Games Beaten 2024

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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by Ack »

1. Live A Live (RPG)(Switch)
2. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (Action)(Switch)
3. Pathway (Strategy [Tactics])(PC)
4. Rewind or Die (Horror Adventure)(PC)

5. Tomb Raider (Action Adventure)(PC)
6. Remnant: From the Ashes (Action RPG)(PC)

Remnant is an interesting hybrid of titles that melds into a post-apocalyptic, dimension-spanning action RPG. It combines third person shooting, rudimentary stealth and cover, an array of special powers and summons, melee combat, and a campaign that has both randomized elements and major decision points that change certain events completely. Also, it's very open in how you build your character, making for a world that you'll only see maybe a quarter of the first time through if you're lucky.

The Root, a plant like hivemind bent on interdimensional domination, have taken over the planet. Humanity is on its last legs, and you happen to be one of the unlucky few still surviving in the ruin of the Earth. Everywhere is overrun. So, to try and save the planet, you grab some gear and guns and get walking to find a scientist named Ford, the last hope for a dying world.

And over the course of the journey, you'll discover multiple other places with their own problems; one reduced their planet to a wasting desert in an apocalypse to cleanse the Root but now worries that its meager existence is enough to attract them back. One is a swamp world where an insectoid hive mind wants to compete directly with the Root. One is a world untouched but dealing with an ongoing rebellion between its social classes, a revolution sparked by humanity's simply visiting it. Add in the expansion, and you also get more of the Earth countryside as well as a wintry planet where tribes of ratmen hold sway and the Root is actively attempting to infiltrate. There is a lot of variance, with each offering something unique in how it appears and in the enemies encountered.

That's a good thing, because it means you'll likely change up your load out as you go too. Found equipment is permanently unlocked, so as you gather more items, armor, and weapons, you can swap between them as you need to. And weapons and armor can also be upgraded through a leveling system, so you'll want to be sure you try to keep your gear up to date, but also means nothing ever fully falls behind. I'm currently running around wearing what is the starting armor for a different character class, because classes only impact starting gear and immediate skill access; you'll gain all of it eventually as you journey.

Similar to all found gear being usable are the traits, how you level your character in Remnant. Traits must be found, but every time you gain a flat amount of experience, you gain a point that can be spent to increase a trait's level. They cap out at 20, and there are somewhere around 40 in the game, but they each provide some kind of benefit, such as raising health max, crit chance, melee damage resistance, reload speed, and so on. You have a lot of ways to build, and once you have completed your first time through the base campaign, you unlock access to an item that lets you completely rebuild your traits however you like. I started as a melee-focused neophyte, swapped to a sniper-wielding tank, and now rely heavily on lighter gear that enables me to easily summon a pet dog which does a lot of the hunting for me.

But you don't start this way, and that's the biggest weakness for the game. Remnant requires you find all of this stuff, so at the beginning, you're extremely limited in what you can do and have to hope the RNG is good to you. There are some ways to influence it, such as killing bosses in specific ways to gain access to specific weapons, but it takes a bit to get on its feet. I actually put the game down for months after only a few hours, only to come back and learn I was just short of it opening up and becoming truly interesting.

Also, if you don't like big, Dark Souls-inspired boss battles, then Remnant probably isn't for you. Because each boss fight offers unique aspects, but they all rely on your ability to learn how to dodge, when to attack, and what builds are best suited for it. Some of these are truly monstrous, and some are almost beautiful to behold, but all will likely kick your ass the first few rounds unless you've put a fair number of hours into the game.

Don't give up, though; Remnant's rewards take time to reach, but they are reachable. I've enjoyed myself and still have a lot more to do despite already putting in a solid chunk of time. And I'm looking forward to what new things I can discover, especially in the game's Adventure Mode, which creates smaller randomized level sets based on particular worlds that you choose. It's like a mini version of the game focusing on a single portion but letting you potentially visit content you never saw or revisiting to give you new things to enjoy. I continue to be impressed.
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Note
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by Note »

1. Lufia & the Fortress of Doom (SNES)

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2. OutRun 2 SP (PS2)

I'm a huge fan of OutRun, especially the Genesis port of the game, which is comfort food gaming for me. It's a game I enjoy revisiting every few months and spent a lot of time playing over the years. However, I never dove into the sequels until more recently. In December, I picked up OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast and have been enjoying checking out the various modes and unlocking the cars, stages, and additional modes in the game. One of the features in Coast 2 Coast is the ability to play one of the arcade iterations, OutRun 2 SP.

