I'm a pretty longtime Mega Man fan. I mean, the first game was my introduction to the series way back when. And Mega Man has been a part of my gaming life since then. I've certainly played the vast majority of his major outings. And when 11 was announced, I was excited. But I've been putting off actually delving into it for a while.
The Switch has seen A LOT of Mega Man games come to its little screen, and I've gone back and played a bunch of them. But that's part of the problem. Over the past year or two I kind of burned myself out on these games. Don't get me wrong - it's always great to go back and replay stuff like 2 and 3 and X. But man... some of the OTHER games just don't hold up as well for me and after awhile I started to experience a Mega Man fatigue.
But I must say that Mega Man 11 is turning out to be a breath of fresh air. Maybe the biggest thing for me is that unlike 9 and 10 which attempted to hang onto Mega Man's retro roots, 11 is actually a "current gen" game. No throwback sprites. No artificial slowdown. No chiptunes. This is an honest to goodness new Mega Man game. One that looks and feels like it was made TODAY. And as it turns out, it's all the better for it.
I remember when Mighty No 9 was announced. Back then I looked at those screenshots and was just like, yeah - this is what Capcom needs to do. They need to make a MODERN Mega Man game. In HD. One not held back by nostalgia. And now we all know how Mighty No 9 turned out. But dudes, Mega Man 11 took cues from that project and delivered what seems to be (so far) an excellent new installment.
The other big surprise for me is the story. Normally I don't care about a story in Mega Man games. Or to be more precise, normally any Mega Man game story is cringe-worthy and I just skip it. But wow. In this game we have an honest to goodness story that's actually interesting and well delivered. I'm impressed.
There's also the introduction of a couple of new systems here. One allows you to briefly slow time, and the other allows you to briefly make your shots hit harder. Both have cooldowns so you'll need to use them wisely - if at all. So far, I feel like these are kind of there IF YOU NEED THEM. Like, extra tools to make a difficult game slightly easier. And yes, this game is TOUGH.
I managed to clear four stages last so far:
Block Man - This one felt like a pretty meat and potatoes Mega Man level, and Block Man wasn't too tough to take down. At first I thought his power was kind of dumb. It lets you drop a pile of blocks on an enemy. But after actually using it - wow. It's really cool.
Acid Man - This stage was tough. But Acid Man went down easy with the blocks. His power is kind of meh. It creates an acid shield around you and THEN shoots acid shots. I don't really get it.
Impact Man - His attack is pretty neat, as it lets you lash out with a melee attack which you can even do in the air.
Bounce Man - This level was infuriating. Like possibly one of the most frustrating Mega Man levels of all time. If I had played this one first, I'd probably have rage-quitted the game and said I hated Mega Man 11. So bullet dodged there.
Continuing on, I did the other four stages...
Fuse Man - cool level design. I had fun with this one. And his power is interesting, in that you drop two balls of electricity that climb the floor/walls in both directions.
Tundra Man - Another cool level. I liked this one a lot. The robotic snow was a neat touch. His weapon is an interesting tornado kind of storm that engulfs you.
Torch Man - This stage was cool, but a little frustrating. There's some parts with walls of fire chasing you, which makes the game feel like a runner. I did use the slowdown power thing here. His weapon shoots a flame thing in an arc which I don't really care for.
Blast Man - Is this supposed to be a knock on Bomberman? I don't know. This stage bugged me though. There were some platforming sections that took me forever to get through.
And then on to Wily's Castle...
This is quite often the make-it-or-break-it point for me in Mega Man games. I tend to have the most fun doing the robot stages, and then get frustrated or burnt out in Wily's castle and it's starting to feel that way here. I realize that this is like half the game, but it's usual the first half I enjoy more.
I got up to that boss that is made up of blocks - y'know the throwback to MM2? And he annoyed me so hard. He destroyed me over and over and that's where I stopped. For now.
I'm a fan of shmups, though I was a much bigger fan of them like a decade ago. For whatever reason, I had never played Axelay, though. I mean I'd heard of it, sure. But I never checked it out. So over the weekend, I downloaded it through the Wii U's Virtual Console, which - I just want to once again sing the praises of the Wii U as an unfairly maligned console. But where else can you buy Axelay on a whim?
