Back in the day I was a proud owner of the Sega Master System. I picked up on deep discount not long after the release of the Genesis and scooped up any cheap games I could find. One of them was called Psycho Fox - not exactly a killer app, but I thought it was fun.
Psycho Fox was a colorful platformer where you played as a Fox who could punch or stomp on enemies. And you could find a power-up that was a bird perched on your shoulder. You were able to throw the bird at enemies and he'd return to you. It was fun enough. And it was unique for the time.
As it turns out, Decap Attack is sort of a sequel to Psycho Fox. Or I guess a spiritual sequel since there's no fox nor bird. Instead you play as a mummy and his face pops out to hit enemies and he can find a skull power-up that he can throw at enemies and it returns to him. So yeah, it plays the same. But man... Decap Attack is not as fun as I remember Psycho Fox being.
First of all, the controls suck. Our mummy hero is a gigantic sprite who feels like he weighs a thousand pounds. He runs like he's on ice and his jumps are way too floaty. It just doesn't feel good for platforming. Luckily this is another game I'm only playing because it happens to be on that Switch Genesis compilation. I'm glad I didn't go out of my way to spend money on this particular game.
Considering how limited my game time has been lately, I'm giving games like this a pretty strict 30 minutes to wow me. Y'know what? Not even WOW me. They just have to at least be fun. At least Ristar is fun. This game, ugh. The levels are like mazes with a lot of verticality and I'm just getting annoyed even trying to navigate the stupid bouncy walls with these poor physics. So yeah. Not having fun here. Moving on...
This is why I love retro compilations. Ristar is exactly the sort of game that I'd never play otherwise. It's one of those games I vaguely remember existing when I was a kid, but had a cutesy mascot who we never saw again and I'd have no real reason to seek out on my own. But because it exists within a compilation that I own, when I recently read something mentioning it I was like "oh hey, I already own that game. I should play it."
I did actually play Ristar once in the past - same deal. It was on a compilation. A console compilation. But this time I was playing it on Switch in handheld mode and really, these sorts of games are perfect for that. To paint the picture: it was bedtime for baby. So I was playing in a darkened room with the volume real low, relaxing before bed.
I wouldn't call Ristar a great game, but I'd definitely call it an interesting one. Developed by Team Sonic and published between the onslaught of their 16-bit Sonic games but before Nights Into Dreams on the Saturn, this game totally feels like a missing link between those two things. The game has a very 'Greenhill' look to it with those lush greens and bright blue sky. Ristar himself (who's some kind of walking... star?) plays a BIT like Knuckles since he's kind of grabby and can do some wall stuff. And in swimming levels the controls are reminiscent of Nights Into Dreams. It's kind of neat to see that evolution.
The main gimmick of Ristar is his arms. He can grab stuff. So he grabs enemies; he grabs branches of trees above him; he grabs onto bars and can swing himself around them. It's not always the most intuitive playstyle, but it's cool to see Team Sonic trying some different things instead of what's just tried and true (see: Sonic).
Some of the level design is definitely fun, such as the early overtly Greenhill style stages. Some of them are pretty annoying like the later music-themed ones. It definitely feels like a "let's see what sinks and what floats" kind of game. For me the real joy is in the boss battles which often feel like puzzles built around the grab mechanic.
Like I said, it's not a great game. And as short as it is, I tend to tire of it pretty quickly. But from a purely historical standpoint, it's definitely a game worth checking out if you're a fan of Team Sonic.
I've been playing Ritual Of The Night off-and-on for weeks now. I got it the day it was released. It was one of my most anticipated games of 2019. But, my gaming time has changed quite a bit since the new addition in our family. And I've found that the brief windows of gaming time that I'm able to sneak in tend to favor shorter more immediate games right now.
Which is not to say I'm not enjoying Ritual Of The Night. Quite the contrary. I absolutely adore this game. I just haven't had a whole lot of time to actually play it. As I type this, I've probably sunk five or so hours in total, but this has all been accomplished through 15-30 minute chunks. And for a game so dependent on exploration and trial and error, this isn't exactly an optimal approach. Not to mention the reliance on save rooms. (Thank goodness for the ability to suspend the Switch!)
But as for the game itself: it's awesome. There's been a lot of talk about how poorly it runs on the Switch. I can't help but think that this is a bit overstated. Then again, I've only played it on Switch, so I have no points of reference to compare. But the only question I'm asking myself is IS THIS GAME PLAYABLE SO THAT I'M HAVING FUN? and my answer is wholeheartedly yes. Sure the loading screens are long and sure there are some blurry visuals in the backgrounds. But none of this is stopping me from playing it. And truthfully, if it weren't on a portable system I probably wouldn't have time to play it AT ALL right now.
