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Topic: User Impressions/Reviews Thread

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Buizel

@Ralizah @RogerRoger Thanks for the feedback!

@Ralizah Yeah, to be honest it's the unique selling point for me at the moment (of course, the extra power and SSD go a long way...but Xbox and PC also have that!). I really hope this becomes an industry standard moving forward. I think the triggers in particular go a long way towards the immersion - it's a shame that what was my favourite controller beforehand (the Switch Pro Controller) is stuck with digital triggers...but I suppose it still works in the context of that system. And I agree about it being very Nintendo-like - Astro's Playroom actually felt very Nintendo but with a clear lick of Playstation paint to me.

With regards to the generational leap - absolutely. When I first got a PS4 I didn't have experience of PC yet something felt missing at the time. It very much felt like a slightly more powerful PS3...and that was about it. Tbh I wouldn't say PS5 is particularly revolutionary either, but it's somehow managed to capture my excitement more than the PS4...maybe because I've already tried a game that showcases the hardware quite well? (I think it took a few years before I saw such a thing on the PS4)

With regards to performance...haha well, I might have some awareness but I try to temper my expectations based on the hardware I'm using. For that reason I'm fine using the Switch for almost all games that are available for it. With consoles I usually go in expecting some sort of compromise...but in this instance, even though the compromise was made explicit to me (decreased graphical fidelity in favour of performance), I didn't feel like the experience was compromised at all.

@RogerRoger Thanks. I'm actually kinda thankful that I didn't manage to get a PS5 until now...because I think my initial experience might've been slightly different without Ratchet and Clank and (now) Final Fantasy VII Remake. That said, I have a significant PS4 backlog so probably would've taken the time to play some of that on the new hardware and would've definitely given Miles Morales a shot (I really loved the first Spider-Man game). It is a shame about the controller but it hasn't soured my experience in any way - I'm hoping something can be done about it though.

And yep, definitely do give Ratchet and Clank a try - especially if you want something that really showcases both the power of the system and the unique properties of the Dualsense.

Previously "timleon" and "HunterLeon"

Currently playing:
PC: Mass Effect Legendary Edition; Yakuza 0
Switch: Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD
3DS: Pokemon Ruby
PS3: Persona 3 FES; Ratchet and Clank A Crack in Time

RogerRoger

@timleon Yeah, I can see that. Usually I wouldn't buy a new console until I'd collected two or three exclusives to play on it, but the PS5's unique situation has made it a "get one wherever you can" purchase for a lot of folks. Its backwards compatibility with PS4 games helps, but it still doesn't change the fact that I've spent most of my time with mine playing a remaster and some slightly improved versions of cross-generational titles. Astro's Playroom blew me away, at least from a technological perspective, so I'm really looking forward to Ratchet & Clank. That'll be when it hits home!

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

RogerRoger

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Platform: Dreamcast, PC, PS4 (version played) and Xbox
Release Date: September 2001

***

Honestly, I don't know what to make of Shenmue II.

Always a good start to an analytical review, that, but it's the frustrating truth I've been left with, after having struggled through the ongoing adventures of Ryo Hazuki for what felt like weeks, but what was in reality mere hours. Whilst trapped in its time-distorting presence, I swung wildly between all extremes of opinion; some moments had me smiling with genuine warmth, others had me rolling my eyes with unbridled exasperation. I shouted "Get a bloody move on!!" at my television more than once, but I also slowed certain sections to a crawl, happy to hang around and soak up the virtual charms on display.

Delivering on the promise of the first game's cliffhanger departure, Ryo arrives in Hong Kong. Fresh off the boat, he's given a rough time by the locals, underscoring how his small-town upbringing is in desperate need of seasoning if he's to succeed in tracking down Lan Di, his father's killer. Despite this, Ryo remains a flesh-coloured robot throughout, showing little personality beyond "awkward discomfort" and unable to shake his nasty habit of repeating everything everybody says to him. It's the supporting cast that carries him forward and, again, they're a mixed bag of brilliance and cringe. For every ice-cool martial arts master or loveable street urchin, there's a howling narcissist in leather pants, or a scantily-clad biker girl whose repeated interjections (always shot from the rear) are heralded by an obnoxious, clichéd rock song.

The story (which is inconsequential until its final hours; more on them later) finds its best material in local gangster wannabe Ren. As a somewhat flamboyant meat-head, he complements Ryo's wide-eyed stoicism nicely, even when the writing itself seems satisfied to be a painfully mediocre example of the odd couple trope. Ren reminds me of Guizhang from the first Shenmue, a much-needed narrative foil for Ryo who, by himself, would quickly become tedious in his monotony.

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The Buddy System: Take some chalk, take some cheese, handcuff it together and set it loose amidst the blank pages of your unfinished script, and the rest will write itself.

Hong Kong itself is an impressive sandbox in which to play, even if much of it goes wasted. Comprised of multiple districts, it can be overwhelming at first, but you'll soon memorise its critical paths as you bounce between a small handful of key locations to advance the plot. So much of it ends up being unnecessary, adding to the game's realism but also to your exasperation as you sprint back-and-forth, your right index finger cramping as you continually hold down R2 to keep a brisk pace. It came as a surprise when, halfway through, I was suddenly told that I'd be leaving Hong Kong. Surely all of this carefully-constructed real estate could've been of more use? Nope. Turns out, it was mostly window-dressing for a whole bunch of nothing.

