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What is the last game you beat? Thoughts/impressions?

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Thirsty Suitors is the latest on my beat list.  The story follows Jala, a first generation daughter of immigrants returning to her hometown and confronted with a gaggle of jilted exes, an icy relationship with her mother, and a sister whose getting married that won't speak to you.  On top of that, you find the youths being indoctrinated by a cult led by a person in a big bear costume.

The gameplay is split between several different game types.  The world is segmented out on an overworld map with points of interest like your home, a wilderness area where the cult resides, and the town center with lots of different shops and a diner.  Jala explores these areas on a skateboard, and the spaces are littered with different platforms where you engage with the skateboarding mechanic.  Skateboarding is a chore - the general movement is sluggish, so to get across spaces efficiently you'll need to grind across the map.  But grinding doesn't feel good good either.  You'll zip through the map but the game has trouble figuring out which rail you're jumping from next, and I ended up getting bogged down in endless grinding loops rather than getting to master the system.

The combat is the most mature system in the game.  It plays out as a lite RPG with lots of quick time events.  Other than the basic attack, all moves require a set of inputs (pressing A at the right time, pushing a left stick direction at the right time, tapping the X button repeatedly, Holding the B button until a meter fills), and the quicker you complete the task, the more attack power you gain.  The same rules apply for defense, with better inputs blunting damage.  The real meat is the weakness system.  You can choose taunts ranging from rage, heartbreak, thirst, and shock.  If your opponent has a weakness to that type, it'll stun them and allow you to use more potent skills that deal greater damage.  There are battles you can engage in via map icons, but I didn't find leveing up necessary, as I jumped from Ex to Ex boss battles.  Those boss battles were diverse enough to be interesting if uncomplicated, and through them Jala reconciles her past with them. 

There's also a cooking mechanic.  It's a process which involves completing a set number of quick time events in the premise of following step-by-step instructions that are then played out in exaggerated, fantastical actions like leaps, spins, and mandalas when you execute well.  There's a heat system as well, where basic actions build up a pepper meter that can then be consumed by powering up one of your actions or buttering up your mom for a better score.  What you cook can then be used as a consumable in battle that'll do things like heal, increase your MP, and offer other buffs to your character.  The problem is it's just as tedious to do constant QTEs here as it is in battle.

The story and characters flatness is probably what disappoints the most.  The intent is clearly meant to be a story about a woman coming back to her old haunt and make amends with those left in her wake, as well as reconciling her modernity against the traditionalism of her mother.  But Jala is unlikeable to a fault, and makes it hard to root for her cause.  She has an internal second personality that looks like her sister and acts like a Tyler Durden trying to prod more "hard truths" to people.  It makes conversations a little messy, because you'll choose a dialogue option (that often doesn't feel like the prompt properly translates to the kind of comment you want to make), she'll intervene with a snappy comment either deriding you for being a coward or egging-on more aggression, and then it'll have an exterior conversation with a character that feels like no one's true voice.  The broader characters feel like a cardboard cut-out archetype of different personalities, races, and sexuality.  In a game with better writing i'd say I wish they'd take some time fleshing out the people, but I don't know that they have it in them to do so with any care.

For a game like this, it's almost like they started with a story they wanted to tell and then backed-up to build a game around it.  I've seen a lot of glowing comments in reviews writ large, but it's a underdeveloped story with underdeveloped characters and underdeveloped gameplay.  If they take another crack at this type of game, I hope at least they work on streamlining the gameplay down to a few mechanics fleshed out deeply, step away from the quick-time-event Kool-aid, and work on building a more fleshed out world & characters.

I'd give it a 5 or 6 out of 10. 

Jusant is a lovely game about mountain climbing.  It's quiet with environmental storytelling and a charming artstyle.  Also fairly brief & on Gamepass.  Highly recommend.

Ian Sane:
Strider 2

Picked this up a while back when the PS3 store was closing as I grabbed a couple PS1 games that are expensive in the retro market.  I beat it in about an hour and not because I'm so talented but because the game has unlimited continues that plop you back into the action as if nothing happened.  The game still has a ranking for how you did in each level (I got a nice 'E' on every one) so there is some objective for avoiding dying.

I still had a lot of fun though.  I have the original Strider on the Genesis and the arcade version in Capcom Classics Collection but I'm not very good at it.  I play the arcade one more because I have unlimited continues as I struggle to get to level 2 in the Genesis version.  Strider is very much a set-piece game with all sorts of cool bosses and action sequences and there is a lot of fun to be had in just experiencing it.  I'm not going to take the time to get good at it so the unlimited continues is almost a feature for me, to just experience the game.  Ideally they should have let you restrict it though and set the amount of continues you want.

Something I couldn't help but notice is how the whole presentation is a great representation of what was cool during the PS1 era.  Teenage me would have been all over this.  As a result it created a sense of nostalgia, not for the specific game because I didn't play it at the time, but for the time period.  The graphics also add to that as it uses 2D sprites on a 3D background.  This doesn't really look that good and it looks old and dated, but again I find it has a certain charm to it.  Blocky 8-bit sprites eventually became an intentional aesthetic and I feel like 32-bit polygons have that potential as well.  PS2/Gamecube era polygons look too similar to present day games so they seem just like a lower res version but 32/64 bit polygons look distinct.

Now in terms of the ending, well aside from defeating the bad guy I really couldn't tell you what happened.  The bosses have a few lines of dialog when they appear but it's in Japanese with no sub-titles so I have no clue what they said.

I beat and 100% completed Mario 64 on the 3D collection earlier this year. It was much tougher either because my muscle memory was atrophied, or I was too used to the N64 with its octagonal edge for the stick to be guided by when controlling. Well I'm replaying again with my daughter and I have the N64 Switch controller...its not the controller. Either its too loosey goosey, or I got used to it back in the day and the more tight modern controls of games have spoiled me. I still really enjoyed Mario 64 when I beat it, but I'm almost through the main quest this run and I am just going to clear Bowser and be done. I may also avoid playing some other old games for a bit from that era until my daughter is older. I've moved over to Mario World, Yoshi's Island, and Donkey Kong Country. I like playing them with her, but she's not even 2. I don't want to burn myself out from them until she is older and able to actually play with me. This is just some dabbling to show her some old games and spend some time with her when she isn't absorbed in Paw Patrol or something.

Woohoo. Just finished Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 (Wii).

Getting past that last checkpoint in the final mission sucked... twice I was about to jump to freedom, only to be shot down from behind and have to restart. Other than that, it was pretty satisfying. Game shows some age in both graphics and level design, but does a pretty good job of showcasing the better features of Wii controllers (good use of pointer; novel use of built-in speaker and rumble; keeping use of motion controls limited).

I'd play it again in Arcade mode sometime, because you can never have too much light gun-style gaming!

Now to select another Wii backlog title to clear out... maybe The Last Story? Still haven't played that game, and really should.


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