Forums

Topic: User Impressions/Reviews Thread

Posts 1,281 to 1,300 of 1,364

ralphdibny

@mookysam oh yeah I forgot about how bad the frame rate got in those missions! I can't believe I stuck with them, I did them non lethal as well and it took donkeys years to put one of those suckers to sleep!

ralphdibny

mookysam

@Kidfried At least I can temper my expectations. 😂 I thought I’d enjoy L.A. Noire but really didn’t. The script irritated me and I disliked how limited the interrogations were. Especially the logic-defying doubt option. Ugh.

#BlackLivesMatter

Kidfried

@mookysam Yea, L.A. Noire was a bit hit or miss. I liked being that detective, but interrogating often felt like a uni multiple choice test I didn't study for. I guess it's really hard to put detective work into a video game.

The best detective game I've played is still Return of the Obra-Dinn. Very fresh approach to the genre, and it'll definitely make you feel like an actual investigator.

RR529

The Lost Bear (PSVR)
Untitled

Gameplay:

  • A 2D platformer (yes, in VR!) in the same school as Unravel (and I assume Limbo, based on what I've seen) where you must guide a meek & relatively unathletic protagonist through their quest with some puzzle solving along the way.
  • The core action plays out on a large screen in front of you (while it looks tiny in screenshots, in game it appears like a theater screen), and while for the most part it seems like something that could be ripped out of the VR environment and thrown on a flat screen, there are a few things it does to make use of the perspective. The most everpresent is that the graphics on screen are layered (like a 3DS platformer with 3D on), you (the on screen character) have a slingshot you aim with motion control, and there are often mechanical puzzle elements that have you make use of motion as well (such as twisting the controller to work a crank). The most interesting happen late game though, such as a puzzle where you must hit bells in the correct order, and while this can be done by remembering the tones, it's much easier once you realize there are "physical" bells in the environment around you (corresponding to the on screen bells) which move whenever you're given the hint. The one I liked the most though was a spooky scenario where all the lights went out and you had to use the DS4's light bar as a flashlight to illuminate the screen, and at certain points to find an object in the room around you (there's a digital representation of the controller floating in front of you in game at all times).
    Untitled
    Illuminating the way. Sorry it's so dark, it doesn't appear this dingy in game.
  • Really the only problem with the game is that it's short, even by VR standards. Consisting of 5 levels, it'll take you at most 2 hours (maybe shorter depending on how you get on with it), with no replay incentive as there's no collectables, time trials, or anything of that nature.

Visual/Audio:

  • The on screen graphics have kind of a papercraft/painting aesthetic (maybe trying to give it a puppetry theatre kind of vibe), though the environment on screen scrolls instead of being screen by screen (which I think would have better sold the theatre vibe), but I don't think the game is worse for it or anything.
  • It definitely has a kind of melancholic environmentalist vibe where you go from exploring an autumnal forest to more industrial areas such as a junkyard or abandoned factory (I swear, between Unravel, Tearaway, this, and what I've seen of Ori, this melancholic vibe must be the defining chararistic of the Euro Dev platformer, lol. They never seem to be as bright & peppy as JP or US platformers). In a neat touch, whenever you enter a new area the environment around you changes to aline with the on screen action.
  • There are some moments where elements will pass from the screen to your surrounding area & vice versa. Examples include a swarm of bees who fly out of the screen after buzzing your character to buzz around you, or when it starts to rain on screen and around you at the same time.
    Untitled
    Looking a bit "off screen" to the surrounding environment).
  • The music fits the melancholic vibe with a lot of stringed instrumentals.

Story:

  • A boy is camping out in the forest with an older relative, but soon he loses his prized stuffed bear and ventures through increasingly treacherous environments in order to find it. Along the way he's persued by "junk wolves"(?) who you often have to run from in chase sequences.
    Untitled
    Taking junkyard dog a little too literally.

Conclusion:

  • It's nothing revelatory, but it's a solid little platformer that shows devs are trying to see how they can successfully transition any kind of genre into the VR space.
    Untitled

Currently Playing:
Switch - Blade Strangers
PS4 - Kingdom Hearts III, Tetris Effect (VR)

RogerRoger

@RR529 Thanks for this. It's interesting, now that VR seems here to stay, that developers are trying to adapt more genres to the platform. Aside from the devastatingly-short runtime (a common criticism of VR games, I understand) it sounds like The Lost Bear does well enough. Good stuff.

"Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind."

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

Ralizah

@RR529 Nice review. The game sounds fairly rudimentary, although I guess that's to be expected for a lot of early VR games.

The movie theater screen approach is interesting. Doesn't the PSVR have a mode where you can play all of your games in which looks like a theater?

ACTIVELY PLAYING
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Switch)

PSN: Ralizah

RR529

@RogerRoger, @Ralizah, thanks for reading!

As to the question about the "theatre overlay", I don't think so, for games at least. The main menu (and non-vr games, I presume) just appear on a flat "screen" floating in the void in front of you (though you can toggle it's size, making it take on a theatre like sized appearance).

