Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Final Fantasy VII Remake: Episode Intermission (2021) - I was intrigued by idea of Yuffie DLC for FF7R, but I have to say I'm surprised at how they did it. The story actually takes place during the Midgar section of the game (Specifically around the time Tifa becomes one of Don Corneo's girls), and involves Yuffie trying to steal a special materia from Shinra.

The premise is kind of a thin excuse to get Yuffie here for this part of the story, but I do like what it leads to. Like Yuffie being literal actual spy of sorts from Wutai who is willing to work various Avalanche branches is honestly a reasonable expansion of her character. The new character Sonon that she partners up with also works as a straight man to her general energetic antics. I also kind of like the new Avalanche characters (Billy Bob etc.), and its an interesting development that they feel Barret's splinter is too extreme in their violence.

It's also kind of interesting that Yuffie herself (And I'm guessing this meant to be representative of general views of Wutai) sees little distinction between Midgar and Shinra, they're all same organization to her. Even Avalanche she's not too thriller about, because hey they're all Midgar people that fought against her country. She gradually sees more nuance as story goes on, but its interesting characterization of her and global politics in FF7 world.

I also don't know what to make of the post-credits scenes in the DLC. Seeing Cloud's group finally make it to Kalm is neat, so I'm guessing that's where Part 2 of FF7R will start. Wtf is up with Zack at the Church though?

The gameplay is pretty much same as FF7R for the most part, though I like Yuffie's throwing star mechanic (Until the box breaking minigame).

As far as minigames go, I like them generally. The Fort Condor board game thing I think is neat revamp of minigame from the original, but it has me wondering how Fort Condor itself will work in FF7R's story (If it even will show up at all). Then there's the box breaking minigame, which is fine until the final challenge where you have to get 50,000 points by playing basically perfectly in a short amount of time, and well Yuffie's not quite accurate enough with her ninja star throwing and lock-on for this to be an easy task. I always found myself hitting some other target by mistake, and the building up enough ATB for special moves to break the 1500 point boxes was something of a hassle.



^I tried following several different guides to clear this minigame, but this video was by far the most helpful to me and eventually got me to clear the challenge. I'd recommend trying this to anyone in the future who needs help clearing this in the future if you're Trophy hunting or whatever. The EXP Up Materia you get for winning is really nice to have too.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Mega Man 2 (1988) - Yeah this is a huge step up from Mega Man 1. It really cuts down on a lot of more ridiculous bullshit that plagued the original- maybe not completely so (Some of the Wily stages are kind of whatever), but there's nothing as "C'mon guys what the fuck were you even thinking when you designed this"-inducing like the Yellow Devil fight. It's therefore not much of a surprise that I've seen a lot of people recommend starting the franchise with this game, because really its almost like if The Lost Levels somehow came out before Super Mario Bros. 1.

Part of what makes this game relatively painless is Metal Man's power allowing you to shoot in multiple directions (In addition to enemies dropping more health and ammo this time around it seems like, and bosses being generally weaker to their uh weaknesses), to the point I wonder if it harms the game design somewhat. Then again it was a nice relief after the difficulty of the first game, and its not like it trivializes absolutely everything.

Also what the fuck was that alien at the end?
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir (1988/2021) - When I was young, I was really big into Super Smash Bros. Melee and loved reading about the various Trophies in that game. Really that's how I found about a lot of classic Nintendo games before I really knew how to research things online. Melee's Trophies were especially notable because they described games that never left Japan, with this one below being a good example.

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This caught my eye because of how different the character seemed from Mario or Link or Kirby or even a Pokemon Trainer. Ayumi Tachibana just seemed like normal girl, and long before I ever knew what a "visual novel" or "adventure game" was I always wondered just how the heck gameplay would work in a game about detectives trying to solve mysteries. Even after I got interested in the VN scene and had a pretty good idea about how these sorts of things would play (Lots of talking/reading, clicking around etc.), I was still curious about what a VN from Nintendo themselves would be like.

Well luckily Nintendo had the first two Famicom Detective Club games not only remade, but localized into English on top of that which I have to respect immensely for something relatively niche. I do have to say though I'm a little surprised that Ayumi Tachibana herself actually isn't much of a presence in this first game (I'm guessing she's more relevant in the second game, which is a prequel to The Missing Heir. Its rather curious at any rate since apparently Masahiro Sakurai almost had her as a playable character in the Smash Bros. series at some point), and instead you play as the male protagonist in the artwork above who you can name yourself. Unfortunately he has amnesia.

The amnesia becomes a pretty significant plot point, as you find out that not only was your character already a detective (In mold of characters like Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew I guess) but one in the middle of an investigation. You were investigating the death of the matriarch of a family of rich assholes, but apparently somebody wanted you dead and now you have to find out why as well solving the general case you were hired for.

Its pretty basic but fun enough premise. The gameplay is also basic adventure game/VN style traveling around and talking to people, though sometimes I think the slick presentation of this modern version of the game is betrayed by its origins on the Famicom/NES. Like whenever you talk to somebody, you have a lot of options for not only dialogue but options as well.

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If you click on something like "Talk" here, you have a whole subset of topics you can ask this random old woman about.

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Which itself is fine, but sometimes you have to repeatedly hammer in on the same topic multiple times to progress the story. This can be a little awkward if you play without a guide, as you end up having to click on many options until they start repeating dialogue- and even then you might have to go back to checking each option if they've been presented with new information that makes them open up some more about a topic they were previously tight lipped about. This kind of thing is way more streamlined in modern games, but is less surprising in something that is from the 1980's.

I will also say its kind of weird how in the ending, some significant characters not only disappear but don't even get a "Where Are They Now" in the credits or anything, but again less surprising in a NES era game and this is basically a prettied up NES game, if nothing else.

Still I had fun with this first Famicom Detective Club game, and it gave me greater historical appreciation for not only this genre but for Nintendo as well, that they even had oddities like this in their catalogue (Is this the only first party Nintendo game that mentions suicide? It might be). I'll play the sequel game relatively soon, and I hope the third one eventually gets remade and the remake localized.
Last edited by Raxivace on Wed Jan 12, 2022 2:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Spider-Man (2018) - Finally played this.

I have to say this is a pretty solid game and almost certainly the best combat system I've seen in a Western game. I do think its pretty clearly a direct descendant from the Spider-Man games I played when I was younger (I.e. Spider-Man 2: The Movie: The Game is pretty clearly the skeleton for what Insomniac has done here), and it makes me wonder how close in actuality those older games are to how I remember them playing. The combat here though plays very well as you move on, even if some abilities and gadgets are kind of overpowered.

I do think the game suffers from some of the Ubisoft-style open world Tower finding thing to explore the map thing- this isn't terrible thing, but its so easy and can be done so early and quickly in the game that I have to wonder why they even bothered making it a mandatory, beyond it just being a thing in other big AAA games. Like I remember doing this same thing back in the original Assassin's Creed, and while its sensible in something like Zelda: Breath of the Wild it feels vestigial in Spider-Man.

I do think this game has a pretty reasonable difficulty curve until the DLC's. Really, before the DLC my only major complaint is that the bosses are fairly easy, to the point I'd honestly say early bosses like Kingpin and Shocker are harder than most of the later ones (They're also a bit QTE heavy for my tastes in general). I feel like once the DLC starts that things start getting really ridiculous even on Normal Mode with a Level 50+ character- nothing that's literally impossible, but man some of those enemy bases in the third DLC were having me pull my hair out, especially because of those big dudes with chainguns and the jetpack guys that have shield. Even the snipers and rocket guys start getting ludicrously quick and accurate in these parts.

The other big challenge in general I guess comes from any of the challenges that involve how quickly you can get to a location, to defuse a bomb or shoot down a drone or whatever. Webswinging feels good in broadstokes, but trying to get to precise spots in a quick manner is actually kind of tricky and sometimes felt harder than it should to me. Thankfully the Trophies related to these challenges only had you going for the Silver Medal ranks.

I have to agree with Jimbo that the story is probably one of the better Spider-Man tales in recent memory, even if the whole "Spider-Man, ally to good cops but not the few bad ones Until good cops are either dead or turn villain anyways" is a bit whatever. Sometimes this kind of stuff makes the game feel like its being pulled in different directions politically- like early on Jameson's podcast (lol) feels like a jab at Alex Jones types, but then other times he'll rant about something like those Towers I mentioned earlier. In context, they are Surveillance Towers maintained by the police that Spider-Man repairs and hacks into to track criminals, and Jameson complains these are "Orwellian". You know, he's right. But then other times he'll have insane conspiracies that Spider-Man is causing pollution (When in reality whole side-quest chain is about tracking down different environmental hazards), and well lol. I suppose in real life most people's politics don't fall into a neat category but it was a bit weird to see in a game like this. Kind of makes me wonder what the writing would be like in this game had it come out just a year or two later. Like Spider-Man expressing shock that a cop could just kill someone would have gotten a pretty "Are you kidding me dude" reaction in 2018, but in 2021 well after stuff like George Floyd's murder it borders on tone-deaf.

Still outside of that stuff which is mixed bag at best, the game really does a much better job. Like the whole "Mayor Norman Osborn" plot and the question of whether you just go full French Revolution on him a la Doc Ock or find some other manor of dealing with him is good. I like general notion of Parker's day to day personal affairs.

I also like that in this game, compared to the MCU that Peter Parker is poor. Like it actually features in the plot here that Parker can't pay his rent, needs to find a place to sleep, and hell at one point you have to track down a USB drive or something that got thrown out with his stuff and taken away by a garbage truck. This feels waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay closer to spirit of the original comics and such to me, as opposed to movies where he often feels like Tony Stark's servant boy. Like even implicitly, comparison that comes from being Peter being literally homeless at one point and the fact that Mayor Osborn lives in such luxury and the game even has you sneak into his fancy apartment feels like some kind of statement that reads into fact that wealth inequality exists. Hell, a homeless shelter even features heavily into the plot here. The general superheroics being kept to small scale and various villains (The ones the game actually cares about anyways) are given reasonable motivations, even if methods being extreme violence is what makes them villainous- it has me curious if the later games will actually have continue and address these themes further.

