Games Beaten 2023

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

Post by REPO Man »

Borderlands 3 for PS5 as Amara, Normal Mode.
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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
45. Amid Evil: The Black Labyrinth - PC
46. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon - PS5

It's been a decade since we got an Armored Core game, as From Software has focused on their Soulsborne stuff, and Armored Core was always a niche series. But thanks to the massive success of Elden Ring, From was able to go back to the series that first put them on the map and give us some post-apocalyptic mecha action. And this game definitely delivers.

The setup is the planet Rubicon is the home of a substance known as Coral, which is a fairly mysterious substance that can be exploited for a bunch of different uses, including augmenting humans to pilot ACs (whereas regular humans can only use the much weaker MTs). One day the whole thing blows up into a giant fireball that extends out into space, but after a while humanity realizes there is still Coral left, so the conflict over exploiting this resource begins anew. You are a nameless pilot who is contracted by a mysterious Handler Walter, who sends you to the planet to engage in the conflict, though Walter seems to have some of his own motivations as well.

As its base, Armored Core VI starts off with the systems of Armored Core V. You have two hand weapons and two shoulder weapons, you can use one of four leg types (bipedal, reverse, quad, tank), you have a standard boost mode which zooms you and can quick dash, and you can also engage in an extended boost which is good for moving long distances in a hurry. Your jumping boost is overall stronger than V's, so verticality is used more in both level design and in combat. The main new thing that has been added is the concept of stagger. Dealing damage causes a stagger bar to fill up, with different weapons accomplishing this better or worse than others. If you let off the stagger starts to fall, and again, this is adjusted by the weapons you use (some are good at having stagger stay a long time, others the stagger drains quickly). If you fill up the bar two things happen. First, the enemy is stunned for a couple seconds. Second, they enter a vulnerability phase (which is longer than the stun) where all your weapons deal extra damage (and the percentage is a property of the weapon, so some are especially amped in this state). While regular enemies tend to die at about the same rate as their stagger gauge fills up, this is a critical system against bosses. Applying stagger both gives you a breather and lets you get in big damage (and some bosses require stagger to take any meaningful damage). You are also vulnerable to being staggered; it's particularly bad to be stunned just as you stagger the enemy, as it means you won't get nearly the damage follow up you wanted.

As other games in the series, there is an extensive customization system where you swap out your four weapon slots, four body part slots, and three component slots. One interesting feature is that if you die and reload a checkpoint you are given the opportunity to rebuild your AC (though you can't shop; you had to have purchased the components ahead of time). This can be a great way to try out different builds on particularly challenging bosses, though if you want to get max rank on a mission you can't utilize this feature (as reloading a checkpoint blocks you from getting an S). Additionally, the arena fights give you a special currency that is used for OS upgrades, which are a series of passive boosts, extra maneuvers (like a ram to your super boost), and an emergency component that can only be used a handful of times in a mission but can make a huge difference if used at the right moment. There is only a finite amount of this currency, so you will have to choose what makes sense for your build and playstyle (though you are free to respec between missions).

The game is divided into five chapters with a fairly linear story. Sometimes you'll have a couple of mission to do at a time, but you must accomplish all before the next set opens. Once in a while you'll have a "decision" type of mission, where doing one locks out the others and is part of selecting your ending. There are three endings in the game; the first two available from the start and the third only available on NG++ (as that unlocks all the requisite extra missions needed for that ending route). The actual stages are quite varied; some are a simple short fight against an enemy, while others are large sprawling affairs where you move from area to area taking out enemies and accomplishing objectives. There is not much environmental reuse, and the times there is there is good story reason for it.

One highlight is the boss fights. Previous Armored Cores tended to have bosses just be juiced up ACs that cheated (e.g. had infinite boost). Here they embrace the idea of having more large bosses that aren't expected to move like an AC and thus can have a wider variety of attacks and weaknesses. For example, one boss is a giant mining robot that is vulnerable either in its "mouth" on the front (but puts you in the perfect spot for its drill arms to smack you) or by attacking its smokestack on top (thus requiring an AC with good aerial abilities). There are still fights against enemy ACs, but these are far more fair. Most are against regular ACs, so it's like fighting yourself. A few are special boss enemies, but they still are restricted to having to cooldown their dashes and their boss status comes more from unique attacks the player can't get. Thus, it feels like there is much more player agency in figuring out how to exploit a boss's weaknesses.