Anyway, I did a little research that threw up some red flags for me. It appears that Axelay was developed by a team at Konami who went on to form Treasure. Uh oh. Look, I know that Treasure has its rabid followers. But my experience with Treasure games is almost always the same. I tend to find their games visually pleasing, and beyond impressive for what they were able to pull off on the hardware; but I tend to always find the gimmicks a little tough to wrap my head around, and the games never seem to hold my interest.
But I HAD to check out Axelay. It's kind of looked back at as this SNES shmup classic. So here we are. Now let's go through the list...
Visually Pleasing - check. I mean certainly a bit dated, but all the Mode 7 stuff and the shifting of perspective and the giant sprites. It looks good.
Beyond Impressive For What They Were Able To Pull Off On The Hardware - check. Again, as I just said, there's all kinds of funky tricks with the changing perspective and everything. It's good stuff.
Gimmicks A Little Tough To Wrap My Head Around - check. So you start each level picking which three weapons you'll equip. And you swap between them on the fly. Take a hit and you lose that weapon. Run out of weapons and you're dead. So I guess the gimmick is knowing which weapons to use where, and then there's the risk/reward of NOT losing them so you have them when you need them. It's just... maybe I'm a simple man, but I like simple weapon load-outs and a one-hit death, I guess. I don't want to be constantly switching between weapons to handle each new wave of enemies. This is the kind of thing that frustrated me in Ikaruga.
The Games Never Seem To Hold My Interest - check. I did three runs and quickly tired of Axelay. Oh well. I tried.
I don't even really remember the last time I got into a fighting game. There was a time when it was one of my favorite game genres. I mean, going back to the early 90's, Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II were just huge for me. But beyond that, back around 2010 or 2011 I was probably even more into fighting games. And I think the genre went through a bit of a renaissance around the time thanks to Street Fighter IV.
I remember playing Street Fighter IV at a kiosk in a mall at the time. Something that seems really weird a decade later. Malls aren't exactly a big thing anymore. And y'know, we're in the middle of this pandemic and all. But I digress. Once I played Street Fighter IV, I knew I had to have it. And me and some online buddies ended up hosting an online fight night every week. Over the months we tackled all kinds of games from SF4 to Mortal Kombat 9 to BlazBlue and Soul Calibur V and Marvel Vs Capcom 3 and so on.
That was a fun time for sure. But in the decade since I've mostly shied away from the genre. No real reason. But outside of Smash Bros, I just haven't found myself all that compelled to play fighters.
But Dragon Ball Fighter Z is a recent-ish (2018) fighting game that seems to have really gained some momentum. And it's cheap. So I figured why not give it a shot?
I must admit that I had a couple of reservations. For one, it's based on a license that I have very little interest in. I know some folks really love DBZ, but I've never had an interest. Nor am I much of a fan of the art style. That's just aesthetics, though.
The other reservation was that this was developed by Arc Systems. Not that they make bad games. They don't. They're most known for the Guilty Gear and Blazblue games, both of which are beloved series to varying degrees. Both are series I've played and enjoy to varying degrees. But they're not easy to pick-up-and-play fighters. Instead, they're very technical and take a lot of time to learn.
But after an hour or so of Dragon Ball Fighter Z, I think my fear there has been diminished. Yes, this is still a bit technical, but it does seem more streamlined than those other series. More importantly, the tutorial system seems like it's really well down to help ease you into things.
So I played through some of the tutorial to get me feet wet. Then I started the story mode and did that for a while. I'm sure if I was a fan of DBZ then the story would be awesome. But I'm not, so I didn't care and found myself skipping cut scenes. At that point I decided that I'll probably move on to just playing the arcade mode proper.
But so far this seems like a decent and fun fighting game.
I played some more Dragon Ball Fighter Z, and while I think it's a fine fighting game, I can't really say it's holding my attention. I feel like games come in three flavors lately:
1. Games I don't like
2. Games I think are okay, but don't suck me
3. Games I love
And it feels like lately a game has to be that third type - right away - or I'm all set. Again, this probably is just because my gaming time feels more limited than it used to. So if I don't LOVE a game then a part of me is always thinking that I'm just wasting time playing anything else.
Anyway, I ran through the arcade mode pretty easily, which unlocked some harder settings but I just don't care enough. And I definitely don't care enough to get gud enough at this one to actually play it online, which is generally the point of modern fighting games. So I guess, I don't know. Whatever?