The second area, Kowloon Walled City, feels like a cage by comparison. It features multiple large tower blocks, the interiors of which are constructed like mazes (the largest is the setting for an extended dungeon-crawler sequence towards the story's end, as Ryo and Ren attempt to scale it floor-by-floor) but ironically enough, its the exteriors that are the most claustrophobic. This might be a reasonable approximation of the Walled City itself, particularly considering the time period in which Shenmue is set, but it's still an odd juxtaposition when you realise that, as soon as the story starts to grow, the environment in which it's told has to shrink.

Because that's exactly what happens again, to wrap things up. For its crucial conclusion, right when things are ramping up for Ryo, Shenmue II takes you on a peaceful two-day walk through a linear section of lush Chinese countryside, entirely removed from the hustle and bustle of an urban setting.

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Great Escapism: This might all seem confusing at first, and during, and certainly after, but there's still a serene quality to this extended epilogue that I found strangely pleasant.

And then boom, cliffhanger. Again. Despite knowing that Shenmue III is a thing, I found this jarring to say the least, because a satisfying end for Ryo's quest was within my grasp. I had been shown the purpose of the Phoenix Mirror. I had been told of Lan Di's motivations, and knew where he was heading. Somebody had sung the theme song at me an' everything. I really felt as though this was it, that the story's gradual acceleration had been because it was about to take off and disappear into a sunset... but instead, it stayed on the runway, coming to a screeching halt with inches to spare.

Maybe it's for the best, though, because the general gameplay (if you can call it that) had outstayed its welcome long before this rug-pull. To offset the daunting size of Hong Kong, a few helpful new features have been added to Ryo's exploration and, true to the theme of this review, their contrasting success kinda cancels them out. There's a much-needed "wait" option to skip ahead, for when you're standing outside time-sensitive locations too early, and it's awesome, but there are also NPCs who, when asked, will slowly escort you to wherever you're looking for, dragging Ryo along with an invisible leash. This latter mechanic robs you of any input, removing any need to gather clues and piece together your next steps for yourself (you can cancel out of being escorted but, when I did, I still needed to ask somebody else for directions and, lo, they immediately pulled the same trick, so I just surrendered to it).

QTEs are back with a vengeance, as well, and they're worse than ever. They come in two flavours, and thank heavens they're not randomised, because the only way you'll clear some of them is by rote. The timing windows are in constant flux; sometimes the same input, during the same sequence, will give you a couple of seconds to react but then, if you have to try again, it'll sadistically fail you the instant it appears. When you come to realise that QTEs dominate most of Ryo's part-time jobs, as well as a dozen crucial, unskippable story segments, they'll start to cause real headaches. Even if you know exactly which buttons to press, and exactly when to press them, you can still lose. Repeatedly.

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Quite Terrible Excrement: Those pesky QTEs even show up during combat (input not shown), proving that nowhere in Ryo's world is safe from their toxic, soul-crushing stench.

Just as before, calling the PS4 port a "remaster" would be generous. From what I've seen on YouTube, loading times are much faster, but that's about it. The picture's aspect ratio continues to cycle through every possible permutation, presenting in full widescreen, the original 4:3 and even a miniscule 16:9 image in a 4:3 frame, entirely at random. Normally I'd see black bars on the screen and think "Ah, a cutscene, I can relax!" but nowhere in Shenmue II is safe from a QTE attack, so it's not like each change acts as any kind of useful herald or anything. There's simply no good reason for it.

But still, it's pretty to look at, for a Dreamcast original... and there's my problem, once again. There's the save, to keep me from condemning Shenmue II as a disaster, right on cue. Exactly as I'm sure a criticism would come along if I were listing some of its praiseworthy points here instead. Is it as good as the original? No, not for my money. Hong Kong and Kowloon lack the local appeal of Sakuragaoka and Dobuita, but then I suppose I should applaud the decision not to re-tread familiar ground and move Ryo onward to larger, more complex environments. And the level of technical achievement is indeed notable for its time, even if most of what the code creates is useless, omittable fluff. Which is bad, but also respectable. Which is good.

So, if it's reduced my thoughts to a mess of contradictions, then maybe it's best to conclude the same about the game itself. Shenmue II is an unplayable nightmare, but it's also the best game ever made. Avoid it because I highly recommend it, or play it because I don't. Or do I...?

Ten out of ten. Which you should probably read as a four. Or a solid six.

Help me.

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

Ralizah

@RogerRoger lol

Sounds like the game has both aged poorly and wasn't particularly well-designed even back in the day, but it's also difficult to fully lash out at something so clearly technically ambitious for its time.

I understand the conflict, though. It was basically my every interaction with Mario 64: a constant tension between "this doesn't hold up very well in [INSERT RECENT YEAR]" and "Geez, this was super impressive for a 3D platformer in '96." Even if a classic game is infuriating nonsense today, if it looked further ahead than most of its contemporaries, you can't help but find yourself simultaneously being sort of impressed with it.

Honestly, of all your criticisms, I think the most damning one for me would be that you're on QTE duty 24/7. That does sound like it'd quickly get exhausting. Which is actually one reason why I've never been a huge fan of games like Uncharted blurring the lines between gameplay and cinematics (or this, I guess). I like there being strictly defined narrative bits and gamey bits, instead of having to be on high alert basically all the time. Combining the two usually means less overall freedom of input from the player, because story beats have to progress in a particular way, and not being able to fully relax at any point.

Good piece, as always. Do you expect to attend to Shenmue III at any point? Just see it through to the end, since you've come this far?