OutRun 2 SP, short for Special Tours, is an update to the original OutRun 2, that was originally released in arcades in 2004. OutRun 2 SP includes a new set of fifteen stages throughout the Americas, in addition to the original fifteen stages that were influenced by locations in Europe. There are also two new cars in addition to the original eight choices. The SP version also includes "rivals" along the routes; however, it's not mandatory that you finish the race before them, they behave more like another obstacle during the drive. Also, a few updates have been made to the interface here, including marking which route selection is the "easy" path once you reach a checkpoint. This is a nice touch for gamers new to the series.

Gameplay wise, I think the controls for the PS2 port are pretty precise and responsive, which you'll definitely need to take advantage of, as some of the later routes have some challenging twists and turns, and a lot of obstacles to avoid. Another very important mechanic, which took me some time to get down, and I'm still improving on aspects of, is the drifting. OutRun 2 utilizes a drifting mechanic for taking turns, which locks your speed in place while going around a turn. I felt that the original OutRun port on the Genesis was a very tight experience, and one minor mistake could decide whether or not you'd make it to a checkpoint. Well, I think the easier routes and challenges here a bit more forgiving but the later routes and races definitely feel very much in line with the experience of the original game.

Regarding the graphics, I think the game looks great on the PS2 and still hold up very well today. Many of the stages are bright and vibrant, and there are a lot of different environments to marvel at. I actually wish there was some type of screenshot ability here, because there are some routes I wish I could take a second to enjoy a bit more, but the race must go on! The soundtrack here also has a large selection of tunes, including the original music from the older games, and more up to date remixes of those songs. There are also some new songs thrown into the mix. I think the remixed versions of the original songs sound great, and I like to go with the update to Magical Sound Shower most of the time, but from time to time I'll also play the update to Splash Wave.

I'm really glad I finally checked out OutRun 2 SP. It's cool to get a well done arcade port here and see various endings from the different routes, which is another aspect this title has in common with the original game. It was always fun to watch some of the quirky and embarrassing endings, and that goes for this version too. I'm looking forward to finishing more challenges in Coast 2 Coast mode and besting that version of the game as well. Check this one out!
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Note
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by Note »

1. Lufia & the Fortress of Doom (SNES)
2. OutRun 2 SP (PS2)

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3. Dynamite Cop (DC)*

I originally got Dynamite Cop around the time the game was released, as I loved beat 'em ups during the 16-bit generation, and was always hungry and interested for a similar game on a newer console at the time. Dynamite Cop is the sequel to Die Hard Arcade, without the movie license attached to it, and there was an additional arcade only sequel released in JP, that I've yet to play (hopefully one day). The game provided some laughs and co-op fun for my cousins and I back then, but I hadn't revisited it in quite a while and was in the mood for some Dreamcast gaming.

You can choose between three characters in Dynamite Cop, Bruno Delinger, Jean Ivy, and Eddie Brown. There are also a few secret characters that can be unlocked as well. For this particular playthrough, I played as Bruno, as that's my usual go to character in the game. The amount of moves is fairly decent, as you have a punch, kick, two jump attacks, a few throws, a special move, and can grab a ton of different weapons throughout each room. When the game starts, you have the option to choose between Mission 1, 2, or 3. This is actually one of the issues I have with the game. It's cool to pick which mission to start on, and while each one begins differently, you end up seeing the same bosses and there are similar areas in each choice.

With each mission being quite short, I think Sega AM1 should've taken the time to make each mission unique with its own settings and different bosses. Once you beat all three missions, you unlock three more; however, they still use the same settings as the first three. There are also illustration items that you can find throughout the game, and if you collect them all, you unlock a different version of the Bruno character. Another gameplay mechanic I should mention is the quick time events that occur between rooms, similar to the original Die Hard Arcade. I personally don't mind these sequences, as I think it keeps the player engaged.

I do think the game looks quite good on the Dreamcast, and there are an interesting mix of settings throughout the cruise ship you're battling through. Including a casino area, a kitchen, a dining hall, a variety of stores, a large meat freezer, and an outdoor island area, where a purple bizarrian from Golden Axe makes a cameo. Also, some of the voice acting is hilarious, and used to make my cousins and I laugh quite a bit. If your character dies or you get a game over, the baddies will let you hear it and throw some rude taunts your way. The soundtrack here is mediocre IMO, while it's not bad, I also don't find it too memorable.

