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Messages - lolmonade

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TalkBack / Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection (Switch) Review
« on: March 15, 2023, 11:34:24 AM »

A quality collection for a confusingly named series.

In recent memory we’ve been blessed with a treasure trove of classic game compilations.  The TMNT: Cowabunga Collection not only compiled a nearly complete history of the “heroes in a half shell” but also piled-on a dump truck’s worth of artwork, box art, music, and an animated series overview.  Regardless of how well you think the games have held up, Atari 50: The Anniversary Collection is the most comprehensive historical telling of the grandfather of gaming’s history and is worth the price of entry for that alone.  We’ve come a long way from the Capcom Beat-Em-Up Bundle days of dumping a handful of roms, and it’s with that context we have to view The Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection.

The Wonder Boy Collection includes six titles across the series: Wonder Boy (Adventure Island for those in the US), Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Monster World II, Monster World III, and Monster World IV.  My only exposure to the series was Adventure Island on the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Not knowing its arcade origins, I was struck by how crisp and detailed the animation was, how vibrant the music was by comparison, and oddly enough how more forgiving it felt.  The foundational gameplay is very basic - run on screen, avoid pits and obstacles, throw a tomahawk, and collect fruit along the way to keep your health from depleting over time.  By today's standards it’s rudimentary, but I was pleased to revisit it and explore the other five titles.

The other games hew closely to that 2D action side-scroller formula, but there’s a clear division in direction.  On one hand, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair feels like a direct continuation of Wonder Boy with that side-scrolling platforming and combat, but it’s expanded upon to include side-scrolling shoot-em-up levels and up to two players.  There is more than one weapon, including spread fire shots and one which surrounds you like a barrier that is dropped by enemies and used as a temporary power up.  The levels are forced-movement which adds a bit of extra pressure, but never insurmountable.  It’s a refinement of Wonder Boy that is natural and comfortable for fans of the original.

Then there’s the Monster World portion of the series which lean more towards a 2D side-scrolling dungeon crawler a la Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.  These titles also show the threadline starting from the almost painfully simplistic Wonder Boy in Monster Land up to the colorful and fun Monster World IV.  Wonder Boy in Monster Land, while cute, has a painfully slow pace, with a stiffness in movement and jumping that just feels like walking through mud.  To its credit, the boss battles are interesting enough and there are upgrades via items you can buy in shops, but it’s still a bit threadbare.  Monster World II (or Wonder Boy III) is an iterative improvement - structurally very similar, but with a much crisper animation, a camera that’s much more focused on a smaller space, and a nice brisk movement.  Monster World III (or Wonder Boy in Monster World) feels like a weird middle ground - it retains the more vibrant, detailed look of Monster World II, but backpedals by re-committing to that stiff, plodding movement.  Monster World IV is the clear winner of these games. The protagonist Asha has been balanced, not quite as fast as Monster World II, but a motion that’s fluid and satisfying to navigate with.  Visually it’s the most vibrant and expressive animation yet.  Going in with the expectation that these are a product of their time, most of the games are fun and all of them are worth checking out from a historical perspective.

Like any good collection, Wonder Boy Anniversary includes a healthy dose of extra features and content.  There are several different language options at the outset.  Each game includes versions that were released, ranging from arcade to Sega Master System and Game Gear.  Some versions don’t hold up well and act as more of a fun curiosity than anything else, but they’re still a nice feature to include.  Each game has a save state/load option, quick rewind, and quick fast-forward.   Some of these games are slow in places, so that’s a godsend.  Mercifully, each game includes level maps that can be accessed at any time.  All these make for a   For any fan of the series, the gallery includes concept art, character sketches, soundtracks that you can play while perusing the menus, box art, and game instructions.

The Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is the definitive way to experience the series, with all six titles wrapped in a package that seems to look for every way that a fan can explore the content.  There are a few games that are tough to go back to, but when they’re good, they’re really good.  The worst I can say is that it doesn’t reach the heights of fan service some of the aforementioned collections do, but comparing Wonder Boy to those standard bearers might be a bit unfair.  If you enjoy 2D platformers, liked a game in the series and want to explore more, or just have a curiosity for lesser known classic games, then The Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is something worth looking up.