Edited on by Ralizah

Most Anticipated Games
Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch)
Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)
Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp (Switch)
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PSN: Ralizah

nessisonett

@Ralizah Shenmue III, the end? laughs in 20-year wait for a satisfying conclusion

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

@Ralizah That's exactly the dilemma, yeah, or rather was the dilemma with the first Shenmue. This one suffers because, whilst its Hong Kong is indeed very impressive, it's largely unnecessary, and that leads me back to a quote I've used dozens of times to criticise other games: just because you can do a thing, it doesn't mean that you should. There were some new ideas and useful innovations indicative of what a sequel should arguably provide, but they were buried by all the over-indulgent fluff. The first Shenmue felt tighter, either out of technological necessity or just because it was designed better.

Exhausting is certainly one word for the QTEs, yeah. I usually don't mind them in games (they're not my favourite, but a lot of my wheelhouse has come to depend on them, so I've built up a tolerance) but this is a whole other level. Twice I was reaching for my coffee and missed sudden mid-cutscene inputs. At least, in some of the less-crucial examples, the game would roll with my (or its own) failure and just play the rest of the scene out slightly differently. Other times, however, it was a hard reset, and I ended up watching certain cutscenes five or six times in quick succession. So annoying. I think you're right, despite most of my modern collection suggesting otherwise, I think it's preferable when a game signposts its need for active involvement, even if it's just a small nudge or blinking bit of HUD or something.

Anyway, thank you for reading and being so kind, also as always! Not sure about Shenmue III. I think you're right, I think curiosity will get the better of me, but it took eighteen months for me to continue with what I already had to hand, so... yeah, don't expect a review of it anytime soon!

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

Th3solution

@RogerRoger Bravo on A) completing Shenmue II, B) writing an entertaining review of Shenmue II, and C) deluding yourself into thinking there is any conceivable way you’re not going to play Shenmue III eventually.

You’re in deep now. Shenmue has your soul. And it won’t release it until you play the third game.

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

————————

Forum Megapoll 2020 - Best Video Game Box Art: Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Special Edition

RogerRoger

@Th3solution Thank you, glad you enjoyed reading! It's strange; as relieved as I was to put it all behind me, I did find myself checking prices for a physical copy of Shenmue III last night. It's routinely on sale now. I think it's gonna get itself added to my basket next time I'm placing an order.

Like I said, help me.

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

JohnnyShoulder

@RogerRoger Well at least after you've played Shenmue 3, there will be no more Shenmue to play, right?

We are now in a world of people being offended for other people who they think should be offended, who arent offended.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

PSN: JohnnyShoulder

RogerRoger

@JohnnyShoulder True, at least in the immediate.

Although that does sound like the gaming equivalent of "I'm only eating these three extra large cheesecakes to get rid of them!" and in my experience, that never ends well.

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

Ralizah

ONE WEEK IN: A Monster Hunter Stories 2 Impressions Piece

Platform: Nintendo Switch

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Monster Hunter Stories 2 (MHS2) is a newly-released (July 9th) console-exclusive sequel to Capcom's 3DS/mobile turn-based JRPG spinoff of the Monster Hunter series, Monster Hunter Stories. The original Stories did well enough in Japan but never really managed to sell as well as the mainline 3DS Monster Hunter games overseas. Of course, that was back in 2017, and since then Capcom has massively expanded the overseas reach and appeal of this franchise with hit entries like Monster Hunter World on PS4/Xbox One/PC, which has become their best-selling title to date, and Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch, which is on-track to become their highest-selling single-platform release to date. Will that translate at all to the sales of a turn-based, story-driven JRPG, though? Time will tell, but Capcom is certainly putting in the work.

For anyone who has played the original release, the first immediately noticeable alteration is in the aesthetic design of the game itself. The original Stories opted away from the stylized realism of the mainline Monster Hunter games and instead went with an anime-inspired artstyle for human characters where everyone looked like a child. MHS2 maintains the anime-inspired visuals, as they're a part of this spin-off series' identity, but, per the Capcom leak, we've learned they redesigned the visuals to feel less childish in order to make the series more attractive to adults and Western audiences. While I can't say whether this will actually succeed for others or not, I can say it was a roaring success for me! MHS2 is a beautiful game and, freed from the tiny environments and technical limitations of the 3DS, it stands out as one of the best-looking exclusives in the Nintendo Switch library, combining vibrant characters and detailed monster models with lush environments that feel like they could have been ripped from Nintendo's Breath of the Wild. Part of this is also undoubtedly the high-ish resolution the game is running at all, although that might not have ultimately been the best decision for this game (more on that in a minute).

One of the strongest aspects of this game is the monster design. Truth be told, it can be difficult for newcomers to the monster-collecting JRPG scene to design creatures that don't feel like bootleg Pokemon, but MHS2 benefits from generations of creative monster designs poached from the mainline games. These designs, unlike the character design style for anthropomorphic characters (including Felynes, the intelligent bipedal cats in the Monster Hunter universe, who look much less cat-like and more distinctly cartoonish now), maintain the stylized realism of designs in the mainline games. The animation work for these creatures is excellent as well.

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In MHS2, you play as a young denizen of Hakolo Island, grandchild of Red, a legendary monster rider. Riders, in the lore of Monster Hunter Stories, use magic Kinship Stones in order to forge bonds with newly-hatched monsters and fight alongside them. This culture of reverence and respect for monsters puts them at odds with the much more common monster hunters, who see monsters as foes to be defeated and utilized for resources. The two groups come to blows at the beginning of the game when a mysterious event triggers unusually aggressive behavior in wild monsters and triggers the mass vanishing of Rathalos (great, winged wyverns, akin to traditional dragons, that are regarded by many with great fear as Kings of the Sky), including Guardian Ratha, Red's famous Rathalos who was considered by locals to be the guardian of Hakolo Island. Ratha leaves a lone egg, and many fear the mysterious events portend the arrival of Razewing Ratha, a mythical creature that legend warns will destroy the world with its Wings of Ruin. You escape capture from monster hunters who want to take custody of the egg and prevent the awakening of a potentially world-ending threat with Ena, a Wyverian girl who knew your grandfather and wishes to protect Ratha's offspring. You set off on a quest to learn the true nature of what's happening and, if the young Rathalos inside the egg is, indeed, Razewing Ratha, how to seal its power without having to kill it.