Overall, I think Dynamite Cop is a fun romp on the Dreamcast; however, I don't think it reaches the heights it could have with some changes. I really wish Sega made each mission more unique and the overall game was longer. If you're a fan of beat 'em ups, I'd recommend checking it out, but due to the short length, you'll be done with it relatively quickly.
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by prfsnl_gmr »

My man @note absolutely stomping some Sega classics! Great reviews!

…..

1. Chico and The Magic Orchard DX (Switch)
2. Dusk ‘82 (Switch)
3. Dusk (Switch)
4. Rock Boshers DX (Switch)
5. Metal Slug 4 (Neo Geo)
6. Bleed 2 (Switch)
7. Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)


My son and I played though Meta Slug 4 the other day, and it was a lot of fun. It’s a bit of a return to form for the series after the absolutely bonkers Metal Slug 3. It’s considerably shorter and much more fair than that game, and we used far fewer credits to get through it. That said, and while it’s a fine game, it doesn’t reach Metal Slug 3’s (insane) heights and felt like a bit of a letdown after playing through that game so recently.

Bleed 2 is a twin-stick shooter/run-n-gun action-platformer that is pure adrenaline from start to finish. It’s frequently one boss battle after another, and like its predecessor, it plays a bit like an indie Gunstar Heroes (which is great). Bleed 2 is a bit less dependent on the first game’s really cool time-slowing mechanic, and it doesn’t feature nearly as many weapon customization options. Accordingly, and while it’s still a fine game, it felt like a bit of step down from its awesome predecessor (kind of like how Metal Slug 4 is a bit of a step down from Metal Slug 3).

Kid Icarus: Uprising is both amazing and infuriating. It’s mostly a third-person rail shooter/action game that plays a lot like a portable, kid-friendly Sin & Punishment. That is, you use the 3DS analog stick to move Pit, the stylus to aim a reticule, and a trigger to attack.

I absolutely loved so much of this game. First, it’s gorgeous. The environments are varied, and everything about the game looks great. The flying/rail shooter sections in each level are particularly stunning, with Pit soaring over scenic vistas, flying through canyons, and shouting through narrow tunnels. The 3D effect in these sections is just amazing (and makes me wish Nintendo would implement something like it again). With 25 chapters and a deep weapon and power customization system, the game also features a tremendous amount of meaningful content. (It also features a lot of fun meaningless content, like unlockable 3D models, pictures, music, etc., and I suspect “completing” this game would take nearly 50 hours.) Finally, the game is a love letter, to the NES original, and all of that games weird enemies (including the Eggplant Wizard!) are back. The game also occasionally shows scenes from the NES original on the bottom screen, and the music occasionally switches back to the NES original’s classic tunes.

Three things I really loved about the game, though, were its episodic narrative, its great dialogue, and innovative approach to difficulty. First, the game’s story really goes off the rails after the seventh chapter, with Pit fighting space pirates(!), flying though alternate dimensions, and fending off swarms of cubist monsters. All of these various narrative threads are tied up neatly by the game’s conclusion, and the whole experience is very satisfying. More than that, the game’s characters talk constantly throughout Pit’s adventure. This banter is well-written, funny, and consistently entertaining. (Particularly funny is the fact that all the characters know they’re in a video game, but they’re not supposed to mention it.) As a result, the whole game has a running color commentary, and it adds to the experience tremendously. Finally, the game takes a really unique approach to difficulty. Specifically, you can adjust the difficult on a sliding scale between 0.0 and 9.0. At 0.0, Pit is invincible, and you can’t lose. At 9.0, the game is a grueling challenge for even experienced players with the game’s best gear. The game selects a “try this” difficulty for you at the start of each chapter, and my playthrough was in the 4.0 to 6.0 range, generally. You also bet hearts at the beginning of each level, with the amount of hearts bet corresponding to higher difficulty levels. Of course, completing a level at a higher difficulty renders more hearts, giving the game a really beat risk/reward mechanic.

OK…what I didn’t like, and what really soured the experience for me…First, the camera. It’s fine during the flying/rail shooting sections. During the third-person action sequences, however, you have to control it by swiping the stylus. It’s unintuitive, and since you also use the stylus to control the reticule, it makes many parts of the game needlessly frustrating. (At times, I felt like I was fighting the camera more than the underworld’s henchmen!). The controls are also consistently uncomfortable, and I never found a way to play comfortably. The game shipped with a 3DS stand, which helps a bit, but requires you to sit at a table or counter to play. This meant that I rarely played the game for that long before needing to put it down and relax my hands a bit.

