Games Beaten 2023

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KiddMarine
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by KiddMarine »

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

***1. Dragon Valor (PS1)***
2. Breath Of Fire (GBA)
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge (NS)
4. World Of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse And Donald Duck (GEN)
5. XIII (GCN)
6. NES Remix Pack (WiiU)
7. Dr. Mario (GBC)
***8. Bully (PS2)***
9. Dragon's Crown (PS3)
10. Bangai-O (SDC)
11. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
12. Destruction Derby (PS1)
13. X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse (XBOX)
14. Vice: Project Doom (NES)
***15. Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm (PS2)***
16. Terranigma (SNES)
***17. Super Street Fighter II (GEN)***
18. Guitar Hero II (PS2)
19. Kirby's Dream Land (GBC)
***20. Gunbird 2 (SDC)***
***21. Stella Deus: The Gate Of Eternity (PS2)***
22. I Am Setsuna (NS)
23. DuckTales: Remastered (WiiU)

***24. The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (SNES)***

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I completed The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System this evening!

I have had a strange journey with the Zelda series and I think Link to the Past is a great example of it. I did not get a SNES until I was deep in college and one of the first games I played was Link to the Past and I did not like it at all. I still have the file that has 80 Deaths on it. It was a miserable experience and became one of my gaming hot takes. Well, it has been 20+ Years since those days and I have heard nothing but praise for the game. So, with replaying my old games to Completion being a permanent fixture, I decided to retry one of my largest gaming hurdles.

A Link To The Past is a perfect link between the original Zelda game and Ocarina of Time. I didn't realize how much the game is a blueprint for Ocarina of Time. From heart pieces to mini-games to new items to the Zora's to the different Fairies, the game gave the developers such a great base for Ocarina that they could focus on turning the game 3D. And I think the extra stuff is what I really enjoyed about the game. I loved meeting the new characters and playing the mini-games. There is so much to discover outside the dungeons that you can easily stray from the main quest.

For the other Zelda stuff, I didn't find too memorable. The dungeons weren't all that different except for maybe the Ice and the Water one. Also, going back and forth between the Light and Dark World was more of a pain to me. I will never get over how Link swings his sword in this swooping motion instead of straight ahead. The combat in Illusion of Gaia is so much better. It only makes the problem worse when Ganon and some of the bosses could be a real pain. Finally, the upgrades were way too far apart. I didn't find more defense until eight dungeons into the game. And besides the Master Sword, the upgraded Swords aren't until the end of the game as well.

Overall, I will say my opinion of Link to the Past has improved. I would rank it above Zelda II and probably Breath of the Wild as well. Granted, I've only played seven games in the franchise, so my opinion is a bit different. But, I can see why people adore Link to the Past so much. It improves on the first Zelda game so much and is a beautiful blueprint for the later games as well. I understand why so many people call it a Classic and I'm glad that I see it in a better light.

I'm in total agreement with you (or at least your original thoughts on the game :lol: ). I've actually completed LttP five or six times over the years in an attempt to "get it", but it just never clicks. I love Link's Awakening but LttP alternates between annoying and boring me. I've been playing Crusader of Centy/Ragnacenty lately and honestly I'm enjoying it ten times more than I ever liked LttP.

Whenever I tell people I don't like it, it always seems like a "hot take" done for attention, but I swear it's true! :(
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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Markies »

KiddMarine wrote:I'm in total agreement with you (or at least your original thoughts on the game :lol: ). I've actually completed LttP five or six times over the years in an attempt to "get it", but it just never clicks. I love Link's Awakening but LttP alternates between annoying and boring me. I've been playing Crusader of Centy/Ragnacenty lately and honestly I'm enjoying it ten times more than I ever liked LttP.

Whenever I tell people I don't like it, it always seems like a "hot take" done for attention, but I swear it's true! :(


Glad to hear that I am not the only one. :D Much like the Final Fantasy series, I think everybody has their own unique and different opinion when it comes to the Zelda series. My absolute favorite is the original NES version and I have heard many people say that is their least favorite. I also don't like Breath of the Wild all that much, so it really depends on your taste and what you are looking for in a Zelda game.

