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've been completely obsessed with Splatoon 2 lately. But I figured I should juggle it with something else. Something less competitive. Something slower. And so I arrived at Phantasy Star 0, which I picked up used for a decent price a while back.
I should say that I'm a pretty big Phantasy Star fan. Or is it phan? Anyway, I've always had a fondness for the series since playing the original game when it was ported to the GBA. After that I kind of fell in love with the Phantasy Star world. These were games that were never as popular as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but they did hugely interesting things. And I also loved the sci-fi setting.
I finally got around to playing Phantasy Star Online back in 2012 or so, and again, just fell in love with that game. It was KIND OF like an MMO, except it wasn't massive. It used the sci-fi world of Phantasy Star to give you a cool dungeon crawler action RPG thing. It's kind of hard to explain, but the gameplay loop just sucked me in. I played PSO many times since, both online and off. And I'd rank PSO very high within my top Gamecube games of all time. So the promise of getting a PSO-like experience "on the go" sounded awesome to me.
I should point out that I actually made a Japanese account on my Switch back in 2017 just so I could TRY to play PSO2 which was never brought over to the US. But alas, those Japanese servers just wouldn't hold up for a long distance connection, and so I could never get the game to work. Ugh.
So here we are, playing Phantasy Star 0, which is sort of a sequel to Phantasy Star Online. Sort of. But not really. Sure it has that similar dungeon crawl loop and all, but something just feels off.
For one thing the DS screen resolution is rough. I mean I'm playing on a New 2DS XL, but still, everything is zoomed in so tight, it's often hard to see what the heck is going on. You'll have a swarm of enemies but you're always struggling to get the camera to even fit them on the screen with you. I also hate to complain about the story, but to be honest PSO worked amazingly well with a minimal story. It almost felt arcade-like at times. This... this game just forces you into a linear JRPG trope fest. I don't know. It feels unnecessary.
The truth is this, Phantasy Star 0 is fine on its own merits. But it's not really the game I want it to be. Maybe if I approached it knowing what I know now, I could come back to it and like it later. But it's not what I signed up for, y'know? It's certainly not a replacement for PSO proper.
The other thing is this - in the years that we've been missing out on new Phantasy Star games in the west, we HAVE been getting Xenoblade games. And now, I might be more into that series. Lord knows that Xenoblade Chronicles X is to me the best Phantasy Star game not actually called Phantasy Star.
It's crazy for me to think that we've owned a Wii for a decade now. It doesn't really feel like an "old" system or anything. But damn. We got it in the summer of 2009 for our wedding anniversary. Thinking back, it's nuts how different our lives our now. In 2009 we were a couple of 20-somethings playing Wii Sports and having drinks and staying up late in our little apartment. Now we're thirty-something "grown-ups" who are sneaking some rounds of Wii Bowling while the baby's asleep.
Wii Sports harkens back to a time when pack-in games were the norm. Thinking about some of the best utilized pack-in games (SMB/Duck Hunt, Tetris); pack-in games were a way to highlight some feature of the hardware and really justify your purchase. In that respect, Wii Sports is insanely good. I mean, in an instant you "get" the motion controls of the Wii remotes. You understand how it all works, and you understand WHY they exist.
We've had a lot of fun with this game (essentially a demo disc, but totally not) over the years. Wii Tennis is still super fun as well. But Wii Bowling... that's the one we always come back to. It's a quick game to jump in and out of. And you play in quick turns. It's just so conducive to the sort of game you can sneak in between dinner and Jeopardy and still feel like you've shared a fun experience.
Also, I feel like I should at least mention that my wife is oddly good at Wii Bowling. Like, it's one of the few games that she consistently beats me in. So there's that.
Recently I moved some stuff around in my game room. A Gamecube replaced the Wii, given that I can play Wii games on Wii U, and the Wii moved its way into the living room. The thought process was that if the Wii is in the living room then we might use it for Wii Fit. Maybe.
But a side-effect to having the Wii in the living room is that my wife and I realized we can squeeze in a few rounds of Wii Bowling after the baby goes to sleep at night. It is the PERFECT quick-game. Last night we bowled a round after cleaning up and before settling down on the couch. It was just as fun as it's always been. My wife beat me, by the way.
It's cool having quick access to a console that we both enjoy so much. And my wife started listing some other games we could work into the rotation like Wii Tennis, Beach Spikers or House Of The Dead. Good stuff.
Oh it's also funny looking at the Miis we created a decade ago, and how they look like the versions of us in our late 20's instead of late 30's.