It's probably too early to call it, but I'm pretty sure I love this even more than Curse Of The Moon. Maybe.
And this is a real deal Symphony Of The Night sequel in everything but name. (I'm purposely trying not to call it a 'Metroidvania,' except I just did). The map system, the RPG stats, the loot drops, the unexpectedly brutal battles when you stumble into a new area. It all feels so accurate. And I love that.
The upgrade system with its "shards" reminds me of um... I guess Order Of Ecclesia? I think that's the one I'm thinking of. But it's awesome to play around with different augments and powers and familiars. All this customization really opens up the game to play it however you feel most comfortable.
I wish I had something more interesting to say than "man, I love this game! It's surely one of my favorite games of 2019 right now!" but I just haven't had the time to put into playing it ENOUGH to say something super interesting. But, it's a great game and I'll be playing it for a while to come, most likely in 15-30 chunks.
Sometimes after a feeding, my daughter will fall asleep on me in an upright position with her head on my shoulder while I'm burping her. And I discovered last night that I can squeeze in a quick gaming session on my Game Boy Advance SP when this happens!
I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to play the Game Boy port of Star Wars recently. This is the 1991 game that was also on NES and was later ported to SNES under the title of - you guessed it - SUPER Star Wars. Anyway, the reason it had popped into my head was because Limited Run Games recently struck a deal with Lucas Arts to reprint a bevy of old Star Wars games and first up was the NES and GB game. I thought for a brief moment about pre-ordering the new-old GB cart for $40 before realizing that wait... this is the same game I can buy used all day for like $5. And that's what I did instead.
When I powered up the SP it was promising. The familiar music was there. The big text crawl explaining the events of A New Hope popped up. I saw some familiar faces in static cut scenes. I figured that between the Lucas and Capcom names in the credit, that this was going to be good.
Not so much, though.
Star Wars on GB is not a very good game. It's an interesting game, and one that does show a bunch of promise. But that promise feels wasted to me. The platforming is fine. The levels - at least in the early game that I played - are all just caves that you platform through and shoot some stuff and I guess the goal is to collect various THINGS in each cave because the menu screen tells me that I'm at whatever percent done with the game after each cave.
But nothing is really explained. There's no 'next level' since you exit a cave and drive around and look for another cave. There's no order or anything. And maybe they were going for a Zelda style exploration. I don't know. But it feels very confusing.
Combat is meh. There's smaller enemies that are no problem, but most anything your size is just going to wreck you fast. Oh, and spikes kill you fast. OH! And if you're driving around there's creatures that will just one-hit-kill your ship. It's rough. It feels punishing in a very unforgiving way.
Ultimately, Star Wars starting off with a boom of nostalgia but then quickly dissipated into a confusingly disappointing mess that I didn't feel like continuing to play. It was fine enough for my daughter's half-hour nap, I guess because now I can say I've tried it. I'm certainly relieved I didn't jump on the LRG bandwagon to pay $40 for this, though.
My wife and I have been trying to make an effort to give each other "a night off" during the week. The idea being that once a week if she wants to go sit quietly and read a book or if I want to just veg out and play a game, the other can tend to the baby during that time. Of course, the best laid plans...
But we're trying.
For some reason, I had been really in the mood to play Ducktales Remastered again. This is a game I've played and beat many times. I was a huge fan of the original NES game. Like, it's possibly a top ten NES game for me from my youth. And for the last decade, I've been a big fan of Way Forward who developed this remake.
From what I can recall, the critical consensus of Remastered was mixed at best. I don't care enough to research why that was. I think there were complaints about the overuse of dialogue. Which I guess could be a complaint. Except you can skip all the cut scenes. That, and much of the voice cast from the original Disney Channel cartoon reprise their roles here, which is super awesome in my opinion.
For those of us of a certain age, that Disney Afternoon cartoon show was mandatory. All those shows were: Chip N Dale's Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck and Talespin. But Ducktales was probably the best of the lot. The voice acting was great; the music ruled; and the animation was top notch.
And then there was the NES game. My goodness! Capcom absolutely killed it. They took the property and kept all the charm of the cartoon characters and put them into a Mega Man-esque game with levels that had branching paths. Oh, and Scrooge McDuck had a friggin' pogo jump! It's brilliant stuff.