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

***1. Dragon Valor (PS1)***
2. Breath Of Fire (GBA)
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge (NS)
4. World Of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse And Donald Duck (GEN)
5. XIII (GCN)
6. NES Remix Pack (WiiU)
7. Dr. Mario (GBC)
***8. Bully (PS2)***
9. Dragon's Crown (PS3)
10. Bangai-O (SDC)
11. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
12. Destruction Derby (PS1)
13. X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse (XBOX)
14. Vice: Project Doom (NES)
***15. Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm (PS2)***
16. Terranigma (SNES)
***17. Super Street Fighter II (GEN)***
18. Guitar Hero II (PS2)
19. Kirby's Dream Land (GBC)
***20. Gunbird 2 (SDC)***
***21. Stella Deus: The Gate Of Eternity (PS2)***
22. I Am Setsuna (NS)
23. DuckTales: Remastered (WiiU)
***24. The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (SNES)***

***25. Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers 2 (NES)***

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I completed Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers 2 on the Nintendo Entertainment System this afternoon!

Growing up, I remember loving the Ducktales and Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers cartoon shows. I have fond memories of watching them after school every day. Also, I have fond memories of playing the NES games. In the last couple of years, I have been able to find and play through them. Of course, I started with the classics as I first played through the originals. I preferred Ducktales just because it is so iconic, but Chip & Dale was really good as well. After a long while and more dollars than normal, I was finally able to buy their sequels. After going through the game once a few years ago, I decided it was time to go through it again as a different character.

The only thing I knew about the game going into it was the title. So, I mostly went into this game completely blind. I would say the major difference between Chip & Dale 1 and 2 would be that you cannot choose your path in Chip & Dale 2. The game is much more linear with only a small choice of the order in stages later on in the game. Also, the story is much larger as each time you beat a level, you are awarded with a cut-scene. Besides that, the same classic and fantastic game play is here. There were jumps that I thought I had made, but the game thought otherwise. Besides that, I had no real complains about the controls or how the game feels. It is a very solid playing game. The music sounds fantastic as some of the tracks were very catchy. The graphics seemed to get a slight overhaul, but nothing too shocking. The game isn't too hard, though I would say the first game is much easier. In the sequel, there are limited continues and I died several times on bosses. They don't provide a red ball like last time, so you have to dodge their attacks and pick up the weapons they left behind to damage them. But, the patterns are easily recognizable and none of them felt too cheap. I don't think the characters made much of a difference, but it was fun to go through the game a second time around.

Overall, I really enjoyed myself with Chip & Dale 2. It's not a long game as I beat it in a little over an hour. But, it plays really smooth, has some great stages and music and still has that Capcom feel to it. It is a bit expensive nowadays, but I thought it was worth the price. It's actually quite good and I'd recommend it to anyone that loves NES platformers.
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by PartridgeSenpai »

I forgot earlier to say something, but thank you so much for inspiring to play through Atelier Iris 3, Markies! It was super fun~ ^w^

And I'm saying this NOW because, though I haven't written my review for it yet, I just finished Mana Khemia! It's the very next Atelier they made after Iris 3 Grand Phantasm, and if you really liked that game, you should absolutely check out Mana Khemia. It's basically just Iris 3 but better, from the gameplay loop to the writing, it's an outright improvement. I'll have my proper review of it up in a few days, but in the meanwhile, it's on to Mana Khemia 2! ^w^
(the last of the main-line Atelier games I have significant interest in playing)
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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Markies »

Glad you enjoyed Atelier Iris 3! :D

Yeah, I have ALWAYS wanted to play Mana Khemia. My friend and I enjoy the Atelier Iris series on the PS2 and he has Mana Khemia and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I have never found a copy of the game and I've never just gone out and bought it online.

I am happy to hear that you really enjoyed it. It is one of my most wanted games, so I'm happy to hear you enjoyed it!
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SpaceBooger
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by SpaceBooger »

Lufia and the Fortress of Doom (SNES) 1/21/23
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue (SEGA CD) 4/1/23
Crystalis (NES) 4/21/23
Life on Mars (GEN) 4/30/23
Illusion of Gaia (SNES) 5/31/23
Wonderboy in Monster World (Genesis) 6/15/23
Final Fantasy Legend (GB) 7/2/23

Final Fantasy Legend (GB) - see the summer challenge post for my take on the game.
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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

Aliens: Dark Descent is a real time squad-based tactics game where you guide squads of Colonial Marines through environments infested with the titular aliens. Think of the segments in the AvP games where you play as a Marine, but you have a full squad and it's controlled through an overhead view using the mouse. While the game is definitely AA, it really shows a lot of love and understanding of the property.

