It's no secret that I'm a really big fan of the Resident Evil franchise. I have been since that first game dropped on PS1 back in the day and blew my little teenage mind. I've been fairly obsessed with the series ever since. Sure, the main series is huge. And I love 1 and 4 so, so much like everyone else. But I'm also a big fan of the oddball side games. For instance Code Veronica and the Revelations games. Heck, I've even been known to praise the PT Anderson movies. Seriously.
Back in my really hardcore GB collection days, I also highly praised Resident Evil Gaiden - a GBC color game that nobody really had much to say about at the time. The story goes that Capcom wanted to actually port the original RE to GBC and it wasn't working out, so they instead hired an outside developer to do so. Apparently, (and according to Unseen64), M4 was working on a Dino Crisis game at the time, and Capcom had them shift the project over to be a new RE game.
The resulting, Resident Evil Gaiden has gone on to gain a bit of a reputation as a bad RE game. And even Capcom themselves have called it non-canon, which - why? I mean, even as a huge fan, who can really keep track of the canon stuff? And how important is the story REALLY? I say this as a guy who bought Umbrella Corps day one, too.
If you're not aware, RE Gaiden is a very, very different RE experience. You walk in an overhead perspective, sort of like classic Metal Gear (the NES game). And when you confront zombies, you switch to a first person perspective where attacks are based on a timed gauge not unlike your average retro golf game. It's... unique. To say the least.
That said, I just dumped two hours into it again after more than a decade, and I'm pleased to say that my memory isn't completely rose tinted. Gamers tend to crap on this one, but honestly, I think it's pretty cool.
First of all, you're playing as Barry. Cool. Second of all, it takes entirely on a boat. Also a cool setting. Third of all, feeling akin to Metal Gear is fine with me. Now, in fairness, evading zombies - which I think is the goal - doesn't work all that well. And frankly, it's hard to know if it really IS the best route anyway, since sometimes they drop important items like keys you need to progress.
The battle system is... not perfect. I'll admit that. But it works. It adds a bit of tension anyway.
But there's cool stuff here. You have three characters to play as (eventually). And the visuals are solid for a GBC game. Truthfully, I find myself leaning into GBC more than ever lately. GB games are great - no doubt. But also very basic visually, which can hurt when I'm playing on my Retron 5. GBA games are also great, as they feel like an extension of the SNES, but - I don't know. GBC games feel like souped up NES games that were still getting released into the year 2000.
Like, in some ways, RE Gaiden feels like a NES Resident Evil game. It's far from perfect, but it's interesting. If anything, this game is the closest the RE series ever got to playing proper tribute to Sweet Home.
Also, the cut scenes are fantastic. Not the dialogue, mind. But the visuals are great. The weird biological zombie mutant weapon thing you're hunting? He's got this crazy Lovecraft thing going on, and it's all presented in glorious NES inspired cut scenes. I like it.
Currently, I've gained Lucia as a second character, and I'm trying to find Leon. And I'm having a good time. So I still stand by recommendation that this is a slept on RE game. Not perfect, but slept on.
In that way, it reminds me a lot of the Revelations games. Not AS GOOD - so don't misquote me. But I do feel like the two Revelations were released with little fanfare and kind of slid under the radar, even though they were excellent games. Also, the first Revelations takes place on a boat, which makes it feel like a throwback to this one.
After putting in another hour or so, I've made more progress here. I have Leon in my party, which is cool since, y'know, he's the dude actually on the box art.
But here's the tricky part - this is an old school RE game in heart. Meaning, while it is certainly more linear that your early numbered RE's, it is still very limited on both ammo and healing items. This can be a real problem given that it seems like zombies keep regenerating, and they're tough to avoid often.
So now I've put myself in a tough spot. Or, I've put my save in a tough spot. I've picked up some decent weapons and all, but I'm just straight up outnumbered. It's hard to get to where I need to go next while avoiding confrontation. "Running" away from a battle is also achieved via the rhythm mini game thing as shooting is, only it seems harder to pull off. And no matter what doors I peer through, I seem to find that I've already picked up the ammo/herbs in each room, though there ARE more zombies to attack me.