TalkBack / The Rumble Fish 2 (Switch) Review
« on: March 01, 2023, 06:50:00 AM »

An arcade fighter from its time for better and worse

The fighting game genre is one of the tentpoles in my upbringing.  Back in the day, you could find an arcade at your local mall next to the food court, squeeze a few bucks from your parents’ wallet while they go shopping, and play Street Fighter II until someone older came along and bodied you.  Despite that and a lifetime of quarter-circle plus punches, this was the first opportunity to try The Rumble Fish series.  Dimps, arguably a developer with the most robust history of producing fighting games, has ported the title to modern platforms amidst a genre that has branched out into a more diverse offering than ever before.  

Rumble Fish 2’s biggest asset is at the foundation which everything else is built upon - the core combat mechanics.  Fighting is weighty and slower on the spectrum, and that heft plus a nice bit of visual flash & flair makes each impact feel powerful.  Character combo moves skew toward Street Fighter, with plenty of semi-circle + punch as well as hold + release inputs to boot.  The super move system is clever - there are both defensive and offensive power meters which can be used for their respective moves, but when both are full can be combined to a critical art or super move.  This creates a dynamic, modular system that let me play creatively within those heavy confines.

If the foundation is strong, it’s the structures around it which show cracks.  Rumble Fish’s biggest omission is some form of tutorial that would step-by-step teach the basics, combos, and supers.  Rather, you will need to be self-taught through the training mode.  This tracks with its contemporaries, but it would have been a helpful addition.  In fact, the only direct instruction given is through loading screens between matches, but it’s so quick that they’re tough to catch.  The additional modes are considerably bare minimum - arcade, time attack, survival, vs mode (with no online matchmaking), and a gallery.  It’s a perfunctory offering that checks the boxes but doesn’t excite.

Stylistically the game makes use of its anime influences to mixed results.  The character designs are cool and diverse, a necessity to keep the game feeling fresh, but the characters have a fuzziness around them in motion.  In the case of something like Street Fighter III, that matched the grainy feel of the backdrops.  With the clean/crisp level backgrounds, its inconsistency is glaring and disappointing.  The back tracks of music are mostly within the rock genre, high paced tempos and crunchy guitar riffs.  Nothing stands out but it sets the tone well.

The Rumble Fish 2 is a product of its time, warts and all.  It nailed the heavier 2D fighter feel with the proper weight to the punch.  The crisp anime art style works for the backdrops and character designs, but loses something in translation when the characters are in motion.  Despite what grievances I have, The Rumble Fish 2 is a foundationally strong fighter which makes it easy for me to overlook the blemishes to enjoy what lies underneath.  This won’t grab the casual fighter fan, but the devotees should give it a look.

TalkBack / Sifu (Switch) Review
« on: November 08, 2022, 05:59:00 AM »

I know kung-fu.

Sloclap, developer of Sifu and Absolver, have already started to build a profile of what to expect when starting one of their games.  Snappy hand-to-hand combat that’s accentuated by a loud thud for each punch or kick landed.  Complex combat systems mated with a world where difficult enemies start from the get-go.  Distinct styles that are consistent throughout the experience.  Absorber is the foundation for what has become Sifu - a single player 3rd person brawler with a modern-day, China backdropped revenge story.

You, Lee, are the child son of Sifu - martial artist master who has been betrayed and murdered by former pupil Yang and his four co-conspirators.  Once you’re pulled from hiding, one of them slits your throat and a talisman saves you from death.  This magical golden talisman can revive the dead at the cost of years of aging.  Years later when Lee turns twenty, he sets out on a mission to avenge his father.  The story is compelling enough to keep you engaged thanks to a strong core plot and good performances by several voice cast members.

Lee has been training for this day, and it shows.  The low attack, high attack, parry/dodge, and run all work in concert - to succeed, you need to integrate the entire toolkit given and be quick to adjust when hitting a wall.  A focus meter that fills through successfully defeating enemies lets you slow the action and choose special stun attacks that can start turning the tide in your favor.  A healthy number of weapons littered throughout that are fun toys to pummel people with.  