The baby Rathalos does indeed hatch, and it's suitably adorable for the brief period of time it remains young, but the Stories games are not only JRPGs, but monster-collecting JRPGs ala Pokemon, Digimon, and Shin Megami Tensei, so as you play through the game you'll be able to collect a diverse lineup of monsters to fight alongside you (80+ have been confirmed to be in the game, which is on the low side for a game in this genre, unfortunately). Riders need to bond with a monster when it's born, so instead of enslaving wild creatures you come across like in Pokemon, you instead follow monsters back to their nests in their dens and steal their eggs (curiously, even mammalian monsters lay eggs, although I guess it beats ambushing monster mothers as they're giving birth and ripping the babies out of them, lol). Hatch an egg, and the monster inside will become your "monstie" (the insufferably cute term these Stories games use to refer to your monsters, presumably because they're monsters that are your besties). The chance that a monster retreats to its den is, unfortunately, pure RNG, although you can increase the chances of this happening by using paintballs on them or sometimes breaking certain parts of their body (more on that in the next paragraph).

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Battles in MHS2 are traditional turn-based affairs like in a Dragon Quest game, although the mechanics of the battle system itself are fairly unique. Sort of like the weapon triangle in an older Fire Emblem game, attacks in MHS2 can be one of three types: speed attacks, power attacks, and technical attacks. The difference here, and what gives the battle system an almost marmite quality (I wasn't a fan of it in the original, but I've learned to warm up to the system in the sequel), is that if you and an enemy are targeting one-another, whoever uses an attack that the other is weak to will be able to prevent their foe from acting at all. It's very much like a game of rock/paper/scissors in this sense. Speed beats power, power beats technical, and technical beats speed, and a helpful little illustration on the battle screen allows you to double-check this before committing to an attack. The game uses a line of sight to tell you who an enemy is targeting, and if you choose to directly attack an enemy that is targeting you, a "Head-to-Head" encounter is initiated. If both of you choose the same attack type, the H2H is considered a "draw" and you both take damage. Otherwise, whoever chooses the superior attack prevents their opponent from moving at all. If this were purely up to RNG, it'd be a nightmare, as all battles would come down to luck, but, thankfully, monsters in this game all have a preferred attack type and will reliably choose to attack that way the majority of the time, which makes most wild monsters in this game a piece of cake to defeat once you know their attack affinity, since you can get away with always choosing the attack type they're weak to.

This doesn't sound particularly engaging, but there are a LOT of nuances to the gameplay here. Let's start with more basics: you'll always fight alongside your active monstie in a battle. Since these are independent creatures with wills of their own, though, their decisions are AI-controlled, and, in general, they'll attack with whatever attack type they have an affinity for. This would make it difficult to fight alongside them in battles where you run into monsters who tend to use the attack type your active monstie is weak to, but, thankfully, you can swap out your monstie once per turn with another monster in your party (like in Pokemon, you'll be able to maintain a party of six monsters at all times, although it's effectively only five you're able to actually choose, as the sixth slot is permanently occupued by the story-important Rathalos you save at the start of the game), which gives the game a crucial team-building element. And, unlike Pokemon, it actually matters, as you can't just blow through the game with one or two strong monsters.

While the AI controls what your monstie does in general, you'll build kinship with them in battles by winning H2Hs, especially if you and your monster engage in the same type of attack and attack the enemy simultaneously. As your kinship meter fills, you'll be able to direct your monsties to perform certain skills or abilities. Unfortunately, you'll share party space pretty much constantly with AI-controlled NPC allies who aren't able to be directed in any way. It's like I've gone back in time to 2006, when party members in Atlus' Persona 3 on PS2 were entirely AI controlled.

Actually, I want to gripe about this a minute. So, one of the ways the game balances out its unique battle system is by making it where you don't immediately lose if your HP drops to zero. Instead, you have a lives system. Until you return to a town or settlement, which replenishes your lives, you're allowed to die three times before the game boots you out of the battle (which is designed to emulate the gameplay of mainline Monster Hunter, where you can die three times before failing a hunt). Well, fine. Unfortunately, whoever your AI ally is at the time also has a life system, and if they (or their monstie) dies three times, you're also punished by losing the battle. The problem is that, since you have no control over what they do, a bad run of luck can lead to an enemy monster frequently targeting your ally, and your ally making foolish choices that easily lead to them dying, like choosing attack types poorly or not using skills to defend against powerful enemy attacks.

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I mentioned dens before, and they function as the equivalent of dungeons in this game. As you're exploring out in the field in a given area, randomly generated monster dens will appear. Raiding them will always lead you to a monster nest at the very end, which you can scavenge for an egg. The stats of the monster in a given egg are randomized as well, so you're given multiple draws most of the time, and, once in a while, you'll pull out shiny eggs that house monsters with superior base stats and/or genetic traits (more on that soon). If the monster is away from its nest, however, time passes with every egg you find, and if you scavenge too many times, you'll usually end up attracting the attention of the monster that laid the eggs in the first place, and it'll ambush you.