When Way Forward was announced to helm the remake, I was thrilled. These guys had already made a name for themselves pumping out some awesome retro-style throwbacks like Shantae and Wendy: Every Witch Way on GBC, Godzilla: Domination and Sigma Star Saga on GBA; and Contra 4 and Alien: Infestation on the DS. I was a fan!
And Ducktales Remastered rules, you guys. No matter how many times I play this game, I'm always blown away by how smooth the animations look. It's really like playing the cartoon. And the remixed music? Brilliantly executed by Jake Kaufman. So good.
Anyway, the point is that this game is pure comfort food for me. And even though my night off ended up being about an hour since the baby is dealing with some acid reflux issues and I just felt too bad playing a game instead of helping out with comforting her, an hour with Ducktales Remastered was a nice little bit of downtime for me.
It's not a long game by the way. I mean it is just a remake of the original NES game. So it's the sort of game I can probably beat in just a couple of hours, really. So last night I really only got to play three levels, but that's fine. This game just always puts a smile on my face. And right now, short joyful experiences are pretty much what fit into my gaming life.
A little while ago I tried to play Startropics, but I forgot to write about it at the time. I guess that's because it really didn't make a big impression on me. Which actually kind of surprised me. See, back when the game was released I remember reading about it in Nintendo Power and thinking it looked completely awesome. It was an action-RPG like Zelda, but it was based in the modern world. There was a kid and he had weapons like yo-yo's and things like that. I don't know. It seemed like it would be pretty rad.
And maybe it would have been if I had played it back then. I'm not sure. But in 2019, it's pretty far from rad for me. Over the years, I think I had sort of expected Startropics to be something like Earthbound. I guess I had built it up in my head as this sort of cool cult classic or something. So when it hit the Switch Online service, I was thrilled to give it a go.
Startropics is not a good Zelda clone for me. I've played good Zelda clones. Stuff like Crystalis comes to mind. But this, ugh. It just feels so clunky. Everything about it feels clunky. The talking to the same NPC's over and over to trigger events; the way combat moves; the switching items and weapons; even the way you move. Like, I can't explain it properly but there's a "hopping" mechanic that just feels terribly antiquated to me and I can't seem to enjoy playing the game at all.
Like I said, maybe I could have been into this one as a kid, but now I just don't have the patience. I was able to give this game about an hour of my attention before moving on to something else.
Wait, I forgot. There was ONE other game I had played when I took time off with the baby. Or at least I TRIED to play it. But I just could not get into it at all. So Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales (how's that for a title?) is... a game... for the DS. I'm not even sure where to begin.
Okay, how about if I go back a bit. I'm a fairly big fan of the Final Fantasy series. I like some games more than others. And I haven't played them all. But I've played more than my fair share. Like, I've ventured out into the Final Fantasy spin-off games over the years plenty. And I've enjoyed a lot of them. I LOVED Final Fantasy Legend on Game Boy. And I played the entire Final Fantasy Legend trilogy as well. The first one was my first import game EVER. I'm even one of those nuts who swears that Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest on SNES is totally a game worth playing, and is a bit of a misunderstood gem that deserves a modern remake. So yeah. Oh, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was totally my jam on GBA.
So when I had heard that Chocobo Tales was a kinda-sorta card game, I was intrigued. That's the other thing - I like card games a lot. So I scooped up a copy via trade a while ago and when I was home hanging out with the baby I figured that it'd be convenient to just keep the 3DS on me, and that a slower card game would be good for pick-up-and-play sessions. But...
Yeah, I don't even get what this game is.
Or rather, this game doesn't even know what it is. So it's sort of like an RPG, but one where you control everything with the stylus. (Strike one). It has some kind of weird inane plot, which isn't really anything new for a Final Fantasy game. But do I really need that in my card game? Nah. But the thing is, it's not JUST a card game. It's also some kind of wacky mini-game thing. An early example found me using the stylus to try to guide a turtle up a mountain by making circular motions and taking the stylus off the screen caused the turtle to go in its shell and avoid taking damage AND ALL OF THIS WAS WITH A TIME LIMIT and ugh. Yeah. This game is just definitely not interesting to me.
I'll be honest, I probably didn't even give it a fair shot. I probably played about thirty minutes and just tossed the DS aside on the couch. I'm way too tired for this.
The other game I played while I was on paternity leave was Crystal Crisis - a game I had been looking forward to for at least a year now. The super short version is that Crystal Crisis is an indie version of Super Puzzle Fighter. I mean really. Other than the fact that it's got Nicalis characters instead of Capcom ones, this is totally just Puzzle Fighter. Which is good! That's exactly what I wanted. Well, I mean, I wanted Puzzle Fighter. But if this is what I can get my hands on, then I'm still happy. It's a fine substitute.