I've been in this weird mode where I'm having trouble focusing on a game right now. I started Trials Of Mana, got distracted and started playing Final Fantasy Adventure instead. Both games were games I was into. Yet. I don't know. I couldn't stick with them right now. I THINK it's because I've been watching Splatoon 2 videos lately and in the mood to play that again, but I had to order a copy since I couldn't find any local so I'm just waiting on that to arrive.
In the meantime, I started ANOTHER game. I figured something light to just mess around with. So... I downloaded Toki Tori on 3DS. I remember this game from my hardcore GBC collecting days. But I don't remember spending much time with it. Go figure.
Anyway, in the years since GBC, Toki Tori has been remade on all kinds of hardware. I was going to grab it on the Switch eShop, but it was only $2 on the 3DS eShop. I had some eShop credit to burn, and let's be honest, I get bored of puzzle platformers fairly quickly, so why spend more than I have to?
So Toki Tori is a puzzle-platform thing. You're a little bird and you have to go around and collect all the eggs in each level. You're given some items to use, but they have limited uses. So there's a right way and wrong way to complete a level, and you can easily screw yourself over. For instance, you might have three bridges and one warp. If you use the warp in the wrong place, you're stuck. Luckily there's a rewind feature that I'm using a lot.
So far I'm into the third world, which means I've beaten 24 levels. It's pretty fun. More fun that Trine 4, although certainly not as good looking. More fun than Boxboy + Boxgirl... so far. We'll see. Like I said, I LIKE puzzle-platform games, but I don't love them, and I tend to burn out quick. Why do I do this to myself?
I changed my mind. Or, I got distracted. All this thinking about Final Fantasy Adventure made me want to play that instead of Trials Of Mana. Sure, sure, there's all the nostalgia for me. I loved this game as a kid. And as a teenager. I remember playing this at the beach when I was like twelve, and I remember playing it during a free period in high school. Final Fantasy Adventure is awesome.
But I wondered if the nostalgia was clouding my memories? NOPE. It's still awesome. In fact, I'll go on to make a couple of maybe bold statements. First off, I think Final Fantasy Adventure is way better than its GBA remake, Sword Of Mana. And now that I've played at least some of its two SNES sequels, I'll even say that I prefer this original Game Boy game over those as well. There's something really pure and great about this first game. The combat seems more streamlined. The plot and progression as well.
Case in point, I played maybe two hours and had no trouble figuring out where to go or what to do next. Combat was easy to get used to. Grinding felt fun. I'm around LVL 12 now I believe, and am working with the dwarves in the caves to help me make some silver armor. Good times.
When I was a kid, Final Fantasy Adventure was one of my favorite games. My Game Boy went everywhere with me, and FFA was one of the games that I just kept going back to. I can remember playing it upon release in 1991, and I remember still having it in my backpack when I was in high school in the late 90's.
Although Final Fantasy Adventure began life as a loose FF gaiden, it was actually super secretly the beginning of its own series - one that'd be known as the Mana series in the US. The second game showed up on SNES as Secret Of Mana, while the third game, Seiken Dentsetsu 3 - also on SNES - would never leave Japan.
In the early 2000's, Final Fantasy Adventure received a remake on the GBA under the new title Sword Of Mana, to further remove itself from the FF brand, and to really cement itself as the first Mana game. And Secret Of Mana went down in history as a SNES cult-classic. But Seiken Dentetsu 3 remained a Japan exclusive for nearly twenty-five years.
In fact, I was so convinced that SD3 would never come to the states that I actually imported the Collection Of Mana just so I could have a playable version of FF Adventure on Switch. And then the unthinkable happened: Collection Of Mana was released in the US. And along with it came the very first official English translation of SD3, now given the western title Trials Of Mana.
Around the same time it was also announced that Trials Of Mana would be getting a full on 3D remake on Switch. But WHO CARES? In my mind that remake would have been quasi-exciting if it was the only way to play a version of the game in English. But Dudes! The original game was now in English, and fans have been clamoring for such a thing for 24 years. I mean, c'mon!
So yeah. Now I have the US version of Collection Of Mana, and I'm finally delving into Trials Of Mana.
So far, it certainly looks and feels like a sequel to Secret Of Mana. It's got that same visual style; it's got the multiple party members, and so on. This time around you have six characters to choose from - one will be your main character, and two will be supports.
I decided to pick Charlotte as my starter because I like the name. And I've played about an hour of it, I guess. It's a cool game, though starts a little slow like many RPG's of its time. Although I vastly prefer turn-based battles in RPG's, it's a little refreshing when I mix up sub-genres and get a little variety in my gaming.
I wish I had more to say than just "I like it so far," but I like it so far.