Overall, Armored Core VI is a triumphant return of the series, adding just enough modern touches without compromising its essence, and with a good overall difficulty (this is definitely not a Souls-like). Reviews have been good; let's hope sales are good enough that we can see more in the future.
Blizzard Entertainment Software Developer - All comments and views are my own and not representative of the company.
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RobertAugustdeMeijer
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by RobertAugustdeMeijer »

MrPopo wrote:
Overall, Armored Core VI is a triumphant return of the series, adding just enough modern touches without compromising its essence, and with a good overall difficulty (this is definitely not a Souls-like). Reviews have been good; let's hope sales are good enough that we can see more in the future.


Great to hear! I missed out on AC and I'm too lazy to play it on PS3, so looking forward to getting into this series with this one!
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by ConsoleHandheldGamer »

1. Picross S6
2. Picross S Mega Drive & Master System edition
3. Xenoblade Chronicles Future Connected
4. Pokemon Scarlet
5. Picross S7
6. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond

I just finished Pokemon Brilliant Diamond. Pokemon Diamond was my first pokemon game (if you don't count Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Blue Rescue Team), and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond was a nostalgic playthrough for me, although various parts were much easier for me than when playing through Pokemon Diamond, like going to Snowpoint City or fighting the Elite Four and Champion. Could be the always on exp share, or that I've been playing pokemon since 2006 and knew more of what I'm doing. In Diamond, my mvps were Empoleon and Staraptor (got both to level 100), this time Infernape and Luxray were my mvps, although I did try to have a more rounded team with different moves (the only pokemon I remember using in Pokemon Diamond are Empoleon and Staraptor). A couple of things I liked were not needing a pokemon to stick hm moves onto and a new shop in Veilstone that sells a few different outfits. I don't like that they went back to breakable tms though.
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REPO Man
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by REPO Man »

I effin' LOVE Picross. Picross S Mega Drive & Master System Edition was one of the first Switch games I ever beat IIRC. Really we'd get more themed Picross games like this.
Limewater
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Limewater »

The Castle (PC, 2019) (Point n Click Adventure)

I really love Maniac Mansion, so I was interested in this game, an indie which took a LOT of cues from Maniac Mansion.

In short, I wanted to like it more than I did.

Things I liked:
Very nice early LucasArts-style pixel art.
Multiple teams of kids with different abilities and multiple ways to win.
When you die you visit an afterlife and it's interactive and, honestly, pretty funny.

Things I didn't like:
Once "Junior Vampire" starts running around, you have to have a defense item and be able to use it extremely quickly. Really, this just ends up with you getting caught quite regularly in a death trap. Even if you know what to do it is often very difficult to execute in time to save yourself, which leads to a ton of reloading.

I never really trusted the game, which led me to want to seek hints earlier than I would have liked. And I don't blame myself. Some of the solutions are pretty inane.

Several puzzles have real-time elements, as in you do something and then the result happens ten real-time minutes later. I find that sort of thing frustrating.

This game was clearly a labor of love, and a lot of work went into it, but it definitely suffers in the shadow of the game that inspired it.
I got one ending but I've realized that, while I have almost everything I need to get another, I ordered the wrong pizza early in the game so I'd have to start the whole thing over. It's not super-long game, but I just don't want to go through with it.

I will say that the game really started to open up and become enjoyable after I had gotten most of the way through, but there were a lot of pain points.
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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Ack »

First 50:
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)

51. Contraband Police (PC)(FPS)

Imagine, if you will, that the award-winning indie game Papers, Please was a First Person Shooter, with an open world where you can transport prisoners, restock necessary gear, buy and sell vodka, and turn over contraband. That will give you a good idea of what Contraband Police is like.

