the ultimate villain corrupting things; it will be continued in Kirby 64. The game is divided into five worlds of six stages each. Like Dream Land 2, you need to collect hidden items to face Dark Matter, rather than stopping at Dedede. This game does things a bit differently, though. Each stage has a Heart Star to collect, which is given at the end of the stage if you complete a challenge. These challenges are consistent across worlds, though the details differ. So stage one always involves doing stuff with flowers, while stage five requires you to end the stage with a specific animal companion. The one that stands out is stage four involves a minigame. These minigames, frankly, suck. They appear most of the way through the stage, are a memory game, and are shockingly difficult. And you have to restart the stage to retry them. These were the challenges that required me to restart the stages over and over again, while all the other ones maybe required one restart because I noobed out.

On the plus side, the final boss rush of Dedede into Dark Matter is overall easier than 2's for the right reasons. The bosses don't have stupid amounts of HP and attack patterns that are a bit easier to deal with thanks to the extra screen real estate. Similarly the stages don't feature as much "gotcha" stuff that kills you from the screen being small. I feel like overall I had a better time with 3 than with 2. So yeah, more Kirby goodness.
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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I’m playing Kirby and The Forgotten Land right now, and you’re making me want to run this series, Popo. There are just so many Kirby games, though!

Also, King Dedede’s theme is the greatest video game boss music ever. Just putting that out there.
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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I've been running through the Wii collection. I'll be doing Crystal Shards after Fire Emblem, then I'll probably do the other two Wii games to continue the roll.
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

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

1. Super Hero Operations (PS1)

This is the 3rd game in my journey through the Gundam & Tokusatsu crossover JRPGs that Banpresto published in the 90’s. This is the first one they not only published, but also developed in-house as well (as they were starting to do with Super Robot Wars around this time). Releasing in 1999, it’d been a good few years since the absolutely awful previous entry in this kinda-series was released, and given that this was Banpresto themselves, I had a fair bit of hope that this one would at least be pretty good. It took me around 36 hours to beat the game in Japanese on real hardware.

Though it’s a licensed game, the story of SHO follows an original main character as the main point of view character (in a very Super Robot Wars-y fashion). There is a male and a female character to pick from, but I chose the male character Ingram. You start in the very G Gundam & Gundam Wing-y future, sent on a mission to chase down the Devil Gundam, but upon falling to earth to chase and fight it, it flings you back in time 40 years to the very Ultraman and Metal Heros-y past. While this game does adapt just about all it can of Ultraman, in a change from previous games in the series, the *only* Gundam adapted is G Gundam and Gundam Wing, so no U.C. Gundam stuff at all. Most strange of all is how we are also deprived of any Kamen Rider and instead we have a lot of Metal Heroes (and adjacent franchises like Kikaider and Kaiketsu Zubat) characters in the story instead. This came out right on the deathknell of Metal Heroes as a larger franchise (and on the eve of Kamen Rider’s rebirth), which makes this an especially interesting and odd bit of crossover fiction from a historical and cultural standpoint.

As far as quality of the writing goes, it’s a really mixed bag on a lot of levels. The general structure of the game is one-by-one doing general reconstructions (within its own framework) of popular episodes from the properties its adapting, not unlike a SRW game or something. The issue most prominantly with that is that in a JRPG, we don’t have the luxury of skipping to the most intense bits of battle or plot or whatever that an SRPG can get away with, so this invites more problems than it solves. The first half or so of the game is really slow with a lot of clunky design mixed in with pretty same-y Ultraman missions. The game is sorta based around plot cul-de-sacs as a matter of point, as a result, but in some cases it’s way worse than others. The Gundam stuff in particular is located almost entirely in the few and far between future segments, making it very jarring and hurried when we finally return to those stories.

Some aspects of the story are done really well, like the Kikaider and Metalder parts in particular, but so much of it is sorta all over the place and confusingly related that it’s hard to get terribly invested in. The plot really starts taking shape around the 60% or so mark, which is when a few more interesting and important characters get introduced as well. The end result of all of this is that, compared to another game in this kinda-series like Hero Senki, this game has a lot more trouble standing on its own, and I’d say someone not already quite invested and interested in the represented series is going to have a much lesser and more boring time with it than someone who isn’t.

Mechanically, it’s a pretty unremarkable JRPG. A party of four and eventually you can swap characters in and out in between battles as the size of your party increases (and it gets pretty hilariously large, frankly), and the battles are simple turn-based affairs. There are some neat little mechanics to battle here and there, like HP slowly recovering in between fights, MP being recovered by doing normal attacks, and an overcharge meter that gets filled slowly by normal attacking with full MP that will give you a free and more powerful spell when you finally cast one. But the game is more mechanical missteps than it is successes. In total honesty, the game moreso comes off as an adventure game masquarading as a JRPG with just how much text there is and just how little actual gameplay you do compared to more typical JRPG games from ’99.

The story is entertaining enough for someone who likes the series represented in this game, but the actual playing of the game is clunky and cumbersome enough that it makes playing the game solely on its narrative merits more difficult than I’d like it to be. For starters, everything about menus and inventory is so busted and poorly done that it’s hard to believe a company as big as Banpresto developed this. The game has a TON of items, but you can’t see what they do in battle. You can only check that in your inventory between fights, and you’ll just have to remember what they do. You can’t see the actual effects that most equipment items do, just what stat they affect, meaning you’ll be swapping in and out items to try and get a sense of just what they even do to try and see what equipment is most worth using.