However I believe there are a couple video playback apps that do place you in a virtual theatre, but I think they only work with movies/videos you have stored in memory & maybe DVD/BD, but not games or streaming services (I could be wrong though, as I haven't used any).

Currently Playing:
Switch - Blade Strangers
PS4 - Kingdom Hearts III, Tetris Effect (VR)

RogerRoger

RogerRoger's Random Sonic the Hedgehog Retrospectives
Part Six: SONIC RIVALS and SONIC RIVALS 2
November 2006 and November 2007 / PlayStation Portable (exclusive)

We got there eventually. Writing all of these retrospectives on a PlayStation forum, I couldn't continue without covering the only time Sonic has been exclusive to one of Sony's platforms... twice. Truth be told, even without that detail, both Sonic Rivals and its sequel fit my criteria like an oversized white glove; they're well-made, oft-overlooked entries in the Blue Blur's back-catalogue which deserve a little more recognition than they usually get. Or do they?

It's 2006, and Sonic has hit his 15th birthday. Outside of his tentpole reboot game, he's keeping himself busy with the three Rs - Rush, Riders and Rivals. This carpet-bombing release strategy would ensure a celebratory game on every console of the day (home and handheld) but SEGA couldn't expect Sonic Team to develop them all. Meanwhile and elsewhere, Californian studio Backbone Entertainment had designed a new platforming game engine but lacked a contextual story or purpose for it. You can probably guess where this is headed, right? Some supervisory air miles later, and we got Sonic Rivals on the relatively-new-ish, still-popular-enough-to-justify-a-release PlayStation Portable.

Untitled
"I don't care if it's his birthday," exclaimed Silver. "Victory is mine!"

That happy coincidence isn't to discredit the work Backbone put into Rivals, though. In their excitement at landing the Sonic licence, they'd started to craft a set of sweeping, expansive 2.5D platforming levels packed with shortcuts and environmental hazards, very reminiscent of the franchise's origins. SEGA's Takashi Iizuka then requested the inclusion of a racing element (without making it a traditional racing game, because otherwise it would've clashed with Sonic Team's own concurrent project, Sonic Riders) and the game's unique selling point was born; as they tried to complete each stage, players would fight a running battle with a rival character.

I respect the effort to spice up Sonic's core left-to-right gameplay. Backbone's level design is spectacular and cinematic (and runs brilliantly on the PSP as well, it must be noted) and it would've been enough just to play through them in a traditional manner, but adding in a rival who's ghosting you on a parallel path gives the experience a potent edge of adrenaline. You attack or defend against one another with various power-up items, and everybody has a few melee moves, including the now-famous Homing Attack and a new sliding kick (both of which can be countered with a well-timed button press).

Untitled
Knuckles was about to have Sonic over a barrel (yeah, make your own jokes).

Unfortunately, whilst I respect said effort, I often lament its execution. Because you have to beat your rival to the goal in order to win and progress, and because each level is really long in Sonic terms, there's far too much luck involved in what might end up a fruitless endeavour. With power-ups almost everywhere you look, and with an A.I. content to constantly spam them, things can quickly become the E for Everyone equivalent of a relentless bloodbath. There is some really aggressive rubber-banding going on behind the scenes, as well; during one race, I saw Knuckles get hopelessly stuck in the geometry and so I settled down for a relaxing saunter to victory, only to then get blasted from nowhere as the over-excited echidna consumed half the level's progress tracker and caught up with me in three seconds flat. He then overtook me, and I had no way of returning the favour before he crossed the line. Much rage.

When you reach the final stage and it's revealed to be a solo sprint to save the world, therefore, be careful not to drown in the wave of relief that'll inevitably wash over you. It's here where Rivals realises its potential, leaving you to hop, skip and jump your way through a pair of lovely levels uninterrupted. It's just a shame that they come after ten other hit-and-miss, trial-and-error fights for the finish... and that isn't even counting the boss battles.

Untitled
Designing this boss obviously got Dr. Eggman out of his shell.

Actually, on reflection, the periodic showdowns with multiple mechanised monstrosities are pretty cool. They all take place on circular or semi-circular platforms, and are often satisfyingly rhythmic in a way I don't recall other Sonic bosses being. You're still duking it out with your rival (this time in a "first to six hits claims the glory" tally) but there are no power-ups, making it a fair fight and leaving you free to focus on defending yourself, scuppering them and beating the boss before they do. It's the one place where Backbone gets the balance of the game's rivalry concept spot-on.

I'm focusing on gameplay so much because, to put it lightly, the first Rivals is a tech demo. With respect, Backbone should've renamed themselves "Barebones" in the opening logos; outside of its pretty good, potential-packed levels, the game has no substance. The four playable characters each have their own stories (told via a slideshow of muted text boxes) but they all repeat the same stages in exactly the same order and so, once you've seen them through with Sonic, you can quit safe in the knowledge that you've been everywhere and done everything. There are a series of "cups" you can complete but again, these just select three random levels and make you play through them for... well, for a little compressed JPEG of a cup, I guess. Whether trying to collect all 150 of an in-game card collection, fighting against a friend in wireless multiplayer, or seeking out Metal Sonic as a hidden playable character, you're still just gonna be running through the same stages, over and over, and over. And over. And... [thud]

Which is why we might as well move on to the sequel.