I also like general narrative structure of this being story of Peter Parker losing every last parental and mentor figure in his life. Octavius goes full Doc Ock (Albeit with maintained sympathetic qualities), Martin Li has all his Mister Negative stuff, Aunt May dies, and while Osborn isn't quite into this mold even his friend Harry's dad is ultimately a piece of shit even if Green Goblin plot never actually takes off in later installments. It becomes fitting then that this game ends with Peter taking Miles Morales under his wing, trying not to make mistakes of Octavius and Li while continuing good qualities of Aunt May.

The story in the DLC I'm less thrilled with. I like the episode about Black Cat, but the focus on, of all villains, Tombstone is kind of whatever. We kind of already did "supervillain gangster" with Kingpin AND Hammerhead in the base game too, so Tombstone felt redundant.

Its good game and story even if politically I find it a bit mixed, but the latter elements at least make it interesting.

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Pac-Man 99 (2021) - This is a "battle royale" version of Pac-Man similar to Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35. I had quite a bit of fun with it, though it has me wondering what classic game is going to get this treatment next- like I can't exactly imagine the world going crazy over Ice Climber 99 or Kid Icarus 99.

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Demon's Souls (2009/2020) - Bluepoint's sort of-remake of Demon's Souls. Its still mostly the same game, but a few glitches were removed (Item duping seems to be gone), a few mechanics slightly changed (The amount of Grass you can carry seems more limited now, in addition to having Weight), a few Rings were added etc. No change was particularly substantial except in the visual department (Very similar to what Bluepoint did with their Shadow of the Colossus remake), though I have to say having a game this pretty while still playing and feeling like the early PS3 title it still fundamentally is does lead to a bit of dissonance here.

It certainly doesn't help that I powered through Dark Souls 3 earlier this year, which at least mechanically is probably the most refined the Souls games ever got (And like most other games in the franchise, reused specific ideas from Demon's Souls almost exactly), but man Demon's Souls is rougher than I remembered in a lot of area.

Bosses are much more of a mixed bag than I remembered too here. Sure there's standout puzzle boss in Dragon God (Prototype of sorts for Bed of Chaos in Dark Souls, but as bad as Dragon God is I'd still say its slightly less obnoxious despite being from earlier title), but most are just kind of lame dudes you just whack a bunch in one way or another while they just sort of stagger about. I expected my Mage character to tear through most enemies, but not to the point where some dudes I could snipe from afar with Soul Arrow type spells. It really makes me appreciate just how good the Dark Souls' system not just for healing (Estus) but honestly magic casts was too, since with even with Demon's Souls Remake's more limited Grass system there were few points where I wasn't more than well enough equipped to deal with (Which makes me think that Item Duping back in the original Demon's Souls wasn't actually quite as much of a cheat as people say).

I'd say the biggest exception here that felt legitimately bad to play were the Maneaters in 4-2. The closest Dark Souls equivalent to them are the Bell Gargoyles, but they have early game boss stats as opposed to mid-game like the Maneaters, and their arena is much more friendly too. In Dark Souls, you may be restricted to a rooftop but you have a reasonably wide area of space to maneuver around. Demon's Souls has you on a fairly narrow bridge and the Maneaters LOVE to instant-KO you by knocking you off (Or you just roll off by accident because hey, its narrow).

So the fight against Maneaters is fairly challenging to begin with, but what really makes it and those insta-KO's feel so bad is the run to the boss itself. Demon's Souls boss runs are a little too long in general (Again, something Dark Souls got right a few notable exceptions), but 3-2 here is just ridiculous because of one single enemy.

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FUCK THE MINDFLAYERS SO HARD. One of these assholes is toward the top of a spiral staircase you have to run up to reach the boss and they are just a pain in the ass. They have a projectile that hits hard and was regularly one-shotting me in Soul Form, but they also have a stun they use if you get up close to them, which they will follow up with a painful grab that almost always killed me. You can take the run up this staircase slow, find the right spot to aggro the guy to hit him from a distance, or equip Thief's Ring so you can get up on him and hope you've managed your Stamina well enough to wail him to death, but it just feels obnoxious.

The run up to Old Monk in 3-3 has a staircase with TWO of these fuckers that's almost as obnoxious, but otherwise is a much shorter run since you spawn right at the bottom of said staircase. Easily my most hated enemy in Demon's Souls, and really the only competition they have are similar enemies from Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3.

I guess the last thing to mention is World Tendency. Still nonsense in basically every way, from even being able to tell what Tendency any given area is at (I.e. different between Pure White and Mostly White or whatever its called), to dying too much in Human form in a world giving it a darker Tendency actually making enemies stronger (Why would you punish people even further that are already struggling?). I have to say its for good reason that this is one of the few things that FromSoft hasn't repeated yet from Demon's Souls (BloodBorne's Insight mechanic perhaps being the next closest thing, and even that is managed through items and not intentionally having your character suicide at specific times, fighting off "Black Phantoms", killing or saving specific NPCs, killing bosses etc.), but at least if you're not Trophy hunting or trying to get any world to a specific arbitrary Tendency its easy enough to ignore it altogether. Character Tendency is a thing too but I'm not even sure what that does.

I still appreciate Demon's Souls for what it is and setting the foundation for the rest of the series, but man I'm pretty comfortable saying its the worst in the franchise now. Still a very good game and I'm glad to refresh my memory of it, but even with enhancements like 8 directional rolling here I still have to say even Dark Souls 1 plays much better.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Tales of Hearts R (2013) - It's me, the guy that played a Vita game in 2021.

It's a bit of a shame this didn't at least get a Steam port or something, because while its standard Tales game in a lot ways, its executed competently in gameplay department (I.e. basic but good party driven action RPG combat), and I generally liked the character banter here, with Beryl probably getting the most laughs from me (From what I've heard the translation is pretty liberal, but hey I found it engaging). The plot is pretty generic in the second half, but I like the focus in the first half on Kohaku literally having her emotions ripped out of her and gradually gaining them back as you kill monsters and such that have absorbed them like they were Megaman powers or something.

Probably the most interesting thing about the combat here is how exactly each character gets built through the "Soma" system. In addition to normal levels, each character has five "emotions" you dump points into- doing so gives you further bonuses to different stats and its how you unlock skills, abilities, magic, and even weapons. It really does remind me more of Dark Souls or something like that, since while if you play this game for a billion hours you'll have everything eventually, you are basically giving each party member a "build" of sorts. I mained Kohaku in the game, but I tended to get more offensive abilities and magic from her while if I was maining a different character like Kor/Shing or Chalcedony, I might have focused on Kohaku gaining access to more of her healing magic.

By the end of the game when you have a full party of eight people it does get kind of a annoying to have to keep going into menus to keep allocating points into that stuff (Which you're incentivized to do because the "bond" system in this game means abilities can actually be shared between characters if they've bonded enough, which is raised through battling together, Skits about the characters, story events etc.), it was still pretty engaging little set up.

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Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 (2020) - The direct followup to the original Curse of the Moon, which I've posted about before. This plays very identically to that game and continues being a throwback to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (I.e. NES style action platformer with multiple characters). I'd say the biggest difference though is that you primarily have a different party. Zangetsu is still around and plays very similarly, but you also Dominique (Who was also in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night as a shopkeeper At first, anyways) who wields a spear that has the unironically amazing ability to hit enemies directly above her, a sniper dude named Robert, and a dog named Hachi who pilots a mech suit (lol) that can literally turn invincible (lol again).

Each character complements each other well, though there were times where I feel like Hachi's invincibility seemed almost required, especially on Classic Mode. Also this is where I have to admit that this game is hard as fuckin' hell, much harder than Curse of the Moon 1, to the point where halfway through the first run I had to take things down to Casual (Which turns off knockback and gives you infinite lives. Tbh I wish the only thing it gave you was the infinite lives though). And honestly game was still kind of tough at parts.

The second playthrough begins Episode 2 (Which is all the same stages as Episode 1. This game wants you to replay it), as you go through the whole game with only Zangetsu, Robert, and Hachi. Dominique wasn't as big a loss as I thought she would be (Especially because she can generate healing items with an ability), but it was noticeable. There was actually a route split here too, based on whether you find a sword for Zangetsu called Zanmatou. Zanmatou honestly makes Zangetsu suck ass- he loses his three hit combo and a lot of his special abilities get noticeably worse so this was honestly a bigger loss than Dominque was. If you beat the final boss with Zanmatou here you go straight to the Final Episode, but if you don't have it you go to Episode EX.

Episode EX has you lose Hachi and Robert, but in their place you gain the original Curse of the Moon crew back- Miriam, Alfred, and Gebel. Their abilities allow you to take different paths through the levels and generally you have to play differently (I.e. you can't tank bosses for a bit like you can with Hachi), but levels themselves are identical to Episode 2. Clearing this also sends you to the Final Episode.

Final Episode gives you ability to do the first seven stages in any order. This gives it a kind of Megaman feel, because clearing each stage unlocks a partner to take to the rest of the levels (What partner appearing on what stage is randomized). You don't have to do all of the stages, you can do just one and go straight to the last level (Though you'll be severely weakened if you do). One stage doesn't even give you any partner, and clearing this one allows you to go straight to the end with just Zangetsu. I think its better at first to beat the game with everyone though, as clearing this mode unlocks Ultimate Zangetsu which is kind of needed for a Zangetsu solo run to be plausible.

Either way after the seven stages there's a fucking sudden genre shift and you're playing a shoot-em-up game that's honestly kind of hard. The ship gets differently abilities based on whether you have solo Zangetsu or not, but I found both versions to be tough. After that you're on the fucking Moon for the final stage and have lessened gravity to deal with. The stage isn't too bad with either the full party or just Zangetsu (At least on Casual), but the end boss I thought was tough. There are two different versions of the final boss- both are tough, but the Zangetsu solo run is notable because its something of a gauntlet run as you fight weird...moon worm things before the boss themself.

