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Shocktober 4: The Final Chapter

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I know Shocktober is over, but I just finished ZombiU on, you guessed it, Wii U. I always enjoy a Wii U game that attempts to make good use of the Gamepad and this Ubisoft launch game goes all it. Like so many other games, there is an in-game equivalent of the game-pad that your avatar character uses to scan things. The picture above is the TV view when scanning and the picture below is from the gamepad.
It made me think that a Wii U Metroid Prime could have done this same thing. The game feels a lot like Resident Evil but the enemy variety is quite limited. I think there are only five different enemy types. I remember Way Forwards Mummy Demastered and the mechanic of "when you die, you respawn as a new person and have to hunt down and kill your former self" being quite novel, but obviously ZombiU did it first. I ended up playing through 22 different survivors and taking about 16 hours to finish the game.

Looking forward, I am planning to host the NWR Forum Awards again so if folks have any suggestions for the awards feel free to message me. Look for a nominees post in late November with the voting period to follow in early December.

I also have a final entry to make to this list, and it is a game I finished on Halloween Night (though didn't Platinum until last night due to NG+ requirements): the PS5 remake of Demon's Souls, a game that's mocked me from my backlog for years, ever since I abandoned it near the end due to frustration with one of the game's more obscure mechanics. I started a new game, and after 1.75 playthroughs it's finally done.

Demon's Souls is the 4th FromSoft game I've completed, following Bloodborne; Sekiro; & the original Dark Souls. It's a very good game that occasionally threatens to be a great one, but there are just some baffling design decisions born of this being FromSoft's 1st attempt at this sort of thing that really hold it back.

Some will bemoan the game's lack of interconnectivity, as the game consists of 5 reasonably-sized levels (largely broken into 3rds with a boss at the end) linked via teleporting gateaways to your central hub safe area. Personally, I really liked the freedom it gave me as a player. When you get stuck in one level, you're just a Nexus jump away from making progress somewhere else. And because the levels don't have to link with each other, they are free to be extremely different: a medieval fortress & castle; a lava-filled mine; a treacherous prison & tower suspended over a Lovecraftian hellscape; a stormy island filled with flying manta rays; and the progenitor of all Soulsborne poison swamps. And the atmosphere is just fantastic.

Unfortunately, while FromSoft games have a reputation for being "tough, but fair", Demon's Souls is just downright mean. You can be in 1 of 2 states at any one time: Body Form and Soul Form. If you die in Body Form, besides the usual penalty of being sent back to your last checkpoint you also lose half your health while in Soul Form. You can and should use an early-game ring to increase your Soul Form Max HP to 75%, but that also means permanently sacrificing 1 of your 2 ring slots. You can use a rare item to restore your Body Form and you get it back every time you kill a boss, but both because it's rare and because of the severe risks of BEING in Body Form you really shouldn't.

Demon's Souls is unusually punitive about player death. Most of the stages don't have the door & elevator shortcut FromSoft games are known for, and the few that do largely have them either by accident or with a significant cost, such as the wall you can glitch over in the Shrine of Storms to skip 3/4 of the 1st level to reach the Adjudicator boss or the goddamn death pit you have to carefully drop down to skip the ENTIRE 2nd level of Stonefang Mine to reach Flamelurker, losing health every time you land due to fall damage. Oh, and WHEN you die, you get sent back to the start of the level, because there are no "bonfires", no "checkpoints" in the traditional sense. You beat a level boss, or you're starting over.

And if you die in Body Form for any reason, you get to play with by far the dumbest aspect of Demon's Souls, an idea so dumb that FromSoft never brought it back: WORLD TENDENCY.

To put it simply, Demon's Souls punishes you for dying in Body Form by making the game even harder. Enemies drop more Souls (XP), but they also have increased health and damage. Powerful Black Phantoms are more prevalent. So if you're struggling and you dare to use the resources the game gives you to try to overcome and fail, the game's going to become even harder. But hey, if you beat a boss, you shift the world towards "White" World Tendency, where enemies have less health and there are NPCs with quests to make the game easier. So THERE'S your Easy Mode, kids! Just don't die, and the game will get easier! -_-

The game explains NONE of this, so if you don't want to **** yourself over, you'll be suiciding a lot in the Nexus and playing through the ENTIRE game with at most 75% Max HP.

"But hey! Just 'git gud', right? You can risk using Body Form so long as you don't die, right?"

Being in Body Form also allows you to get invaded by other players, and dying to them carries the same World Tendency penalties that dying to anything else does. And other players LOVE to gank new players who just beat a boss and dared to take a step out of the arena to see what the next area is like. Because the FromSoft Community are dicks.

Perhaps you see why I gave up on this game years ago?