So…in sum, Kid Icarus: Uprising is a game I really liked and admired, and I’d be delighted with a remaster or sequel. The camera and controls drag it down a bit too much for me to recommend more heartily, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series.
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by Ack »

Dynamite Cop is the video game equivalent of the high five bicep flex from Predator. Such an awesome game.
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by Flake »

January
Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox Series)
Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch)
Fire Emblem Engage (Switch)
Knights of the Round (Switch)
Megaman: The Power Battles (Switch)

February
Metroid Other M (WiiU)
Metroid Zero Mission (WiiU)


I continue to pray to the Metroid Gods for any news about Prime 4. Both Metroid Other M and Metroid Zero Missions are replays but they were still a good time.

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One of the things I talked with the gang in the Slack channel about was that my view on Metroid Other M continues to become kinder and kinder as the years go on. Even thorny issues like Samus' more vulnerable, more submissive characterization being at odds with her established behavior has begun to make sense to me. Now that I'm older and I've lived through times good and bad and come to experience what loss and trauma can do to a person, I not only understand what they were trying to do with Samus but I actually think Nintendo and Team Ninja succeeded.

There is some exposition and sign posting that would have helped communicate the situation to the player but it comes down to this: Not a lot of time has passed since Super Metroid. With Fusion, Dread and even the Prime games, you get the sense that a good couple of years have passed between adventures. Samus has had time to get her head together, to deal with the various injuries to her body and psyche.

Metroid II, Super Metroid, and Other M seem to take place in rapid succession. Other M cannot be more than a few months after Super Metroid. Samus is still grappling with the loss of the first familial bond she made since Ridley and the Space Pirates eradicated the Chozo who took her in as a child. Suddenly she's thrust into a mission and encounters Adam Malkovich, the closest thing to a father figure she ever had since she left Zebes. Of course she's going to be off balance. Of course she's going to try to resume that relationship and given that their relationship was one of commander and subordinate, of course she's going to try to fit into his command structure.

What Other M does not seem to get much credit for is that the deconstruction of Samus Aran is fast. The player is not plagued with a novel's worth of speech and explanation for this subdued Samus. This lets the game get into the re-construction of her confidence and bold character. As she digs into the mystery of the Bottle Ship, she quickly realizes that she's moved beyond the person she was when she last worked with Adam. Once it is clear that Adam and the troopers shouldn't be in this situation at all, that she is the only one capable of handling this disaster, she casts that subordinate mindset aside, even going so far as to activate one of her powers and jokingly say "Any Objections, Adam?" to herself.

When this game came out in 2010, I was still in my 20s and I think I wanted my heroes to be as invincible as I myself felt at that age. Samus would always be that badass from Super Metroid, leaving nothing but explosions and saved animals in her wake. Now I appreciate the pieces of Metroid's narrative where Samus is actually shown to struggle. Her turmoil in Other M, her anger and fear in Dread, or her physical decline as she deals with phazon poisoning in Prime 3. She is still going to save animals and explode planets but I appreciate that she has to struggle a little bit in the process.
Maybe now Nintendo will acknowledge Metroid has a fanbase?
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by TheSSNintendo »

Donkey Kong Country 3
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by prfsnl_gmr »

Flake wrote:January
Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox Series)
Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch)
Fire Emblem Engage (Switch)
Knights of the Round (Switch)
Megaman: The Power Battles (Switch)

February
Metroid Other M (WiiU)
Metroid Zero Mission (WiiU)


I continue to pray to the Metroid Gods for any news about Prime 4. Both Metroid Other M and Metroid Zero Missions are replays but they were still a good time.

Image

One of the things I talked with the gang in the Slack channel about was that my view on Metroid Other M continues to become kinder and kinder as the years go on. Even thorny issues like Samus' more vulnerable, more submissive characterization being at odds with her established behavior has begun to make sense to me. Now that I'm older and I've lived through times good and bad and come to experience what loss and trauma can do to a person, I not only understand what they were trying to do with Samus but I actually think Nintendo and Team Ninja succeeded.

There is some exposition and sign posting that would have helped communicate the situation to the player but it comes down to this: Not a lot of time has passed since Super Metroid. With Fusion, Dread and even the Prime games, you get the sense that a good couple of years have passed between adventures. Samus has had time to get her head together, to deal with the various injuries to her body and psyche.