For what's it's worth, I used Agent 18, some dude with a tail and that cat guy. Like I said, I'm not a DBZ fan, so I don't know any of these characters. Which may also play into my sort of indifference to this game. I'll say this. It's a heck of a lot better than SNK Heroines. But as lame and basic as it may sound, if I'm gonna get into a fighting game these days, I'm probably better suited to just play Smash.
The last (and only) Civ game I've ever played was Civ IV. This was at least five years ago now. At the time I was pretty heavy into PC gaming. And I remember getting a copy of Civ IV really cheap, and fumbling my way through a campaign. I don't remember a lot about it now, but I remember thinking it was an enjoyable experience.
I am a fan of strategy games in general. So I was excited when Civ VI was announced for Switch. And as the reviews rolled out, I was looking even more forward to it. It sounded like Switch owners would get the full PC game experience on their handhelds.
Back when I played Civ IV it was a very different time. Namely, we didn't have toddler in the house to completely exhaust us. Back then I could sit and toil away at a monitor and take all the time in the world to figure out how a complex game works. But now?
I mean don't get me wrong, I still find a good chunk of time for gaming throughout the week. It's my biggest hobby. I'd rather play games than watch a movie or TV or read a book for pleasure or browse the internet. I'm also one of those people who have completely avoided social media, so I've got all that free time that I'm not spending scrolling news feeds and updates.
But still - my gaming time is VALUABLE. We never know when the little one might have a time night of sleep. Meaning, we never know when WE will have a tough night sleep.
And so I fired up Civ VI last night and told it to treat me like an idiot who had never played a Civ game before. I wanted the hand-holding to guide me through my campaign. I fumbled my way through about ninety minutes (50-something moves) and I'll be honest - I have no idea what happened in that time.
The menus are really deep and really complex. They're also almost entirely made up of icons, most of which confuse me. To get it to tell you what the icons mean you need to long-press on them, which sometimes causes me to PUSH them and do something I didn't mean to do. Right from the start this was an issue, as I let my settlers settle in a really stupid spot.
I'm just struggling to understand what most everything does. Or what I should be doing. In a game where each move feels IMPORTANT, I feel like I'm often doing nothing. Or the wrong thing. To the point where it's almost stressful.
I don't know. Civ VI is really impressive looking. I'm amazed that this runs - and well - on the Switch. But I get this nagging feeling that in the right place/right time, I would have loved Civ VI. But right now, I'm not sure I have the time nor patience to devote to actually digging in and understanding this game. We'll see.
My daughter had trouble going to sleep last night, which was unusual. We think her tummy was bothering her - too much watermelon - the poor thing. At any rate, when she finally fell asleep there's an anxiousness that sets in. You keep looking at the monitor, worried that she'll wake up again at any second.
With that in my mind, it was way too stressful a proposition to play Fortnite, as much as I was in the mood to do so. Instead, I perused my backlog and decided to finally open up that sealed copy of Pokemon Ultra Sun I had picked up on 3DS quite a while back.
As much as I thought it was weird to remake a DS Pokemon game on 3DS in such quick succession, I have to admit that it looks glorious on this hardware. The 3DS is truly a mythical beast. And I guess I should concede that the remakes have generally been my preferred way to tackle the various Pokemon generations. It was Alpha Sapphire that really got me fully hooked on the series. And my replay of Yellow via Let's Go Pikachu was wonderful.
I didn't expect the region in Sun to be based on Hawaii. It was sort of a pleasant surprise, as the previous games I've played were ones based on Japan. So just for a change I'm finding the Alola region really fun. Plus, with summer ending, it's neat to play a game that feels very summer-y.
For my starter I went with Litten, because frankly a kitten is just way cooler than my other two options. I mean, an owl? Really? And I don't know WHAT that water Pokemon was, but what I do know is that he's not Squirtle. And Squirtle rules. So yeah, Litten is my dude.
We've done some running around and leveling up. I caught myself a Meowth, which was a happy surprise. I'm trying to only bother with catching Pokemon that I'm excited to add to my party. This probably goes against the way most players approach these games. I don't care about 'collecting them all,' I care about collecting the ones I want. (Sort of like how I approach game collecting in real life... how meta).
We went over to the Academy and beat all four teachers/trainers there without breaking a sweat. This is a good and relaxing game, which is no surprise to me.
I have this list problem. Which is to say, I have a desire to make lists. And then to cross things off those lists. Which means that I'm constantly working on different lists of games and then attempting to attack those lists. It gives me a reason to seek out certain games, or finally sit down with others for the first time. Over the years I've rotated in and out of various lists.
