Back in 2011, I was mostly a retro gamer. Sure, I had a Wii and a DS, and there was good stuff on there. But most of gaming was done on my Gamecube and GBA. I remember hearing about this new Street Fighter IV game and looking at screenshots and being unimpressed. It looked too "new." Where were the sprites? It doesn't even look 2D!
Then one day my wife and I went to do some shopping at the mall (remember malls?) and I stumbled upon a kiosk where you could freely play video games. Can you even imagine such a thing? That sounds so quaint doesn't it? I mean, I'm writing this from within a pandemic right now. The thought of going to the mall and playing video games on a Saturday afternoon sure sounds like a whole other world. Wow.
Anyway, they had Street Fighter IV hooked up to an Xbox 360. I played it. And then I told my wife to go browse for clothes, I'd be just fine at this kiosk for as long as she needed.
I was hooked! Instantly hooked!
It wasn't long after that that I got myself a PS3 and a fight stick and a copy of Street Fighter IV. (And it wasn't long after THAT that I promptly flip-flopped and traded my PS3 for an Xbox 360, but that's a different story). I became obsessed with SF4 for a while. I had strategy guides, and each new installment (Super Street Fighter IV and Arcade Edition and maybe there was another one? I don't remember now).
Anyway, I had friends back then who were equally as into SF4 and we hooked up weekly fight nights online. It was awesome. Really, a cool and unique time in my gaming life. But those times are long in the past. You get older. You lose touch. You have less time.
Feeling a bit nostalgic lately, I picked up a copy of Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition for the 3DS. It's been a long time, and my muscle memory ain't what it used to be. But y'know what? This game still rocks.
Now I'm just playing the arcade mode, but I'm having fun. I'm going through my list of favorite characters and aiming for a 1CC. First up was Chun-Li - my favorite since Street Fighter II. But no avail. I'm too rusty. Then Blanka - who my friends would say was my best. Still no good. Then Vega - who's alright - and I got up to the last boss, and whittled him down to a sliver of health before he finished me off.
Obviously playing a technical fighting game on the semi-cramped New 2DS XL isn't ideal. I really wish that this game was on Switch. But it's still a really solid experience. I must admit that the ability to tap the screen for specials is a helpful touch. Not something I'd care for if I was playing online with friends or whatever. But for casual rounds? Sure. It saves my fingers some pain on this small handheld.
Anyway, I'm definitely pleased to find that this game still holds up. It holds a special place in my heart and gaming history. Let's see if I can get that 1CC again - like I said, I'm rusty.
When I was a young lad of just 30 years old, I was so looking forward to the game Catherine that I had even - gasp - preordered it. Something I rarely did at the time. But man, I really wanted that bonus soundtrack. There was something so totally interesting about the game. It was kinda sorta maybe a spin-off the Persona series (which was definitely a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series). And yet, instead of demons and darkness, the marketing was full of cheesecake.
Certainly sex sells, but this game isn't exactly sexy. It's more or less something that takes cues from Eraserhead, in that it's more so a game about fear of commitment. Except that fear is displayed as pure morbid nightmare. Literal nightmares. Ones that can kill you.
What's maybe most jarring is the juxtaposition of the two play styles. During the day, you play as our "hero" Vincent, and the game is basically a kind of dating sim visual novel. You watch the anime story unfold as Vincent cheats on his longtime girlfriend, Katherine with a girl he just met named Catherine. You make decisions in dialogue trees, and send and receive text messages. Okay.
But THEN Vincent falls asleep and the nightmares happen in which you must ascend gigantic towers of crumbling blocks, pushing them around to make it to the top. Boss battles add in horrible dismembered body parts and buckets of blood. The two halves of this game couldn't be more different. And yet, it totally works.
Catherine (the game) was re-released on Switch in 2020, and I felt like yeah, I should go back and replay this thing. And I'm glad I am. Everything is as awesome as I remember. The presentation, in which a TV host in a bar tells the story of the game as if it were a Twilight Zone sort of show, is so cool. The music is fantastic. The story is funny and keeps you interested.