Metroid II, Super Metroid, and Other M seem to take place in rapid succession. Other M cannot be more than a few months after Super Metroid. Samus is still grappling with the loss of the first familial bond she made since Ridley and the Space Pirates eradicated the Chozo who took her in as a child. Suddenly she's thrust into a mission and encounters Adam Malkovich, the closest thing to a father figure she ever had since she left Zebes. Of course she's going to be off balance. Of course she's going to try to resume that relationship and given that their relationship was one of commander and subordinate, of course she's going to try to fit into his command structure.

What Other M does not seem to get much credit for is that the deconstruction of Samus Aran is fast. The player is not plagued with a novel's worth of speech and explanation for this subdued Samus. This lets the game get into the re-construction of her confidence and bold character. As she digs into the mystery of the Bottle Ship, she quickly realizes that she's moved beyond the person she was when she last worked with Adam. Once it is clear that Adam and the troopers shouldn't be in this situation at all, that she is the only one capable of handling this disaster, she casts that subordinate mindset aside, even going so far as to activate one of her powers and jokingly say "Any Objections, Adam?" to herself.

When this game came out in 2010, I was still in my 20s and I think I wanted my heroes to be as invincible as I myself felt at that age. Samus would always be that badass from Super Metroid, leaving nothing but explosions and saved animals in her wake. Now I appreciate the pieces of Metroid's narrative where Samus is actually shown to struggle. Her turmoil in Other M, her anger and fear in Dread, or her physical decline as she deals with phazon poisoning in Prime 3. She is still going to save animals and explode planets but I appreciate that she has to struggle a little bit in the process.


Amazing review, Flake. Other M is a great game, and I’m glad you’re appreciating it more.
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by PartridgeSenpai »

Partridge Senpai's 2023 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
* indicates a repeat
1. Terranigma (SFC)
2. Eastward (PC)
3. Pulse (PC)
4. Lost Ruins (PC)
5. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (PC)
6. Dropsy (PC)
7. Call of Juarez Gunslinger (PC)
8. Pokemon Ruby (GBA) *
9. Secret of Mana (SFC)
10. Fire Watch (PC)
11. Bokura (PC)
12. Romancing SaGa (SFC)

13. Trials of Mana (SFC)

After playing/suffering through Secret of Mana a few weeks back, this was still nonetheless a game firmly on my radar. No matter who I talked to about it, this was a game basically universally agreed to be flat-out better than SoM. Where SoM is the experiment, Seiken Densetsu 3 (or “Trials of Mana” as it’s known these days) was the fully realized product, a capstone for the series at the tail end of the console generation. SoM was a game that I did not enjoy very much, to say the least, but there was just so much room for improvement, I couldn’t help but be curious about its immediate successor here. I played through Duran’s route (paired up with Angela and Charlotte), and it took me about 31-ish hours to beat the Japanese version of the game on real hardware.

Very similarly to the first two Seiken Densetsu games, SD3’s story revolves around the seeming end of the world. A long era of peace is coming to an end, and the forces of darkness gather. The Mana Tree has begun to wither, and the sword of mana at its base will decide the coming fate of the world. Unlike the previous two games, however, you have your choice of protagonist this time, and it really meaningfully changes the narrative depending on whom you choose. There are six choices, and there are three pairs among them of characters who have stories that relate to one another (for example in my run, Duran and Angela share a route, so there were extra story scenes for me between the two of them in addition to little glimpses of Charlotte’s route here and there). The overall content of the game doesn’t change super massively, but the final dungeon or two of the game as well as some earlier areas are affected by it, giving a neat incentive to replay the game for those who would be so inclined.

The actual narrative itself is sorta trying to do something interesting, but it ultimately falls a bit short. They’re trying to tell a story about how, at the end of everything, bad and selfish actors will nonetheless try to devour the corpse of the old order to try and come out as kings of a wasteland rather than try and fix things for the better. It’s interesting, especially how, depending on your route, which of these competing enemy factions comes out on top changes. However, the pacing of the story just doesn’t really allow the narrative to do much with this beyond having an interesting premise. While there are certainly attempts for character arcs too, they don’t super tie in with that larger premise very well, and the narrative is casting *such* a wide net that it struggles to really get very deep into anything. It’s not bad by any means, and it’s got some fun and well done moments for sure (like how much of Duran’s route is just Star Wars XD), but it falls quite short of other late-SFC SquareSoft games in terms of how well its put together.