All in all a tough game that was a little too tough for me without the easier difficulty, but fun enough. I think Curse of the Moon 1 was a little tighter honestly, but that game didn't have a dog piloting a mech suit either.

Also while this game is set in a different continuity than Ritual of the Night, Episode 2 featuring a final boss that resembles, of all things, the Save Room from RotN is honestly bizarre and I really can't tell what the implication is supposed to be from that. The statue design in RotN's Save Rooms was always strangely elaborate, and this just makes me wonder if there isn't darker undercurrent to them in RotN that I simply missed before.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Tales of Arise (2021) - This is a pretty good game that is a couple of revisions away from being a great one.

The story here is pretty typical Tales fare- a group of asshole noble "Lords" from the planet Rena are vying for control over the planet Dahna in the "Crown Content". A group of Dahnans and Dahnan-sympathizers have had enough and decide to just go overthrow literally all of the Lords. Its a basic but good enough setup, and while the plot gets pretty goofy in the last third or so I think its fine overall even if heavily rushed in parts. As usual with Tales I think the general character interactions are pretty engaging, though I don't like how the Skits in Arise seem to largely be just about recapping plot information (And often you 3 or 4 skits at once, instead of spread out over exploring an area). Sure, to some extent it helps to recap the main points of a major cutscene or whatever, but other Tales games often had Skits be source of comic relief and such that Arise could have used more of at times- that's not to say I buy these thin arguments I see online that Arise is somehow this grimdark misery-fest because it totally isn't, but the balance of dry rehashing of plot in the Skits to lighthearted breathers does seem a little off to me. They don't have to be AS silly as a game like Hearts R got, but it can be a bit of a drag to walk into a room and get like three or four straight minutes rehashing stuff we just went over.

The gameplay is pretty good but is only like 90% of the way to feeling really polished. They revamped the basic control scheme to be a weird mix of Graces F/Berseria type games where you have artes mapped to the face buttons, but you also have attack on R1 like this is Dark Souls or something. Honestly, I'm not sure why basic attacks are even in this game- part way through the game I just stopped using it and only used artes more or less. Regular artes don't cost any real equivalent to mana either so unlike like a game like Tales of Symphonia its not like long term conservation is quite a thing in the same way (For anything that doesn't heal you directly anyways. Healing artes are the only the moves that actually drain mana, and interestingly the entire party in Arise shares this mana pool).

Really it feels like the combat wants to be like something like Graces F or Berseria where you just chain together special attacks, but unlike those games in Arise you only have one arte set to three of the face buttons on the ground, and another arte set for aerial attacks. You eventually unlock a second loadout of artes but it still feels pretty limited, only having a whopping 12 moves at a time you can just pull one whenever. Really they should have just gone for the Graces F/Berseria system where you can have entire combo chains mapped to a single button, giving you a lot of freedom in how to assault enemies. I will say I do generally like the focus on aerial movement, dodging etc. in Arise though, and its something I'd like to see further games develop.

The other thing to note for basic combat is that the party AI can be a bit wonky. Shionne's AI for example just would not use any of aerial physical artes from what I can tell and I'm not sure why. This is kind of a shame too because she has some decent debuffs available as that type of arte. Still she has a wide enough arsenal that even with just regular gun artes, healing spells, the few offensive spells she etc. she's still mad good so perhaps its not THAT big of a deal.

Some of the balance in the game can probably use some fine tuning too. Like I think early bosses in particular early on are probably a little too tough- like your fight your first Lord only a couple of hours into the game and he's already spamming Mystice Artes at you. The rate your party levels up is a bit weird too- like by time I was done with the main game I was only around Level 60 or so, and this was like 50ish hours of playtime. Spending like 8ish hour on post-game stuff took me all the way to level 100. It seems a bit lopsided to me, like maybe experience could be a little more generous before actually finishing the main story.

Still similar to Hearts R, despite what flaws it does have it was fun to just pick up and play and fight battles and such. A literal or spiritual sequel to Arise could really turn this modern Tales combat system into something special though, I think. Or they could just fully rip off what Graces F did for combat and honestly that would likely be for the best.

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Metroid (1986) - This is kind of bad, laggy mess of a game tbh. While I think Metroid II and Super Metroid still kind of controlled like ass (Really this series didn't play well IMHO until the GBA titles), I feel like even for its era this first Metroid doesn't play very well. It's got the Zelda 1 problem of being too opened ended, except areas in Metroid are even less well defined than Hyrule. While acknowledging that obviously they play very differently, I think the combat in Zelda 1 probably holds up better too (Even in later dungeons with all their BS). So many enemies in Metroid are either a complete pushover, or fly just beneath the range of your attack near the ground and get very annoying, or are just nuisances. Ridley's "bossfight" is just a complete joke in this game too, and Kraid isn't much better (The theme music for his area is real good though).

And then there's Mother Brain who has to be one of the most bullshit fights of the NES era. There's all those wall things you HAVE to barrage with missiles to pass (I guess this is the reason you're finding all those missile expansions throughout the game), and Mother Brain herself by time you get to her takes a whopping 33 missiles. While you're doing this, you're getting swarmed with laser shots and respawning floating enemies and its honestly just a bit much, especially because they'll knock you off of the platforms (This is knockback is way less thoughtfully designed than like, any classic style Castlevania game) you have to stand on to shoot those walls down- and if you fail to destroy the wall completely it starts to regenerate. Even with all of the Energy Tanks you can find you only have so much health here too, so its hard to just tank on through.

Blah, even without Zero Mission to compare this too (Has there ever been such a gulf in quality between an original and its better remake?), this was not one of the better games I've played recently.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Seems Cuphead's DLC is finally coming June 30th, 2022.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Why is there not a thread or a mention of Persona5? I mean it is basically Japanese Anime--The Video Game, right up everyone's ally but mine.

(Maybe it is out there but I ran a search and came up empty.)

I ask because it showed up on sale for $8.99 on the Sony Playstation store recently and I said what the heck and bought it. I'm only about an hour into it, have no plans of actually finishing the whole thing, just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It is most definitely the most Japanese thing I own other than a Japanese dictionary from back when I was studying the language in college many years ago.
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I played Persona 5 back in 2017 and posted about it here several times, not really sure why search wasn't picking anything up for you. Never got around to writing any kind of big review for it though IIRC.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Raxivace wrote: Fri Dec 10, 2021 4:37 pm I played Persona 5 back in 2017 and posted about it here several times, not really sure why search wasn't picking anything up for you. Never got around to writing any kind of big review for it though IIRC.
What were your thoughts at the time?
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I generally really liked the game's visual presentation and OST, the interlocking between the dungeon crawling and social sim management etc., the streamlined menu design and so on. The whole "phantom thief" theming was fun too.

Really only big problem I had with the game was that they brought back in the Demon Negotiation system from the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series after Persona 3 and Persona 4 dropped it. Even if the answers required to properly recruit demons were 100% consistent (They're not), it would still feel like a kind of obnoxious system to me since I always felt like I had to pull up a guide to answer whatever trivia questions popped up to get a guy to join my side. And with the randomness, it just felt a bit obnoxious to sometimes to have to do extra grinding if I was trying to get a specific demon so I could do a specific fusion to get the demon I actually wanted to fuse with some whole other demon and so on.
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I've pretty much stopped using my PS5. Got bored of Ghosts of Tsushima. Started playing FC6 but it lacked... something. I don't know if there's anything particularly remarkable about it. I still need to go back and finish Ratchet & Clank. I guess I just have to wait for 2022 for the AAA games that can hold my attention: next-gen Witcher 3, God of War 2, potentially Horizon. I did buy some indie games during Black Friday that I should check out soon.
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maz89 wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 2:51 am I've pretty much stopped using my PS5. Got bored of Ghosts of Tsushima. Started playing FC6 but it lacked... something. I don't know if there's anything particularly remarkable about it. I still need to go back and finish Ratchet & Clank. I guess I just have to wait for 2022 for the AAA games that can hold my attention: next-gen Witcher 3, God of War 2, potentially Horizon. I did buy some indie games during Black Friday that I should check out soon.
What exactly is the deal with next-gen Witcher 3? Like I saw some post somewhere about how it was getting some new content, but I've seen competing claims ranging from "Whole new DLC quests" to "New armor for Geralt lol".
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Lol. In terms of content, I'm not expecting anything (although a new DLC on par with the other two would be awesome). I'm fine with only the visual upgrade.
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Just give me more Gwent tbh.
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I've had this post sitting mostly finished for a few weeks now, so I decided to just power through and complete it.

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Everyday Today's Menu for Emiya Family (2021) - So when I played Fate/stay night a few years ago, I noted how a large amount of that game revolved around cooking scenes (I think I've made comparison between these scenes and the meth cooking montages on Breaking Bad but that's honestly what they reminded me of). Well it got to the point where there was as spinoff manga solely about the characters cooking different foods. Said manga got an anime adaptation. And said anime adaptation unsurprisingly lead to an entire cooking game for the Nintendo Switch which somehow got an English localization. Naturally I had to check it out.

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There is actually like a story here, but its all pretty low stakes. There are three playable characters plus a fourth from the DLC (There's DLC for a cooking game, yes), and ostensibly they're all being taught to cook by FSN protagonist Shirou. Usually some holiday or event comes up, and you cook an appropriate dish for said event.

The actual cooking is done through a short marathon of various minigames. None of the minigames are too bad on their own and are pretty basic (I.e. There's a rhythm game, a rapid button pressing one etc. The hardest one for me honestly was the minigame where you had to find cooking utensils hidden around the kitchen since the cursor for the minigame moves so slowly during it), though I will say it honestly gets challenging to get the high score on some of them by time you get to the end of Sakura and Rin's respective routes. There were at least a few times where I to spend 20-30 minutes on single chapters to hit the high scores.

Anyways its relaxing enough little game for something that's a niche of a niche, but I had fun with it. That you actually unlock real life recipes for the various dishes you're making throughout the game is kind of funny too, though its perhaps telling that I've put more effort into this damn game instead of actually learning how to cook lol.