I still hold by all my defenses of this game. I think it's unfairly maligned. Or at least I think it's way better and more intersting than it's given credit for. That said, I think it also kind of needs to be played with a walkthrough so you at least know which rooms can be avoided because there's nothing worth finding in them, thus, the zombie attack inside isn't worth it.
Over a decade ago now, I was huge into Game Boy collecting. Like, the sole focus of my video game collection was GB, GBC, and GBA. I bought some Gamecube games, too - sure. But GB was what I really cared about. At a time - I was insane - and was attempting to collect a full set of GB, GBC, and GBA games. The caveat being, I was going for loose cart US copies, to help the financial blow. But still. This was an insane endeavor that amounted to thousands of cartridges and who knows what percentage of them were really worth playing. Around the time I finally got rid of the collecting bug, I had amassed HUNDREDS of little carts. Not that I regret a thing. I played and discovered so many unique games during that time. And really, I learned a heck of a lot. I dare say that my GB knowledge is way way up there, even if it's not really my focus today.
Having said all that - outside of the stupid US full set collecting, there were plenty of imports I was interested in. And even way back then, Magical Chase was on my radar. If anything, it was a bit of a GB holy grail. If you don't know, Magical Chase was a highly regarded Turbo Grafix 16 shmup. One about a little witch. It was cute and colorful. It was a highlight of the system. It was also released in small batches - both in Japan where the PCE did well, and in the US where the TG16 did not. Thus, it was a high priced item on the afermarket. The game was later ported to the GBC in 2000, but only in Japan. And it was a technoligical marvel. Yep, it was an honest to goodness SOLID port of a TG16 on GBC. And it was a solid shmup on GBC. So you should know that it was always pricey for GBC collectors.
For many years, I resigned myself to the idea that I'd never own this one. But I'll be honest here. I'm no longer a video game "collector." I'm a guy that strongly appreciates VG history, but I don't care about having this amazing collection to show off. I don't care about CIB, or sealed, or graded games. I only care about getting a chance to play some games that interest me. Which is why when I stumbled upon a CLEARLY bootleg copy of Magical Chase for less than $20 I didn't even think twice. Yup, it's on a gaudy yellow cartridge to make sure you know it's not the real deal. And yeah, the PCB is a little wobbly in there, so I had to re-insert the cart numerous times before my Retron 5 console even recognized it. But dudes. I "own" a copy of Magical Chase. I don't care about the authenticy on a prohibitively priced import ($360 for a legit used cart on eBay as I type this), I'm just hyped that I'm playing a cartridge of it at all.
The "witch shmup" sub-genre is something that seems to intrigue me. I was a fan of Cotton and Castle Of Shikigami and Deathsmiles. So I mean, Magical Chase is a no brainer. If nothing else, Magical Chase seems like a Cotton rip-off. But not in a bad way. Maybe it's more of a tribute. Just more candy colored.
Anyway, I've been playing it tonight on a nice big screen and with a SNES controller, and I'm into it. It looks good. It plays good. It sounds good. The neat thing is that shops pop up and you can purchase weapon upgrades, or replenish health or whatever. I've been experimeting with different weapons, and it's cool and seems to add depth.
The levels are disarming. They look so bright and fun, yet this game is actually pretty challenging. Part of it comes from the size of your sprite, though, making it tough to dodge some projectiles. Plus, your shots can blend in with enemy fire. Not really uncommon for a GB shmup.
But yeah, this is a cool game. I made it up to the boss of Stage 4 (out of 6?) so far. And the boss battles are cool and well animated. Look, I'm impressed by this one. It's such a cool collectible. Even if I don't have the real deal, I feel like I added a cool title to my own little rag tag collection.