Sifu’s structurally sound combat is back-ended by progression systems that give it its own distinct flavor.  Totems placed in different spots along the game offer upgrades that can be paid via experience points, score points, or how many lives you’ve used at that point.  These include things like how much you get healed after a successful takedown of an enemy, weapon durability, and how quickly your focus meter regenerates.  Experience points can be spent to add additional combat moves, including special ones tied to weapons.  Each has an unlock cost for use during that specific run, afterward it can be unlocked for five times the cost (broken down into five separate, zero interest payments!).  

This feeds directly into the most unique feature - the lives system.  Rather than a number count, lives are built throughout the main character’s age.  Starting at twenty, each death ticks up your age, increasing your attack power but reducing your health bar.  Each loss of life results in a larger span of life, with the first death going just from twenty to twenty one, and subsequent ones increasing until you’re passing decades.  A cool added wrinkle is that as Lee ages, his appearance does to coincide with it.  There are ways to reduce that total death counter, but they are limited.  Through five levels, each notes the age you die at, which is where you start the following level.  If you go back, replay the level, and complete it with a younger age, the next level will start with that number.  This is a run-based game: you’ll be working to drive-down that starting age so the next level has an improved starting point.

That life system tied to some brutally difficult enemies makes for a steep learning curve.  Each enemy’s attacks have a wind-up to plan a counter against, but the movements are so sharp that it can be challenging to time your parry or dodges with accuracy.  The enemies capitalize quickly on that first hit, chaining together punches and kicks that get you stuck in a combo until Lee drops to the floor.  Completing finisher moves on them gives-back some health, but it takes several to refill the life bar, and when they connect it’s devastating to your health, especially if getting caught in the middle of a mob.  Another sticking point is occasional dips in framerate in gameplay.  While it’s mostly constrained to walking along between skirmishes, there were a few times where it chugged in the middle of a large mob.  It’s a rare occurrence, but in a game where there’s a tight window to keep your offense flowing, those few times acted as a brick wall.  Mercifully, there’s an easy mode that retains this difficult combat but gives a much larger life bar and changes the lives system to one life lost per death.  If the experience sounds too daunting in normal mode, this will give you some crutches that can let you experience the core of what makes SIFU’s combat great.

All of this is draped in a style that’s distinctly its own.  The music has tonal changes for each level that have accents/crescendos during particularly cinematic moments and bosses.  Those thematic moments are cinematic moments, clearly inspired by popular cinema.  One trick they use especially well is shifting the perspective from behind-the-back to a pulled-out side view through a hallway.  Another one is a dark room with a few brightly colored illuminated walls that pop and tint everything in a tonally bright light.  Unsurprisingly, there have been some visual compromises for the Nintendo Switch version that are more apparent in areas where the lighting and environment are more naturally visible, but it’s not offensively so and those more movie-like moments hide that beautifully.

Let me be clear - Sifu is a beat-em-up that is going to challenge you.  Structurally its aim is to throw you in the fire to either temper your steel or melt.  The Easy mode is a welcome reprieve, giving several more lifeboats before letting your drown, but even that has the ethos of “you will be testing your limits”.   But if ready to climb that mountain, players will be rewarded with some of the most refreshing hand-to-hand combat out there with inspired stylistic flair.  If you enjoy the struggle, SIFU is in the upper echelon of video game fighting.

TalkBack / Cult of the Lamb (Switch) Review
« on: November 05, 2022, 06:31:00 PM »

Like a lamb to the slaughter

Massive Monster’s Cult of the Lamb is striking from the start menu.  The main character is a lamb who's been sacrificed at the altar and has been resurrected by an imprisoned god called The One Who Waits, who tasked him with killing the gods who trapped him.  The lamb levitates over a pentagram surrounded by candles, possessed by a black and red hat with blood-filled eyes amongst a grainy cream-colored backdrop.  This is a dark looking game - if you are sensitive to religious iconography and the occult, Cult of the Lamb is not for you.  This theme and tone are so intense that it became disturbing, something that I got accustomed to but has left an impression on me.  