RIGHT NOW, the one I'm focused on is compiling a list of all the games that have won the annual game awards in Nintendo Power (and now Nintendo Force) and Game Informer. However, the caveat is that I'm only adding the games to the list if I actually have a copy of the magazine issue in my possession. This gives me motivation to collect the individual issues in which those game awards appeared, and it makes the list more manageable as it grows sort of slowly.
I didn't sleep well the other night. I was up the half the night. So I was a walking zombie the next day. I knew I couldn't handle playing something intense to settle down. So that meant that my recent usual Fortnite habit was out. And that meant that picking Pokemon Ultra Sun back up was in.
Like I said, this is a super relaxing game for me. It's certainly not taxing. Honestly, it feels a little too easy at times. And I had the same feeling back when I played Alpha Sapphire. But that's fine. Sometimes I'm not looking for a challenge. I just want to PLAY something and breeze through it.
The difficulty curve in Alpha Sun is gradual for sure. And taking even minimal time to hunt for Pokemons is probably all the grinding you'll need to do in this one. Which again, is fine. It's a cute story and it's got pretty visuals. I just wrapped up the first big challenge or whatever it's called where I had to defeat a Totem Pokemon.
I've played 5-6 hours now, and I'm still enjoying Ultra Sun. But at the same time, it's not really blowing my mind. It's very much just MORE POKEMON to me. Even though the island setting is cool (the surfing parts are dumb, though) overall, it just feels pretty samey to me when compared to Alpha Sapphire. That's not a bad thing, though. I mean, I kind of play Pokemon games because I know what to expect from them. But still, I find myself playing it the same way you might mindlessly scroll through the newsfeed on your phone when you're bored. It's not sucking me in. It's just kind of keeping my attention.
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.
I've tried, yet failed to really get into to Trials Of Mana. And to be honest now, I've played enough of the Mana games to conclude that I just don't really like them. Let's recap...
Final Fantasty Adventure - This game is awesome. It holds a lot of nostalgia for me. But more importantly, it totally holds up. I'm talking specifically about the original Game Boy spin-off of Final Fantasy here, though.
Sword Of Mana - The GBA remake of the above... I didn't like it. It feels clunky compared to the original.
Secret Of Mana - Considered by many to be a CLASSIC and one of the shining examples of the SNES' fantastic RPG library. I didn't like it. I found it clunky and slow.
And now TRIALS OF MANA is another game that is boring me hard. It's SO slow. So clunky. The combat, ugh. The menus, ugh. Even the art style is kind of turning me off. I just really don't think the Mana games are my cup of tea. There are so many RPG series that I really enjoy from the 8 and 16-bit era: Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star, and so on. But Mana? This doesn't seem like one of them. It's funny that this collection coming to Switch was such a big deal because it was the first time Trials was playable in English, and because people love Secret Of Mana. It's like FF Adventure was a tacked on afterthought. But for me, it's the sole reason to own this collection.
When I first got my GameCube back in the day, the first game I got was Luigi's Mansion. Unfortunately, I finished that game the first weekend I had it. And since I was a college student at the time, I couldn't really afford to buy another new game so soon. A friend of mine lent me his copy of Super Mario Sunshine, though and it kept me busy for a while.
It had been a long time since I'd played Sunshine. But I had fond memories of it. So when Nintendo announced this new Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection on Switch, I figured it'd be a good time to revisit Sunshine (and get new versions of Mario 64 and Galaxy as well).
It turns out however that SOME games do not age as well as others. And SOME games are way better in your memory than in real life. My guess is that back in 2002 Sunshine was an awesome game to me because it was one of the first games I was playing on fancy new hardware. And I didn't have any other new games at the time, so I was kind of stuck playing one and learning to enjoy it.
But in 2020, I have a lot of games vying for my attention. And my goodness, Sunshine does not hold up now.
It still looks good. I'll give it that. But, man... first of all the FLUDD system thing just doesn't hold up for me now. It feels weird that a mainline Mario game wasn't just a platformer. But the biggest issue I have with this one is the controls. They're just... bad. I mean, I play games with shooting/aiming in them all the time. But I'm struggling to do ANYTHING in Sunshine. Just really basic aiming and shooting in this game is a total chore. And frustration sets in quickly for me here. Not to mention the fact that you need to find water to recharge your stupid FLUDD gun. Ugh.