I first discovered Puzzle Fighter about a decade ago when I picked up the GBA port on a whim. It soon turned into one of my absolute favorite GBA carts and over the years, I played (I think?) every port of the game. Which is not to say that I'm great at the game, but just that I've played a lot of it over the years.
I've been on a real puzzle kick lately. And the Switch is a fantastic platform for puzzle games. Puyo Puyo Tetris, Tetris 99, and Lumines have all gotten plenty of play on Nintendo's killer console in my house. And especially now with a newborn in the house, short pick-up-and-play style games just make a lot of sense for me right now.
Puzzle Fighter/Crystal Crisis, if you aren't aware is a game where duos of gems drop down and the goal is to cluster them up by color to make bigger gems out of them until eventually dropping down an exploding gem of the same color to drop garbage blocks on the opponent's board. It's simple, but there's so much room for strategy. This ranges from how big you make your gems before unleashing them, to how each character drops different patterns of garbage. And in the case of Crystal Crisis there's added dept due to each character having an Attack and Defense special that can be executed when a bar is filled up from bursting enough gems.
Crystal Crisis does FEEL like an indie version of its role model, though. It's not as slick, even with the HD visuals. Loading times are a bit annoying as well. I did find that changing the view of the game board from a more modern 3D look to a classic 2D appearance made a huge difference in how well I played, though. So definitely look into the options menu.
There is plenty of content here which is appreciated. For instance there's a full story mode with branching paths. And of course there's a basic arcade mode and online modes (which I haven't jumped into yet). The more you play, the more you unlock - including characters naturally. Right now I'm into using Solange from Code Of Princess. And it's cool to see such a neat crossover roster. There's Astro Boy and Isaac and Note (Cave Story) and some other anime stuff and even Johnny Turbo who you might remember from Turbografx ads in the 90's. I don't know what Akuji The Demon is, but the characters and backgrounds make it look like some kind of Castlevania knockoff?
Anyway, I love puzzle games and while it might be tough for any new puzzle game to dethrone Tetris 99 for me in the foreseeable future, I'm super happy to have another new (and good) puzzler on Switch. And if Capcom can't get off their butts to give us a proper Puzzle Fighter, at least this has turned out to be a fun replacement. I definitely applaud Nicalis for the interesting stuff that they've been publishing on Switch since it launched.
I didn't actually play Wind Waker until 2007. This was five years after its release, but it still felt like a new game to me then. I had taken a bit of a hiatus from gaming while I was in college. But in 2007 I got back into gaming - hard - and haven't looked back since. Anyway, for my birthday that year my wife got me a Gamecube (which had been my console of choice before the hiatus) along with a stack of new games. But Wind Waker took precedence to everything else. I was obsessed with this beautiful new cell shaded Zelda adventure.
I've played and replayed the game many times over the years since. It's become one of my absolute Zelda games of all time. I'm not really sure about ranking, but let's just say that this, Breath Of The Wild and A Link To The Past would constitute my Top 3.
So when I finally got around to picking up a Wii U, the HD port of Wind Waker was the first game I bought for it. There was just no question of which game I'd want to test out this new (to me) console. Incidentally, it's a great time to be a Wii U collector right now. I don't think anybody's caught on yet, but you can get the good stuff for cheap. I grabbed Wind Waker (reminder: one of the best games ever made) for like fifteen bucks.
Anyway, it's been sitting on my shelf for months now. It was comforting to know it was there, ready to be played when I needed it.
Which brings us to now. My wife gave birth a couple of weeks ago and accordingly, our lives have changed completely. Gone are the nightly gaming binges. Which is fine. I had my years of staying up too late for Zelda. Now I'm staying up too late for my baby.
I took a couple of weeks off of work to spend time with my wife and our new addition. And in those two weeks I found very little time to even think about playing games. Instead, any lulls seemed like a good time for sleeping.
But one afternoon while my girls both napped, I found a quiet couple hours to play SOMETHING. And it dawned on me: what better game than Wind Waker? Those soft cell shaded visuals. The calming sea. An innocent child take on Link. The comfort of a game I've played so many times before. It was perfect.
And so I played through that same little island opening that I have so many times before. I hopped on a pirate ship and snuck around a fortress inside a barrel. I got a boat and bought a sail and went off on an adventure. Wind Waker never lets me down. It's just such a charming game.