Rivals 2 was turned around within a year, given that the popularity of the Sonic brand had ensured healthy sales for the first game. Regardless of such financial success, Backbone were conscious of critical criticism and made an effort to upgrade the sequel's presentation and pacing. There would now be eight playable characters, divided into four pairings in order to track a much more coherent story across a detailed world map. All cutscenes would be fully voice-acted, and there would be much more post-game content, including an option to play levels in a "classic" mode without a rival hot on your tail(s). Not every objective would revolve around racing to win, either; now you'd periodically pause to collect rings, or defeat a certain number of enemies within a time limit. As the cherry on the cake, there would also be brawl battles, allowing you to therapeutically whale on the anthropomorphic jerk who'd just caused you to replay the last race six times. Put simply, it would be a complete game, and would more than justify its sticker price.

Untitled
"Say hello to next week for me, Silver!"

There were other, much smaller tweaks which made me smile. In the previous Rivals, everybody had a special ability which was triggered by finding a rare power-up but here, in the sequel, there's a simple ring meter mechanic in place; collect enough of them, and your chosen hero can unleash their specific skill. It's great fan-service, but also a shame that they're so scattershot. Some are useful (Sonic's speed boost, Shadow's time-slowing Chaos Control, etc.) but others, like Tails' flight, seldom come in handy and, as such, you're more likely to lose when certain storylines force you to control certain characters.

And that inconsistency seeps through elsewhere, as well. Even during the standard platforming levels, gameplay is broken up with environmental gimmicks like hang-gliding, or rolling a barrel down a hill. These can be neat when they work, but being thrown a new control method mid-stride can be jarring (and seriously, if you're unaware that the rocket you've suddenly found yourself riding is about to blow up, then you're destined for failure through no fault of your own). At times, it feels like Backbone needed six solutions to a problem, came up with twelve and then said "Heck, we like all of these, so let's cram 'em all in!" This leaves Rivals 2 with level design which isn't as sharp as it was before, even if the moment-to-moment variety has been improved.

Untitled
Insert a joke about this being "a barrel of laughs" here.

Back in the day, I would confidently call Rivals 2 the better game because of its extra bells and whistles when compared to its predecessor. Recently downloading both to my PS Vita and replaying them for this retrospective, I think I've done a complete one-eighty. The many "improvements" to the sequel feel superficial at best, and clunky at worst. The brawl stages are needlessly obtuse and obstructive, and the idea of eight story playthroughs (rather than four) became slightly insulting as I struggled to complete my second. Even the perfectly-balanced boss battles had become more frustrating than fun, with a design overhaul often robbing them of their circular stages in a failed attempt to make them "bigger and better" in some ways. Don't get me wrong; when the camera pulls out and reveals the sheer size of some stages, it's still an impressive experience (the neon overdose of the casino-themed levels is a sight to behold on PSP) but I'm left wondering where my younger self got his endless patience from.

I wish I still had it, not least for both games' soundtracks. They're composed by Chris Rezanson and are a major letdown for a Sonic game. Rivals had an inoffensive series of short loops which worked as a background tempo to tap along with, no matter how compressed they sounded, and some minor notes were added to tailor them to their respective locations... but my goodness, the "music" from Rivals 2 is straight-up bad. Rezanson doubles down on overdriven guitars and follows you around with an indistinguishable wall of noise. Take this as an example.

No, the track name isn't a mistake; that's what accompanies a jaunt through a forest at sunset. Rivals 2 represents the first and only time that I've ever gone into a game's settings to turn the music volume down, not up. I didn't even do that with Sonic Chronicles.

Despite all of these grumbles, I reckon that the Rivals games definitely deserve to be remembered, and not just as a piece of PlayStation exclusivity trivia. For better or worse, they were sincere in their determination to modernise Sonic's typical left-to-right gameplay in a recognisable and respectful way. All of the rival-racing shenanigans aside, Backbone achieved a baseline quality of design and presentation here which commands my respect, and can still provide fleeting moments of fanboy fizz. I just wasn't expecting to find most of said moments in the first game, s'all.

I guess this is why I replay things. If you'd asked me about the Rivals games a couple of weeks ago, I'd have recommended skipping straight for the sequel... but now? On balance, I think they're a wash. The point I want to deduct from Rivals 2 for its gameplay sins is replaced by another for its window-dressing and wider range of content.

And personally, I think there's something to be said for the simplicity of the original.

Untitled
Sonic Rivals = 6/10
Sonic Rivals 2 = 6/10

All this reminds me of another, more blatant attempt to drag Sonic back to his two-dimensional roots. It came later, hit a lot more platforms and yet, to this day, remains just as downtrodden. Considering its pedigree, I find that a real shame.

Sonic the Hedgehog will return.

Edited on by antdickens

"Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind."