The setup is that Weyland-Yutani administrator Maeko Hayes discovers an alien outbreak on the space station she runs. She recognizes some are on an outbound ship, and so she activates the system-wide quarantine protocols to stop it from escaping. This causes every ship to be shot down, including the USCM ship Otago. Maeko gets rescued by a marine shuttle, and they regroup at the downed Otago. The Otago will serve as your base as you try to understand the scope of the infestation and try to find a way to escape the system.

The game shares a lot of DNA with the recent XCOM games, though moving to real time is a major change to how it plays in the moment. This real time is key to hit the tension you expect in the Alien IP. You start on the Otago, where you can manage soldiers in the barracks, develop new weapons, and research samples of the aliens you bring back (though never live ones; that's too dangerous). Research and development is much simpler than XCOM's trees; you simply spend some resources once you have picked up the relevant topic and you get it immediately. More interesting is soldier management.

In this game, your marines start as rookies, and upon reaching level three they can choose from one of two random classes out of five. At every level they also gain a choice of one of three randomly selected passives. So there's some luck in getting the best ones, as well as lots of choices on which of the good ones to go for on a given level (as you might not see one of them again). After a mission a marine becomes tired; sending them out again without a period of rest will result in them both being less effective in the mission and moving them to exhausted, where they have no choice but to rest.

In mission, you will have a series of objectives and sub objectives. Every map is bespoke, some large, others small. You can find survivors who can be rescued to augment your forces as well as datapads that will give you more of the background story. Your squad stays together when it moves; you have no ability to maneuver individual marines. Most of the time this isn't a problem, though occasionally with special abilities you will wish you could maneuver one specific trooper in a specific spot in the formation (not even being super separated). The game features resource management in terms of your extra magazines, your tech tools, your medkits, and your sentry guns. You can find more in the field, and they get consumed for various tasks. Any that you bring back get added back to the base stores, so you usually want to leave with less than a full load (you can purchase more with supplies in base, but there are a lot of competing attentions on that resource).

One thing the game emphasizes is detection. I wouldn't call it full stealth, as you definitely don't have the tools to full stealth like you might in a game like Thief. Instead, it's about using the map, the motion detector, and lines of sight to keep from being noticed by the aliens. See, once one sees you it alerts the hive, which will start spawning more to chase you down. If you eliminate all the ones who currently see you the hive moves into a hunting phase, where it tries to find you again (so you should book it out of the area). After a while the hive will quiet down. But during this hunting phase a counter starts ticking up; once it gets too high it triggers a major onslaught wave that you need to survive. If you do there is now a higher density of alien spawns and now it can spawn bosses to attack you at fixed points. Additionally, while encountering aliens and when being hunted your squad's stress level builds; if it gets too high they get penalties and post-combat they build up trauma points (which can lead to full on neurosis debuffs). Now, one interesting thing is the maps are all persistent; any objectives completed stay completed, any looted containers stay looted. So it behooves you to evaluate how things are going and bug out when things get bad. This is a game of incremental achievement, not blowing through in a single run. Balancing al of these factors is a key component to success.

Overall it's an interesting take on strategy games that uses its systems to really sell the feelings you got watching Aliens and seeing the tension created by the deadly organisms. The game is very nice about warning you when you're about to trigger a major story battle so you can evaluate if you should wait and do it after a rest, and overall it strikes that right balance between rewarding skillful usage of the mechanics while not being too punishing if you screw up now and then.
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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)


Hey folks, I just realized I had beaten a bunch of games but completely forgotten to type up that I had beaten them. I'm gonna run through these as quickly as I can:


Subnautica

It's a first person survival sim set on an aquatic planet in the far future. You are the only survivor of a crashing space ship, and you must try to find a means to survive and escape, first by seeking natural resources you can use as well as constructing a habitat, necessary gear, and eventually submarines and upgrades that will help you survive the depths. As you go, you'll also encounter a range of sea life, some of which is happy to eat you, and some of which are extremely large. Subnautica is at times an anxiety-inducing experience, but for all the right reasons. Just...try not to get eaten by a leviathan.