Anyway, these dens are ALL over the place, and they randomly generate every time you leave and re-enter the field from a town or settlement, so if you're mildly OCD like me, you'll end up with more of these eggs than you know what to do with. Normal dens have eggs of common monsters with a low level of rarity, but every once in a while you'll stumble across golden dens that feature rare monster eggs. There are also Everdens, much larger, non-randomized dungeons where you can collect bottle caps, which function as a premium currency that you can use with a special vendor to collect stat-increasing items, rare equipment, and (more importantly) use to upgrade your stable so that you can house more monsters.

And you will end up with a LOT of monsters. Usually multiple monsters of the same type, which seems annoying at first, as there doesn't seem to be any reason to have five Yian Kut-Kus at any given time. This is where genetics and, eventually, the Rite of Channeling come into play. Each of your monster features a gene pool that determines their abilities, both passive and active, with many of them not unlocking until higher levels. This seems to be random, but the game introduces a system hours into the game whereby you can choose to fuse your monsters together, which donates one of the genes of the sacrificed monster to the recipient's gene pool. Granted, this horrifying process does seem to be at least slightly at odds with the focus on bonding and friendship in the narrative, but it's a system with a lot of depth to it that'll allow you to make your monsters as strong as they can be. It's certainly a great way of clearing up the clutter of having multiple monsties in your stable. Worth mentioning is that you can both introduce new genes and 'stack' copies of existing genes to strengthen abilities your monsters already have. You can also obtain bingo bonuses (lol) by lining up certain types of genes in a row, which will strengthen all of the genes in that line. There are also rare rainbow genes that act as a wild card, as they can combo with genes of any element and magnify the gains of bingo bonuses.

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Also at odds with the game's bubbly image are the more traditional MonHun elements that carry over in terms of armor and weapon crafting. Like the mainline games, certain weapons work better against certain monsters. In this case, the game helpfully remembers which weapons are effective or ineffective against certain parts of a monster's body. There are six weapon types, two of each belonging to one of three categories: slash, pierce, and blunt. You'll want one weapon from each of the three categories. They all have strengths and weaknesses that I won't get into here, but using effective weapons make it more likely that you'll break off pieces of a monster's body. As in the mainline games, you'll use these pieces to craft stronger weapons and armor, so some of the classic gameplay loop is still here, meaning your rider is, functionally, as much a monster hunter as any of the people they're running from. It's a solid system, though, and I'm glad it was integrated into this game.

Before I move on from gameplay, it's also worth mentioning rider skills (and my own gripes about those). As you navigate the various landscapes in this game, you'll encounter areas that require certain types of monsties to access. A chest on an island in the middle of a lake will require a swimming monstie, for example. If a shortcut is only accessible via jumping, you'll need a monstie that can jump. While this does make monsties useful outside of battle and serves to diversify them a bit, it also, early game at least, severely limits the variety of teams the player can build. Granted, none of these seem to be required for main story quest completion, but you'll be missing out on a ton of optional materials if you don't build your team at least partially around rider skills. I guess you could technically ignore them initially and come back and scour the same area later with a separate team of monsters in order to collect all of the materials, but this seems inefficient.

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As I mentioned before, the game is gorgeous and well-animated, and the resolution of the Switch version is surprisingly high. While demanding games on this system typically target 540p in handheld and 720p when docked, MHS2 targets native 720p in handheld and around 900p when docked, which yields a clean, attractive image, especially when played on something like the Switch Lite with its pixels more densely packed on the smaller screen. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of performance stability. The perhaps ambitious resolution targets, alongside a bizarrely uncapped framerate, causes the framerate to weave like a drunk throughout the experience, and you'll go from low-to-mid 40 fps in small, enclosed locations, to what feels like low-to-mid 20s in dense town areas. It never tanks to the point where I found it actively detrimental to the experience of playing the game, but it's worth keeping in mind for those who are sensitive to framerate fluctuations. The game is also available on Steam.

Music is another strong point for this game, much like the most recent mainline entry. I'll go ahead and link a few pieces I've encountered so far.

I was a tad apprehensive about certain aspects of this release going in, but, so far, it's looking like a superior console exclusive, and one of the many jewels of Nintendo Switch's surprisingly strong third-party showing in 2021. It probably won't sell a tenth of what the next Pokemon generation sells, but, in nearly every regard, it shows what's possible on the Switch hardware with just a little effort.

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Edited on by Ralizah

Most Anticipated Games
Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch)
Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)
Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp (Switch)
Metroid Dread (Switch)

PSN: Ralizah

RogerRoger

@Ralizah Wow, that's quite the impressions piece! I've been in a bit of an anime mood (an animood, if you will) recently and so I was immediately drawn in by the screenshots you've used here. That fourth one in particular is very Naruto, and therefore very eye-catching to me, but they're all gorgeous. Coupled with the examples of its soundtrack, this game seems like quite the audio-visual treat!

Despite the faults you've found in the combat system (randomisation is never fun to grapple with), I quite like the sound of its simplicity. Being able to automatically cancel out incoming attacks with roshambo-esque indicators, as well has having extra lives to keep you from insta-fails, seems to suggest that its on the easy side, and that's no bad thing in my book. It does sound like your A.I. monstie has caused you a few unlucky headaches thusfar, though, and I'm sorry to hear that. Start praying to the RNG gods now, and maybe they'll go easy on you for the rest of the game!

And your mention of monstie-specific traversal mechanics in the environment sounds familiar. Wasn't there that kinda thing in some of the older Pokémon games? You could only cross the sea if you had a Water-Type to ride, or something? Is this a thing new to the Monster Hunter series?