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

mookysam

Another neat Sonic retrospective @RogerRoger! How many games have you got left?
Sonic Rivals looks the part at least, given how colourful it is, and it certainly sounds like effort was put in to the presentation (particularly in the second one), but ultimately the gameplay sounds medicore. Given the power of the PSP I wonder what could have been achieved if a more traditional Sonic experience had ever been targeted by SEGA during the system's life (unless there was, in which case ignore my buffoonery). It's always a shame when there's that "what if?" The DS got a lot more love, but it is still interesting that something a little different was tried on Sony's handheld.
And why WHY did I click play on that video? Damn my curiosity. It's set off my tinnitus. 😱

#BlackLivesMatter

nessisonett

Yeahhh, Sonic Rivals 2 at least just straight up wasn’t fun when I played it. It kinda felt like a tech demo of what a Sonic game could be but then they forgot to fill in the blanks.

Socks before or after trousers, but never socks before pants, that's the rule. Makes a man look scary, like a chicken.

Black Lives Matter. Enough is enough.

RogerRoger

@mookysam Thank you! Got two left to write about... well, no, I've got seven left to write about, but I don't wanna push my luck. After the next two, there'll be a natural pause.

And no, these were literally it for Sonic on the PSP, alas. There was also a pretty impressive port of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on the PS Vita but otherwise, SEGA often preferred developing for the DS and 3DS, which were cheaper and had a more receptive install base (there's a lot of crossover between the Sonic fanbase and Nintendo properties like Pokémon, for example).

Sorry for embedding the music. I figured it had to be heard to be believed; how in the heck did somebody create that noise and think "yeah, job done"...?! Especially in a franchise known for its steadfast reliability when it comes to catchy soundtracks. Such a shame!

@nessisonett Blimey, if you thought that the sequel felt like a tech demo when you tried it, then steer well clear of the first game! It's so bare-bones, it's not even funny.

"Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind."

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

RR529

@RogerRoger, great write-up on the Rivals games. I think I remember seeing a thing or two about them back in the day either through gaming mags or someone at school sneaking in their PSP during class, but as I didn't have one I'm afraid the games were never really on my radar.

Currently Playing:
Switch - Blade Strangers
PS4 - Kingdom Hearts III, Tetris Effect (VR)

Ralizah

@RogerRoger Great review! Those games sound awful, though, I have to admit. Sonic games are harried enough as is: I can't imagine one where you're constantly up against a rival. It's a pity the game design didn't live up to the technical ambition of the projects, because they really do look fantastic for portable Sonic games from the mid-00s.

The boss fights sound interesting. I recall seeing the semi-circular stage boss encounters in a few other platformers (Shantae: Half Genie Hero and Kirby: Planet Robobot, to be exact), too.

That music you linked doesn't even sound like real music. It sounds like the sound that would filter through the walls when your snotty fifteen-year-old son practices with his "band" in the garage.

I really like this focus on Sonic games practically nobody knows about. I didn't even know these PSP games existed!

ACTIVELY PLAYING
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Switch)

PSN: Ralizah

RR529

Super Mario Galaxy (Super Mario 3D All-Stars - Switch)
Untitled
The only game in the collection I had previously beaten, how does it hold up? I completed it with 91 out of 120 Stars.

Gameplay:

  • It's structured much like the first two entries in the series, with a hub world (the Comet Observstory) to run around in that connects to the various Worlds (Galaxies in this case) you'll be traversing. There are 6 rooms in the Observatory that each house 5 Galaxies (save for the last one, which only has 4), and like 64 each Galaxy requires a certain number of Stars in order for you to enter it, with the 5th Galaxy in a room always being a Bowser level that unlocks the next room of Galaxies. In this respect it strikes a nice balance between 64's open progressiveness & Sunshine's requirement that you must complete a certain collection of Missions to progress. It has more hard locks than 64 meaning you'll probably have to collect most Stars in a Galaxy, however no individual Star is required (outside of the Bowser level ones), so you still have some freedom to skip a few if you feel like you need to. In order to unlock the final level the only things you'll need are 60 Stars & access to the 5th room (so if you get enough Stars in the first 4 rooms' Galaxies, you don't even need to explore the last couple rooms).
  • The Observatory is much more streamlined compared to past hubs & doesn't have as many secrets. There are no Stars to collect in the hub itself (unlike 64 & Sunshine) & and unlike the past couple games it doesn't have any secret one off levels hidden within (it still has one off levels, but they're much more signposted, and unlock after obtaining a certain number of Stars, just like regular Galaxies). Really the only "secrets" it has are a few 1-UP mushrooms that respawn everytime you return.
  • Galaxies themselves come in 2 flavors. You have big Galaxies that have 5 Stars each, and small Galaxies that have 1 Star (rarely 2) each. The first three Stars of a big Galaxy are it's main missions (and these do need to be played in order) while the 4th is usually a hidden Star (it'll only be accessable via one of the main Stars' missions) & the 5th is a comet challenge mission (this requires you to complete a certain main mission with an extra challenge, such as a time limit, or one hit deaths). Small Galaxies only have one mission associated with them, and thus one Star (a couple have a hidden Star as well, though).
  • Galaxies do tend to be much more linear than 64 or Sunshine's worlds in terms of design. You'll usually start out on the same planet no matter which mission you're playing (which at times can be somewhat sandboxy), but depending on which mission you choose you'll take a completely different path through the Galaxy, visiting different planetoids on your path to the end goal. Of course, except in rare circumstances, small Galaxies only have the one goal. While the open ended nature of past games' worlds could be impressive, I think I prefer Galaxy's more focused approach.
  • Gone is FLUDD, & Mario is back to having most of his 64 moveset (though with no diving I believe, and melee attacks have been replaced with a spin move, which you can use as an attack, but it's also extends your jump a tad & activates certain elements in the environment). It feels much tighter than past games (especially 64), and is a joy to control outside of a few small issues. Namely it can be tough to correctly line up a jump on small round planetoids, and every once in awhile when running straight Mario will suddenly run in a circle quickly, seemingly to make sure that he's oriented correctly (these aren't huge or regular problems, though). Untitled
    Mario sometimes needs to reorient himself due to some topsy turvy level design.
  • There are some elements of Wii's motion controls still in-tact as well. The most everpresent of which is an on screen pointer which you'll occasionally need to make use of in order to interact with the environment. This is controlled via your controller's gyro (you can simply touch the screen in handheld mode), and while it requires more reorientation compared to the Wii original, you're rarely ever tasked with doing anything particularly demanding with it, so I never found it to be an issue. Otherwise there are a few rare instances where you'll be required to use the gyro to motion control a Manta Ray surfing or "Monkey Ball" style section, but I didn't have too much trouble with those either. Otherwise the spin move is still tied to a waggle motion, but you can now activate it by pressing a button as well (which is what I did).
  • Powerups return to the franchise after being absent in Sunshine, and feature quite a bit. Bee Mario lets you hover over large gaps (it works like FLUDD's hover mode), Boo Mario lets you float & phase through certain surfaces (plus looks cute), Spring Mario is a bit unweildy to control but lets you jump to really high places, Ice Mario lets you run, slide, and jump on water & lava (there's even a section where you have to wall jump up waterfalls), Rainbow Mario gives invincibility, Fire Mario makes his debut in a 3D game after being a staple in the 2D games for years, and there's even a Flying Mario powerup, though it's really only ever used in one mission & the hub world. Untitled
    Fire Mario goes 3D. Use fireballs to fry enemies & light torches.
  • It's also a much more boss heavy game than past 3D entries, with most big Galaxies having at least 1 boss fight, sometimes 2. While most of these are pretty standard (though more involving than 64's efforts), and there are a few you fight more than once with a harder variant, there are a couple impressive & unique boss fights, such as Kingfin, pictured below Untitled
    An excitingly tense underwater fight sees you dodging explosive piranha skeletons while trying to hit this big guy's weak point with shells, all the while keeping an eye on your air guage & picking up bubbles to replenish it. He won't go down in the typical 3 his required either, taking 5 or 6 hits to put down.
  • It's often said that this is the easiest game in the collection, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. It just doesn't have as many obtuse moments where you wonder what you're supposed to do next due to the more focused nature, it's a tighter controlling game compared to 64 (and even Sunshine a bit), and it's much more forgiving with regular checkpoints & lots of easily obtainable 1-UPs in the hub world (you're even offered 5 extra lives every time you start the game up).
  • If you manage to collect all 120 Stars you unlock the ability to replay the game as Luigi (who again makes his first appearance in a main 3D game, playable or otherwise), who has a higher jump at the cost of more wonky physics, acting as a hard mode of sorts.

Visual/Audio:

  • Despite it's age it's still a remarkedly good looking game, and while you can see some rough edges if you look close enough, it otherwise looks thoroughly modern. Plus, it's cleaned up to 1080p in the collection (720p handheld) & upgraded to 60FPS, which while not a requirement is a nice upgrade.
  • It has a nice variety of colorful & imaginative worlds, from militarized fortresses, oversized bee colonies, a playroom, haunted mansions & more. It's a game that keeps delighting until the end. Untitled
    Untitled
    Untitled
    Untitled
    Some of the varied locales you'll experience.
  • One thing I like about the game is how epic it feels in scope & adventure. There's a bit of a "war/resistance" theme permeating everything, as even when you're not tackling Bowser levels (which are the most overt with such theming) Galaxies often take the form of militarized asteroids, aquatic bases, & massive warships (it's not enough to be overbearing, as there are still a lot of whimsical worlds as well, but even those can have elements of the overall theme, such a turret bound Monty Mole atop Gold Leaf Galaxy's highest point, giving an air of occupation to some of them).
  • It also feels decidedly "on brand" in a way that previous 3D games didn't. In addition to the Fire Flower, elements like proper "Bowser's Castle" levels, "?" Blocks & more (including Luigi, who was a pretty big omission in past games) make their debut in a 3D game, solidifying it as imaginative as past 3D games while at the same time being comfortable in it's place as a Mario game.
  • Even as someone who usually doesn't pay too much attention to music in games, Galaxy is great in this department. Big bombastic adventure tunes, remixes of classic Mario tracks, and sweet melodies that meld well with some of the game's more somber moments.