I played through the first major dungeon - the one with all the lava and the big centipede boss at the end. To be honest, this is all like riding a bike. It's familiar in the most comforting sense. Given how limited my gaming time will be in the near future, it could take me months to actually finish this game. But that's fine. I'm in no rush. I don't even know if I'll stick with it right now. Really, all I needed was those few hours.
When I was a senior in high school, some of friends got super into Pokemon Red & Blue. This was the late 90's, and by this point I felt like this new Pokemon game was for kids. Hey man, I was driving now and had other things on my mind like girls and parties and jamming with my friends. I had no time for cutesie little monster collecting.
Then when I got to college I dated this girl who was super into the Pokemon cartoon show, and kept wanting to go to Burger King or McDonald's (I forget which) to get Pokemon toys from the kids meals. So then in my mind Pokemon was for kids and girls. Got it.
But around 2009 or so I was really deep into Game Boy collecting, and those Pokemon games were so popular that I decided I'd give Yellow a go. It seemed like a good jumping on point as it was a refinement of the first game, and gave you Pikachu (undoubtedly the most well-known character) as a starter. I figured it would be the ultimate Pokemon intro. And I was pretty much right. I remember I opted to play the game via the Gamecube's Game Boy Player, so as to get a sort of console experience out of it. As it happens, I even had a strategy guide to ease me in, and y'know what? I had a lot of fun with the game.
But for some reason I felt almost embarrassed to be playing (and enjoying) a Pokemon game back then. I was 28 years old. I should NOT be playing this stupid kids game!
And so I pushed my Pokemon interest way down deep until last year when I decided that WHO CARES and I grabbed a copy of Alpha Sapphire. And guess what? I LOVED that game. I spent most of December going through Sapphire at a leisurely pace. And 'leisurely' is the perfect word. Look, it's no secret that the Pokemon games aren't the most challenging RPG's. But for me, these are super chill, super zen sort of games. They are straight up relaxing.
So now the secret is out. I am a proud 38 year old Pokemon fan. Whatevs.
Anyway, I had intended to pick up Let's Go Pikachu at launch. If you're not aware, this is full-on remake of Yellow, which really made me excited. I mean, this is that Game Boy renaissance I'm talking about right now. A 2019 console with a complete overhaul of a 90's Game Boy game? Awesome. However, once the changes started leaking like removal of random encounters, or catching inspired by the Pokemon Go mobile game, or MOTION CONTROLS - I was out. I cancelled my pre-order.
But the reviews of Let's Go have been solid. And my wife and I had planned to spend Labor Day just relaxing in the back yard. She wanted to pick up a book to read at Target, so I tagged along and had the store do a price match, which ultimately let me grab Let's Go Pikachu for $30 out of pocket. I figured a relaxing day off would be the perfect time for such a game.
It turns out that all those details I thought would be a detriment to this remake totally work in its favor. I absolutely adore this game. I don't know, you guys. I could actually now prefer it over Yellow. Seriously.
First of all it looks gorgeous on the Switch. Everything looks fantastic. I love the way all the Pokemon have been rendered in this version. And I also love that when you bring them to be healed up, it shows original GBC sprites for each one. This is such a charming throwback.
The removal of random encounters is actually fine. It has given me the ability to pace the game however I choose. Sometimes I want to hang out in one area and grind. Sometimes it makes sense to keep going after one monster over and over to build up a combo in an attempt to get rarer Pokes to show up. Sometimes I want to coast thru a section without any catching at all. And I can do all of this as I please.
As for the mobile-style catching... well, it turns out that it actually gives the game a bit of variety really. I thought I'd hate this. But it works. Gym battles and encounters against other trainers still use the old turn-based gameplay, but then catching Pokemon is mixed up with this new kind of aiming-and-throwing-Pokeballs formula. It actually makes the two sections feel like separate things. I oddly like it.
As for motion controls, I mean, they're there. Yeah. I don't love it, but it's not that bad. Especially in handheld mode. And really it's only for the catching sections referenced above, so it's not crazy intrusive. Would I prefer if there was a straight up option to just play with a Pro Controller? Of course. But frankly, in the seven hours I've been playing it was never once in docked console mode. So I guess not that a huge a deal. Would just be a nice optional feature in my mind.
So yeah, here we are. I love this game. I've been working on trying to find a perfect party of truly classic and iconic first generation Pokemon. Pikachu remains my captain of course, because this is truly me revisiting Yellow. I also got Charmander and Baulbasaur. And last night I caught a Jigglypuff which made me way happier than I want to admit. But like I said. Yup. I'm 38 and I'm a proud Pokemon fan.