Really enjoyable and interesting impressions, thanks for sharing! And yeah, fingers crossed for those sales figures; when somebody's actually made some effort like this, it's nice to see it rewarded.

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

Jackpaza0508

Before 2007, Mario had been to every place you could imagine. Boring grassy plains, hot deserts, icy tundras, haunted mansions, sunny holiday islands… prison. But there’s one place he never went to. Space. The final frontier. That was until he actually did, and is his intergalactic journey good? No, it’s fantastic.

Game: Super Mario Galaxy
Played on: Nintendo Switch (through port)
Untitled
The Story
This game starts with Mario visiting the star festival. This is a festival that happens every 100 years. In this festival, a special comet flies over the kingdom and star bits fall from the sky. This is until the festival is interrupted by bowser. In Mario games, Bowser usually kidnaps the princess, right? Not in this one. Instead, he kidnaps the castle with Peach inside. I’m not kidding. He lasers it from out of the ground and sends it up to space. It’s up to Mario, these star children called the Lumas and a new princess and friend to Mario, Rosalina to save the day. The story is simple and gets to the point. There are also these book chapters you unlock through the game that give you some background for Rosalina and the lumas. This is nearly the best part of the game. It’s super emotional and charming. Please read the storybook if you play the game.
Untitled
The Gameplay
This is mario’s best linear outing ever. Yes, it’s even better than 3D World and I adored that game. This game uses a hub world which is pretty odd for a modern Mario game (sure, the game’s nearly 14 years old but you get what I mean). In this hub world, there are rooms that include telescopes that lead you to galaxies. In these galaxies, there are missions. This is kinda like Mario 64 and Sunshine. There are also trickster comets that give you challenges to complete. Some involve beating a boss with one hp while another requires you to beat a level in a specific time. At the end of each mission, there’s a star and you need 121 to 100% the game. Once you beat the game 100%, “you can now play as Luigi!” and you have to get all of the stars as Mario's taller, floatier brother to get the true ending. In this game, Mario’s in space. That means that he makes use of the different gravity in space. You can do extra long and high jumps and there are these gravity changing spots that make for some great puzzles. Mario can also perform a spin attack that can attack enemies and also give him a double jump. In the Wii version of the game, you shook the controller to perform a spin attack but in the 3D All Stars port, it’s mapped to a single button press. Mario just controls really well in this game. Not as well as another Mario game but I’ll talk about that in the near future. Overall, yep. The gameplay is good.
Untitled
The Music
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THE SOUNDTRACK IS BRILLIANT. HOLY BLITHERING BEES EVERY SONG IS AMAZING. Ahem, this game’s soundtrack is fully orchestrated. Recently, I’ve learned to love orchestral music. From the Sonic 30th Symphony to the Zelda Symphony. The most iconic song is obviously Gusty Garden Galaxy. The fact that an amazing song came from such a middle of the road level baffles me. It balances epic and whimsical so well. There is no way you haven’t heard this song, it’s that iconic. There’s also the observatory theme. This is just a very calming song. Just like GGG, there is no way you haven’t heard this song before. There’s a reason why Nintendo included the soundtrack feature in 3D All Stars, and this is why.
Untitled
The Graphics and Aesthetics
I played this game through the stellar, if a bit scummy 3D All Stars collection so the game ran at 60fps in 1080p. Somehow, this nearly 14 year old game still holds up today. Each galaxy in this game has a different artstyle. A good example of this is HoneyHive Galaxy. This galaxy has a forest theme. It’s mostly brown and green but it sticks to that. Another thing that sticks to things is a sling pod. If you like those, sling pod galaxy is for you. It’s in deep space and there is no land. To get the star, you have to carefully sling mario on these sticky things called slingpods. These grab mario and you can pull them to launch him, kinda like a slingshot.
This last bit gets a bit spoilery, if you haven’t played this nearly 14 year old game, don’t read this bit.
The very last galaxy is a favourite of mine, Bowser’s Galaxy Reactor. This is a culmination of everything you’ve learned. This includes changing gravity, avoiding lava, avoiding tornadoes that launch mario and kill him and avoiding black holes. It’s a clash of different styles, ice, lava, space junk, a crumbling castle. You’d think they don’t fit well together but that’s dead wrong. As it’s a gauntlet, it feels more like you’re travelling through all of the galaxies you’ve visited. It gets a pass from me.
Untitled
Conclusion
Mario’s first trip to outer space (if you don’t count any of the rainbow roads in Mario Kart) is a magical time. While it is pretty linear, most of the levels just need you to go from point A to point B, it uses that limitation and gives you a metric butt tonne of creative, beautiful level designs, fun gameplay with a surprisingly useful spin attack and a soundtrack that is literally one of the best ever made, Mario Galaxy is a worthwhile game that gives you about 13 hours of fun.
However, this is not mario’s best outing. In the words of Yoda “There is another.” My favourite game of all time, Super Mario Odyssey. That’s coming soon, stay tuned.
Untitled
Pros
-Stellar music
-Fun gameplay
-Unique gravity mechanic
-Creative level designs and aesthetics
-Surprisingly good graphics for a Wii game
-The Storybook, just The Storybook

Cons
-Most missions are basic “point A to point B” designs
-Dumb story, even for a mario game

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
10/10 Outstanding

This was a long time coming. I spent a lot of time playing Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, trying to cope with the extreme heat in the uk, going on walks and watching tv that I completely forgot I was writing this piece. It was also my birthday recently. Sorry to keep you waiting!