Story:

  • It's another "Bowser kidnaps Peach" narrative, but presented in the most epic manner in the entire series. Mario is heading on down to Peach's Castle for a big celebration & Toad Town is all lit up for the ocassion (I think it may be the only time outside of the Mario RPGs the town appears?), but suddenly an armada of airships raid the town blasting it apart with meteors and upon Bowser declaring that Peach is invited to the creation of his own personal Galaxy a UFO breaks cloud cover, carves her Castle out of the ground and carries it into space. Mario tries holding on but is blasted off by Kamek (the wizard koopa), and after a brief tutorial stage getting you acclimated to how this space-fairing adventure plays out Mario is recruited by a mysterious figure known as Rosalina to restore power to her Comet Observatory (when at full power she can take him to the center of the universe where Bowser is putting his plan in motion, however the dastardly koopa has stolen it's supply of Power Stars in order to power his machines of conquest)
    Untitled
    He just won't give up.
  • Again this leads it to having a sort of "war/resistance" vibe, as it really feels like a team effort. Rosalina lends Mario the power of the Luma (starlike beings who populate the Observatory) which allows him access to the star shaped gates that blast him to all corners of the universe, a plucky group of Toads (led by the progenitor of Captain Toad, including his catchy theme) travel the void in a ship built by the Luma on the search for Stars (you'll run across them often in Galaxies & usually must help them out in order to get a Star that they found), and there are even times you'll have to travel to a previous Galaxy to save Luigi after he's gotten himself into trouble trying to find a Star. Heck, every time you unlock a Bowser level a Luma informs you that they've "located an enemy base".
  • There's also a Library on the Observatory, and at certain thresholds you'll unlock a new chapter in Rosalina's backstory, told via a totally adorable children's book aesthetic. It's quite a somber tale & even gets surprisingly emotional. You'll even get some lore on other things, such as the origins of the Power Stars themselves. Alas (likely due to the immense success of the back to basics New Super Mario Bros. titles), further Mario titles have really stripped back what narrative elements were starting to creep into the series with Sunshine & Galaxy.
    Untitled
    Time for a story.

Conclusion:

  • I found this to be just as captivating as it was the first time around, and really cemented itself as possibly the greatest core Mario title I've played. In hindsight it feels like 64 & Sunshine were rough drafts of what a Mario title could be in 3D, and while there are certain things about them I appreciate more (and I think Sunshine in particular is still a great game), I think Galaxy excels by taking the lessens they learned from the first two attempts, crafting an equally imaginative, yet razor focused adventure that's distinctly Mario in a way the previous games weren't.
    Untitled
    An explosive success, if I say so.

Currently Playing:
Switch - Blade Strangers
PS4 - Kingdom Hearts III, Tetris Effect (VR)

Ralizah

@RR529 Nice write-up! Glad to know I'm not the only one in love with this game (it basically reignited my interest in the medium after it came out, as my interest level in the hobby was at an all-time low in the seventh gen). You hit the majority of things I love about this game very concisely.

I'm not surprised it looks so good on Switch, as it was one of the few Wii game that still managed to look beautiful on an HDTV. That's almost entirely down to the game's amazing art direction.

I'm pretty sure the game always ran at 60fps, though. It was another significant upgrade from the previous 3D Mario games.

And yeah, the elegant sprinkling of narrative and worldbuilding really brought this game to life for me. It's incredibly emotional, and even though the plot is basically identical to other Mario games, the presentation is just phenomenal. It really feels like there are dire stakes to Mario's epic journey: it's not just running around for the hell of it (Mario 64) or solving a small-scale local mystery (Sunshine). Which fits with the dramatically expanded scope of the adventure, I guess.

Edited on by Ralizah

ACTIVELY PLAYING
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Switch)

PSN: Ralizah

RR529

Devil May Cry 2 HD (Switch)
Untitled
Even though it's considered an infamously "bad" sequel to the original genre defining title, as someone who generally likes to play through games in order, what do I think? (For reference, the quick turnaround of this review after my SMG piece is that I played the majority of this before getting 3DAS, but wanted to hold of on writing about it until I finished off the last 3 levels of the second campaign, which I recently did).