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AI: The Somnium Files (2019) - A mystery visual novel from Kotaro Uchikoshi (999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Ever17 etc.), about a detective named Kaname Date and his AI partner Aiba trying to solve what seems to be grisly serial murders where the victims have their eyes removed. The main gameplay gimmick here involves being able to enter the dreams of suspects, and solving an Escape Room-esque puzzle based on goofy dream logic.

These dream segments start out fine but get a bit ridiculous toward the end of the game. The "problem" is that any action you take depletes a "timer" is depleted, and the cost of actions just start getting kind of ridiculous toward the end (Especially if you're trying to find hidden items and such). I ended up moving to a guide toward the end for these.

While the overall mystery itself is decent, I think the character writing here is honestly some of the better that Uchikoshi has done. Like the banter is just generally good across the board, but I have a much better understanding of like Date as a character than I do like any of the major players in the Zero Escape trilogy (Not that they were even bad or that I disliked them for the most part though). I don't think it had quite as many weird contrivances as some of the Zero Escape games do either Timeline stuff perhaps being major exception here and kind of felt like a deus ex machina to me, and was generally pretty solid.

There's a sequel coming out next year which I'm really looking forward to checking out.

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Castlevania: Dracula X (1995) - This is sort of a remake of Rondo of Blood, cover the same story as that in the broadest of terms. I dunno why they just didn't port Rondo of Blood to the SNES though, because Dracula X is just worse in like every way. Its not so bad that its like completely unplayable, its still probably better than like The Adventure on the Game Boy, but its just not super good to play even before you get the absolutely ludicrous Dracula battle at the end here. It just controls slightly too janky, enemies have slightly too reach, platforming requires slightly too much precision etc. Classic style Castlevania games usually do a really good of building themselves around having limited movement and speed and reach, but everything felt just slightly off here.

I'm glad I knocked this one off the checklist but I can't say I have much desire to every replay it, unlike Rondo of Blood or the other remake of that game, Dracula X Chronicles (Which is based more on Rondo of Blood itself rather than Dracula X, despite the name).

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Metroid: Dread (2021) - Wow an actually (mostly) decent Metroid game! This really is Samus Returns 2 in playstyle (The battles against the cores or whatever they were to actually get the special beams to even fight the EMMIs seemed a lot like the Metroid battles in Samus Returns to me), which is fine to me. I will say I think Fusion handled the horror-y elements better (I.e. running into SA-X was more unsettling to me than the EMMI sections here, which I wasn't super fond of actually running through). The bosses in general could get pretty challenging here, which is fine even if I did feel frustrated by them at times.

I guess the biggest issue for me is sometimes controls felt a little awkward and made my hands hurt, and also a decent amount of Missile Packs and Energy Tanks and such were hidden behind shinespark nonsense. Even when I understand the theory behind building up speed and jumping and storing charges and stuff to shinespark I often had trouble actually executing it and eventually just gave up on getting 100% of items. Just wasn't worth it to me to go that far in an otherwise good game.

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Tales of Berseria (Replay, 2016/2017) - I had a strong urge to replay this after Tales of Arise, and I'm really glad I did because I'm pretty confident in cementing this as not only my favorite Tales game but one of my favorite JRPG's in general. The whole revenge story about Velvet is just really strong stuff and really impacted me even more the second time around (Whole scene in Earthen Historia in particular is a standout). There are a couple of points in the story that were more clear to me now too, such as Velvet being aware that Seres was Celica the first time they reunited at Titania. This is actually a pretty bizarre story point that calls a lot of Velvet's motivation for revenge into question for me, since while Velvet's motivation is revenge for the death of her brother, she seemed more than willing to kill/devour her sister whom she seemed to have positive feelings for previously from what I can discern. This time around I wondered if part of the reason she felt so betrayed by Artorius wasn't because of some romantic feelings for him, and if that's the case I have to wonder if there wasn't some jealousy toward Celica on Velvet's part to that isn't coming through here. This is to say nothing about whatever the heck is going with her and both Laphicets really, and thinking about that can take you to some really weird places.

Really only problems I have with Berseria is that is pretty blatantly a budget game that designed for PS3 that was then ported to PS4, and while the combat is mostly fine for that type of game some minor issues that aren't really tied to its lower cost/quick development time. Like whole "weakness" system can occasionally leave you screwed over if you just don't have an easy way to actually hit an enemy's weakness and you get stuck with single hit combos or something. Playing as Velvet herself also probably makes the game too easy, but honestly other characters are pretty strong themselves. Eizen for example can absolutely decimate enemies to absurd degrees by the endgame, and honestly might be more OP than Velvet and her "devour" mechanic.

Also the OST is kind of a mixed bag. There are some tracks I like, and nothing I really think is bad, but Sakuraba really doesn't seem to be putting that much effort into striking original compositions. Like I think the original Dark Souls is probably the last time he really went all out.

I'm also kind of interested in playing Tales of Zestiria at some point, the game that Bersersia is a prequel to. Supposedly despite plot connections, Berseria is thematic response and attack on ideals and such Zestiria revolved (To point where supposed Velvet is based on Zestiria's villain while Artorius is stand-in for hero of that game) which has me really curious. The thing is that few Tales fans I know actually like Zestiria as a game lol.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Also maz, I actually bought Skyrim a while back and have tried playing it on and off, but I'm sad to report that despite how cool the whole modding community and such for it seems, the main game itself isn't really clicking for me even after like 45 hours of playtime. I think Fallout New Vegas might be only game in Western RPG mold that I really love, but at some point I'll finish Skyrim's main quest + DLC's if only for completion's sake.
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Ah, that's a bummer. I might have said it will grow on you but then I saw you're already at 45 hours, so that's unlikely. I wonder why it didn't resonate. Too similar to other RPGs you've played?
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I dunno. I think the biggest thing was that there just wasn't really a hook for me into the world or characters of Skyrim. Like the whole Dragonborn/return of dragons/blah blah blah thing that the main story revolves around really just hasn't been as interesting as a driving force for the story as like the mysterious botched murder that opens up Fallout New Vegas, or like the early Witcher 3 story elements like Bloody Baron and so on (And I'd say both of those games generally seem to have stronger characterization across the board too. Like even parts of W3 I criticized are still probably better written than Skyrim).

That's not to say what I played was bad per se- like none of what I saw in Skyrim was nearly as bad as like the worst parts of Fallout 3 (Though maybe I just haven't gotten to the worst yet. Also I think FO3 probably has more highs than Skyrim). The voice acting was all well and good too, the graphics seem good enough for something a decade old, and while the combat is not like great its functional enough (Bizarrely the way you level up a stat by actually doing something corresponding to it reminded me of Final Fantasy II of all games). I enjoyed the game the most when I wasn't really following the story much and just embracing it in a shallow power fantasy kind of way (God bless the people that made all those 18+ mods)- though that kind of thing can only hold your attention for so long at a time. I'll go back to at some point though probably because of that more than because of the main quest or anything.

In the meantime I've been playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a title with a blatant lie in it. I've died a lot more than twice!
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I'm getting my samurai fix from Ghosts of Tsushima, but I'm getting less impressed with it. It's too bloated. The side stories are resembling each other. I'll still go back because I can turn off my brain and just roam around and clear the map. Sekiro looks cool though. I thought it was more recent than 2019. Will keep an eye out next time there's a sale.

I clearly missed out by not installing any mods for Skyrim. To be honest, I don't remember much of the storyline or voice acting (unlike W3). I remember the gameplay, exploration and environments, so maybe that is indeed where the allure of Skryim lies.
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maz89 wrote: Mon Dec 27, 2021 3:11 pmSekiro looks cool though. I thought it was more recent than 2019. Will keep an eye out next time there's a sale.
Yeah honestly I thought the same thing until I looked it up the other day. I figured it was late 2019 or early 2020 release, not early 2019.
I clearly missed out by not installing any mods for Skyrim. To be honest, I don't remember much of the storyline or voice acting (unlike W3). I remember the gameplay, exploration and environments, so maybe that is indeed where the allure of Skryim lies.
Yeah the mods are pretty wild. Like there's one that just gives you Geralt as a follower, or another that has a Skyrim-ified version of the entire Resident Evil 1 mansion.

I had one downloaded that supposedly gave you like a plane or helicopter or something too, but I could never figure out where it actually spawned in the world lol.
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Speaking of the Witcher, did you check out the Netflix show? I'm biased towards this kind of show, so I like it a lot. The actors playing these characters have grown on me. The second season was fun. It ended with the revelation that Emhyr is Ciri's father. and introducing a bunch of new characters.

I'm sad they'll never get to the story from the games given that the books have sufficient material for another 5 seasons easily, but I still hope they can use some of the better story elements from there (Bloody Baron, Yen-Gen Last Wish side quest, Ciri vs Wild Hunt, etc). No amnesiac Geralt stuff though.
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I saw the first season and mostly liked it (Not entirely sure I liked the way it was structured, even if they put sincere effort to make like, actual thematic parallels and such between the different timelines). Haven't had a chance to watch season 2 yet.

Yeah some of that stuff they could likely incorporate into the show. I actually kind of liked what I saw of amnesiac Geralt in the Witcher 1 game, though it wouldn't really fit into the show itself unless they went for some really out there theming.
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Amnesiac Geralt works in the games as we, the players who are new to this fantasy world, get exposition in digestible pieces. In the show, it could feel like a drag. (Also, ahem, confession: I haven't played Witcher 1 because... it's old. And graphics. ) As you said, it could still be done, but they may not have enough time to really do it justice.

Let me know what you think of S2 when you see it. I actually was impressed.
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I didn't think the graphics were too bad for the time in Witcher 1. The combat OTOH was pretty abysmal even by standards of 2007 lol. I still need to get back to it at some point though, and eventually Witcher 2 as well.

One thing I do wonder about the show is how well it actually introduces people to the Witcher universe. Like I think people that enjoyed the games/books got the most out of it, but I've wondered how well it introduces like basic concepts to newbies. Like did season 1 actually explain what a Witcher even is?