You, a lamb, ironically are the shepherd of simple followers who devote themselves to you and the cult of the red hat.  They make up a small community slavishly taking on tasks like gathering wood or stone, praying to a statue of The One Who Waits, cleaning, or tending farmland.  Managing the townspeople is fairly simple - gather resources, build structures, and maintain the happiness of your flock.  This is done by maintaining their spiritual and physical health.  Feeding them proper meals, giving a bed or tent to rest, and keeping a clean landscape are the plates you’ll spin to keep health up.  You can boost faith by holding sermons, performing unlockable rituals (like sacrifices or declaring a holy day of rest), and completing expeditions successfully without dying.  Those rituals are unlocked through the sermons, the faith gained there is used to unlock them via doctrines.  Conversely, dying during an expedition reduces their faith.  Losing enough faith makes a cult member revolt, not reverting back to normal unless they’re put in jail and re-indoctrinated.  Each cult member provides devotion through prayer at a statue in the town center.

The expeditions are a string of mini dungeon crawling maps across four domains of the gods.  At the start you’re equipped with a weapon and curse - the curse acts like a magic spell which costs fervor - a resource collected from fallen enemies.  Most rooms will be filled with monsters, but some include a seer who offers the choice of tarot cards with perks that support your exploring and shops to swap out weapons.  Each level is structured like branching paths that are followed up to the level boss.  Some are another round of combat, shops, health refill pit-stops, and zones where you can rescue and indoctrinate new followers by defeating waves of monsters to save them.  The final area boasts a large monster, often littering the screen with projectiles.  Each zone requires completing a minimum of four times before fighting the god, and once defeated they turn into a follower.  This ends up being the most effective way to increase the headcount of your cult which becomes a critical resource to get better starting weapons, more curse and tarot card options, and new items to upgrade the village with.

The two halves separately aren’t outstanding, but it’s the marriage of the combat and activities tied to town building that help keep the game fresh.  You spend just enough time in raids before having to go back to town and tend to your flock’s needs.  After spending a handful of minutes making sure they’re well-fed in mind, body, & soul, you’ll have spent just enough time before it grows stale.  There’s also various spots on a world map to visit that have charming characters with fun side quests or stores.  A personal favorite is Crossbones - a minigame that is about matching up 3 dice in lanes while trying to prevent your opponent from doing so.  It’s a simple ruleset with a surprisingly difficult set of adversaries that I might have found a lot of joy in.  The most fun is when you have to spin all these plates equally, which the game encourages you to do until hitting later hours.

Cult of the Lamb’s greatest sin is its technical woes on Switch.  Out the gate there were small lags/framerate dips when first transporting to either the cult or starting an expedition, and an occasional dip when combat gets frantic.  The longer I played, the worse it got.  Stuttering and freezing screens happened persistently, even bleeding into the most mundane tasks at your campsite.  Late game, as I worked to grow my population, the game got stuck in a screen meant to let you pick attributes of an incoming convert, left watching them pray endlessly with no corrective action other than to restart the game.  It’d be hilarious if not so blood boiling, and is either a measure of the game being pushed out before it’s fully baked or a sign that the Switch is long-in-the-tooth and can’t keep up.  The outlook of these problems being fixed is not encouraging now removed five months from its initial release, and it cripples the entire experience.

At its best, Cult of the Lamb is a smart balancing act of dungeon crawling and base building that has just enough meat on the bones to keep the game from becoming stale.  The same could be said of its style, a mixture of overly cutesy characters against the backdrop of a downright evil, darkness stained world that holds a vein of morbid humor throughout.  It’s that coagulation that makes the experience so unique, if a little shallow.  That said, the Switch version is so tainted by the oppressively bad technical performance that it tanks the entire experience.  Don’t play it here unless it’s your only option or Massive Monster resurrects it with a patch.

Pure speculation, but in my line of work, when a business doesn't want to outright reject our request but has no interest, they'll quote us a price that's incredibly out of bounds for what the material cost & labor being done.  My guess is that they didn't really want her, let her audition, then offered her that $4k that'd force her to decline. 

Not any less unsavory than other speculation, but just an educated guess about the inner workings of what actually happened in the process.

TalkBack / Tinykin (Switch) Review
« on: October 03, 2022, 05:44:31 AM »

A Pikmin By Any Other Name

Tinykin didn’t hit my radar until after it released in August.  The title developed by Splashteam and published by tinyBuild centers around a tiny man named Milo.  Milo is an explorer who has crash landed into a house trapped in the ‘90s (including Polaroid cameras and VHS tapes) and devoid of people, but with a thriving community of bugs.  To make it back home he’ll employ the aid of Ridmi, an elder bug, to assemble a spacecraft using items strewn across several sections of the house.  