Frog Detective 3

The Frog Detective series is a trilogy of silly and straight forward adventure games where you are trying to solve a case. The third game, Corruption in Cowboy County, adds a scooter to the mix to let you ride around, but it keeps all the humor and charm that got me into the series in the first place. If you're looking for something that breaks the fourth wall, is humorous in a dad-joke kind of way, and doesn't outlive its welcome, all three games hold up.


The Shore

I found this one while looking up Lovecraftian horror games. The Shore combines elements of adventure games, first person shooters, and walking sims, all in the context of a strange island and bizarre series of nightmare worlds. Creatures made of tentacles and mouths, puzzles involving strange sacrifices and rituals, and creepy messages of past survivors on the island all haunt you as you make your way through. Expect some pseudo-stealth and a whole lot of running from whatever big thing is chasing you to eat you...or worse.


Embr

This may be the best fire fighting game since Burning Rangers. You work for Embr, a privatized fire company that also handles demolition, salvage, and even food delivery. In an ultra privatized world, you have to pay for your own gear and get processing fees taken out of your paycheck, but you're still making bank while putting out fires and rescuing people absorbed by their smartphones. And you can do it with extinguishers, hose guns, grenades, trampolines, modified hair dryers, and all sorts of weird additional equipment which can be upgraded. I played through this game in co-op, and it's a great experience with friends.


That Which Gave Chase

You drive a dogsled across the desolate tundra at the behest of a creepy scientist returning to a former expedition and research site for...he won't tell you, but he's happy to be weird and cagey about it all. That Which Gave Chase is a short game, lasting maybe an hour for a playthrough, but it demands you drive a dogsled. This is not a common feature in video games, so I was already hooked. Add in a bizarre mystery, a forbidden land, and PS1-quality graphics, and I was immediately interested. The short playtime may be a detriment, but the game manages to successfully not wear out its welcome and relatively simple premise.


Witch Hunt

It's sometime around the end of the 18th century. You've come to a remote village because there are tales of a beast in the woods. Upon arrival, you discover much worse: a werewolf is on the prowl, the undead have risen, and fear runs deep. There is witchcraft afoot. It's your job to stamp it out, relying on your flintlock weapons, your saber, and whatever money you can scrounge to buy new skills. This is from the same developer as another horror FPS I played through, Skinwalker Hunt, and I ended up much preferring Witch Hunt's multiple enemies with differing AI. Some of the big bosses are aggressive, some run and hide, and some let you come to them and then steadily stalk you from that point on. I want more hunting games where I am after mythical beasts!
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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)

Having finished Grand Phantasm, it was onto the ninth game in the mainline Atelier series: the first of the two Mana Khemia games. This was another sub-series I knew basically nothing about as well. I knew it had something to do with an academy, and I knew it had some sort of time management system of some kind, but other than that it was as big a mystery as ever just what these games were. On top of that, it’s always a fascinating time starting a new Atelier sub-series, as there’s never any telling just how the gameplay systems and setting elements they’re using could’ve changed since the previous entry. But I was very surprised to discover during my time with Mana Khemia something about Grand Phantasm (the previous Atelier game). With the systems and design features that Mana Khemia has, Grand Phantasm is shown to be much less the third Atelier Iris game and more like a retroactive Mana Khemia 0. I did just about every character quest and unlocked nearly every item I possibly could, and it took me about 61 hours to beat the Japanese version of the game on real hardware.

Mana Khemia is first and foremost the story of Vein, a young man with few memories who lives with his cat in the woods with very little human contact. Everything changes for him when a professor Zepple finds him and recruits him as a new student to their university of alchemy: Al-Revis. The story then follows Vein’s journey from his start of school through to his graduation after three years studying there, over which time he makes many new and exciting friends at the atelier he’s press-ganged into almost immediately upon leaving the entrance ceremony. As far as anime-ish fantasy sorts of stories about one’s time at a high school, this will likely not blow away anyone very familiar with the genre, but I for the most part really enjoyed my time with it~.