It is the early 1980s. You are a police officer protecting a border post in a Warsaw Pact-style nation. People are coming into your country, and it is your duty to inspect their papers and make note where problems may lie and whether they should be allowed in or turned around and sent on their way. At times, national directives will force your hand, such as not letting in journalists or refusing entry to anyone lacking proper immunization records. You also have smugglers, flooding your nation with black market cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine, and weapons. You must choose to turn away the riff-raff and arrest the smugglers, with correct decisions earning additional funding that can be used to upgrade your border post.

But your nation also has an active partisan movement as well as organized crime; at times, your post will be raided, and you will have to pick up a gun and fend off the attackers. You will also be bushed while driving around to restock gear or transport prisoners, and while there are monetary benefits to taking out attackers, you have to weigh the cost of bullets and vehicle maintenance.

Also, you're still a cop, so that means you will at times be called away to investigate crimes. Homicides, kidnappings, muggings, suspected drug sights, and so on are all things you will have to look into. Heck, you even need to keep an ax handy in case a tree has fallen across the road that you need to clear. It's a life of protecting the people for the Party...

...Or not. You can also choose to be a double agent, working with the Partisans against the Party. Do you rescue a wounded informant or let the Partisans have him? Do you confiscate their guns or ensure other police do not find them? Do you turn in fellow officers who are collaborators or keep their secrets safe? All of these are possible options, and that is what keeps Contraband Police interesting.

Right now, the game is limited to a campaign that lasts roughly 45 days and must be replayed to see the other side of the story, though the developer is actively experimenting with an endless mode that will enable people to go through the experience without forcing an ending, just in case you really want to spend a couple hundred days looking for misspelled names and broken headlights on cars. Which is funny, because I kind of do. I really liked Contraband Police. And though I sided with the Party on my first playthrough, I look forward to seeing how it feels to be a Rebel and where this leads society.
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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)
36. White Album (PS3)
37. Shadow Hearts 2 (PS2)
38. Shadow Hearts: From the New World (PS2)
39. The Hunt for the Red October (GB)
40. Wild Arms (PS1)

41. Wild Arms 2 (PS1)

In my pursuit to play more of this series as well as more PS1 RPGs, after I finished Wild Arms 1, I hopped straight into Wild Arms 2 (or as it’s called here in Japan, “Wild Arms 2nd Ignition”). Wild Arms 1 had a lot of potential, and given that it came out three years later, I figured the sequel had a lot of opportunity to fulfill that potential. RPGs as a genre evolved quite a bit between 1996 and 1999, after all. I was partially right and partially wrong, it turns out ^^;. It took me about 44 hours to complete the Japanese version of the game on real hardware.

The narrative of Wild Arms 2 is *kinda* a narrative sequel to the first game, but mostly not. I guess it’d be more accurate that it takes place in the far flung future of what was perhaps an alternate version of the events of the first game. In this distant future Falgaia, our story begins by following the stories of Lulika the crest sorcerer, Brad the convict, and Ashley (who is a boy) the soldier. With the opening being Brad sent to maximum security prison, Lulika helping out a struggling frontier town, and Ashley both becoming a war hero and then getting transformed into a horrible monster, things promise to be quite interesting as the three of them are recruited by a mysterious Count Irving into a special military unit: ARMS (Awkward Rush & Mission Savers (yes, really)) to take on the evil terrorist group Odessa.

Just from that brief little synopsis of the first seven or so hours, you probably already have a pretty good impression that Wild Arms 2 is a narrative that is trying to do a LOT, and you’re right. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg (there are even two more main characters and an optional extra one who I didn’t even mention in that summary. Wild Arms 2 is a story about heroes: Who is viewed as a hero? Who gets to be a hero? How does a hero relate to their government or their society? How does a world in peace time handle the heroes who brought them that peace? It promises some pretty interesting setups at the start, but it proves woefully inadequate to fulfilling the task of delivering on those promises.