It’s a bit reductive, but I can see why the comparisons to Pikmin exist.  You’re a captain who comes across tiny minions that follow you around and have different types and abilities.  The purple ones pick things up, red ones explode on certain structures, green ones stack on top of each other, etc.  That’s where the comparisons end.  Beyond environmental hazards, there are no antagonistic forces; all characters beside you are there either as a quest giver or to give dialogue that helps flesh out the world. The environment is low pressure and easygoing.

That tone is Tinykin’s biggest strength.  There is no sense of urgency, as nothing is time sensitive or fraught with danger.  Primary objectives include such tasks as baking a cake and finding all the ingredients strewn about a messy kitchen.  Each area also has side quests like finding letters to put in a mailbox, locating jewelry, and collecting nectar drops littered around the map.  Each map has a lot of verticality to it, with lots of climbing up to counters or tabletops and across narrow ledges.  Even without the small but mighty Tinykin on hand, Milo is equipped with a glide that can be upgraded throughout the game and is a critical tool to bridge those gaps.  Movement is crisp, and you have a soap bar that lets you slide across the map with ease and a nice sense of momentum.

This world is a joy to explore thanks to a level design that has clear enough direction to mainline the primary objective but also encourages wandering.  Never once did I start by focusing on the objectives.  Why would I when I can just start exploring and let the wind blow me in a direction that piqued my curiosity?  The nectar drops are the perfect kind of bread crumbs that lead you in a direction without pigeonholing what you can explore.  I am a person who naturally moves by line of best fit, but even I ended up choosing the path of a wanderer.

Tinykin is a “stop and smell the roses'' kind of game that is brief in a way that gives a meaningful experience without overstaying its welcome.  Its charming world and endearing characters are a pleasant window dressing to this safe, mellow bit of fun, and that’s all it needs to be.  Splashteam’s singular focus on exploration and charm runs deep, and the end result is laudable for their Sophomore outing.

At risk of being spoiled on Xenoblade Chronicles 1 while I'm in the middle of playing it, count me in.

Nintendo Gaming / Re: Happy 20th Birthday Eternal Darkness
« on: July 22, 2022, 11:46:28 AM »
For you Eternal Darkness fans - are there any spiritual successors that come to mind? 

Last game I beat is Norco (it's free on Xbox gamepass, but also on PC).

It's a point and click adventure game set in a bleak Southern Louisiana dying town overtaken by an oil rig operation called Shield.  You're a woman returning home after the death of her mother, and find an abandoned home with your brother missing.  The feeling of returning home after a long way away is depicted perfectly here - your character will run across several people they knew from growing up.  Some of them are worse for the wear and will bristle you, some will know your brother and your family.  There's a history that informs the characters relationship with you.  There's dialogue options, but in most cases there's an option that the NPCs see as the truthful one, and one which your character might have a rosy view of, and their responses to you reflect that.  It's a neat wrinkle and shows how people can have different recollections about what took place.

The gameplay mostly is standard faire - click at the background where there's icons, glean information from it, sometimes pick-up items that can be used to solve puzzles or unlock additional dialogue options from NPCs.  A few neat wrinkles - there are sections of actual turn-based battles.  Your party members each have different attacks - one might be a QTE sequence, another might have to complete a game of Simon for a successful attack.  It's simple enough to be unchallenging while being a nice break-up to diversify the gameplay.  They also add some interesting layers on top of solving puzzles that work well to flesh things out that I won't share since they were a neat surprise.  As you gather more information, there's actually a separate screen that has different icons representing key characters/location which'll be tied together by threads in how they're connected.  You're able to click on them as new info is gathered, and the depth of detail is impressive.

I won't expand on the story itself other than to say I was satisfied with it.  There are unanswered threads or questions that I wish would have been resolved, but even if they didn't, they inform or flesh out the world in a way which I think makes it better off than if they didn't create them at all.  The broader thrust of the story gets abstract/escalates beyond the original framework, but it's bread-crummed in a way which makes logical sense. 

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with the experience.  I'm not a big point-and-click adventure player, but this game was approachable while still offering some challenge.  Highly recommend.