Of course this means shopping is a nightmare too. You can’t even sell items at a normal store. A store can only buy things that they already sell, so getting rid of early-game equipment can be a really annoying hassle, and more unique items, well you’re stuck with them forever. This is all even more annoying with how there’s no inventory sorting of any kind. It’s just one giant list. You can filter the list by what class (i.e. what series) can use those items, but otherwise it’s just equipment and consumables in one giant pile and you just gotta sort through it every time. There are also secret collectible trading cards that almost universally serve no function other than simple completion too, so that’s one more thing to clog up your mega list of an inventory. As an icing on the cake, you can’t even see your current HP or MP when using restoring items in your inventory. You’ve gotta look on the main screen, remember who needs healing and how much, and then go into your items menu to actually heal people. It’s absurd just how poorly put together this inventory system is for a major release by a major publisher in 1999, because I’d call this level of clunkiness embarassing even for 1994, let alone doing it in nearly 2000.

And the general clunkiness and rough design unfortunately doesn’t stop there. The game is put together with pre-rendered 3D assets, a lot like a game like Super Mario RPG is. This means that there are a lot of nearly identical looking areas because of how often they just reuse maps, and they reuse them a LOT. This combined with generally rough signposting means a more than fair amount of getting lost, especially in the four or five endless expanses of similar repeating maps the game has over its duration (which is even better because map edges aren’t clear either, so it’s diffciult to know if you’re exiting on a diagonal or not, so making mental maps is that much harder).

Combat is mercifully never difficult, almost literally. A lot of the bad design in other places would be far more worth complaining about if the game were actually difficult in any way, but it really isn’t. I encountered only a single actually difficult fight in the game, and other than that, as long as you’re just fighting things and gaining levels (the most important way to get stats), you’ll be fine. Combat takes too long and the buttons for your commands are such low resolution JPGs that they’re almost impossible to read, but at least it’s a trivial exercise. The balancing between characters is also awful, with Metal Heroes being the stand-out best among anyone and Ultramen being hilariously awful (you need to burn a turn to turn into Ultraman, and given that most battles are over in two turns, this means they rarely are actually useful, and they’re also very weak even when they’re Ultraman). While I’ve spilled a lot of ink here about how the mechanics are rough, it all really just comes down to being annoying. Like I said before, the game is really more of a glorified visual novel with a JRPG paint job given how simple the mechanics are and how much text there is. Heck, I think there are more event boss battles (ones you can’t win or are just glorified cutscenes) than actual boss battles. The main point of this whole section is basically just to exhaustively explain why anyone looking for a good JRPG should stay away from this game, as really it’s only the story that you’d wanna come for.

I’d love to say the aesthetics are worth coming for as well, but that’s another pretty mixed bag. The pre-rendered 3D model SD art style is gonna be hit or miss depending on who you are. I think it doesn’t look very nice, as did most of my friends I showed it to, but that’s all down to taste at the end of the day. One of the best things worth noting about the presentation visually, however, is how they go out of their way to recreate bits from the show in different ways. In one of my favorite ways, they inter cut live action shots from the shows for events like the Metal Heroes guys transforming, which adds a lot of silly tokusatsu-y energy to it all. Similarly, battles may take way too long, but a lot of the Metal Heroes special moves in particular really go out of their way to recreate the tons of cuts between jumps they'd do in the show by having it do the same thing with their animated 3D models mid-fight. It definitely takes too long, and most enemies are too easy to actually warrant using special moves on at all, but it's a touch I found very fun.

A bigger and more measurable problem is in regards to the game’s music. There really isn’t much of it, and while what’s here are pretty good original track and arrangements of licensed tracks (which are sometimes also incredibly funny), there just isn’t enough of it. This game is one of the very few I’ve found to have the “Lufia 2 Problem”, as I call it (as that was the first game I played that has this as well). There are so few songs and they do an exceptionally bad job of using music to underscore what should be more affecting and dramatic moments of the story, meaning a lot of moments (especially nearing the climax of the narrative) hit way weaker than they otherwise should. It’s not a death sentence for the writing by any means, but for a game that has so little to go on beyond its story, it’s really unfortunate that the music makes that story hit so much less hard than it should.

Verdict: Hesitantly Recommended. I’ve complained a lot about this game both here and in many places over the course of playing it, but ultimately, it’s just OK. I more or less had the read I do now like two hours into the game that this would be a solid 6/10 experience, and I ended up being more or less correct on that assumption by the end. Having finished it, I enjoyed the parts I enjoyed more than enough that I don’t regret playing it, but I think only people who are already invested in the series this represents will end up feeling that way too. Unless you’re a huge SRW and/or tokusatsu fan, I’d stay away from this one. It just can’t stand on its own merits well enough, and it only really succeeds at being astoundingly mediocre or sub-par at most everything else it tries to do. It’s not a bad game, but it’s also one you’re probably better off hearing about than actually playing yourself.
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