There's a lot of other stupid **** in this game, like having to farm different kinds of healing items because the Estus Flask hadn't been invented yet; upgrading weapons being a convoluted mess because there are DOZENS of different level-specific upgrade materials with rare drop rates and upgrade trees that make NO sense; several bosses that are either a joke or an utter annoyance to take out; and New Game + just being a nightmare in general compared to the NG+ of every other Souls game.

Also, just as an aside...the boss who's essentially the final boss has an attack he loves to spam that permanently de-levels you. Because **** you.

But...BUT if you can learn to put up with the game's arcane bullshit and how to circumvent its more esoteric aspects, there's a lot to enjoy here. The worlds are very well-crafted; the bosses are extremely varied and memorable; and there's so much freedom to explore and craft your own journey. And for a FromSoft game, the story is actually pretty straightforward and doesn't require you to consult lore videos and wikis to make any sense of it. The foundation for much better games of this style is still very much here, and I'm glad I finally bested it. I just really wish that Bluepoint had done more than a mere graphical facelift here, because this game has very fundamental and obvious gameplay flaws.

Luigi Dude:
I managed to finish Mario Wonder before the end of October so might as well get my thoughts on that one.

Super Mario Wonder

Well here it is, the first 2D Mario in over a decade that everyone has been going crazy over because they moved away from the New series into something different again.  So how does it hold up from a 2D Mario hardcore like myself?  Well for the most part pretty good but it's does have some glaring issues.

What I love the best about the game is how it's the first 2D Mario since Bros 3 to actually try and match that games creativity.  The thing that made Bros 3 my favorite game in the 2D series is just the complete variety of gameplay in each level.  So many one off idea's, and one off enemies to make things fresh with every level that no 2D Mario since then was able to match, until now.  Mario Wonder actually does a great job of making every level feel fresh with lots of new enemies and gameplay that will be used once, and then moved on.  I also like how the levels are shorter like Bros 3 and Luigi U, which means nothing every overstays it's welcome and going back into a level to find any thing you missed doesn't take very long.

The game also has an amazing first few hours since they give you access to harder optional levels early on along with the normal levels so combined with the shorter level length, the beginning of the game was non stop fun since it didn't suffer from intro that World and New Super Mario Bros Wii and U have were the first few world area's can feel a little boring because of how easy they are.

But then I reach the 3rd main area of the game and suddenly start to realize, the overall difficulty isn't getting any harder.  I mean there's still optional harder levels every once and a while, but the average 3rd World level feels about the same in difficulty as the average 2nd world level.  I'm thinking, OK, I'm not quite halfway through yet so I'd imagine things will pick up once I hit the 4th world since New Super Mario Bros Wii and U both get noticable difficulty increases in their second half.  Nope I was wrong, it doesn't get any harder until the second half of the second to last world.

So yeah, this is the biggest problem with Mario Wonder, the difficulty on the average level for most of game is just a straight line.  There's a star rating system for each level to tell you how difficult is is, but to me the 1-3 star range all feel about the same.  Only 4 and 5 stars actually feel noticeable more difficult from the rest but that don't make up the majority.  To me the 1st world overall is the easiest, but then world 2-5 all feel the same in terms of difficulty until then finally the 6th and 7th world finally increase the difficulty but even their average level is easier then what the later levels of Mario World, NSMB Wii and NSMB U where. 

It also has the same problem Mario Galaxy 1 and Mario Odyssey have in the Wonder flower sections where these area's are really creative and visually striking, but much of the gameplay they introduce in them is too easy and end before they can take full advantage of the idea they created.  Now a few of these Wonder section do get expanded on in the Bonus World levels that are the hardest levels in the game and these levels are by far the best in the game as a result as well.  It really makes me wish they would have done more with a lot of these Wonder flower sections, especially since many of them are optional in the first place.  It's like since they're optional, the developers shouldn't have worried about them being too hard since less skilled players couldn't have just skipped them if the section was too much for them.  I guess they wanted to make sure everyone could see most of the Wonder flower sections since those were a major selling point of the marketing so that's why most are just extremely easy to do.

Now overall the game is still really fun, the shorter levels that are all unique made me never get bored even if many were easier then I would have liked.  It did have very hard final bonus level for doing everything like the 3D Mario's have that literally took me close to 2 hours to finish, so it ended on a very high note for me at least.

If I were to put Mario Wonder in my Top 5 Mario list, it'd go like this.