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia 89: RECVMake Neighbor Day 5
« on: May 05, 2022, 10:34:55 AM »
Vote Stevey

General Gaming / Re: 2nd Annual NWR Four on Four
« on: May 05, 2022, 10:31:30 AM »
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Switch)

Is this via the Switch online expansion pack Genesis games? I wasn't sure if there was a Sega ages release or not.

Sega Ages release.  I didn't notice an appreciable difference between the two options though.

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia 89: RECVMake Neighbor Day 3
« on: April 29, 2022, 05:15:24 PM »
I don’t want a tie.  Vote theperm

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia 89: RECVMake Neighbor Day 1
« on: April 24, 2022, 09:48:05 AM »
Going to vote insanolord so we can avoid an unsavory tie effect

General Gaming / Re: 2nd Annual NWR Four on Four
« on: April 21, 2022, 03:06:34 PM »
I'll play this game. 

1. Fallow (PC)
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Switch)

I'll probably need to pick a gamepass indie and a PS4 game to hit the 4.  Maybe the Wii U or 3DS...

TalkBack / Bloodrayne Revamped (Switch) Review
« on: March 06, 2022, 07:31:03 AM »

Some things are better left undead.

Nintendo has been a dropbox for a slate of not quite classic, but vintage games from the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube era, filling a space somewhere between the tidal wave of indies and the high profile releases on Switch.  The latest in this cavalcade is Bloodrayne, the 2002 action game from Terminal Reality that features a femme fatale vampire and a sea of bloodshed.  With so many games and so little time, the crucial question is this: does Bloodrayne do anything to warrant playing it?

Bloodrayne is a 3D action game with a focus on visceral, bloody violence.  Rayne is equipped with two long blades attached to her arms, and guns picked-up off of enemies and in buildings.  Each encounter is a mix of hack-and-slash along with dual-wielding gunplay, with powered up combos earned after getting past certain boss battles.  The enemies she encounters range from monsters and zombies to humans and Nazis.  As her health is whittled down, the only way to revive is to cling onto humans and slowly suck their blood, accompanied by a sickening sound of slurping and almost sexual moaning.  

Gameplay is both the high point and a stark reminder of Bloodrayne’s age.  When walking, Rayne has a brisk gait, and the basic camera controls are quick, if not almost unwieldy.  In normal mode, enemies are painfully easy.  Using blades takes no skill, with combat being reduced to button mashing and occasionally switching to guns for the cool factor.  It can be fun at times in that “mindlessly hacking and slashing monsters” kind of way, but doesn’t take long to grow stale.  Sections exploring buildings feel cramped in a non-deliberate way, almost like Rayne as a character and enemies themselves are larger than they should be.  Jumping is really stiff, and with several sections that require oddly precise landing, it can become a real pain.  Also, Rayne is damaged by water—when did vampires become harmed by water that wasn’t holy?

Rayne’s story is painfully simple, to the point where introduction to the action is basically just an acolyte of the Brimstone Society (a secret society of defenders from supernatural threats) hardly acknowledging her then indicating a direction to go.  This is actually a blessing since the plot itself is a thread-bare excuse to tie together different locales.  The dialogue is cheesy, and not in the fun and self-aware way, but instead the B-tier action movie type where each conversation begins and ends with a lame attempt to sound cool.  Some of it can be forgiven, since it’s in-line with a lot of the game writing quality of its time.  Visually, everything is dark, with a muddied appearance that looks sloppy rather than an intentional artistic choice.  Rayne is dressed in a skin-tight red and black leather outfit, like Milla Jovovich in some of the earlier Resident Evil movies.  

Video games as a medium have come a long way since the early aughts, and that’s the lens you have to view Bloodrayne through to enjoy yourself with it.  The presentation is grimey and dark, which feels befitting of its tone, but it rarely looks good or interesting.  Rayne as a character is a cardboard cut-out of female action stars of the time, and the story would be laughably bad if it weren't there already.  As well, the action has aged poorly with its unrefined hack and slash nature, even if you can wring a few drops of fun out of it.  It’s hard to recommend Bloodrayne to anyone other than people who've played it and have a fond nostalgia for it.

General Gaming / Re: Digital games and you
« on: March 04, 2022, 02:02:20 PM »
How do you feel about digital games?