Also I guess the recent Netflix animated movie was a thing too. That I wasn't really a fan of tbh and thought was much worse than the first season of the show- partly because I've never found Vesemir a particularly sympathetic character and still don't, but at times it also just felt kind of like a bad 80's anime OVA gorefest to me. The ending bit there about Geralt is also a bit on the nose too.
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Yeah, for my wife, the show is her first taste of the Witcher universe, so I do my part in filling in some of the missing pieces. They might have introduced witchers as monster slayers in season 1, but they do dive a bit more into the lore surrounding Witchers in season 2. Still, some parts of it don't get emphasized as much as I would have liked (for example, just how excruciatingly painful and fatal it can be for someone trying to become a Witcher). To the show's credit, they've probably brought up Conjunction of the Spheres and the Law of Surprise a million times.

I haven't seen the anime, but I probably will. Bummer you didn't think much of it.
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Yeah the fact witchers are a product of essentially mad science experiments I remembered feeling was glossed over when its kind of key part of Witcher setting to me- that all of the fantastical elements and magical institutions and such have some kind of dark undercurrent to them (Even the one our ostensible hero Geralt belongs to). Like really there's not that much of a distance from making Witchers to like, the creation of Frankenstein's Monster.

This is something the movie does try to address too but like I said, wasn't much of a fan of it. And the movie being kind of a disconnected thing from the show doesn't exactly help.
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Here is my Sekiro review:

Sekiro before endgame: 8/10 pretty fun time. There's some bullshit here but nothing that feels totally unreasonable to overcome.

Sekiro at endgame: 2-3/10 holy shit wtf were they thinking with these endgame fights?

I mean jesus christ I have probably died more times trying to beat Saint Sword Isshin and Owl (Father) more than the rest of the game combined. Like honestly it kind of ruins the game for me. Love fighting bosses with four phases and single light attacks that take off like 40% of my HP, to say nothing of the damage that actual combos will do to you. And this is at max HP. Honestly I'm tempted to drop the game just because I how frustrating both of these guys are to deal with.

Demon of Hatred seems to be a pretty bullshit fight too but at least there's a way to cheese him off of a cliff and insta-kill him. Which is what I did because Sekiro endgame is just Not Fun.
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I beat one Owl (Father) finally, and hopefully the extra Attack Point I got from him will help make a difference for Isshin. Now endgame is more 4-5/10.

People say Sekiro isn't an RPG and more of a pure action game but I don't really agree with that. You can level grind for goodness' sake, and getting an extra Attack Point or two honestly makes a difference. To actually beat Owl I needed to take the time grind out five levels to buy one Attack Point, and beating him got me a second Attack Point, and if I beat Isshin I'll get a third Attack Point which will help in New Game+ etc. While savants can 360 no-scope their way through this game with an Attack stat of simply 1, for the rest of us having higher numbers is honestly the difference between victory of defeat here- even if it just gives you a slight nudge more than anything. Sometimes that's all it takes.
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Honestly the more I think about it the more I think the problem with Sekiro is that it doesn't seem to know if it wants to be a shinobi game or a samurai game. Like so much of the regular game is about ninja shit like stealth and Spider-Manning around the map with a grappling hook thing and using dirty tactics to win like stealth attacks (It can even take off half of a mini-boss's HP! And it will one-shot regular enemies if they haven't detected you yet!), but these bosses I've been struggling against feel more like samurai duels. There's nowhere to grapple to, there's no stealth you can use etc., its just you, whatever bullshit trinkets you have the ammunition to use, and the boss. And Sekiro himself is hardly any kind of Musashi Miyamoto or Sasaki Kojiro- he can barely tank any hits or deal much in the way of damage. He's a little fella, and it feels like it. Meanwhile the fuckin' god of swordsmanship Isshin or whatever his deal is huge, deals insane damage, and has so much health.

Also Isshin literally brings a glock to this fight. WTF. I'm not even joking. There's being the underdog and then there's literally bringing a gun to a knife, er sword fight.

Like if the final boss of an action game is meant to test you on everything you've learned up until now, it would be nice if I could actually use some of the core mechanics the game has taught me to use! I played the game like a ninja, and now I'm told I not only needed to play like a samurai, but as a samurai against some kind of super samurai who also has a gun.
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Yessss I finally beat Isshin. That boss is ridiculous!

Sekiro is a good game again.
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You musings on Sekiro remind me of something similar in Ghosts of Tsushima (which is growing on me, again, even if my criticisms still stand). There's boss fights in which you are robbed of any tools and trinkets (so no throwables or bows), and all you have is your sword and block/dodge maneuver. The difference is that I love these boss fights. They're harder than anything else in the game and they get my heart racing. Curious about the difficulty level of these two fights you talk about in Sekiro. Maybe the reason I enjoy these fights in Tsushima is that I don't engage in much stealth and get a lot of practice with the sword, so perhaps I'm better prepared when I'm doing pure sword duels.
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maz89 wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 3:38 am You musings on Sekiro remind me of something similar in Ghosts of Tsushima (which is growing on me, again, even if my criticisms still stand). There's boss fights in which you are robbed of any tools and trinkets (so no throwables or bows), and all you have is your sword and block/dodge maneuver. The difference is that I love these boss fights. They're harder than anything else in the game and they get my heart racing. Curious about the difficulty level of these two fights you talk about in Sekiro. Maybe the reason I enjoy these fights in Tsushima is that I don't engage in much stealth and get a lot of practice with the sword, so perhaps I'm better prepared when I'm doing pure sword duels.
Yeah honestly I think part of the problem is that in Sekiro, its very easy to get through the game without having practiced key mechanics I guess the game thinks it has taught you. Like this game makes a big deal out of parrying attacks, but never quite makes it clear that the best way to parry is often to just stand still and just trade blows that way for a few moments. Wait for enemy to come and attack you, deflect deflect deflect, and then at an opportune moment you do a combo. You can actually build up pretty good damage to an enemy's posture bar that way...

Thing is, I don't feel like this "standing still" thing is immediately intuitive because Sekiro is so fragile (I wonder how damage in these Ghost of Tsushima fights you mention compare here. Are you getting killed in just a few attacks?), you would think dodging out of the way of attacks and doing hit-and-run tactics would be what the game wants you to do. It's not (Or at least isn't most of the time). Often having your feet planted firmly on the ground is best way to duel somebody, with only occasionally jumping out of the way of an unblockable attack (Unless its a thrust attack, in which case you Mikiri Counter... though I was never in a position to do that until the end, because I hadn't been standing still properly. Also Mikiri Counter is an ability you have to go out of your way to buy, and I didn't even unlock it until toward the end of the game. It really should have been something the game gives you upfront because having it from beginning would actually reinforce the way the game wants you to play it IMO). Even then, most of your dodging should probably be about putting you in position to immediately go on offensive again and not so much just about bringing yourself to safety.

What I was doing before I realized this was mostly moving around like crazy trying to get hits in, and then trying to deflect an enemies counter attacks as they came in, which didn't work often anyways because they would often hit me after I was finished with my combo string and was vulnerable. So then I tried dodging around them so I could hit them in the back (The classic Dark Souls strat), and that actually works for vast majority of boss fights in some form until the ending fights. Until Owl (Father) and Sword Saint Isshin anyways.

I actually did a second Sekiro playthrough today on New Game+, and while I went on the "Bad Ending" path (Which cuts out a portion of the endgame), I was having a much easier time with bosses since mechanics I eventually picked up during the ending made them much easier (Well except for Bad Ending exclusive bosses but luckily a certain ability makes them pretty easy). Sure having items and stats carry over helps a lot too, but enemies are also stronger on NG+. And really understanding tactics game actually wanted you to use on boss fights probably makes even bigger world of difference more than attack stat or whatever.

But this only makes me more convinced that this game has an identity crisis. The game tells you over and over again you're a shinobi, so why in boss fights am I suddenly expected to play like a samurai? What kind of ninja tactic is it to stand still and face an enemy head-on? And part of me thinks there's something fundamentally wrong with the game design here if I could clear the majority of the game playing wrongly until I hit a roadblock right at the ending.

I'm doing NG+2 now so I can get the Platinum Trophy, which hopefully should only take me another day or two. After that I might do one last write-up on this game.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Yep, the duels in Tsushima are deadly, and you can die with a couple of hits (however, I should mention that you're allowed to heal yourself a couple of times). But you can both parry and dodge in these duels, so it can't be likened to "standing still". I get the sense that the Sekiro duels are harder if it doesn't let you to dodge away to safety at all. I mean, in Tsushima, if you do dodge away to safety, the bosses are quick to follow, but you still get some breathing space.

Other than their unique and surprising attack patterns, their defense works in a way that prevents any quick attacks, so you can't do hit and runs. You have to first hit them with a slower, hard attack a couple of times to weaken their block and then that gives you an opening to hit them thrice. The other option is to parry at the right moment for an instant hit. It takes a while, but it's fine.
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I mean you do still have a dodge in Sekiro too, but you don't have any i-frames so you're likely to still take some hard hits if you're not dodging at a smart time (Or get locked into an enemy grab animation, which the giant gorilla you fight just loves to do (You fight a giant gorilla in Sekiro)). It kind of reminds me of the Witcher 3 dodge actually, but Geralt has Quen to tank attacks (And plenty of potions and so on) while Sekiro has a way more limited toolset, a more limited set of healing items he can bring into battle etc.

I kind of want to play Ghosts of Tsushima at some point to compare it to Sekiro. Idk how much I'll like the game itself or when I'll get to it but you have me curious.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Maz I think you should download and play Lost: Via Domus.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Some last thoughts on Sekiro and a few other games I played recently.

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Metroid: Other M (2010) - People really, really hate this game I don't really get why. Especially because the complaints online I've seen have mostly been about the story, which is fine. I guess Samus just like, emoting a few times and having a discernible personality is enough to drive people crazy? I really don't get it.