Edited on by Jackpaza0508

He/Him
Watch The Mitchells vs. the Machines on netflix
Super hyped for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Stay Cool

Ralizah

@RogerRoger tbh I would never have guessed you'd ever be in an anime mood. But yeah, even if it's not the biggest budget game in the world, the art-style and environment design serve to make it an attractive experience. Very much the sort of AA Japanese title I enjoy playing on a portable system.

The normal enemy battles are pretty easy, but bosses, side quests, and "royal" monsters (encounters out in the field that are usually harder than boss fights in that area) keep the challenge up enough to be enjoyable. It's definitely not going to kick your teeth in like an SMT game, but avoids being braindead easy like Pokemon. Although, admittedly, some of that is due to the AI controlling your partners and monsties. I'm pretty satisfied with the gameplay overall, though.

Well, early Pokemon games had TMs and HMs. HMs were usually skills you could teach your Pokemon to help you traverse the world, but they took up a slot and, if I'm remembering correctly, the moves couldn't be removed, so people often turned certain Pokemon into "HM slaves" and kept them in their party so that they could manuever around the world. With that said, HMs aren't really used as frequently as rider skills are in this game, and one of the best recent innovations in the series was removing the need for HMs altogether. You're definitely not the first person to get early Pokemon vibes from the game basically making you keep certain monsters in your party to access certain rider skills. I just hope I find another monster that knows "jump" soon so I can ditch this early game Velocidrome for more capable mid-game monsters.

Actually, we do have rough sales estimates, as the game, a little over a week after launch, seems to have shipped over a million copies.

It's not a lot compared to mainline MonHun games (World, in particular, has sold nearly 20 million copies across all platforms, including re-releases with the expansion), but the first Stories couldn't even crack half a million copies lifetime worldwide, so I'm sure Capcom is satisfied so far.

Thanks for reading!

@Jackpaza0508 Cool Galaxy piece! One thing I actually liked about it, unlike its direct sequel, is that I felt like it had a balance of linear and more exploratory levels. Have you played Galaxy 2, btw?

The music is indeed amazing. Very unusual for a Mario game, but it works really well in the cosmic context of Galaxy's space setting.

Considering you liked Rosalina's storybook backstory so much (so did I), I'm curious what aspects of the plot rubbed you the wrong way.

Edited on by Ralizah

Most Anticipated Games
Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch)
Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)
Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp (Switch)
Metroid Dread (Switch)

PSN: Ralizah

RogerRoger

@Jackpaza0508 Another solid piece from you, and yet more glowing praise for Galaxy, I see. I'm really gonna have to get around to playing it for myself at some point, and soon.

Like you, I really enjoyed 3D World, so seeing you place this higher helps build my hype! Thank you, and thanks for sharing your review! You always manage to find your voice (or a voice, at least). I really like how you get around to discussing a much-loved component of any given game and can't contain yourself, and just go full caps. Such enthusiasm is infectious!

Oh, and have a belated "happy birthday" from me, too! Hope you're staying cool this week!

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

Ralizah

@Jackpaza0508 Ah yes, happy birthday. Hopefully you were able to spend quality time with your loved ones.

Most Anticipated Games
Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch)
Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)
Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp (Switch)
Metroid Dread (Switch)

PSN: Ralizah

RogerRoger

@Ralizah I'm glad it's such a good fit for handheld. When I see screenshots like those you've embedded above, the power of the Switch's portability really hits home.

Ah yes, I've seen you getting excited for SMT V elsewhere on the forum! Here's hoping it retains its reputation for providing players a challenge, but that it doesn't leave you in shock after such a comparably easy time with Monster Hunter. And thank you for the reminder about the specific mechanics of Pokémon which, now that you've described them, have all come flooding back to me. It's been a long while since I played SoulSilver, and I didn't really "play" Shield enough for it to count, but I do remember having to keep certain Pokémon handy to get about. It's funny how Monster Hunter has the benefit of all the lessons learned by others, and yet still shoves in an equivalent frustration. Surely there must be a better way to add Metroidvania traversal elements to an overworld?

A million copies within a week shouldn't be sniffed at. I'm glad it's off to a strong start!

Oh, and apologies in advance for the personal tangent but yeah, I love me some anime. I'll be honest, on the surface, I'm kinda the anime equivalent of the idiot who says "I own a pair of running shoes, so that makes me a professional athlete" because I'm only really a fan of Naruto. I have a (very) modest collection of Naruto merch, mostly games, which I (also very) occasionally add to. That being said, I also count Summer Wars in my top ten movies of all time (still pretty mainstream, I know) and I've watched and adored The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and its follow-up movie. I've also seen a sizeable chunk of Gintama, which was brilliant. I tried Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood but its fourth episode was so traumatic, I had to stop. It made me feel physically ill for an entire day.

There's so much of it I still wanna experience; my problem is that I don't keep the right company. If I had the right friend bringing over the right DVDs at the right moments, it'd only take a very, very slight nudge to turn me into a weeaboo. Otherwise I just keep running back to the safety of the familiar.

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

PSN ID: GDS_2421
Making It So Since 1987

Ralizah

@RogerRoger The Switch hardware is getting a bit long in the tooth at this point, but it really was a quantum leap forward from the 3DS. More impressive, I think, is that the screenshots in my piece are taken from both docked and portable play, but I genuinely can't tell which is which.

I get what the game is going for with the rider skills, but the way it's implemented is just limiting. Like, I've had to keep a basic monster like Ranmar, the Velocidrome my first partner gave me at the very start of the game. First because he was the only speed-based monster I was able to hatch for the longest time, and then because he was the only one who knew the jump command. I'd rather they just tether these functions to equipment so that it didn't limit my team-building options.