After Grand Phantasm was such an *almost* great story, I honestly didn’t have much better hope for Mana Khemia. As such, I was very pleasantly surprised by just how much I ended up enjoying Mana Khemia’s story. It all made a lot more sense when I actually looked up the person who wrote the game (as well as its sequel) and discovered that it’s not only the same guy who wrote a lot of the quests (the best written parts) of Grand Phantasm, but he’s also the same guy who would go on to write what I consider to be easily the best written Atelier games, Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori. Mana Khemia is a very well written story about growing up and discovering who you are and who you want to be, but it’s also a story of finding acceptance in a new and unfamiliar space. It’s a story about how you’re never nearly as alone as you feel as long as you have a community around you who can help pick you back up when you’re down, and it was just as effecting a story as I’ve come to expect from this writer (and while it doesn’t quite top Atelier Totori, it comes damn close for me). I personally went with Nike’s ending (“Nikki” in English), and while I’ve heard very mixed things about the English translation of this game, I enjoyed all the characters and their character stories very much (save for Muppy who is awful and I wish wasn’t in the game XP) and almost hated to see the story end with just how much fun I was having.

As far as gameplay systems go, Mana Khemia does a very clever job of ironing out the biggest design issues in Grand Phantasm very well. Where Grand Phantasm had its story quests and big Story Events TM that’d get activated after doing enough of them, Mana Khemia has semesters (of sorts) where there are electives (I have no idea what they translate /kadai/ as) you can do during them. These electives either introduce new mechanics, or are just general tests of ability and resourcefulness at a particular task, and they even have some story or lore tidbits tucked into them as well quite often too. Depending on how well you do on these two to four electives per semester, you’ll get merits that fill up a bar on how many merits you need to complete that semester. Once you’ve filled up that bar to the required amount, you can use the rest of the semester for “free time” that you can do part time jobs (quests, and as many as you want!) or a character quest if you want to.

During technically any time (free time or elective time) you can go and explore dungeons to your heart’s content and time will never pass into the next week, as such. Instead, time moves forward upon either completing that week’s chosen elective or after you’ve completed a character quest for someone. The character quests are entirely optional (all seven characters have 5, save for Muppy who has 4, with only one person’s final quest doable per playthrough, though you thankfully have more than enough time to do everyone’s non-final quests in one playthrough as I did), and you can even just go back to your dorm to sleep through free time if you want, but the overall construction of the character quests and electives make for a far better paced experience than Grand Phantasm’s guild system ever did.

It’s not time management as the Atelier Arland games or the original five Atelier games do it, sure, but the opportunity cost of which electives to do, how hard to work at them, and which character quests to pick and when also made for a more engaging experience despite ultimately having enough time to do everything and then some. It also helps that the character quests as well as the big Event Quests at the end of each semester tie into the main themes and narrative better than Grand Phantasm’s ever did, but it was very nice to see such a promising yet flawed system get the refining it clearly deserved, not to mention refining to such great effect.

For the battle system, we have something very straightforwardly an evolution on Grand Phantasm’s systems, and also a significantly more challenging one as well. While this isn’t quite something to the level of SMT, this is easily the most difficult Atelier game they’d ever made at this point in the series, particularly at the start when you don’t quite have all your tools available to you yet. Carried over from Grand Phantasm, we have a party of three facing off against enemies with a turn counter at the top of the screen that you’re encouraged to manipulate to your advantage as best you can. You also still have the burst gauge you can activate for when you want your biggest, meanest damage to be dealt. However, there are some very significant changes introduced since Grand Phantasm that make an already fun and snappy battle system even more fun to play with.

Now our party size is eight, and up to six of them can be in battle at a time with three active and three in support. Swapping in different characters as either defending or attacking supports gives battle a really great feeling of momentum, especially once you unlock more advanced supports later on. We’ve also ditched the party-wide MP pool for a character-by-character MP pool, and one of the things that makes the early game so difficult is that the main time you mostly recharge your MP while you’re in the support pool during battle, so you’re a bit MP-poor for the first few chapters of the game. Even still, having six characters to choose from per battle instead of the weird job system Grand Phantasm had makes Mana Khemia’s battle system way more fun and engaging, and that’s also got this game’s leveling system to thank for it as well.