I think the gameplay shifting to more a third person action game kind of thing mostly works pretty decently too, though I wish it were slightly tighter at times. I think this is largely problem of this being game played with single Wiimote controller, as Wiimote is just glorified NES controller in a lot of ways. The basic idea of switching from holding Wiimote sideways to pointing it at screen to enter FPS mode I think is cooler on paper than it is in execution too, and honestly I would have preferred simple button to switch while aiming with joystick attachment. That's not to say it was terrible as is, but sometimes delay in switching Wiimote around was enough to throw me off.

Other M is not like secret masterpiece or anything but its hardly outright disaster of a game I had been lead to believe it was. Certainly more playable than NES Metroid at the very least.

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Melty Blood: Type Lumina (2021) - Melty Blood is back!!!! 2D fighters live!!!!! I previously reviewed several of the games a few years ago, but the franchise was revived last year.

It's pretty fun and the 2D spritework is gorgeous. Probably the biggest difference (Beyond cast of characters being pared down so it works as prequel of sorts to the Tsukihime remake), is presence of autocombos a la Dragon Ball FighterZ. Some people actively hate that but IDK I thought it made the battles fun.

Really the only problem I have with the game is the Boss Rush "story mode" you unlock after you clear every character's arcade mode. It's mad hard, opponents are all given boss stats, and you have to play as Miyako for this and she doesn't seem great against people with tons of super armor and such. Even that isn't so bad until you get to the final battle against Tohno Shiki, who is just as tough as everyone else in this mode...except you get no continues for this fight. Its kind of obnoxious to be honest, and even putting game on easiest difficulty he's still fairly tough since he hits hard AND fast. I eventually had to grab him to death to take him out, since the AI in this game doesn't seem to always figure out what's going on if you go to grab someone over and over again in a row.

Still regular arcade modes were quite fun, and this game is getting two DLC characters in a few days for free. Pretty cool.

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019) - I'm not sure what else I have to say about this, now that I've gotten Platinum Trophy. I think I mostly nailed down my issues with the game with the whole "shinobi vs. samurai" identity dichotomy, but another thing I could talk about is Sekiro as Miyazaki's followup on his previous games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne.

There seems to be some debate about whether Sekiro should be considered a part of the same spiritual "series" as the "Soulsborne" titles, but if its not than the game sure likes reminding you of them for reasons I don't actively understand. Like you've got what is basically "Estus" system here again, you've got "Bonfires" (They actually work more like Dark Souls 1 Bonfires too!), you've got similar sound "BWAAAAH" sound effect when you enter a new area and the title of it pops up on screen, you've got "phantoms" in form of kunais left by other players etc. The main story even revolves around the land being "cursed" just like the rest of Soulsborne.

Hell even one of the first cutscenes in the game references one of the first cutscenes in Dark Souls 1, where the player in a grimy dungeon gets thrown a key from up above them.

You do lose a lot of Souls-era things in Sekiro though. "Builds" aren't really a thing at all in Sekiro (Its even more pared down than Bloodborne in this aspect), there are is no bloodstain mechanic (On death you lost half of the EXP of the current level you have and half of your money (I.e. you never will have level outright reduced from like Level 5 to Level 4 or whatever). There is random chance to have "Unseen Aid" prevent you from losing all this, but that percentage lowers the more you die.), magic isn't really a thing, and while you do have Prosthetic Tools they seem kind of situational for the most part. Like the Firecracker and its various upgrades were consistently solid, the Spear could do heavy posture damage on a specific phase of the gorilla boss, and the Umbrella upgrades could be very useful as a shield during some specific encounters. The throwing star things or whatever were useful during a specific phase of Madame Butterfly to knock her out of the air I guess. Thing is that you have such limited ammunition (Only can bring up to 20 "ammo" into a fight, and that's with upgrades. There's also an item that allows you 5 extra ammunition per use, with only three uses, and at cost of half of your HP at a time!) that experiment doesn't really feel worth it, especially because relying too much on your Tools means you can just blow through ammo. Even though you're limited with how much you can bring into a fight, if you run out of your stockpile you eventually just have to go grind out some more again. This is exact same issue with Blood Vials in Bloodborne, why the fuck is it here again. If you're going to limit ammo you can bring into a fight, why not just reset it at Bonfire just like Estus!? Its absolutely baffling design decision that is inherited from Bloodborne for no god damn reason.

Same with ability to Resurrect in a fight. You get your one freebie, but if you use your extra ones, they have to "recharge" by using deathblows on enemies. If you get stuck on long, multi-phase boss like Sword Saint Isshin, eventually you will have to grind to restore your extra Resurrects. Why doesn't this just recharge at Bonfire? I can understand need to recharge it during exploration part of game, that's kind of cool, but it sucks when banging head against boss for hours on end to have to pay a time tax to recharge it.

You do have a skill tree in Sekiro, but outside of straight upgrades and a few key abilities (Like the Mikiri Counter), most of what you get seems to kind of suck? Like there's no real better unlockable ability than Ichimonji Double, which can deal HP damage, deals good posture damage, and reduces your own posture bar. The only other ability you might want to use is Mortal Draw which does greater HP damage, but that's not even a part of the skill tree- its something the game just gives you eventually (There's also "Empowered Mortal Draw" which is part of the skill tree, but takes faaaaaaaar too long to actually unlock, and isn't enough of an upgrade to Mortal Draw to really be worth going out of your way for).

I do appreciate Sekiro trying to change up formula of the "Franchise" (Especially after Dark Souls 3 seemed like "Greatest Hits" album to me) by going for more of a straight action game, but I'm not sure a lot of what it does quite works and it some ways it seems to actually be the technically demanding "zomg so hard" game I initially liked these games for not being. Its fine to try something different, but it seems telling to me that Elden Ring is going back to Dark Souls style combat systems. And for Sekiro, if it wanted to actively break away from Dark Souls perhaps it should have broken away way harder- the final game as it is though, feels very much in continuity with it and Miyazaki's other titles which is part of what I think threw me and other players off and caused some us to play the game "wrongly" (See my previous "shinobi vs. samurai" style comments in other posts). They made a game that looks like a duck but does not quack like one because it turned out to be some similar but distinct animal.

Still, Sekiro is a pretty good game that I had fun playing. Like it was fun to still just explore and stealth kill people (Ninjutsu artes allow you to wreak some fun havok too, but it takes too long to get them), and I enjoyed some of the bosses once I got the hang of how you're supposed to fight them. But man is it frustrating sometimes (Sword Saint Isshin is still ridiculous), and I'm not sure I'll play it again any time soon.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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I bought Metroid: Other M shortly after it came out about 11 years ago, and still have never gotten around to playing it even once. I'll get to it someday.

Have you played Metroid Prime? I absolutely love it.
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I've played whole Prime trilogy and had fairly mixed feelings on all of them. For the first game in particular I remember despite how beautiful looking the game was for 2002, the environments themselves weren't actually that fun to explore (At least to me). Having to constantly pull out the Scan Visor to scan monsters, Artifacts, and random computers and such got to be a bit much too, and the actual story of the Space Pirates, the actual Metroid Prime, all the Phazon shenanigans etc. didn't do a whole lot for me.

Generally the "modern" 2D/2.5D games like Fusion, Zero Mission, and I guess Dread are what I enjoy more. I had to put "modern" in quotes there because I just realized Fusion itself is coming up on being 20 years old lmao.
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Take anything I have to say about Prime trilogy with grain of salt though because I haven't played any of those games since like, early 2008.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Interesting thoughts on Sekiro. I didn't realize it was made by the guy who made the Dark Souls series. I haven't played Bloodborne either, but I have it on PS5. Should check them out at some point.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Yeah despite whatever gripes I have, I think all of the games in the "series" are worth playing. Like I may have bitched about having to farm Blood Vials in Bloodborne (Or grass in Demon's Souls or whatever), but I still liked the game(s) enough to take the time to do it.

There's also Elden Ring coming out in February, and the lore to that was written by, of all people, George R.R. Martin. I'm actually kind of interested in the story of that one because him and Hidetaka Miyazaki is such a bizarre combination... Sure Game of Thrones and Dark Souls may have similar "dark fantasy" aesthetic, but they focus on entirely different things. Like I think strongest aspect of Game of Thrones was more its character writing than the deep mythology or whatever, and the Souls games really downplay traditional dramatic arcs. So it will be weird to have Martin brought for what I think isn't his strongest aspect, while I guess the actual NPC's will be traditional Dark Souls-style of people saying cryptic shit at you and then laughing about it.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams (1995)
Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)
Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998) - Did a runthrough of an arcade mode of in each of these on kind of a whim. Alpha 1 is an okay game I guess, but I think it was less engaging than some of the later SF2 versions and even had kind of an easy arcade mode. Alpha 2 is kind of the same game just with more characters/stages, but I think there was a noticeable increase in difficulty.

Alpha 3 built even further on Alpha 2, and I think they went pretty all out with even more new characters and such. The V-ism/A-ism/X-ism style thing (Which changes how super combos work) is a pretty neat way to add variety to the game too, and the game just feels good to play in general. This also was easily the hardest of the three Alpha titles, not only with Arcade mode having you fight like 11 opponents instead of 8, but the AI seemed harder to cheese too. Having to fight Juli AND Juni at same time at the end of arcade mode was pretty tough challenge (To point that I think there's a reason 2D fighters don't really pull this trick very often. Closest I can think of are some of the paired characters in Melty Blood games, and even then they tag in and out more than anything), and M. Bision afterwards did seem a bit more BS than usual (His super took of like 70% of my HP!). Fun game though.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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So I recently had Covid. I'm fine now but I took the time to beeline through Skyrim's mainstory while I was sick.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Dawnguard (2012)
Hearthstone (2012)
Dragonborn (2012) - I don't really have much more to add to this then what I said to maz earlier, but for the most part the main story here isn't outright bad as its just kind of bland. There be evil dragons. You're special guy who can kill dragons. You run around back and forth across Skyrim until you kill the baddest dragon. Okay.