I've had such a weird history with the Megami Tensei series. I know they're uber popular games - both in Japan as a whole, and in the USA in a more cultish way. But the way I've dipped my toe into the series over the past decade plus has been odd, I guess.
The first game I played was actually Demikids. This was a GBA spin-off game that took the demon fusing and made it into a kind of darker Pokemon. This was back when I was heavily into collecting GB/GBC/GBA games around 2009-2011. Around that same time I picked up Revelations: The Demon Slayer on GBC as well, though to be honest, I really don't even remember it much outside of being a kind of Dragon Quest knock-off.
Then I remember that not long after that we got some huge storm, and we lost power for a day or two, and for some reason I had downloaded a fan translation of Persona 2 (the half that wasn't localized) and played that on my PSP for a while. Then - and I know this isn't TECHNICALLY an SMT game - I got obsessed with Catherine, and played that one on 360. I was kind of all over the place back then.
And then finally, my totally real-deal introduction to SMT proper would have been the release of Shin Megami Tensei IV. I don't know what it was about this game, but I was so intrigued by it that it's what finally tipped me into buying a 3DS. I bought the game, along with the system right after we bought our first home. And I have some VERY fond memories of sitting on our new front porch, drinking coffee on the weekend, while playing SMT IV. I loved that game a lot. It's one of my top 3DS games.
Since then, I've gone thru many phases. Be it Sega stuff or PC gaming or Xbox... but for the past 3 years or so now I've kind of full-circled, and been in a place where every console I own is Nintendo. As such, I've missed out on stuff like the last few mainline Persona games. I guess that's why I thought it was so interesting when it was announced that Shin Megami Tensei III was being ported to Switch. This was a game last seen on PS2.
Oh, and SMT V is coming to Switch, too. Plus there was a hack-n-slash sequel to Persona 5. So I guess Atlas is seeing the virtues of the Switch platform.
Anyway, I'm just a couple hours into SMT III right now, but man, it's kind of great. In my short time playing I've seen a (predictable) apocalypse; had a giant demon manta ray tell me to F off; met a demon with what looked like a chili pepper for genitals; explored an underground shopping mall; recruited a demon that looks like a squid; and so on.
The PS2 (and GCN/XB) era can be kind of rough to revisit at times. My recent throwback to Super Mario Sunshine is a good example. But wow. SMT III is solid, still, all these years later. It's unique and kind of messed up and has great visuals and great music. More importantly, it shows that the tone of the SMT games has been a thing for a long time. Long before I was hooked on SMT IV.
So yeah. I'm having a good time here.
I'm several hours into SMT3 now, and my thoughts are a bit conflicted. They lean towards the good, for sure. But...
Look, the game is pretty awesome. As far as SMT games (that I've played go), this is certainly solid. I do think I enjoyed IV more, but it's close-ish. The tone, the setting, the visuals, the music - all of this draws me in. The talking to demons is cool. The fusion of demons is cool. The battle system is great. By all accounts, this is a top notch RPG.
My issue is MY issue. And it's one I've repeated numerous times over the past couple years. I'm a dad. My child is a toddler. My gaming time is not what it used to be. So an RPG that does SO LITTLE hand-holding is daunting to me. Which is to say, I keep thinking about Dragon Quest XI. That's a perfect RPG in my mind. It does a great job of mixing a story, a battle system, and a motivation. On the flip, SMT3 constantly has me wondering WHERE I'm supposed to go next.
I'm getting a little tired of cruising around an overwold map wondering where my step should be. A little tired of traversing the same cities because I'm not sure if I missed something important. It's all kind of frustrating. Like, the core elements of this game are so good, but the flow of the journey is at times baffling to me.
I guess I could use a walkthrough. Maybe I will. But I'm not sure I feel like it right now. I think maybe I'm gonna play something else. Something a little less intense. And then maybe circle back to this one. I do like it - I really do - it's just flawed in its game design, which - to be fair - is also a bit of a flaw of its time. But also, SMT games aren't really for the casual. And sadly, right now, I'm a bit casual.