Gameplay:

  • A level based action game that consists of 31 missions spread across two story campaigns (18 missions for a Dante run, and 13 missions for newcomer Lucia). You are graded on your performance in a level (based on time spent, damage taken, items used, combat aggressiveness/style, etc.) with a better ranking granting you a larger number of Red Orbs (in-game currency used for upgrades) as a reward. Obviously the intent is for you to better your performance so you'll be able to afford better/more upgrades for the tougher late game missions, but the fact is that the game is easy enough that even by playing cautiously you'll still earn more than enough to get you through without much trouble (it should be noted that Red Orbs are regularly found in the level environments, and are dropped by enemies upon defeat as well. Due to the fact that some groups of enemies respawn after a few minutes, it's entirely possible to farm them in spots as well).
  • You string together melee combos with "X", ranged attacks with "Y", dodge with "A", jump with "B", and activate "Devil Trigger" (a transformation that increases your attack power & heals health with damage dealt) by pressing "L". I believe it's possible to guard as well, but it's telling that the game is easy enough that I never had to do so (preferring to dodge). To the game's credit there is a lot of room to play around with some flashy & stylish combat, but you'll never really be put into any situations where you'll need to do any advanced stuff (in fact, unlike the first game, you can't even buy any advanced techniques or combos as upgrades, as your full move set is available from the beginning), and to be honest in many situations it's possible to get by just by holding down the ranged attack button and slowly mow down everything around you, even off screen (there are these harpie enemies that are hilarious to fight, as when they spawn you can just start shooting and see them fall from the top of the screen one by one every few seconds, as there is automatic enemy lock on). Even some of the tougher enemies can be pretty easily stunlocked by a constant barrage of gunfire.
    Untitled
    Imma gonna go ahead and take you out before you're even on screen.
  • One (sort of) improvement on the first game is a wider gamut of bosses to fight (with only a few you fight more than once, and even then it's usually just once per campaign), but while there are are some that are fun to fight when you get into the intended groove, aside from one annoying boss that's hard for the wrong reasons, none of them are particularly challenging, and most can be cheesed with ranged attacks just as easily as normal enemies (or in the case of a corrupted tank just by hacking away at it, as it can't shoot you when you're under it's turret).
  • Outside of combat you'll have to contend with simple puzzles (such as finding a switch to activate a door), the ocassional platforming element, or even a timed escape sequence. The platforming can be a bit clunky, but nothing I found to be particularly irritating. Oh, and there are also hidden combat rooms behind random doors in every level (some levels must have more than one, as there are 20 in Dante's campaign despite the fact that he only has 18 missions, some of which are just boss rooms). There are no hints as to which doors hide one of these secret rooms, so you just have to check every single one you see in the environment (now, these are optional, but they ocassionally do reward you with a Blue Orb fragment, more on these later, for completion). Needless to say I didn't find all of them.
    Untitled
    Still better than Mario 64 (burn...)
  • In between missions (and at certain statues within them) you can access the upgrades menu. Here you can spend your Red Orbs to upgrade the attack power of your melee & ranged weapons (each can be upgraded twice), buy a limited number of health increasing Blue Orbs (these can also be found off the beaten path inside of levels as well, both whole & in pieces, of which you must collect 4 to make a whole), Purple Orbs (these increase your max Devil Trigger guage), or Yellow Orbs (these fully revive you if you're killed, however you can only hold one at a time. They can rarely be found in levels as well, however will be converted to Red Orbs if you already have one). You can also buy one use restorative items as well, but it's an easy enough game that you're better off saving for the full upgrades.
  • Otherwise you obtain alternate melee & ranged weapons as you progress through the game (with one being quicker but weaker than default, and the other being slower but stronger), but I never felt the need to switch from the defaults). You also obtain amulets that augument your Devil Trigger abilities (such as one that increases your attack strength even further while transformed, or one that increases your regenerative capabilities). Early on you even get one that lets you fly in Devil Trigger, but this isn't used much.
  • Lucia's campaign does reuse levels from Dante's, though some of them are remixed (like one you play in reverse), and it does have some new ones as well (such as an underwater level), including a different final boss. I'd say it's just different enough to be worth a shot if you completed Dante's & want more (it does expand more on the story too).
    Untitled
    Lucia's underwater mission. By default you're equipped with grenades which are cumbersome to use, but there is an (easily missed) harpoon gun early in the segment that makes combat underwater much easier.
  • You unlock a new costume for your character of choice on every difficulty you complete the game with them (for completing Hard mode the costume is the same for both characters, a skin of Trish from the first game). I only completed it on normal, however.
  • When you complete the game you unlock the ability to challenge the "Bloody Palace" mode with the character you beat it with. I haven't played it, but believe it's just a challenge mode where you must clear rooms of increasingly difficult enemies. Not sure what, if anything, you get for clearing it.

Visual/Audio:

  • While the first game had a very thematic castle for you to explore (it was originally intended to be a Resident Evil title & has sort of a "Metroidvania" style structure, just cut up into levels later in development), DMC2 was intended to be level based from the start & isn't anywhere near as moody as the original. I wouldn't say the levels are inherently samey (you do travel from a small European village, to a big metropolis, industrial complex, ancient ruins, and more), but they do come off a bit more dull than spooky as I imagine the intent was supposed to be.
    Untitled
    Untitled
    Untitled
    Untitled
    That's not to say it's all bad though. The two pictures just above are from the same level, as you explore a skyscraper in somewhat of an interconnected manner it slowly becomes more demonic in appearance the deeper you get.
  • Otherwise it cleans up pretty nice in HD, but is a pretty standard looking game from the era.
  • The soundtrack didn't standout one way or the other.