I've come to appreciate digital games for how they spare me the space to store them.  I've realized just how little space there is for gaming stuff before it spills over everywhere, and I'd like my home to be clean & organized. 

That said, I'll usually buy Nintendo games physically, either because I'll want to keep it or trade-in since they tend to hold value a little longer.  Not only that, but I'm extra mindful about how I can be locked-out of my digital library without an internet connection.  That last one makes it tough to buy a full retail game digitally unless it's something I'd want to pop on at a moments notice.

Do you own any digital games?

Lots and lots.

Do you still buy physical games?


What factors into your decision?

Availability of a physical copy vs something i'd want on the system.  Most indie games I like to play are digital only.

Is streaming an option for you?

100% No.  I tried Stadia and Luma in beta.  At best they were consistent but compromised graphics.  More often than not framerate hits or stuttering made most games unplayable.

General Gaming / Re: What is your most recent gaming purchase?
« on: March 04, 2022, 12:24:55 PM »
Pokemon Legends: Arceus a few weeks back, think I'll play through it but don't find it to be the pinnacle of anything (as someone who only has a casual interest in Pokemon).

Kirby is next, and that demo made me puuumped.

TalkBack / Breakout Recharged (Switch) Review
« on: March 04, 2022, 07:21:20 AM »

A good brickbreaker that doesn't break the mold can still be fun

Sometimes people within the gaming sphere use shorthand to describe a game, something which is understandable for those attuned to the industry, but could leave those without that knowledge in the lurch.  Metroidvania, Souls-like, and Zelda-like to a lesser extent are exclusionary shorthand that even when evoked, are such a wide net with blurry lines that over time have become almost meaningless.  With that in mind, one genre of game I’ve loved since being a kid were brick-breakers.  Now there’s a shorthand that makes sense, one where an internet search will give you exactly what it is.  Breakout Recharged is a brick-breaker game, and a pretty good one at that.

What’s a brick-breaker game?  In brick-breakers, you play as a pong paddle at the bottom of the screen.  A ball will appear and drop toward you, which once hits your paddle will ricochet up toward the top of the screen.  There it’ll be met by a series of bricks, the goal being to break all of them before moving onto the next level and seeking the highest score possible.  Game over happens when the ball slips by your paddle.  Breakout Recharged has those fundamentals down pat.  The paddle is slow but not plodding.  Hitting the ball itself is on its face straightforward, but how you position yourself to intercept it can affect the trajectory.  Moving the paddle in the same direction the ball is hurtling toward can send it flying back.  Going the opposite direction sends it the other way.  It’s an imprecise tool, but good enough to give some feel of control in the situation.

Thankfully, Breakout Recharged has been fleshed out beyond this core gameplay.  Three single-player modes exist - Recharged, Classic, and Classic Recharged.  Classic is your vanilla flavor, uncomplicated brick breaking with three lives.  Recharged is a one-hit kill, but superpowers will drop like extending the length of the paddle, splitting the ball into three, missiles, and having trajectory lines to see where the ball will hit.  Recharged Classic splits the difference, getting all those cool power-ups with the buffer of three lives.  There are also more targeted challenges, starting with hitting a target high score and escalating into things like filling the screen completely with blocks and being tasked with breaking all of them.  It’s a nice addition that gives the game a bit of longevity when the basic modes start getting stale.  Beyond this, a co-op mode is there that can be fun if a bit hectic.

It’s a simple aesthetic that wraps around Breakout Recharged.  Easy on the eyes with hues of blue, white, red, yellow, purple, and orange blocks against a deep blue backdrop gives a nice contrast between them, making it easy to see the board.  Power-ups add to the visual punch, filling the screen with particles and beams or white that pop.  The music is mostly understated techno/synth sounds, that isn’t noteworthy, but keeps itself from becoming offensive.

It’s hard to have an in-depth breakdown of Breakout Recharged because the core structure is so simple.  But that uncomplicated nature is an asset.  The developer knew to keep the focus on the fundamentals - multiple game modes to keep things fresh, a way to play with friends, leaderboards, and a clean look.  If you’re not a fan of brick breakers, then this won’t convert you.  But if the last one you played was Arkanoid, then you’re in for a fun revisit.