There aren't any real highs here but not much in the way of lows either I guess. Really only negative I have is that the ending is really anti-climatic. You journey into what is essentially Valhalla to recruit the ghosts of several dead heroes you barely know to kill the big bad dragon. Not even five minutes later he's dead. The end. A couple of NPC's say thanks lol, but even that you have to go out of your way for. By comparison, Fallout 3's main quest ending may have been dumb but at least it felt like a climax to what the story was about. Skyrim just kind of fizzles out here.

I did the main story of the DLC's too. Dawnguard's whole thing about going to war with vampires was neat, but I don't like how after a certain point it just turns into a giant fetch quest looking for random artifacts. Still it was preferable to the base game's story for me. I kind of prefer Dawnguard's version of journeying into the underworld more than the base game's trip to Valhalla too. At least you get a cool spell that lets you summon a dragon for completing it.

One thing I did find kind of odd as it that one of the quests I had to do for Dawnguard ended up being a thing from the base game's main quest (Something about having to find one of the actual Elder Scrolls). It was weird because I just assumed it was something exclusive to the DLC as I was doing it, but then later on when I was finishing the base game I already had this Scroll this good dragon was instructing me to go find. Kind of weird.

Hearthstone didn't even have a story really, but added in more options for building homes and such. As a minor add on it was kind of neat I guess, but the home building and customization didn't seem as good as something like Animal Crossing to me. So if I was into that kind of thing more, I don't know why I wouldn't just play a game dedicated to that instead of Skyrim's version. I think the player homes you can download through mods are kind of better too- like you can get the entire Resident Evil 1 mansion this way!

The Dragonborn DLC involves you traveling to a different land (I think its from an older Elder Scrolls game?) to fight the original "Dragonborn" who is just kind of terrorizing people. Its kind of a generic, but always interesting to fight a guy who ostensibly has same abilities as you. Some of the actual dungeons toward the end were a bit confusing to me, but eh. You get the ability to temporarily mind control and ride dragons for finishing this which is cool.

So yeah, other than climax of base game's main quest I don't really have a lot of negative stuff to say about the story but not much positive either. I'm kind of done with Skyrim at the moment, but I think I'll go back to it at some point to focus more on random sidequests and such, and then maybe do some kind of followup on this post. I think that's where most of the game's strength probably lie anyways- just kind of doing whatever you want. In the meantime though I'm moving on to other games.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Some games I've played in the past few months:

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Tales of Zestiria (2015)
Alisha's Conviction (2015) - I've been curious about Zestiria for a while now since it probably has the most mixed reception of any modern Tales game (And I generally find modern Tales to be decent enough). Also, Berseria is a prequel to this game and I loved the shit out of Berseria.

Unfortunately this game kind of sucks.

1) The levels are just waaaay too big for a regular JRPG. Tales games don't have the biggest budgets to begin with, and while this game was partially inspired by Skyrim (lol), it resulted in a lot of dragging out in fairly standard JRPG storytelling just because of map size (It's perhaps telling that prequel game Berseria really toned this aspect down).

Like I kind of get what they were going for since two of the main characters are big into exploration and archaeology, its clearly part of a theme the game is trying to set up, its just not quite snappy to work the way they want.

2) The equipment system is just overcomplicated. Despite multiple tutorials and skits in the game trying to explain all the different ways to customize your weapon, it was honestly just too complicated for me to make sense of. These games don't have the most complex battle systems to begin with, and I think that's fine. There's no need to make it harder by making your setup so ludicrous to even do between melding weapons and adding attributes in arcane ways and attaching Normin to them and so on. The only extent I could really engage with this was to make choices that seemed like they were making my numbers go up, except I could tell I often wasn't making anything close to optimal choices. I just had no idea how to make what should feel like a great choice, and sometimes I think battles dragged on as a result (Particularly in post-game dungeon where enemy levels start really ballooning).

3) The story is just kind of a mess with a lot of dropped plot threads, underdeveloped characters, directionless plotting, and weird dissonant elements. Like a fair amount of the game does not have much in the way of forward plot momentum, so you just end up wandering around with only a vague notion that you should somehow save the world until like 20 hours in you bump into a war that's occurring between two nations of the game, and the main villain, the "Lord of Calamity" is running about.

Its also hard to tell how much of the dissonance in the story is intentional. This Reddit thread lays out some of the issues pretty well- ostensibly the Zestiria world is an incredibly fucked up place where being sad or having some kind of mental illness turns a person into a monster ("Malevolence"). Sorey and the party does not even seem to try to really find any way to end this horribly fucked up system (Prime example being the hilariously grim sidestory about Edna and Eizen. Edna seeks a cure for her brother Eizen and the party just gives up on finding it lmao), and as a result don't actually present a real challenge to the ideology of the ostensible villains of the game. Even Sorey himself ends up looking kind of monstrous, still being a nominally cheerful protagonist that doesn't dragged down too much from literally killing war orphans, who suffered the horrible crime of being sad about being orphans and getting turned into monsters as a result.

This is another one of those things where I can't tell just how self-awareness something like that is written with. The prequel game Berseria certainly leans into the idea of Shepherds like Sorey being a sham to begin with, but that's a different game from a somewhat different creative team (More on this below). Its hard to tell where Zestiria itself is trying to angle for here.

OTOH there's a subplot in this game where the Pope abandons the Church, runs off to some small town, and starts making and selling drugs to support said town before he dies. Breaking Bad: Pope Edition is a genuinely hilarious idea.

4) The story of the "Alisha's Conviction" DLC is some absolutely contrived nonsense and Alisha just sucks to play as. Not being able to Armatize really makes her take forever to kill things, and the story of this DLC revolving around Rose just not telling her what happened to Sorey for no god damned reason even months after the end of the game is one of the most forced bits of a drama I have ever seen. There's thin excuse plots just to provide a premise for gameplay, and then there's whatever the hell this was.

-------

It's honestly amazing that a game this bad lead to a game as good as Tales of Berseria. A lot of that is largely because of staff shakeups from what I can tell (Producer Hideo Baba leaving Bandai Namco etc.), though to what extent this affected Berseria is not completely clear to me. I've often seen claims online that Berseria is meant as a reaction to Zestiria, but to what degree the elements of Berseria's story were already in place before things changed, and how shifts in staff might have affected presentation, I honestly can't tell. Like there's enough in Zestiria that hints at general Berseria story elements that means some of elements must have been in place. Sorey and Mikleo discussing the "crest of Innominant" (Innominant being a major force in Berseria's story) in the final dungeon of the game, which has no real direct relevance to the active plot of Zestiria itself otherwise. Hell the final dungeon itself is named "Artorius' Throne", and Artorius is the main antagonist of Berseria.

There's everything revolving around Eizen/Edna/Zaveid and Edna ranting about how Eizen went on adventures without her (Presumably referring to his actions in Berseria) after you kill him, but this all is pretty vague and amounts to a few lines from Edna and Zaveid.

Berseria itself at least seems partially to pull the rug out from under your understanding of Zestiria's mythology (Legends in Zestiria having Shepherds be legendary, Arthurian heroes vs. Berseria making the first Shepherd the main villain), but its not clear whether that was always the plan or not. Some of Zestiria's story decisions become somewhat understandable if so, but not all (I.e. Rose's character as a "good assassin" still is kind of senseless, and that's all on Zestiria).

Even something like Artorius in Berseria is clearly meant to be an even more extreme version of Sorey from this game, but its not clear how much of that is meant as commentary on Sorey's kind of fucked up morality or just being an "evil version" of a previous protagonist is hard to say (Though Berseria's radically different idea about how to save people from "Malevolence" makes me think part of Berseria's subtext really is "Sorey fucking sucks holy shit"). Either way Berseria is still a good standalone story in its own right, partly because Artorius is well established villain that doesn't need intertextuality with Zestiria to be effective, but it does make me wonder what exactly the intent between both games as a part of a larger "universe" was for sure, or how that plan could have changed over time. Hopefully some kind of tell-all oral history about the development of these games becomes available one of these days.

I figured playing Zestiria would lead me to appreciating Berseria more, and it did, but holy hell even having heard warnings over the years Zestiria is such a mess. There's a lot more I could say (Really tempted to contrast Sorey and Velvet at some point and how they are such completely different protagonists), but I'll stop here for now.

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Street Fighter III: New Generation (1997)
Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact – Giant Attack (1997)
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike – Fight for the Future (1999) - So yeah these are pretty fun, with some absolutely gorgeous 2D animation, but I'm not sure I like the classic cast almost being entirely gone from these games besides Ryu and Ken and eventually Chun Li. I understand this was the main argument against the game back in the 90's, but I can respect a bold move (Though personally I was sad to see Cammy not make the cut). Still, none of the new characters seem memorable exactly... Like as much as people hype up the epicness of EVO Moment 37, its perhaps telling it involves Ken and Chun Li and none of the new weirdos.

Also the boss of the arcade mode having a super move that revives him is some BS.

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Elden Ring (2022) - Yeah this might be the best FromSoft RPG. Almost everything about it just works.

I'm really shocked how well the open world formula works with Souls too (And so far at least it seems to avoid having like pointless empty plains that are meaningless time padding for the sake of "lol open world"). Like it kind of reminds me of Zelda 1 in a way (Or maybe a significantly less obtuse Myst? Like there aren't Myst-like puzzles but the "Where the hell do I go?" vibe is similar) way more than even Breath of the Wild did, except unlike Zelda 1 it has just enough guidance to point you vaguely in the right direction while still allowing you to get lost, or to go fuck off and explore some random cave, or fight random minibosses roaming the open world etc. It's just fun to wander around in, and the combat is a nice evolution of Dark Souls 3 (Spirit summons being my favorite new addition! It reminds me of familiars in Bloodstained), and it's kind of shocking that some of the slight stealth mechanics from Sekiro (As well as a jump button!!! You can jump in Elden Ring!!!) are not only here but work really well with the more Dark Souls style of gameplay.

Also the horse works shockingly well in Elden Ring too. Also the horse can double jump! This leads to some very funny looking platforming lol.