Story:

  • Many years ago the residents of a small island community helped Dante's father defeat a devil known as Argosax, however a powerful businessman known as Arius has invited the forces of darkness to turn the island into Hell on Earth all in an attempt to revive Argosax & gain immense power himself. Lucia, the last of the island's devil blooded warriors recruits Dante to help her put a stop to Arius' plans.
    Untitled
    This wannabe Dracula is up to no good.
  • It's not the worst story in the world or anything, but it is told sort of clumsily, especially if you just play Dante's campaign as Lucia's holds quite a few plot points that really don't get covered in Dante's. There are other points where things sort of just happen though, such as a mission where you're randomly warped to a boss fight in one of Dante's missions right before the end, and warped back after you beat it, kind of like how they couldn't think of how to organically work it in. Also, I totally think missions 5 & 6 of Dante's campaign were alternate ideas for the same mission (one where you fight a demon helicopter as you scale a skyscraper, the other you fight a skyscraper turned into a demon), as you start out both in the exact same area (which doesn't make sense, since you're working your way up the island). I think they just liked both ideas so included both.

Conclusion:

  • Is it a terrible game? I really don't think so. It's just a pretty run of the mill action game with a bit of a clumsy story that happened to be the follow up to the title that arguably defined the stylish action game, so was seen at the time as a big disappointment. Taken on it's own is a perfectly playable action game, that despite being a bit too easy for most fans of the genre might be worth a punt on sale. Untitled
    What a terrible night to have a curse (wait, wrong monster killing action series...).

Currently Playing:
Switch - Blade Strangers
PS4 - Kingdom Hearts III, Tetris Effect (VR)

RogerRoger

@Ralizah Thanks for the review praise! Technical achievement doesn't always equal a good game; I think that's an important and timely distinction a lot of people fail to make, particularly during the hype period for a new console (one year before launch, a couple after). Sonic Rivals may have been a great showcase for the PSP's power, and that might make it and its sequel stand out on the handheld itself, but I can't let my fandom drown my objectivity.

Were those semi-circular examples early 3D (at least for their respective franchises)? From what a recall, a couple of platforming heroes transitioning to the third dimension played with the idea of circular or semi-circular level design, because it was an easy way to show off their newfound depth. This wasn't the only time Sonic pulled the same trick; several of the Rush bosses on DS were fought on circular platforms, and they were always better than the "chase" or traditional ones.

And yeah, well... let's just say, that music puts a lot of other Sonic soundtracks in a much more favourable light. Your description made me laugh; it's exactly how I think of the Rivals soundtracks! Spooky bit of psychic connection for your Halloween evening, right there.

***

@RR529 Further thanks for the review praise, which I echo right back at'cha... twice! A pair of excellent write-ups from your good self (and blimey, you've been playing a lot recently, haven't you? From what I gather, both Mario Galaxy and Devil May Cry aren't exactly short games; even if you broke up the latter with the former, you're still getting through a lot at a fair pace, so nicely done)! It sounds like Galaxy is the ultimate refinement of the previous two games, which explains why Nintendo bundled the trilogy together, I suppose; definitely one I'll play if I ever get the chance, thank you!

As for Devil May Cry, I think I played a demo of one once (couldn't tell you which) and I was kinda bored by the gameplay, which is a feeling I sense you'd agree with. I get why they're super-popular, particularly tapping into a certain tone and style, but they're just not for me. I'm glad it didn't end up being a disaster for you, though, so thanks for the balanced review!

"Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind."

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

RR529

@Ralizah, @RogerRoger, thanks for reading.

On SMG, I totally forgotten how good it was. For awhile after release it was consistently on my top ten games of all time list, but after years of playing Mario games that were good but not on that level (the NSMB games, 3D Land) & the passage of time dulling my memories of it, I had kind of started to wonder if it was ever that revelatory, but this playthrough has totally reminded me of how awesome it is.

On DMC2, I definitely see how you could have been bored at points if it was this one, but I thought the first one was a more engaging game (even if it's a bit rough to really stand out today). Haven't played the others.

BTW, what's the consensus on write-ups of (retro) titles played via an emulator? I know discussions around the "How to do's" of it all is a no-no of course. It's not something I do extensively due to my Switch & PS4 keeping me busy, but there are a couple things I'm working through slowly.

Currently Playing:
Switch - Blade Strangers
PS4 - Kingdom Hearts III, Tetris Effect (VR)

nessisonett

@RR529 Emulators and the like are perfectly ok to discuss here as long as you’re not openly telling you how to crack recent systems or pirate games. I’d say you’re in the clear. I’m playing FF5 Advance on my laptop even though I own the cart because I’ve patched the original soundtrack in. Sometimes there are benefits to playing on an emulator, sometimes it’s better to play on original hardware.

Socks before or after trousers, but never socks before pants, that's the rule. Makes a man look scary, like a chicken.

Black Lives Matter. Enough is enough.

Top

Please login or sign up to reply to this topic