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.
Wow, 2014 feels like a long time ago all of the sudden. That's when the original Shovel Knight (later dubbed "Shovel Of Hope") was released. I remember getting that game as soon as it was released and being really into it. Later I'd dub it one of 2014's TOP TEN GAMES and being excited for the expansions. Over the years I did play the expansions, and I wasn't as into them. And six years later, I was starting to wonder if maybe the original Shovel Knight wasn't as good as I had remembered.
Certainly it was possible that 2014 was still a time when an indie game like this felt like a big deal. But man, have you looked at the eShop lately? A flood of new retro inspired indie games hit on a near daily basis. You can't swing a dead cat without a hitting a Metroidvania for instance.
And so I booted up my Wii U copy of the Shovel Knight Treasure Trove and decided to revisit that original game. If you haven't played it, it's sort of a mix of Mega Man and Ducktales. And Super Mario Bros 3. And some other stuff. Let me explain...
The Mega Man comparison is because you've got a group of other knights (bosses) to battle, which can be played in differing orders. You play through their levels and then face the boss. So very MM in structure. Though you attack with a shovel. And you can pogo hop. So this feels very Ducktales. Also there's an overworld map that reminds of SMB3, and has little item shops and stuff. Also you can use currency found in game to upgrade your weapons, skills, armor, so this is a bit new-ish in game structure.
And I'm here to tell you that even in 2020, yes, Shovel Knight still holds up fantastically well. I played for a while and took out a few bosses. The levels are all well designed. Challenging, but not super frustrating. The boss fights are awesome - each with their own INTERESTING attack patterns. It's a real blast. And the game just oozes charm from its sprite work and NPC's to the fantastic music.
I also messed around with the Amiibo support for a bit - I am the proud owner of a Shovel Knight Amiibo. This... I wasn't all that into. You can make a "Custom Knight" but I found this cumbersome. It meant leveling up the Amiibo instead of buying upgrades, and it would ask you to save to the Amiibo after every level which was annoying, so I shut that feature off altogether.
At any rate, I'm having a great time revisiting this game. I love when I can go to my shelves and pull something I already own and get a bunch of enjoyment out of it.
I love when I come back to a game years later and find that it actually holds up as well as I remember it. Sometimes games like these are cool at the time, but somehow lose their luster of the years as other games eclipse them. But Shovel Knight is continuing to impress me, again. The level design is great, the music is great, the boss battles are great. I'm having so much fun.
I've got only one boss level left, and then it's off to the final gauntlet.
We got a pretty big snow storm, so we spent the day with our daughter making a snowman, sledding, and marathoning the Frozen movies. Good stuff. Plus shoveling. Real life shoveling. So it's only fitting that once she went to bed, and my wife and I were wiped out, I finished up Shovel Knight.
The final stages are great. They remind of the Wily levels in Mega Man, but whereas those often frustrate me, the ones here had a great pacing to them, with checkpoints generous enough to never make me give up. Instead, it feels like you need to just master each new section.
Then there's the boss rush at the end which was a blast, and then the showdown against the enchantress which is a pretty epic and awesome (but not overly difficult) boss fight in which Shield Knight helps you out.
It's a satisfying ending, and just challenging enough to make you feel like you accomplished something but never rage-quit inducing. In the end, this replay has just reminded me WHY I loved this game back in 2014. And I think I still do love it. It's really great.
I really like the Switch Online selection of NES and SNES games. Sure, it's not a HUGE collection. But it's at least interesting. It feels like it's a good selection of classics and oddballs. So I stumbled upon Shadow Of The Ninja, a 1990 NES game that I've never played.
What I know about Shadow Of The Ninja is that it's sort of like Natsume's take on Ninja Gaiden. So much so that Tecmos ended up getting the rights to the Game Boy sequel and just turning it into a Ninja Gaiden game proper. So in a weird way, Shadow Of The Ninja is kinda sorta a weird unlicensed spin-off. Or something.
Anyway, in the past year or two I have played a couple of the old Ninja Gaiden games and found that they don't hold up for me. I loved those games as a kid, but I just don't have the patience for them as an adult. Well, I can say that doubly so about Shadow Of The Ninja.
MY GOODNESS this game is just kind of annoying to me. First off, you have just one life in this game (and five continues). If you die, you have to start the level all over again when you continue. Oh, and your lifebar does not replenish between levels. Yikes.
The good stuff is that the game looks cool-ish; the weapon upgrades are kind of interesting (though have limited uses); and the music is solid. But dudes, the game just feels so cheap and difficult to me, I couldn't get into it at all. I honestly gave up when I went through all my continues in level 1-4. That's sad.