1. Super Mario Bros 3
2. New Super Luigi U
3. New Super Mario Bros U
4. Super Mario Wonder
5. New Super Mario Bros Wii

Super Mario Bros 3 is still at the top since it has a large variety of gameplay with a great challenge to back it up.  New Super Luigi U is right behind it since it has the shorter and challenging levels like Bros 3, but the gameplay isn't quite a varied.  New Super Mario Bros U starts slower then Wonder but the difficulty does get noticeably harder around the 3rd World and keeps bumping it up each World as well which makes the overall game more exciting.  New Super Mario Bros Wii might have originally been higher since the overall second half is more difficulty then Wonder, but not that much compared to the other top 3 games.  Plus I found NSMB Wii Bonus world stages not that great for the most part, while in Wonder the Bonus World levels are some of the best levels I've played in a 2D Mario, so that gives Mario Wonder the slight edge over NSMB Wii.

Oh and while I'm at it, might as well add Cathedral since I almost finished it this week and I had the majority of the game done by October 31'st


You know how I said my biggest problem with Mario Wonder was how they didn't use many of it's idea's to their fullest.  Well Cathedral shows that's it's possible to have the opposite problem, and run your idea's into the ground.  I compared it earlier to a Wonder Boy title, but it goes on way longer then any of those games.  It's trying to be all retro like them, but the older Wonder Boy games are all less then 10 hour experiences while this game took me over 20 hours to beat.  The only Wonder Boy game that's even close to this length was the recent Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom and that game took me less then 20 hours and had way more gameplay variety then Cathedral does. 

Now it's got some good gameplay sections that do a good job of representing the gameplay you'd find in a classic Wonder Boy, but then it decides to keep stretching it out until you just get exhausted.  The Final Area's in particular is the perfect example.  It's starts out with a pretty challenging platforming area filled with instant death spikes trying to crush you, then followed by a super bullshit boss fight.  You'd think ok, now the final boss must be right around the corner but then no, here's a new large dungeon that has 5 different things you have to collect to unlock a door that looks like the final boss will be behind it.  So after you get all these and unlock the door, it turns out here's a bunch of platforming and puzzles sections based on area's from the rest of the game that you have to do as well now.  Then you finally get to fight the final boss who's was pretty challenging, but I really enjoyed the fight itself, but the final area's didn't need to be anywhere near that length to get to this fight.

This game is like the perfect example of how these small indie games can be just as bloated as their AAA counterparts.  The developers are making something like the classic Wonder Boy titles, but don't seem to realize the classic Wonder Boy games were all sub 10 hours games for a reason.  I mean there's are some good idea's and boss fights in this game I really enjoyed, but there's a lot of frustrating things that make it hard for me to recommend this to anyone that isn't super hardcore into the classic Wonder Boy style titles and even then, I warn people to be prepared for a lot of BS.  Since it goes on way longer then any of those games and isn't anywhere near as polished, don't buy it unless it's on sale or else you might be really disappointed.

Now I don't want people to think I hate the game because there's was quite a few area's in the game that I really liked.  It's just it's so frustrating that the signs of something that could have been truly great are their if the devs didn't stretch themselves so thin by making something way bigger then it needed to be.


--- Quote from: broodwars on November 04, 2023, 12:30:14 PM ---Demon's Souls is the 4th FromSoft game I've completed, following Bloodborne; Sekiro; & the original Dark Souls.

--- End quote ---

Which of these Souls games would you recommend to someone looking to play their first in this genre? I have come close to picking up Bloodborne, Dark Souls remastered, and Dark Souls 3 at times, but never was quite sure where to start.


--- Quote from: M.K.Ultra on November 06, 2023, 09:12:49 AM ---
--- Quote from: broodwars on November 04, 2023, 12:30:14 PM ---Demon's Souls is the 4th FromSoft game I've completed, following Bloodborne; Sekiro; & the original Dark Souls.

--- End quote ---

Which of these Souls games would you recommend to someone looking to play their first in this genre? I have come close to picking up Bloodborne, Dark Souls remastered, and Dark Souls 3 at times, but never was quite sure where to start.

--- End quote ---

Well, Bloodborne was my 1st, so I'm biased there. It's basically the best 3D Castlevania ever made. It really depends on what kind of gamer you are, as these games have fundamentally changed over the years. The early Souls games are very SLOW. Combat and progression is less about skill than performing the correct actions in response to what the game is doing. As the series has gone on, though, the games have gotten faster. Reaction time matters more than it used to, starting with Bloodborne. If you're not that great with action games, probably start with the original Dark Souls and then branch out. Dark Souls 3 is basically a love letter to fans of 1, Dark Souls 2 is crap, and Demon's Souls is very particular. And Sekiro was easily the most reaction-speed dependent FromSoft game until the most recent Armored Core, so I definitely wouldn't recommend that as a 1st game.

If you're just starting out, I haven't played it yet but I'd probably recommend starting with Elden Ring. From everything I've heard, it's largely very forgiving to the player, by Fromsoft standards. You get checkpoints by bosses, the freedom to go elsewhere to gear or level-up if you get stuck, and the summoning system is very accommodating.


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