The reason that it just doesn’t have time to craft much story is no doubt because this cartridge is PACKED with so much game otherwise. With over a dozen major areas and almost twenty dungeons (or like areas) with bosses to match and bunches of enemies too, this game has so much in terms of present graphics and mechanics that it’s no surprise there wasn’t much space to fit more story into things. That gameplay in question is absolute derived from Secret of Mana, and they’ve thankfully taken a lot of big strides forward in making the systems present work a lot better.

You’re still a group of three party members (who slowly accumulate over the first few hours, so if you’re trying to play with a buddy, they’ll be waiting a while for their turn to play still, unfortunately), and being able to choose your group of three at the start gives you a wide degree of choice of what your prospective party will look like. There are certainly good and bad choices to make (foregoing anyone with any kind of meaningful support or casting magic is probably a bad idea, for starters), and I chose my party on a recommendation that it generally made for the easiest of the three playthroughs, but it’s very cool that there are so many options for you to engage with here. They’ve also improved the camera and allied AI significantly. Now that the camera focuses on player 1 all the time and the other two party members don’t *need* to be on screen, the basic gameplay of things is SO much better that it’s easy to look past the game being bumped from 3 possible human players down to only 2 (though I played it alone, for the record).

Unfortunately, as much as things have been improved significantly, there is a LOT that is still meaningfully flawed, and in many ways I found this game to be meaningfully worse to play than Secret of Mana. For starters, there’s the normal melee combat. They’ve ditched the visual of power bar charging from SoM, but the whole “charged swing” mechanic is still present. You can no longer swing between full charges, but now you know that every swing you’ll do will always be at full power. Those charges also come more quickly, and the combat is a lot faster as a result. There’s even a super meter your normal attacks charge than you can unleash for a stronger tech attack after enough normal bashings. However, I found this to be a very painful double-edged sword.

While combat is faster, yes, it’s also far harder to parse. Your characters are a lot better at attacking what you want them to attack, sure, but this means there’s basically no reason not to mash the normal attack button constantly because you’re going to want to just be smashing stuff as fast as you can. I found combat to be even more boring than in SoM if only because it felt it was even more mindless now. There was no reason at all to think about anything other than just staying near the enemy, mashing the button, and keeping as much attention on your health as possible to heal when needed. You REALLY need to keep tabs on your health as well, as the faster combat and JUST how powerful enemy spells and attacks can be (not to mention how brutal the level curve is, but I’m getting ahead of myself there) make it so you can die VERY fast, and there were a good few game overs I got where I barely had any idea of when our health had even gotten that low.
Additionally, this button mashing combat ends up dismissing a lot of the mid-battle popups almost immediately. While most of these don’t ultimately matter, as it’s not like you can react to incoming enemy attacks anyhow, these popups are actually what determine a lot of the pace of combat given they’re the big limiter on when spells and techs can be used. Unlike Secret of Mana, where spell casting time was effectively non-existent, spells now have casting times of a sort. You’ll need to wait your turn until enemies are done casting their spells, sure, but you’ll also need to wait until the loads of status effect popups from various spells and attacks have gone past as well before you can finally do things. Not only does this make healing mid-fight harder, as you’ll often be ambushed by a much longer wait to your next very needed healing spell than you thought you would, you actually can’t even bring up the item/spell ring menu while one of these popups is on screen. You cannot pause the game in any sort of menu while one of these popups is on screen, in fact, and frantically mashing the X button hoping that you’ll by some miracle be able to heal eventually is a very common part of gameplay, particularly in the back half and when you’re under-leveled.

Being under-leveled is another very common thing in this game, frankly. Your overall character level now dictates your strength far more (for both melee and spells), and with how powerful magic is for your enemies, having the HP to tank their attacks and the physical strength to kill them quick are the main determiners of whether you’ll win or lose any given encounter. While they’ve thankfully gotten rid of the requirement to grind up individual types of magic, the experience curve is so awful that you’ll need to stop what you’re doing and start grinding very frequently once you hit about 25% or so through the game.