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia 88: Hey Pikmin, Four..m A Mafia! Day 5.
« on: February 11, 2022, 02:11:19 PM »
I probably don't deserve to be among the living after being so inactive, but here we are.  Without any more details, I'll refrain from voting and hope that I come across enough time to go through the prior days and make an informed decision.

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia 88: Hey Pikmin, Four..m A Mafia! Day 3.
« on: February 05, 2022, 12:26:37 PM »
What a plot twist, BeautifulShy struck me as a townie with the PMs they were sending, it was all a ruse.

If the mafia are taking themselves out one by one that's fine by me

Same, though unfortunately I didn't catch it until last day ended. 

Anyone have a tally of whose left? 

NWR Forums Discord / Re: Not to be that guy...
« on: February 04, 2022, 02:39:54 PM »
Life has been pretty jam packed for me the past few years.  Tbh the discord while lively tends to drive into conversations I don't have interest in, so it doesn't scratch the same itch convos here had been.

I'll try to make myself more present here, I like the community here and want to see it continue.

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia 88: Hey Pikmin, FOUR...m A Mafia! Day 1.
« on: February 01, 2022, 01:25:08 PM »
 I haven’t played a Pikmin, is 3 a good starting point?  Nintendo gave me a free copy for being a Wii U owner.

NWR Mafia Games / Re: Mafia LXXXVIII: Pikmin Mafia. Sign-up Thread.
« on: January 17, 2022, 11:21:09 PM »
In it to win it

TalkBack / Okinawa Rush (Switch) Review
« on: December 29, 2021, 10:05:30 AM »

A Kung-Fu homage that packs more than a punch.

Okinawa Rush caught my eye pre-release with an impressive beta demo.  Since beat-em-ups make my knees weak, the seemingly fast and frenetic style caught my attention immediately.  It’s not a pace I have seen in this genre too often, at least to this degree.  The premise is that the protagonist comes across a murdered loved one, and a journey of revenge ensues.

Put bluntly, Okinawa Rush is a dark game. Your hero’s journey is a marathon of levels with a trail of blood left in your wake.  Basic actions include a jump, an attack, a strong attack, and a super move that’ll obliterate anything on screen.  Enemies range from basic ninjas, bugs, beasts, and oppressive bosses that are incredibly durable.  At times, enemies can fill the screen to a suffocating degree.  Then you have to account for traps and hazards such as falling debris, endless pits, and spikes that can skewer your corpse and leave a bloody mess.

In action, there’s something exhilarating about being in the thick of it.  Despite the limited button set, there are a wide set of attacks available through combo button inputs akin to a 2D fighter.  For example, the typical street fighter inputs will emulate a hadouken or shoryuken.  Moves have a contextual effect—if you’re surrounded on all sides, you might grab the heads of the two enemies next to you and bash them together.  Weapons like bo staffs, nunchucks, and swords can be procured on site, and each changes the tempo of battle considerably until they break.

What Okinawa Rush nails is making you feel like a bonafide badass.  Your character is heavy, but can speed run as well as vault to great heights.  Each punch and kick has that kind of old karate movie “thwack,” a sound design trick that is executed perfectly.  More densely populated skirmishes can get messy and unfairly punishing, but learning how to crowd control comes easily enough.  Where the game really shines is its boss battles, especially against human-like figures.  The back and forth is downright cinematic, with dodging, parrying, and powerful beating back and forth that’s breathtaking.  

That said, I do have some nagging (if minor) issues.  The default difficulty is punishingly hard.  Not because of the enemies becoming more powerful, but due to a countdown timer that enacts an immediate life lost when it hits zero.  It’s a punitive addition that keeps you from reveling in crushing your opponents.  The music left something to be desired, bordering on forgettable.  Finally, the writing is cheesy as all get out.  I can’t tell whether it’s intentional, but I had to restrain myself from audible groans at some moments.  If you’re not too prideful about difficulty setting, soundtrack, or cheese, then it’s small potatoes.

Okinawa Rush attracted me the moment I played it and dragged me in with its visceral, fast paced powerful battles.  You won’t find a developed story or a stellar soundtrack, but sound design in combat is top tier, with each hit feeling like it’s forceful enough to crush skulls.  If a dark, gruesome brawler that empowers you to be a badass is what you’re itching for, then Okinawa Rush is just the right scratch for you.

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