On a very base level, Wild Arms 2 has still not solved the problem it’s predecessor had in terms of the narrative being far too blunt (to the point of feeling patronizing) in how characters express who they are and what they believe. We still very much have a lot of “I am [NAME] and this is what I believe and this is why I believe it” dialogue, and that is barely an exaggeration. However, given that Wild Arms 1 was more of a character-driven piece without much focus on larger philosophical or political themes, this was a bit more easily ignored, and its narrative more or less worked (at least for a game from 1996). Wild Arms 2 on the other hand, which actually *does* try to have a very politically and philosophically focused narrative, is hit much harder by this inability to be subtle. It leaks into virtually every aspect of the writing as well, with characters talking like philosophy majors almost constantly to the point that they do a very poor job of actually feeling like real people. It’s difficult to empathize with or try to read much nuance into characters when they all feel like living philosophy textbooks. I’d estimate at least half if not more of the dialogue spoken by our main characters has this feeling, and while it starts off somewhat charming, it gets grating and boring far before the end of our narrative.

This problem is compacted even further by just how poorly Wild Arms 2 is at even exploring these themes. Characters like Brad feel woefully underdeveloped via their actions despite the amount of text that tries to convince us otherwise, and characters like our last main party member feel incredibly rushed and poorly portrayed with how weirdly late they join the party compared to everyone else. The game is far too attached to its few big important set pieces, so it takes almost until the end of disc 1 for *any* catharsis towards fighting our antagonists to take place either, and these antagonists *also* have the misfortune of feeling both far too verbose and paradoxically far too underdeveloped to really have much to contribute thematically. While all of that very terminology-heavy dialogue can be quite difficult to sift through at times, one nice thing about the game being *so* straightforward with its ideology is that it’s actually very clear that they simply have no idea what they’re talking about.

This is a story that ultimately has no idea what heroes are or how they relate to society. I’ll admit that it has some very interesting points to make about how heroes are just as much contributors to society as they are scapegoats to society’s problems, but there just isn’t a unifying ideology behind all of those ideas. At the end of the story, we’re left with a world almost identical to the one we started with, and the only things really different are that a few people are dead and the world ending threats have been dealt with. For a game with so much to critique about heroes and society, it is actually one hell of a pro-status quo piece of fiction. It has societal critiques, yes, but in just how aggressively it fails to imagine a world not entirely defined by what it is critiquing, we’re left with a piece of fiction that feels extremely performative in the ideas it’s presenting despite the earnestness with which those ideas are often delivered. Whether this is down to the author’s bad politics (which I would say is at least partially true) or simply his inability as a writer is impossible to say for sure, but what I can pretty easily say for certain is that what he wrote for Wild Arms 2 makes for an experience that is as bloated textually as it is underwhelming thematically.

Mechanically, Wild Arms 2 is also quite a mixed bag compared to its predecessor. On a very base level, we still have a very straightforward turn-based RPG. However, there have been quite a lot of interesting new mechanics thrown into the mix to try and make something a bit more engaging. There are a few quality of life changes carried over and/or enhanced from the first game. For example, you can still equip items mid-battle and have it not consume a turn. Given that your party is now more than three members, however, they’ve extended this into also being able to swap characters between the fighting and reserve members all without consuming turns as well, which is also nice. We’ve also kept our tool-based dungeon exploration, and while it’s still hardly Legend of Zelda, this Lufia 2-style item use in dungeons does help mix things up a bit (even if this game still has some puzzles that are ungodly difficult and/or have no qualms about wasting a LOT of your time, very much like the first game did).