This new "Full Body" edition is also like a director's cut, which adds in a new character (who I haven't met yet) and a whole bunch of extras. I'm having a really good time revisiting this one.
Moving along, I really think this re-release is worth owning. Even if you've played through this game before, the additions feel really welcome in making this a more substantial game. Like, the flashback to Vincent and Katherine meeting in school shines some light on them as a young couple. I don't recall this being in the original game.
The new third character is Rin, which is apparently short for... Qatherine. Seriously. So far her bits have been kind of minimal. She plays piano. She has a bunch of junk in her apartment. She has amnesia. I don't know.
Within the story - when you actually have control of your choices, I try to always do the 'right' thing. I want Vincent to be a good guy, even when the game kind of forces him to not be.
But the real GAME part of the game - IE, the puzzle sections - still rule hard. I love the nightmare levels. They're so fun and get continually more challenging. Solid stuff.
Okay, I love crazy stuff like this. So back in the XBLA days, there was a game called Pac-Man Championship Edition, which was an HD version of Pac-Man that completely changed the rules so that the maze kept changing every time you cleared half of it. The game was an XBLA hit, and went on to spawn a revision and a sequel in the years that followed.
But I'm not talking about the XBLA game. Nope. I'm talking about the "Famicom" game. You see in 2020 Namcot released a collection of their Famicom games on Switch, and went ahead and demade Pac-Man CE for Famicom. Except, of course there's no way this could have actually run on the Famicom. At least I don't think it could, with the procederally generated mazes and all. But still - it's cool to see the mock artwork for the cartridge, and imagine that THIS IS a new Famicom game in 2020 released by a major publisher.
Maybe the biggest surprise (to me) is that it's SUPER FUN. I did a bunch of runs, and started to get the hang of some strategy. The goal is to last for a full five minutes, and within that five minutes it's all about going for a high score. So you're balancing out the risk/reward of multiple things. Eating all the dots on one half of the maze causes a fruit to spawn on the other side; eating that fruit will create a new other half of the maze. So you need to think about eating dots, eating fruit, eating ghosts and living long enough to see the timer tick down. Do you just stay in the center maze? Do you venture off into the unknown? Do you avoid the ghosts or go after them? Which of these things do you focus on?
There's tons of strategy and depth here, and it's all played out in five minute bursts. Really really fun stuff that makes this Namcot collection - as slight as it may be - worth owning.
Okay, wait, I'm WRONG. Apparently this WAS actually a homebrew game from 2008 that originally did run on Famicom hardware. Wow. That makes it even more impressive. And I love when homebrew stuff is given a legit release - even if it took twelve years. The story makes it akin to how Ms. Pac-Man started off as a hack that was originally licensed as a legit product. So cool.
Anyway, this game is really cool. My top score is 201,000 so far.
Sometimes I'm easily distracted. What can I say? I was flipping through a recent issue of Nintendo Force and reminded that I never did start that copy of Pokemon Sword I got months ago. It actually came bundled with my wife's Switch Lite, but she's not interested in Pokemon games, so it landed on my shelf instead.
I'd say I'm more than a casual Pokemon fan, but not entirely fanatical. In fact, I think why I didn't play Sword when I got it is because I had just recently played Sun and I wasn't all that into that one. It just felt kind of cheesy to me overall. Maybe it was the surfing? Maybe I was just a little burnt out at the time.
But one thing I love about the Switch killing the 3DS is that there's really no "handheld" games anymore. There's console games that we can take portably. Thus, series that used to be relegated solely to 3DS are now legit console games. Pokemon is a great example of this trend. While Yellow had long been my favorite, the Let's Go remake pretty much blew my little mind. So there's definitely something exciting about a brand new Pokemon game built with consoles in mind.