You don't need DVDs to get into anime, btw. Most of the major streaming services have dipped pretty heavily into anime distribution. When I was a kid, watching anime meant collecting pricey VHS tapes that came with two episodes in one language for $30 a pop. It was highway robbery by modern standards. My first 'real' foray into the medium was Neon Genesis Evangelion, and a complete set of the dubbed VHS tapes cost almost $400! DVDs were better, since those included dual audio tracks and usually featured four episodes per DVD, so the value coming from VHS was roughly doubled, but it still cost a small fortune to collect any suitably lengthy series. Looking back over all of my old games, VHS tapes, DVDs, etc. I can only imagine the small fortune my mother must have invested in feeding my geeky habits as I was growing up.

Nowadays, you can collect complete series for roughly the price of two VHS tapes back in the day, and that's the premium option now, since you can just access most of the stuff you're interested in via streaming services.

btw, I feel you on FMA traumatizing you. Years ago, I watched this series called Elfen Lied, and there's a flashback well into the series where the main character remembers how a group of schoolyard bullies pinned her down and forced her to watch as they bludgeoned her beloved puppy to death. Now, the series can't go five minutes without someone's head exploding, hearts being ripped out of chests, people getting dismembered, etc., but what really stuck with me, after all these years, is that puppy scene, and it's the exact reason I'll never watch that show again. Over time, I've learned to develop a hatred for media that plays on the emotions of the audience by abusing animals.

I could never get into Haruhi Suzumiya, unfortunately, on account of the main character being an infuriating sociopath who constantly sexually harasses one of her friends and bosses everyone else around. And I'm still angry about the scene where she blackmails a couple of hapless computer club geeks into giving her a PC by threatening to (falsely) accuse them of rape!

I definitely enjoyed Summer Wars, though! I have a love/hate relationship with Mamoru Hosoda's films, but I really dug the mix of science-fiction and family drama in that one.

I'm actually looking forward to seeing his newest film, Belle, which seems to mix science-fiction and fairytale elements (Beauty and the Beast, if the title wasn't a tip-off). It apparently got a lengthy standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, where it debuted this month, although this tweet gives me the impression that they do this standing ovation thing a lot.

I'm not sure if I'm more amused by the idea of these people standing around clapping for 10 - 20 minutes at a time, or that someone actually keeps track of how long they clap!

The film itself looks visually stunning.

At the moment I'm watching this great little crime comedy on Netflix called Great Pretender. The main characters have fantastic chemistry, and the show's sense of style is really kinetic and engaging.

Also, if you ever get the chance (definitely check your streaming services), watch a film called Your Name. It weaves comedy, romance, drama, tragedy, science-fiction, coming-of-age elements, memorable plot twists, nuanced characterizations, gorgeous animation, and body switching (ala Freaky Friday) into one of the most wholly satisfying pieces of animation I've ever seen.

Sorry for the trailer overload.

Edited on by Ralizah

Most Anticipated Games
Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch)
Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)
Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp (Switch)
Metroid Dread (Switch)

PSN: Ralizah

Foxy-Goddess-Scotchy

I'm just in the process of reading your "Monstie" Hunter Stories 2 impressions @Ralizah but I just had to stop upon seeing that reply to rog with the Cannes film festival tweet and post this.

Pan's Labyrinth had a 22 minute standing ovation?!

I can't believe that they were clapping for that bloody long or that there's some poor guy sitting there who has to sit and time it all, probably bored out of skull waiting for them all to finish 😂

Edited on by Foxy-Goddess-Scotchy

I'm currently rather busy with work so apologies in advance if I don't reply to your post til a few days later or seem a little less talkative then usual!

I do appreciate it though!

Foxy-Goddess-Scotchy

To be honest, I had absolutely no idea that this sub series existed until like a week ago when it released @Ralizah or that it even had a entry on the 3DS.

Ralizah wrote:

Truth be told, it can be difficult for newcomers to the monster-collecting JRPG scene to design creatures that don't feel like bootleg Pokemon, but MHS2 benefits from generations of creative monster designs poached from the mainline games.

Playing Nexomon Extinction and seeing a few other "Poke-Clones" I totally get what you mean in regards to this (Even if that doesn't bother me so much) ... And having watched a fair few streams of Monster Hunter Rise and World I totally get what you mean about the Monster designs in Monster Hunter too! They really are quite creative and does help the game stand out in that department.

Bit of a shame there's only 80 but I can imagine the pool of unique looking Monsters in MH is nowhere near as expansive as Pokémon, Digimon, SMT etc.

I can also see why you're a little luke warm on the battle system. I'd definitely have to try it myself to get the full picture as it doesn't sound like the best system on paper to me personally.

Though you do give me another reminder that I should REALLY play Persona 3 again at some point ... if only because I don't remember having a single problem with the AI companions and it's making me wonder if i'm just blocking out the bad memories

It doesn't sound alike in the slightest with the whole gentics system but the word fusion in regards to a monster raising/catching game will always remind me of Jade Cocoon and the guady looking abominations you could create lol

And wow. Those screenshots are absolutely gorgeous! I can only imagine it looks even nicer on PC at 4k or whatever.

Plus as always I can't help but love your music choices from the soundtrack. They're all absolutely delightful!

I look forward to reading the next installment whether it be a second impressions piece or a full blown review!

I'm currently rather busy with work so apologies in advance if I don't reply to your post til a few days later or seem a little less talkative then usual!

I do appreciate it though!

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