This being a port in the most basic sense (IE: a Gamecube emulator), there's no button remapping to speak of. No adjusting the sensitivity of the axis. So I'm left feeling like I can't even reliably shoot the thing I'm trying to shoot. Which makes a game that relies on shooting stuff feel like a total drag.
Sorry, Sunshine - I'm all set.
I recently attempted to play the first Crash game (because it was the first) and the third Crash game (because supposedly it was the best). And I strongly disliked them both. But before getting rid of this Switch N-Sane Trilogy collection, I figured I'd at least fire up the second game. As I've said recently, I've had this weird project going on over the past couple years where I'd attempt to pick up and play as many of the games as I could that were featured on the covers of Nintendo Power and Game Informer.
The project has been interesting. See, the games featured on those covers weren't always the best games. But they were games that those publications thought were hyped up enough that they'd move issues. So in a weird way, it's a very specific time capsule of THAT MONTH in gaming. They're two long-running magazines. At least technically, as I see Nintendo Force as the spiritual successor to Nintendo Power. The NP covers were generally more Nintendo (1st Party) focused. And the GI covers tended to focus more on HARDCORE games. So it's an interesting mix of a list.
I'm rambling to fill some space here. Because the bottom line is that I very strongly disliked Crash 1 and 3. I had no reason to believe that I'd enjoy the second game. So I didn't fire it up with the intention to beat it or even to spend any serious time with it. Nope. Instead my goal was just to see how long it'd take to annoy me enough to just shut it off. Wanna take a guess?
Yep. Twenty minutes is all I needed to confirm that this was just more of the same. It's another crappy 3D platformer sandwiched between two other crappy 3D platformers in the same series. Shocker, right? So I could reiterate the reasons I disliked 1 and 3, but why bother? You can go read what I said about those two games. It wasn't very generous. So bottom line: the Crash series does not seem to appeal to me. At all.
And here's another game that's aged poorly. The DS port of Diddy Kong Racing. Yikes.
Let me rewind. I have never played Diddy Kong Racing on the N64. I never cared to. I wasn't a fan of the Donkey Kong Country series after that first SNES game. I don't have any attachment to Diddy Kong. And I wasn't a huge N64 fan back in the day. (I'm a bigger fan of N64 now). But most importantly: Mario Kart 64 existed. Why on earth would anyone play Diddy Kong Racing instead of Mario Kart 64? I don't know.
That said, I found the DS port at a yard sale for $2, so why not? What I quickly found out was that the racing itself is a perfectly fine rip off of the Mario Kart series. BUT the game is stupid. It has a hub world and you do missions and collect balloons and OMG there's A STORY. Ugh.
SO much of the momentum is killed in that hub world. Just let me race! I don't want to collect balloons to unlock doors. I don't want to find hidden doors. Just let me race.
Nope. I'll just stick to Mario Kart. Thank you.
For some reason, when the Crash N-Sane Trilogy was released on Switch, I bought it. I don't know why. I have zero nostalgia for the series. I think Crash is a pretty silly mascot, to be honest. And it was from an era of 3D platformers that I found clunky. I remember playing some of that first game with my high school girlfriend's little brother and thinking it was fairly terrible.
Anyway, I got that trilogy on Switch, and played some of the third game, which is generally considered the best one. At least that's according to HG101. And when I played it I thought it was... just okay. Not TERRIBLE. But not great. Or even all that good.
So why am I playing the first game now? Because I'm a glutton for punishment apparently.
I'll start with the (few) positives. Crash looks alright. I guess. For a remastered PlayStation 3D game, it looks alright. And it had some alright ideas. The running into/out-of the screen gimmick was at least unique and interesting.
But that's it for kind words.
This game sucks. I don't like Crash, the character. I don't like the music. Or the art style. Or the way platforming feels. Or the world. Or the hit detection. Or the unfair ramps in difficulty. I basically think this first game is trash.
I suppose I think it's somewhat important to look into games that have some place in video game history. I've had this project going for years where I try to play all the games that were featured on the covers of Nintendo Power and Game Informer, as it has become (in my mind) a list of games that were hyped in their day.
But Crash doesn't feel like a piece of history worth revisiting. I just don't enjoy this game at all. Yet sadly, I'll probably at least try the second game in the series as it was also featured on a GI cover. And I own it as part of this crappy trilogy.