They’ve also tossed a few interesting gimmicks into world and dungeon exploration as well. As far as world exploration goes, instead of using the whole narrative contrivance of like, “Oh there are a pile of sheep here who don’t want to move, so you just can’t go in this dungeon yet”, we have the dowsing system. On the world map, you can press square to let out a ping, and if there’s a dungeon (or hidden item) nearby within the radius, it’ll appear. The interesting part is that you’ll only uncover a dungeon if you know about it (or it’s narratively time for you to be able to access it), so no going anywhere early. It’s a bit absurd at times how you apparently just can’t see the massive tower that’s allegedly in front of you yet, but it’s a clever design feature regardless. They’ve also given you the ability to avoid most random battles. Before an encounter, a little exclamation mark bubble will appear above your head. If it’s white, pressing X (or doing any action like using a tool or opening your inventory) will avoid the encounter. You still can’t avoid the red exclamation mark bubble encounters, but they stop appearing if you’re a high enough level compared to the enemies around you. It’s another very smart step in making the game just that much nicer to play.

The biggest new change, however, is that MP is completely gone. In its place, the FP (Force Point) system from the first game is now doing double duty. Force Points are gained by dealing damage through normal attacks or taking damage yourself. Like in the first game, you will unlock through the course of the story new Force Abilities of rank 1 to 4 that consume FP in multiples of 25 (level 1 consumes 25, level 2 consumes 50, and so on). However, now all of your spells and special abilities are also now linked to FP, but very importantly they do *not* actually consume FP. For example, your basic heal spell has a 5 FP requirement. As long as you have at least 5 FP, you can cast heal as many times as you want and it never consumes FP. Only your big Force Abilities actually consume FP. Removing MP is a very noble endeavor, as it means you get to let loose a lot more in battle, but it has a lot of unfortunate side effects too.

First of all we have quite the double edged sword of being able to go as all out as you want in every battle. Because few resources are truly scarce, this means we run into the problem that encounters are eminently solvable. Once you’re powerful enough to just be able to wipe out your enemies before they can get a turn, there’s no reason not to just do that every time, and as the game isn’t terribly hard most of the time, this means random encounters start to feel very time wasty very fast. Additionally, not every character is benefited equally by this bonus. Particularly Ashley and Brad who have their special guns which require ammo, they get no such benefit, and their freedom from MP matters very little when they’re still very much limited by how much ammo you have.

While we’re on the topic, the guns (also confusingly still called ARM weapons just like they were in the first game, but no relation to the ARMS group you’re now a part of) really feel like a mechanical afterthought. Whereas in the first game every gun had a limit of upgrades, it was more along the lines of “every gun can have its power, accuracy, and ammo pool upgraded X-many times”, and it made for a nice money sink in the end game, now all guns can only be upgraded ten times across *all* upgrades. This means that Ashley in particular, who lacks a Force Ability like Rodi did in the last game or Brad has in this game to make the gun they fire next have a 100% chance to hit, has his guns double worthless. Not only will they always be some combo of either too weak or too inaccurate due to this baffling new constraint on their power, but given the super form Ashley unlocks quite quickly that he needs a full Force Power bar to activate, it makes his non-FP generating guns all the more worthless. Brad’s guns already feel like a poorly balanced afterthought compared to other character’s special abilities, but Ashley’s really feel beyond pointless and very poorly considered as a mechanic.

Speaking of balance, now seems like about a good a time as any to talk about balance. Wild Arms 1 had a decent overall balance. While some bosses were awful difficulty spikes that you had to just get lucky to beat, it had an overall decent difficulty balance if you used your buffs intelligently and kept on top of your healing. It was still overall a bit too easy, as the same strategies worked too often on most things, but it at least required some thought. Here, as Wild Arms 2 seems to love doing with all things, we have that same problem from the first game but amplified even worse.

First of all, we have to mention the personal skill system. Every level up you get, you get a personal skill point, and these can be spent at personal skill point stores to give yourself passives. There are all range of passives, but some demand getting as soon as possible while others are basically worthless, and which are the former and which are the latter aren’t always obvious. Sure, it’s obvious that you should get the skill to increase the amount of HP you receive on level up as soon as you can, but it’s a lot less obvious that you’ll need the passives to decrease incoming physical damage and then the ones to do the same for incoming spell damage as soon as possible too. If you don’t have those passives (and even if you do, quite frankly), there are a lot of bosses that are absurdly hard and it feels like you can really do nothing but get lucky enough to damage race them successfully.