The leveling system that’s here really isn’t a leveling system at all, as such. Taking and, in my opinion, enhancing another idea from Final Fantasy X, Mana Khemia instead as a sort of sphere grid via its Grow Book system. Each character has their own personal grow book (not one giant grid like the sphere grid), and each time you make a new alchemy recipe for the first time, there’s an almost guaranteed chance that somewhere on some character’s grid, you’ve just unlocked a new node. Each node has one to three sub-nodes on it, and unlocking these sub-nodes can give you anything from permanent stat buffs to new passives to even new spells/abilities to use in battle. How you unlock sub-nodes is by spending AP that you earn from doing battles, and earning AP (as well as unique crafting ingredients as well) is the main reason to do battles, not earning EXP (as that doesn’t exist). It’s a bit annoying that sometimes you’ll just be really stuck in someone’s (or everyone’s) tree because there’s some recipe you just haven’t been able to make yet or haven’t found at all yet, but it’s nevertheless a very fun and cool system that takes the idea of “making something for the first time!” and blending it with the rest of the gameplay in a very clever way.

The alchemy itself is still somewhat similar to Grand Phantasm, but it’s taken a good few steps forward towards being like alchemy used to be in the first five games (and would very soon be again just two games later). Items once again have universal similarity amongst one another (you make a +magic hat and then the same hat again with +defense, now ALL instances of that hat are +defense), but now items have quality levels again. These aren’t decided by a random chance upon pickup like how other games did/would do it (again, all instances of an item are identical). Instead, what items you use to craft something (higher numbers give higher numbers) as well as a little timing mini-game as you craft things determine the quality level. Generally higher is always better, but if you’re aiming for specific qualities to put onto something you’ll then make into armor or weapons (crafting bits which don’t have that mini-game alongside them), you might occasionally be aiming for a more middling or even “low quality” item to get a specific quality. I’m not a huge fan of the timing mini-game, myself, but the overall change to the alchemy system is definitely a step in the right direction for making the whole thing more engaging than it used to be.

The only real negative about the design other than the occasional annoyance of the grow book being a tree you can get stuck on is in how they’ve changed exploration. No longer do you get kicked out of sub-worlds that you go to after a certain amount of time. The sub-worlds are even almost entirely connected amongst each other in case you want to go between them that way (not that you generally would), and instead time passing in levels just makes it go from day to night. Now, not much actually changes as night (save for the very seldom crating ingredient only available at night) other than monsters getting harder. Far FAR harder. I’m talking like 1.5 to 2 times multipliers on their stats. It makes it feel like you may as well just get kicked out at night time, because monsters are SO much more horrifying at night (not to mention faster on the over world so they’re much harder to dodge) that you may as well just go home at that point anyhow. What’s even still is that there’s no penalty I ever found for just standing in one place and waiting for dawn so the monsters just get weak again. The day/night mechanic is neat, but it’s easily the most poorly thought out aspect of the gameplay loop and it’s just more annoying than anything. At the very least, bosses mercifully do not benefit from the night time stat boost other monsters get, so no need to worry there~.

The presentation of the game is very good, in usual Atelier fashion for the time, but I especially liked a lot of the presentation of this game in particular. Battle and world sprites are detailed and fun, and environments are very pretty. The 2D sprites in 3D environments do look a little funky and fisheye-lens at times, but it’s mostly very nice. Character portraits are very detailed and expressive, and they all have a delightfully retro aesthetic to them, almost feeling like 90’s designs despite being in a game from 2007. The music is also really good, at least for my tastes. This game is the first to have the composer who would go on to do the excellent music for later Atelier games (such as Rorona and Totori), and he’s flexing his musical muscles here big time too. Lots of great character themes, boss themes, and even the main school/atelier theme was one I enjoyed a lot and was just in my head constantly even when I wasn’t playing x3.

I also wanna give a shout out to the voice work in this game, because it’s some of my favorite done stuff I’ve seen in a game in a while. It brought the characters to life so well in how they let the voice actors, well, ACT. They don’t just phonetically speak the onomatopoeia that indicate things like laughing, crying, sniffling like SO much other stuff does (save for characters for whom it makes sense to do that). There are even a few lines where the VA goes a little bit beyond what the line actually calls for in the text, and it’s all great! Gunnar and Nike were my two personal favorites, but the whole cast just does such an excellent job, this is easily one of my favorite voice acted games I’ve played.