Probably the part of the game though is that there's very little in the way of "Wtf were you thinking Miyazaki" flaws like shittier areas in the second half of Dark Souls 1 or whatever. Even ideas I thought sucked in previous games have been kind of fun here, like enemies that "drive you insane" (Basically glorified poison/bleed/etc. status) by looking at you are kind of decent here (Or at the very least not nearly as bullshit). Outside of a few optional bosses, the only really genuinely bad area I think is the endgame optional dungeon "Elphael". Its basically just the return of a lot of the kind of BS I hated in Dark Souls 3's Ringed City DLC (I'll never understood what people liked about Ringed City). Just a lot of tanky enemies, minibosses as regular enemies, and a confusing layout. Even just trying to run through the area really didn't really work until I looked up a YouTube guide on how to easily get through it.

The boss at the end of Elphael is pretty ridiculous too, though it did lead to the legend of "Let me solo her". Heroes really do exist after all!

Elden Ring memes in general have been pretty good:



Within hours of me beating Elden Ring, the game got a major patch update which not only buffered and nerfed a lot of spells, Summons, weapons etc., but even added straight up additional parts to NPC quests and such too.

The game was so massive that it never really read to me as unfinished to me, though From games are always so cryptic that it can be hard to tell sometimes! Like there's one NPC where pre-patch, the "end" of questline had her sitting in the Firelink Shrine-equivalent, which was on fire, staring endlessly at something that reminded her of her childhood and reminiscing about it.

Like that also reads like it could easily be the actual intended ending to an NPC's story in a Souls game (Perhaps as commentary on, say, millennials being obsessed with nostalgia for their childhood even as the world around us gets ravaged by climate change and Californian forests keep catching on fire or whatever), so I didn't think TOO much on it lol.

That's the way things go with games in the era of updates and such though, I guess. I'm a little burnt out on Souls games now but I can't wait to play Elden Ring again one day, trying new builds, seeing what's changed etc. Its just so fun.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention is that, and while I don't mind this, it is kind of of funny that the Asylum Demon model from Dark Souls is still getting reused by Bandai. It's all over Elden Ring, but it shows up a couple of times in Tales of Arise of all things too.

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Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (2011) - I generally like the Professor Layton games, and this is a pretty decent one. These games generally follow general detective story where Professor Layton comes into some goofy town to solve some or other mystery, and solves a lot of arbitrary puzzles along the way. The story here revolves around the city of Monte d'Or (Which has a nice "carnivale" aesthetic) being terrorized by the "Masked Gentleman", who is using the power of "dark miracles" granted by the "Mask of Chaos" to achieve revenge on the city for some mysterious reason. Layton is hired to figure out just what is going on and who this Masked Gentleman really is.

All Layton games run on the principle of magic and such not existing though (Except for if you have the power to talk to animals, that's totally legit), but frankly the explanations tend to be more ludicrous than the answer just being "lol magic" often is. Its to the point there are meme videos making fun of this.


^This honestly isn't even exaggerated much.

I will say "Miracle Mask" does seem to have the least amount of lolwtf bs olot twists compared to previous games, at least that I could tell. Really the only part that made me go "Oh come the fuck on" was nobody in the town noticing an entire replica of the local theme park being built LITERALLY NEXT TO THE THEME PARK ITS A COPY OF but that was about it. Not that other explanations for the "Dark Miracles" aren't still kind of silly but they still weren't this egregious, especially compared to older games like "Diabolical Box" or "Last Spectre".

Overall I like the general direction of the story too (Even if its incredibly predictable, especially if you pick up on what classic novel they're clearly riffing on), but there's a nice tale of reconciliation there at the end of the day. Probably one of my favorite Layton games overall.
Last edited by Raxivace on Thu Jul 28, 2022 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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I haven't played anything in a while now; focusing more free time on watching movies these days. I still have a pretty significant backlog of Switch games that I own and haven't yet played.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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I've also got a fairly large backlog of Switch games at this point. Over the last year or two my Switch library has really boomed in a way I didn't honestly expect, and it will only be increasing this year with stuff like Xenoblade 3, Cuphead DLC etc. coming out.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (2010/2020) - When I first played Xenoblade 1 I found the game to be fairly overrated, but shockingly I really liked Xenoblade 2 despite flaws that game does have. I'd since wondered if I'd dislike Xenoblade 1 so much if I were ever to replay it, and between the Switch port coming out a few years ago and Xenoblade 3 coming out in a few months I thought I might as well. The Switch port also adds an entirely new epilogue chapter that I was kind of curious about too.

To start with the positives, this is defintely the better version of the game. The visuals are no long as muddy as they were on the Wii, and being able to take on multiple Hunting Quests at once (And the map clearly marking objectives on the map!!!) defintiely speeds some of the grinding up. I like markers appearing for positional attacks too when you're in the right spot to deal extra damage on enemies as well (Especially since on the Wii version it was often ambiguous what counted as the "side" or being "behind" a large monster or whatever).

Sadly the combat itself is still pretty simple (Either you outdamage an enemy or you don't, there's not much inbetween. Theoretically you can tank fatal attacks and such but I never found much use to learning best way to do this instead of just killing faster), and most of the affinity system and such really does not work for me. Areas are huge but still aren't particularly fun to explore (Especially compared to something like Elden Ring), though its better with changes to quest systems.

I think my biggest change in opinion here is on the story, since despite liking some of the Gnostic stuff with Zanza and whatnot the story just seems way shakier to me now. There is a pretty basic anime "My hometown was attacked/destroyed now I fight for revenge/to destroy the enemy" setup (In fact usage of future visions as story device makes me think Xenoblade is specifically riffing on the original Mobile Suit Gundam here), but I don't really find execution satisfying. Shulk's change from bloodthirsty "MUST KILL EVERY LAST MECHON" revenge seeker to guy that wants to save everybody just doesn't feel earned to me, since it comes less from understanding the humanity of people he once viewed as enemies. Instead it almost entirely comes from "LULZ MUH FIORA HAS BEEN BRAINWASHED BY MECHONIS WTF" and him suddenly associating his friend Fiora with entirely of Mechonis people going forward (This reddit thread describes same complaint I have here pretty well). I just don't find this satisfying development, since it happens so early into the game (Well before you make it off of Bionis), and it also contributes to larger problem here of Mechonis feeling incredibly underwritten and developed as civilization to me.

Bionis has at least 4 major towns you explore and minor camps and such, there's some amount of competing cultures and civilzations there. You get some sense of what life is like. But once you get to Mechonis, there's one dinky village and hours upon hours of same industrial looking dungeons. It really undermines themes in unintended way that Mechnonis is even worth saving too (Sans single village) since damn near everything there wants to kill you. Like it honestly makes me wonder if game was rushed in development, since whole driving narrative of Bionis vs. Mechonis, the mystery of the mechon and their motivations etc., just comes down to a bunch of grindy dungeons for the most part.

These are key aspects of the game that just ultimately fall kind of flat I think, which is shame because if these worked I could forgive rest of the party being fairly flat, villains being kind of crap for most part (Though fixing Mechonis would have fixed some of the Mechon villains specifically) etc., but man. Xenoblade.

Lastly there's also the new "Future Connected" epilogue which I generally think is a step up from writing in base game. I think its kind of funny that the political situation of the Bionis' Shoulder area is better done than the entirety of Mechonis in the base game, showing how a diverse group of people from very different backgrounds fight amongst themselves in face of upcoming threat. Melia being made the main character over Shulk is an interesting choice too and she actually has a real character arc for once, though I don't like how Future Connected assumes you did some of the sidequests in the base game (The Bana drug ring one is even missable!). The "Fog King" ends up being fairly random, anonymous villain in this little segment but that's fairly decent price to pay for everything else generally getting a little more focus.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (2017) - Of course there was another SF2 variation. Of course.

From what I can tell this is basically just a modified Super Street Fighter II Turbo, which is fine by me since that was the best version anyways. The game has the option for updated visuals which mostly look pretty good, and more modern voice performances as well (Though I prefer classic voices). There's a collection of art as a special feature which is cool I guess. There's also "new" characters in Evil Ryu and Violent Ken which is funny.

Idk, its still SF2 at its core. Weirdly this version is only available on the Switch. I got it during a recent sale and its probably the version I'll go to when I just want to play some SF2 for fun.

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Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (1995) - This is another one of those games I never beat as a kid but can now thanks to Switch save states and such.

I remember really enjoying what I did play of this as a kid too, but now I feel like only the first bunch of worlds is very good. There are just too many levels where you're swimming or climbing or avoiding rising lava or acid or whatever that it just gets to be a bit much (The last acid level toward the game is particularly egregious). The difficulty just gets a little ridiculous in general too with some of the timing of enemies, or how precisely you have to hit them.

I didn't have too much issue with DKC1, but here in DKC2 I was really feeling what Gendo was talking about with DKC1 physics feeling awkward. There were several times in the second half of the game in particular where I just couldn't get Diddy or Dixie to quite jump the way I wanted them to.

I'm also kind of surprised how much of this game ended up in later N64 games from Rare. Actually turning into the animal buddies seems to anticipate the Mumbo Jumbo transformations in Banjo-Kazooie for example, but there's also the bonus world to talk about. This is where Rare's collectathon fetish really started to get ridiculous, because to reach all the secret levels in the secret world, you need to find and beat all 75 bonus levels hidden in the game and that is just too much for me. Or at least, that kind of exploring is not what I enjoy in 2D platformers like this (Metroidvanias are a different story).

Thankfully somebody on the dev team must of realized the bonus level thing was ridiculuous so they added in a way to get all the bonus level coins from the very start...



Thing is, from what I can tell this only works the first time you play the first level. I wasn't able to get the coins to spawn when I tried replaying the level, so I ended up having to restart the game lol since I figured that would be faster than finding the all the bonus stages and such anyways.

I dunno, I guess I liked DKC2 but like a lot of these Rare games it doesn't really hold up as well as I remembered or wanted. Still kind of curious about revisiting DKC3 though, so I'll still play that one day.
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Re: Rax/Maz/Jimbo 2021 Games Thread

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One thing I do have to give DKC2 though is credit for this track.



One of the best in its era IMHO. The levels it played in were all ass but the track is good.
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