I'm maybe 90 minutes into Sword, so I don't have a ton to say yet. It's really good, at least so far. I love that the Switch in my character's room had the same Splatoon colored Joycons attached that I was using at the time. I love that you can SKIP all the explanation stuff if you're already familiar with these games. I love that I could connect to the internet, and somehow receive a free level 21 Pikachu (that I can't even use yet).
For the record, I chose Sorbble as my starter because he's super cute and a water elemental. I've just been exploring the opening area, and now I'm off to the first gym, having just hit the wildlands for the first time. Good stuff.
Hop's enthusiasm is sometimes annoying. Just saying.
But this game is solid. I completed the first gym, and am now able to swap Pikachu into my party. Sorry Sorbble, even though you've evolved you're still going to be relegated to the second spot in my party now.
This is such a lovely game, and a further reminder to me just how much Nintendo has knocked it out of the park this generation. Just thinking about evergreen franchises, they've delivered some huge fan favorite entries in the Smash, Zelda, Fire Emblem, and so on series. Sure, I got tired of the new Animal Crossing fairly quickly, but it's hard to argue with its appeal. And honestly, between Sword/Shield and Let's Go, the Pokemon games have found an amazing transformation into true blue console titles.
In my 20's I was really into the Splatterhouse series. As a horror movie fan, it was the kind of ridiculous and over-the-top game that felt like grindhouse cinema. But I have to say that as I approach 40, the games have lost a bit of their luster. More than anything, I now kind of see that I was overlooking the rather poor game play mechanics and focusing on how COOL I thought the games were.
But I always figured that I'd still think Wanpaku Graffiti was great. A game that came out only in Japan for the Famicom, I've long called Wanpaku the secret best Splatterhouse game. So when it was announced to be included in the (still Japan-only released) Namcot Collection for Switch, I had to get my hands on a copy.
If you don't know, Wanpaku Graffiti is sort of like what Konami did with Kid Dracula - making a cutesy version of a violent game. It's still cute seeing a chibi version of Rick. It's still funny to see a little Dracula doing the "Thriller" dance. But gameplay-wise...?
Yeah something just feels OFF here. It's like the game runs way faster than it should or something. And the hit detection feels iffy. Bosses are a joke when the game feels like it's flying and you're struggling to land a hit.
I remember playing these levels and loving them back in like 2007. But man, all these years later, it feels like a slog to me. Which is sad, because it is a cute and funny game. But I just don't have it in me. I bailed at the sewer boss battle where you're being blown backwards. Ugh.
When I was a kid, I loved the NES game Renegade. And a few years later, I loved River City Ransom. It was like fifteen years later that I found out that they were related. That's of course because of the weird localization (or often lack thereof) of the Kunio-kun series in America.
Over the years, I've looked back on River City Ransom with immense praise. In my mind, it's one of my essential NES games. If I were to build a list, it'd certainly be within my Top 25 or whatever. Of course anytime I go back and replay a childhood favorite, I'm a little nervous that it won't hold up. The last time I played River City Ransom was the GBA port, probably around 2009 or so.
The good news is that it holds up. My goodness, does this game still hold up. Speaking purely of its merits as a NES beat-em-up, I feel like RCR blows the Double Dragon series out of the water. The fighting is just SO GOOD. There's legit blocking. It feels like a really refined parry system. And the upgrades to your moves earned via buying books is so satisfying. Dragon Kick rules.
The game is also so incredibly ahead of its time. This is a beat-em-up, sure, but it doesn't feel arcadey. Instead, it utilizes an open world, which is incredible. It's almost like taking Renegade (or Double Dragon if that makes you feel better) and setting it up like Zelda. Plus there's some slight-ish RPG mechanics. You upgrade your stats, which is again, truly forward thinking.
So far I've beaten up a bunch of the gang bosses. I think the last one was Mojo. Now I'm heading back to the bridge so I can farm Benny and Clyde for money to buy some new boots with before proceeding. I'm looking forward to seeing this one through again.
Well, I made it to the last boss, but hit a wall.
The problem is I tried to rush through to the end, so I didn't spend enough time grinding for stat upgrades. I also gave up on buying the boots, which aren't available at the last mall right before the high school. Lame.