I joked at one point during my playthrough that the gameplay loop was roughly 1 to 2 hours of progression followed by 1 to 2 hours of grinding, though I quickly realized that my joke reflected the actual gameplay loop far more than I realized it had. Sure, not needing to grind spells anymore is nice, but this game still has SO much grinding in it that it’s really hard to say the grind as a whole has improved any. I’d reckon at least 10 of my 30-ish hours are grinding, and that number is honestly probably too low. Secret of Mana was at its absolute weakest when it was hard, and this game being by and large much harder is doing nothing to help cover up those weaknesses. The only real solution you have to overcome that is just more hours of grinding. Even then, you’re not getting to the point where you’re making the post-grind fighting more fun, you’re more so just making cumbersome, unsatisfying combat go by quicker and/or be possible to win in the first place.

Ultimately, this game still suffers very badly from the main issues that plagued Secret of Mana so much. We’ve combined a 2D Zelda-style action game with a turn-based RPG, but we’ve kept few of the best parts of either. All of the moving around and swinging your sword in combat feels meaningless after a while because so most attacks (both yours and theirs) just can’t be dodged in the first place. Your positioning on the field of battle is almost entirely performative, so the main gameplay mechanics are just mashing the attack button, casting spells as soon as you can (though this game still suffers from lacking enough MP to get much use out of magic for more than half of the time you even have magic), and keeping as high a tab on your health/status effects as possible so you don’t get insta-mulched. Combat consistently struggles to be fun as a result, and bosses even more so.

Just like back in Secret of Mana, bosses are the worst excesses and features of normal combat’s issues magnified, but now it’s even worse because this game is so much harder. Where SoM’s bosses were either pushovers or arduous slogs (though both were always boring), now we have almost entirely arduous slogs even when they’re not too hard. You’re always on the lookout for a boss or even normal enemy with a move that auto-counters techs or spells leaving you instantly dead after two-chained powerful spells you have no way of surviving or healing between, and that’s an even worse gameplay loop once you factor in the popup problem before AND how bosses often slow down the game so badly that your button input reactions are even less responsive and difficult to access than they already were. Even if the final boss that took me 40 minutes to kill is a big exception, bosses being something I basically never enjoyed and always dreaded reaching was absolutely not an exception. Struggling to find the fun is a very persistent aspect of playing this game, especially when there’s effectively nothing to do but the horrible slog of combat.

While most games (RPGs, adventure games, or otherwise) from this era have very little in the realm of side content, this game genuinely has virtually nothing to do outside of story progression. Even something as simple as chests full of fun or valuable loot, or any loot at all, are something almost totally absent from this game (I counted maybe six total chests or findable items between all towns and dungeons I went through, and they always had normal consumables in them). Sure, it’s great that you can carry WAY more normal consumables now instead of SoM’s limit of 4, and it’s also great that the chests normal enemies drop no longer drop nearly such hilariously lethal traps, but we’re still left with the fact that there’s really never any need to explore in this game beyond just looking for the path forward.

The lack of side content wouldn’t be such a bad thing in a vacuum, but with just how badly combat struggles to be enjoyable paired along with an often not terribly present or engaging story means that combat being effectively the ONLY thing to do makes this game wear out its welcome far sooner than it otherwise might’ve. While the findable (and missable) weapon upgrades in SoM were a badly thought out mechanic, the lack of even anything as simple as that to hunt or explore for does not do this game much of a service. If you don’t love the cruddy, plodding combat, there’s sage little else here worth sticking around for, at least mechanically.

Aesthetically, this game does its SquareSoft lineage proud, at least. Just as you’d expect from a SquareSoft game from ’95, the music is excellent and so are the graphics. This game is made up of an incredible amount of environments and very well animated characters, enemies, and especially bosses (even if they can slow down the game an annoying amount sometimes). While there’s a lot mixed or negative you can say about this game, the graphics and music are absolutely not one of them.

Verdict: Not Recommended. While, on paper, this game may seem like a significant improvement over its predecessor, in practice I found it to be a game I enjoyed just about as much if not even less. If nothing else, this game did a lot to convince me that Secret of Mana’s whole thing of “2D Zelda-type game with turn-based RPG combat mechanics” isn’t simply something SoM gets wrong, and instead it’s just a fairly weak premise for an action-RPG full stop. It’s got a lot of neat ideas and features, and it’s certainly beautiful, but it just doesn’t come together into a fun gameplay experience. If you LOVE Secret of Mana, you might well enjoy this, but if you were skeptical of either game or didn’t SUPER love SoM, this is one to stay far, far away from.
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
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PartridgeSenpai
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Re: Games Beaten 2024

Post by PartridgeSenpai »