Modern sports games are really good. I mean if you haven't noticed. They're super good. And at times, that makes going back to old ones really difficult. All the incremental improvements each year, it's a slow march toward perfection.
The most recent basketball game I played is NBA 2K18, and it was pretty great. There was a (kinda) interesting story mode, and realistic graphics, and smooth gameplay. So why go back to an old game like NCAA Basketball from 1992? Well, it's much easier to appreciate where we are if we remind ourselves where we were.
Admittedly, an old 16-bit basketball game like this is pretty easy to just pick up and play. There's not a lot of controls to learn. You just play. And I had a good time doing so.
The big thing with this game is the presentation. This one actually surprised me because it's not your basic horizontal court. Nope. Instead it's a rotating court with the camera always behind your players. In that sense, it feels fairly modern. Although the spritework (and digitized cheerleaders) certainly are reminders that this is still 1992. But I'm impressed. It ALMOST looks like it could have been an early N64 game. ALMOST.
Of course there are sacrifices to be made. There's no background whatsoever. The court is just kind of floating in an abyss. And the framerate does chug a fair amount. But hey, it was fun to go and play this game for a half-hour. I could appreciate the game for that.
I like the Kirby games quite a bit. I mean, I'm not a huge FAN, but I definitely gravitate towards these games than say the Yoshi series or definitely the Donkey Kong Country games or whatever. And the whole series started here, on my beloved Game Boy back in 1992.
The original Kirby's Dream Land is a quaint game. First of all, Kirby doesn't have the ability clone ability that he'd be known for, as that feature premiered a year later in Kirby's Adventure on NES. And second of all, Kirby's Dream Land is insanely short. I beat the whole thing in about an hour on my first attempt tonight. But it was a nice way to spend an hour.
The game only features four main levels, then a boss gauntlet, and then a final boss. That said, the four levels are decently varied. The four boss battles are fun! The battle against the tree is iconic. Then there's a sort of puzzle-platformer boss battle that seems to be a Lolo crossover. Then there's a SHMUP boss battle, which rules! Then a weird cloud thing that I can't describe, but it's a fun battle.
Once you beat the four stages, there's a gauntlet against those four bosses again and then you face King Dedede who's this penguin dude. And he's actually pretty tricky - it took me three or four tries to get his patterns down and be patient enough to beat him.
Anyway, apparently there's a New Game Plus, but I won't bother with that (yet). But yeah. I imagine I may have been let down back in '92 had I paid $30 or $40 for a game that lasted an hour. But at the same time it's such a super impressive game, both visually and in the unique controls. So it's hard to hate on it at all. It's cute and quaint and fun. So my $4 3DS Virtual Console purchase was worth it. I don't know why I sold that Wii Kirby Collection back in the day, but this series is really good.
I have some friends who are super into pinball video games. I've always been sort of whatever on them. Like for the most part, I tend to think pinball is pinball. If you've played one, you've played them all. There have been some exceptions for me, though. Like I can't help but have total nostalgia for the original NES Pinball. And I loved Aliens Vs Pinball, but mostly because I love Alien franchise.
But continuing on my quest to play the highest rated game in each issue of Nintendo Power/Nintendo Force, I recently picked up Star Wars Pinball as it was on sale rather cheap. I wasn't really frothing at the mouth to start playing, because again, pinball is pinball.
But I fired it up last night figuring I'd just see if it caught my attention. I ended up playing it all night.
Star Wars Pinball is awesome. MOSTLY. I say mostly because there are a couple of stages that aren't pinball tables at all. Like, one is a faux shmup stage and another is a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader. These feel really out of place to me, and trying to control these sections using the default pinball controls feels stupid.
But that's a small complaint, as those levels aren't the norm. The actual pinball tables are great, and super fun. The fact that there's a campaign mode where you play through tables, and each one has three goals to achieve makes the game feel super playable. Like, I'm not just aiming for "a high score," I'm aiming for specific goals. This makes me feel like I'm progressing, which keeps things fresh.
I'm having way more fun with this game than I expected. I finished Act I or whatever it's called. Though I didn't 100% those, as on some tables I got one of the three achievements, and on some I did get all three. So there's reason to go back later.
The amount of content in this release is staggering. I guess I was used to Aliens Vs Pinball which was three tables. Star Wars Pinball is its own gigantic thing. There's so many tables with so much variety, it's insane.
I doubt I'll focus exclusively on this for too long. But it's an awesome pinball game, and I'll be keeping it around so I can continue to come back to it when the pinball urge hits me. This is a quality Switch release, and I hope Zen makes more dedicated releases like this one in the future.