Mario Kart 8 may well be the best in the series, but Double Dash will probably always be my personal favorite. While the original Super Mario Kart was one of the most defining games of my SNES library back in the day, and I had a good time with my buddy's copy of Mario Kart 64 (mostly for battle mode), it was Double Dash that really felt like a total perfection of the kart racer genre to me.
Sometime after college I had taken a bit of a hiatus from gaming (which seems weird to me now, looking back). But for my birthday in 2007, my wife got me a Gamecube and a stack of awesome games to go with it. As such, I have a ton of awesome memories tied to rediscovering the Gamecube's library. The two biggest memories though would be finally tackling Zelda: The Wind Waker, and of course, the many nights my wife and I spent playing Double Dash.
Gosh, it seems like forever ago. We were in our twenties, just married, living in a one bedroom apartment. Our big Friday night tradition was hitting up a salad bar, then perusing Blockbuster (oh man, remember Blockbuster?) and then going home to eat and watch a movie, and probably drink cheap beer. And many a Saturday night at the time we'd find ourselves playing Double Dash (and still drinking cheap beer, probably).
The years since have seen lots of other Mario Kart entries. And eventually we got to Mario Kart 8, which is an undisputed masterpiece. One we love. The years since have also seen so much happen to us. I mean we're like legitimately grown-ups now with a house and a baby and some cats and a whole lot of responsibilities. Sometimes we even drink expensive beer.
So while we could play Mario Kart 8 quite easily - it's sitting right there on the shelf, after all - there is a certain quaint simplicity to going back to Double Dash. It's a smaller game. It's not in HD. And my goodness, it can feel like a time machine back to simpler times.
Nowadays our game night together is on Tuesday nights. And it fits somewhere between after the baby goes to bed, and we're done cleaning up and getting things ready for the next night; and y'know, being too tired to play games anymore. Sixty to ninety minutes a week I'd wager. But it's sixty to ninety quality minutes.
You really can't go wrong with Double Dash. And I guess I can almost understand why some folks are so keen to stick with their copies of Smash Bros Melee even though Ultimate exists now. We've started a fresh memory card save, and are going through all the circuits with the intention of unlocking everything. It's a fun time machine, this one.
After playing through Shadowgate Classic, I was still on an adventure game kick so figured I'd dig further into my GBC library. Classic Creep Capers is a game that I have a unique attachment to. And yet, I haven't played it in nearly a decade so thought this would be a good time to dig it back out.
If you're not aware of this game, then you should hear me out. Yes, it's a licensed game. Yes, it's a GBC game that has NOTHING to do with the console version. And yet... all of this works in its favor. While Youtube videos of the N64 game make it look rather forgettable to me, the GBC is totally special. It's based on an actual Scooby-Doo episode, but more importantly, it is a completely unabashed homage to Maniac Mansion.
Yep, this is a game in which a bunch of young kids go snooping around a spooky mansion and meddle with a mad scientist. It also has a wicked sense of humor. Sounds familiar, am I right?
It's an awesome game to say the least. It's got my vote for one of the finest GBC hidden gems (of which there are many - the GBC is a truly under-loved system). The graphics are great, the writing is funny, and the gameplay is solid if you're a Maniac Mansion fan. It's not super hard or super cryptic. And really, it can be tackled in a few hours if you're willing to experiment.
Unfortunately, my play through tonight was hampered by a nasty little bug of sorts. See, I got about halfway through the game, which wasn't too difficult for me as I've beaten it multiple times in the past. However, my GBA SP battery hasn't been holding a reliable charge, so when I put the game down to take a break I made sure to take a picture of the save code (yeah, save code, no battery on this one sadly). When I came back to the game and inputted the code it told me that it was correct, and yet, I was missing a BUNCH of items from earlier in the game.
These were important items - ones I'd need to proceed further. Like the sausage from the fridge that I'd need to freeze in the lab to make a new leg for the stool (which was also missing from my inventory) so I could reach the lights to divert the robot Shaggy so I could steal the key to the cell holding Fred. See? I told you this wasn't my first rodeo. But sadly, I'm just not in the mood to restart after losing my progress.
The funny thing is, this struck a chord of deja vu in me. I'm fairly certain I had similar issues with the game back when I last went through it and had to Google for a better, more accurate save code. Hmm. Anyway, I'm just not in the mood to do that again. But I can tell you this - if you're willing to plow through the whole thing in a single session (which realistically shouldn't take you more than two to three hours) then you're in for such a solid treat. Creep Capers is an excellent gem oozing with charm. And let's face it, we could all use some more Maniac Mansion homages in our lives.