This is then further amplified as a problem in that, while you can buy basic healing items at the start of the game, after the third or fourth dungeon, they completely disappear from shops. You can actually *never* buy HP healing items of any strength after that point, and you’ll need to get any you might want by grinding them off of enemies. And remember, MP also doesn’t exist, so there’s no healing yourself with spells in between battles either. Combined with how this game still lacks FF-style tents to full heal outside of inns (and also STILL somehow lacks the ability to save on the world map), this is a really mean spirited obstacle that feels like a very unfair disadvantage to the player. Having to ration your healing items like it’s some sort of survival horror game (when the rest of the game really isn’t set up in a way to encourage that) just flat out sucks, full stop. Being that you have no worthwhile consumables to buy nor do you have really meaningful gun upgrades to buy either, it means money overall is damn near worthless the entire game. Being unable to buy more healing items doesn’t make the game particularly harder and it certainly doesn’t make it any more fun. It just makes it more frustrating, and it’s easily the biggest impact on the game’s already very needlessly mean difficulty curve.

Aesthetically, this is a pretty well done game. It’s got some *noticeable* loading times. They’re not particularly bad, but you will almost certainly notice how long it takes to get to the world map compared to some other games, and it can be a little grating here and there. Still, character sprites in locations look very nice and have a ton of character to all of their little animations, and 3D models and monster designs are very cool and well done too. The music is also, once again, absolutely excellent, and not slacking on the music is thankfully one thing this game absolutely has in common with its predecessor.

Verdict: Hesitantly Recommended. The fact that I’m well aware that the English translation of this game is infamously awful does affect this recommendation level somewhat, but only slightly. Even if the English translation were stellar, I couldn’t recommend this game any higher if I tried. It’s a thoroughly middle of the road RPG in an era where there was no shortage of absolutely stellar RPGs either already out or about to come out, and there’s really just not a ton of reason to play it. It’s not an awful game by any means, but with all of the other PS1 and PS2 RPGs out there you could burn 40 hours on, your time is simply better spent elsewhere.
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TheSSNintendo
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by TheSSNintendo »

Finished Eastward on Steam.
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Raging Justice
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Re: Games Beaten 2023

Post by Raging Justice »

Sea of Stars

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So this is the prequel to The Messenger, it feels like a mash up of Chrono Trigger and some of the Mario based rpgs from Nintendo. The timed button presses to augment your attacks or defend against enemy attacks is very Mario, as are the mini games required for special attacks. The combo attacks involving multiple party members, the lack of random encounters, a story line involving time manipulation, and the overall 90s rpg vibe are all things that feel very Chrono Trigger. There are minor elements that bring to mind other games too. You can swap in inactive party members during combat and see the turn order of enemies like Final Fantasy X. You can interrupt certain enemy attacks bringing to mind games like Grandia (though the game adds its own unique spin on that).

It's a pretty great game overall, particularly for fans of The Messenger as it ties into that game in so many ways. Though as a prequel game, I would say that being familiar with The Messenger isn't required.

I did have some issues with it though, and seeing some of the online discussion of the game shows that I'm not alone.

The main characters of Zale and Valere feel very much like Marty/Mary Sue types, just flawless heroes in every way. The game's treatment of Garl is a bit annoying. He's this super positive (to an annoying degree) and kind of naive character (he does dumb things at various points in the game's story). Despite these flaws, the game props him up like he's the greatest human being walking God's green earth, even more so than Zale and Valere, the two characters that the plot would have you think are the heroes of the story. The game goes a bit too far in trying to make players like him, which ends up having a bit of the opposite effect. The game also gives you no context for why he is able to do some of the amazing things he does in the game's story. The story largely revolves around Zale, Valere, and Garl, yet I found other characters in the game far more likable and interesting than they are, like these three:

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Sea of Stars is a bit darker and serious in tone than The Messenger. It does try to incorporate some comedy at times though. However, some of the comedy doesn't work as well as The Messenger, like a certain stupid pirate character named Yolande. The previous game had some very clever writing and a lot of hilarious moments. If you're coming into this looking for laughs, there's a lot less of them than The Messenger.