Verdict: Highly Recommended. I didn’t think I’d ever play another Atelier series game that came anywhere close to dethroning my favorites. I thought that at best I’d be getting games like Atelier Iris 1, where it’s good, sometimes great, but overall a bit too rough and flawed to really approach the quality of the first couple PS3 entries, but damn if this hasn’t come damn close to being my new all-time favorite in the series. It’s certainly one of my new favorite PS2 RPGs ever, that’s for sure. The writing and mechanics really come together to make one of the best RPG experiences that I’ve played on the console. While I can’t speak to the quality of the English translation personally, this is definitely one to check out if you’re a fan of the series or just want a fun PS2 RPG in general~
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Markies
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Markies »

*Desire to acquire intensifies.*

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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by prfsnl_gmr »

Great reviews, everyone! Especially you, @pidge. Those are epic!

…..

1. Kirby & The Forgotten Land (Switch)
2. Kirby’s Dreamland 3 (SNES)
3. Earthbound Beginnings (NES)
4. Super Mario Bros. - The Lost Levels (NES)
5. Tuff E Nuff (SNES)
6. Star Fox 2 (SNES)
7. Rival Turf (SNES)
8. Brawl Brothers (SNES)
9. The Peace Keepers (SNES)
10 Arm Champs II (Arcade)
11. All-Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. (FDS)
12. Super Mario Bros. Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3 - World e (GBA)
13. Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Arcade)
14. Super Mario Bros. Special - 35th Anniversary Edition (NES)
15. Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball (3DS)
16. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS)
17. Vampire Survivors (iOS)
18. Ninja Spirit (TG16)
19. Earthbound (SNES)
20. King’s Field II (PS1)
21. Commando (Arcade)
22. Commando (NES)
23. Commando (7800)
24. Commando (2600)
25. Bionic Commando (Gameboy)
26. MERCS (Arcade)
27. MERCS (SMS)
28. MERCS (Genesis)
29. Bionic Commando: Elite Forces (GBC)
30. Blazing Lazers (TG16)
31. The Legendary Axe (TG16)


I took another break from TOTK and played through some of my Summer Games Challenge games. I wrote detailed reviews of MERCS, Blazing Lazers, and The Legendary Ace in that thread, which everyone should visit.

I also beat Bionic Commando: Elite Forces for the Gameboy Color. It is a really solid GBC title dragged down a bit by a few design choices and system limitations. First, the good. The game is more Bionic Commando. The swinging mechanics are still solid and nothing beats swinging underneath multiple platforms, lifting yourself up, and taking out an enemy soldier before they have the chance to turn around. It is probably the most badass feeling in old video games. The level design is also pretty solid, and the levels in Elite Forces follow the general beats of its GB and NES predecessors. The difficulty curve is also really smooth, and the game provides frequent save points, checkpoints, and extra lives. As a result, the game, even at its most challenging, is never frustrating (unlike its GB predecessor). Finally, the sprite animation is really fluid (like the sprite animations in Shantae).

A few things that drag it down…the screen is just a bit too zoomed in. The developers wisely let you scroll the screen vertically by holding up or down on the control pad, but you can’t scroll horizontally, resulting in a lot of missed swings. The game also lets you travel from one stage to another, with enemy encounters, just like the GB and NES games. You have to do all the stages in order, though, and there are no neutral zones. (The neutral zones were always a bit silly, but they added some atmosphere and provides the illusion that you could proceed through the game in different ways.). Accordingly, the stage selection screen is really just a way to farm extra lives by confronting enemy convoys. (Elite Forces brings back the overhead sections from the NES game.). Some of the boss encounters are dull (and all of the bosses are bullet sponges), and finally, the game, despite the fluid animation, is very ugly. The pixels are chunky; the digitized pictures are pixelated; the art direction is pretty bad; and the whole thing looks like a Commodore 64 game (but with smoother scrolling, obviously). The voice samples are bad, and even the music sounds like it is from a Commodore 64 game (except for banger lifted directly from the GB game, which remains awesome). Interestingly, the game was designed, not by Capcom, but by Nintendo Software Technology, one of Nintendo’s off-brand second party developers. That team also developed Mario vs Donkey Kong, Metroid Prime Hunters, Ridge Racer DS, and other ugly games; so, that aesthetic is, kind of, their trademark? (Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, at least, looks pretty good).

Don’t let my complaints about the game put you off it if you’re interested in it. I really, really enjoyed Bionic Commando: Elite Forces, and it’s definitely a top 15 GB/GBC game for me, despite its warts. Recommended for anyone seeking a well-tuned, portable action-platformer, and highly recommended for fans of the Bionic Commando series.
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