Partridge Senpai's 2023 Beaten Games:
Previously: 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
* indicates a repeat
1. Terranigma (SFC)
2. Eastward (PC)
3. Pulse (PC)
4. Lost Ruins (PC)
5. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (PC)
6. Dropsy (PC)
7. Call of Juarez Gunslinger (PC)
8. Pokemon Ruby (GBA) *
9. Secret of Mana (SFC)
10. Fire Watch (PC)
11. Bokura (PC)
12. Romancing SaGa (SFC)
13. Trials of Mana (SFC)

14. Castlevania Legends (GB)

I actually hadn’t even planned on playing this any time soon, but, going through my Switch and doing my usual checking of the new games on the Switch Online retro services, I found that I’d completely forgotten that this got added to the GameBoy service! One of the few classic Castlevania titles not on that collection that Konami released a few years back, this was a great excuse to finally play through this and see what the last GB Castlevania game is all about~. It took me about an hour and a half to play through the Japanese version of the game with my Switch Pro Controller without using save states or rewinds at all.

Legends follows the story of Sonia Belmont, the original first of the Belmont clan, as she goes through Dracula’s castle to put him down for the (at the time) canonically first time. You bump into Alucard along the way, but it’s a pretty straightforward and simple story that you’d expect from an action game on the original GameBoy. Konami eventually struck this from the canon, and I imagine it was a combination of them wanting to make a larger, grander “The Saga Begins!”-type game later via Lament of Innocence alongside how the little writing this game does have is a bit embarrassing in retrospect (like how in their one conversation together that we see, Sonia is not only Alucard’s protégé but also implied to be a romantic interest for him ^^;). As is, it’s an inoffensive and funny story that does more than enough to set up the action at hand, much like its many classic Castlevania brethren.

But stories, silly or no, really aren’t why we go to Classic-vanias after all. We’re here for gameplay! And this game, while certainly not the strongest of the Classic-vanias, is a pretty darn good one! Across the game’s five (or more, if you find the secret stuff, which I did not bother to do <w>), you’ll trek through Dracula’s castle fighting monsters and bosses along the way. Nothing surprising there. Reusing the same formula (and likely the same engine) as Casltevania Adventure, you’ve got your whip that has two upgrades with the second one being a fireball, but this game mercifully decides not to downgrade your weapon upon getting hit like Adventure does. The weirdest part of this game is how it handles sub-weapons. Instead of finding them throughout stages, you get a new one every time you beat a boss, and you can select one from the pause menu whenever you like. You also have a “Burning Mode”, which gives you temporary invincibility alongside a doubling of whip strength once per life, and it’s a HUGE help for the harder fights and sections (especially Dracula).

Beyond just the very forgiving addition of the burning mode, boss and level design is overall pretty solid while still trending towards the easier side. There are a few traps or mean-ish placements of enemies here and there, but playing carefully should see you past most obstacles on your first or second try regardless. Even with that, the game’s approach to dying is very kind too. Losing all of your lives and continuing puts you back at the last door checkpoint you went through exactly like just losing a life normally does, making this a very nicely forgiving Classic-vania, and a better game for it, in my opinion. It’s certainly not going to set your world on fire, and it might be a bit too easy if you’re a super fan of much harder, meaner games like Castlevania 1, but if you want something a bit more along the difficulty of a classic Mega Man game like I tend to prefer, then this is a great time to play through.

Aesthetically the game is very nice for a late-life original GameBoy game, though it’s hardly the nicest thing in the world to look at. You have lots of big, nice sprites and I never found it difficult to tell what I was looking at, but it’s not a particularly pretty game one way or the other, even if it’s not exactly ugly either. There is some slowdown as a result of all of the detail on the sprites and backgrounds, though it mercifully never really affected gameplay negatively. I usually appreciated the bullet time it provided, more than anything XD. While the graphics may be a bit middling, the music is however excellent. It’s largely a collection of classic Castlevania tunes, and these are some absolutely delightful 8-bit GameBoy renditions of them. Granted, you could quite fairly fault the game for lacking much originality in its soundtrack, I still think that the quality of the reused older songs more than makes up for it, especially in such a bite-sized Castlevania package~.

Verdict: Recommended. While it’s not a particularly stunning game one way or the other, I found this to be a really fun one! The wrinkles in its design don’t put it *quite* as high as the second GB Castlevania game for me, but if you’re a fan of 8-bit action games and/or Castlevania, then this is a game you’ll likely quite enjoy spending an afternoon with as I did~.
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
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