The combat can get a little annoying and repetitive at times. One of the problems with Sea of Stars (and a lot of indie rpgs these days), is the overbearing approach to keeping the game's difficulty balanced. What this means is that you never feel like you're getting stronger in this game. You level up, you increase your stats in various ways, and yet it all feels meaningless. The game makes sure that enemies are always close to the overall power level of your party. This can make battles feel like a slog as you get tired of not having any way to QUICKLY dispatch of enemies. I miss the old days of rpgs where you could level grind for a while and stomp your enemies into the ground, but this new breed of indie rpg developers just don't allow that sort of thing anymore. It's VERY hard to grind in Sea of Stars. The level up requirements are very high and like I said, it feels like the game always keeps enemies close to your level anyway. Inspired by classics my ass. I feel like a lot of indie devs have not actually PLAYED the classics they seem to be so inspired by. There are "relics" in the game that allow you to optionally reduce the game's difficulty in various ways. The combat never gets hard enough that you need them though, it's just that the combat can get kind of boring and tedious so you might end up wanting to use the relics just to speed battles up. It's also hard to avoid combat despite being able to see enemies on the map. That's kind of annoying too. The fact that you can't regenerate MP or HP after battles also means that you will often enter into a fight at a disadvantage, another reason why combat can feel like a slog, unless you're willing to constantly backtrack to a campfire/save point to regenerate health and MP. Yeah, combat in this game has a lot of issues despite having some fun mechanics that I talk about in the RPG progress report thread.

Also, the game tells you not to stress too much over mastering the button timing in combat. However, I can tell you that in various parts of the game enemies and bosses did a metric fuck ton of damage to my party when I was not getting down the timing to defend against their attacks properly. Learning timing becomes even more critical when facing enemies who frequently get turns (particularly in a part of the game where the number of available party members gets reduced) or when you are in fights where you have little MP. Basically, situations where you are offensively limited and have to focus more on defense. The game is very poor about indicating the timing for a lot of stuff. It doesn't actually show you anything so it is largely trial and error. There is a relic you can activate to more clearly indicate the timing of things, but why should I have to activate a cheat for something that should already be built into the game? Sometimes the relics just seem like band aids for poor design rather than "accessibility options".

Lastly, the story can feel a bit convoluted. There's a LOT of lore to Sea of Stars. While this can be fun if you have played The Messenger and enjoy making all the connections between the two games, the amount of stuff going on in the plot of Sea of Stars feels like a bit much at times. There's so much stuff involving prophecies, fate, time travel, gods, ancient civilizations, alternate realities, flashbacks, etc, etc, etc. Sometimes it all feels like a bit much. Sometimes I feel like the game is just trying to cram in too much world building and lore into its story.

If all this sounds very negative, I can say that I still found the game compelling enough to finish. It does have some pretty memorable moments including some very fun callbacks to The Messenger. The retro graphics are great, the animation of the sprite based characters in particular is super impressive. There are also a few nice animated cutscenes that are seamlessly incorporated into the game at various times. You usually won't see them coming when they happen. The world map also looks utterly amazing. The game is very polished in a lot of ways. You can't permanently miss getting anything for example as you can always back track to any location and there are even trophy/achievement trackers. The music is good, though some of the best tracks are the ones remixed from The Messenger. Some of the bosses are very cool. There's also a "story teller" in the game, much like The Shopkeeper in The Messenger. Her stories are fun and interesting. They are entirely optional, though honestly, I feel like you kind of NEED to listen to her stories to follow some things in the game's convoluted story. There is also optional stuff to keep the game interesting like collectibles, fishing, town building, a quiz game show, a combat arena, and a mini game involving what the game calls "wheels" and "figurines". The mini game depends a lot on luck though, more so even than the card mini game in the Voice of Card games from Yoko Taro.

Sea of Stars is worth playing, though it has more issues than the various glowing, flavor of the week, game reviews from game journalists and youtube influencers will admit.
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