So now, I've spent several tries going from the mall to the high school, making it to the very end, and beefing it. Oh well. This is still a great game. A classic. I love it. But I don't have it in me to backtrack (and make that LONG jump through the factory) to get to an earlier mall to then grind up $100 for boots, and more money for stat upgrades. So, that's it for now.
Never have I ever played a Musou game. I have just never had much interest. I mean, those Dynasty Warriors games looked slightly mindlessly fun when I saw Seth Cohen playing them on The OC. But meh. I can remember spin-offs coming out with popular licenses. There was a Fire Emblem one. And maybe Dragon Quest? I don't know. And then there was the original Hyrule Warriors, which I bought on Wii U and then never played.
But when Age Of Calamity was announced, it was this whole other thing. I was actually excited. Why? Because instead of being some random spin-off, it was actually a cannon prequel to Breath Of The Wild. And suddenly, making a game like this a Musou game made sense! Yes, the war that was referenced in BOTW - the war that tore Hyrule apart and left it in the quiet shambles of BOTW could be witnessed first hand.
Sidebar: I adore the two Kill Bill movies. They fit together like a glove. We've watched them back to back as a double feature. Of course, this was before we had a child. But what makes them brilliant is that they're two totally different movies, tonally. The first one is all action and blood and guts and loud music and vibrant colors. The second is slower, more dialogue, more backstory and somber.
I bring this up because that's exactly how Age Of Calamity and Breath Of The Wild work off of each other. The prequel is all war all the time... huge epic battles, with magic being cast in dizzying bursts of color and allies shouting out for help with bodies flying everywhere. And yet BOTW itself is lonely, quiet, moody and sad.
Yes, this is a very different game from BOTW proper. But it makes sense! It fills out a part of the timeline. And while I'm still early in (just a couple of hours now, about a fourth of the way through Chapter 2), I feel like this proposed trilogy of BOTW games will go down as maybe the best and most varied run of Zelda games on a single console ever. Maybe.
Anyway, I'm having a great time but in a very different way than with BOTW. And that's one of my favorite games EVER. So this... this prequel means a lot to me.
I've now conquered two of the four Chapter 2 quests. Which means I've got two new characters and awakened two of the divine beasts. These quests are fairly long, by the way. Each has taken me 30-40 minutes, which means that I'm sort of approaching this game with a kind of "one or two quests a night" mentality. But that's fine. I like clear progress. I like manageable chunks.
The battles are epic. And I must say that this game ONLY works for me as a part of the bigger BOTW whole. Which is to say, I don't think I'd care about this game had it been just another stand-alone Hyrule Warriors game. It's the fact that it's part of the BOTW story that's making it so compelling. It's revisiting locales and seeing familiar faces.
One thing I don't care for is the segments where you control the Divine Beasts. They feel clunky and tacked on. Luckily, they're brief.
Okay, I've got three of the four divine beasts now, so Chapter 2 is almost over.
The more I play, the more I understand how to use the characters. Link is still my favorite as I'm starting to get my head around using his skills in-battle. Throwing bombs or freezing enemies can be huge when you're up against bosses.
Meanwhile, Impa is insane. Now that I understand her ZR power, it's nuts. You basically lock on to enemies, and then absorb their energy creating clones of yourself. It's unreal to see a bunch of ghost Impas blasting extra damage at waves of foes like they're options in a shmup or something.
The bombast of this game is fantastic.
I'm still making my way through Age Of Calamity. I'm almost out of Chapter 3. I'm having a good time... but I think I feel the need to play something else right now.
Not because I'm not having fun, but because this game felt sort of like my Christmas game. And now that the new year is here, and everything, I just feel like I'm out of that mode. It's the same way I felt about DQXI after my holiday vacation was over. Like it fit that time, but when that time was over, I was done for now. Which is to say, I'm sure I'll pick both of these games back up again at some point. But right now, I want to start SOMETHING else.