Sometimes the new hotness is tough to resist. And there's been a lot of talk about Hades lately. The review scores are through the roof. And truth be told, I tend to like myself a solid roguelike. I've lost so many hours to games like Spelunky and Downwell and Dead Cells and so on. And given the sort of spooky nature of Hades, I figured October was an ideal time to give it a go.
The best way I can sum up Hades is if Diablo and Dead Cells had a baby. It's an isometric game with tiny little enemies and dungeons - much like Diablo. But it's very action oriented and has the same sort of procedural generation and weapon unlocks and perks that you'd find in Dead Cells. In summation, it's good stuff.
Now, it hasn't QUITE sucked me in the way that either of those games did. But it is definitely a solid game, and has that sort of "one more run" thing going for it. That's for sure. It's also a lot more story focused than the majority of roguelikes I've played are. Like there's legit dialogue and all, and the NPC's remember your decisions from run to run. And that's the brilliant part. See, you're trying to escape Hades, so each time you die, you go back to the beginning. The loop actually makes sense. Each death is actually part of the story. Kind of brilliant.
I've only played an hour or two so far, but I can see myself sticking with this for a while.
The more I play Hades, the better it gets. I've unlocked more weapons and perks; I've gotten a feel for some of the weapon selection and which in-run perks to use to suit my playstyle; I've gotten more comfortable with certain enemy patterns. Perhaps most importantly, I'm always feeling a sense of progress. I've now made it to the second floor more than once, only to lose a battle (just barely!) against the Hydra.
It actually reminds me that I haven't played many 2020 games this year. It's kind of odd, because I generally keep up on a lot of new releases that interest me, but this year has been a weird year, of course. A combination of the pandemic and FOMO lead me to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which I enjoyed for about a week and haven't really thought of since. But I don't know. I've been delving into a lot of older and cheaper games, I guess. Plus having a young one in the house has made it harder to keep track of all the new cool stuff coming out. So I guess what I'm saying is that by default Hades is looking to be one of the best games I've played this year, for whatever that's worth.
I'm definitely hooked. There's some good things this game does. For instance the dark weapon thing... when you choose which weapon you want to use for a run, one is glowing dark. This means that THIS weapon will give you extra drops for using it this run. So always pick this one. Right? The thing that's great about this is that instead of choosing one weapon to master and then getting stuck in a rut, I'm experimenting way more. I hated the shield on my first attempt with it, but now I love using it with the right power-ups.
I had an awesome run last night where not only did I make it to Elysium for the first time, I made it all the way to the Theseus boss battle! Woah. I'm making solid progress on this one and having a really good time.
So during October I always try to find some Halloween themed games for my wife and I to play. Though this year it's been tougher for us to find the time to play games together. Our daughter turned sixteen months and we're tired, y'all. But tonight after the baby went to bed, we decided to hook up my Retron 5 in the kitchen, and fire up The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare - a game that fit the theme well, given that we're doing our annual binge of all of the Treehouse Of Horror episodes of The Simpsons.
Anyway, I knew nothing about this game other than I vaguely remembered it existed. It's a single player game so we planned to do the old pass-the-controller thing between lives/levels. Oh, I should start by just pointing out that this game LOOKS excellent. Graphically, it's about as close as you get a 16-bit game to looking like a 1992 cartoon. So kudos.
You start out in a hub area that's basically Evergreen Terrace, I guess. And you... just walk around? And a bunch of stuff tries to kill you. First impressions were that - MY GOODNESS - everything feels janky. You walk really fast. EVERYTHING moves really fast. And everything wants to kill you. I mean literally the mailboxes were some of the most aggressive things coming at us right away. Making it worse, the hit detection is HORRIBLE. Just wow.
So we just kept walking around, getting hit by stuff (mailboxes, statue heads, BUSES) and wondering when the actual levels would start but we couldn't figure it out. We googled it and apparently you need to find homework pages and JUMP ON THEM to enter levels. We saw those pages, but tried to collect them and nothing happened. Didn't realize you needed to jump on them - a task which wasn't always easy given the wonky controls.
So we did that and tried a couple of levels. One level was based on Indiana Jones (I guess?) and had you jumping on a lot of platforms in an isometric view. It was almost weirdo Q-Bert or something. And we died quickly. So we tried another. This time we were sucked into Itchy & Scratchy's house and UGH you have to hit them with mallets. But WOW the controls are terrible. I had so much trouble figuring out when I was lined up to hit them, or which was I was facing, or if I was close enough. Even worse, the animation to swing the mallet took forever. So we died again. It was at this point that the game froze up and... honestly, we had just had enough.
My wife and I said - in unison - "well, they can't all be winners." So oh well. It's a bummer, though. The game looks good, and the premise of nightmares offered up a good bit of possibility. But sadly, it's just such a poorly programmed game that we couldn't enjoy it.
If you've played the first 34 Mario Bros games then you know what to expect from this one. Kidding.
I downloaded this (silly) timed SMB game on Switch. To celebrate the series' 35th anniversary, Nintendo has created Super Mario Bros 35 - an attempt to turn SMB into Tetris 99. And as much as I love Tetris 99, I just can't see the appeal of SMB35.
So it works like this - you play SMB against 34 other people. When you kill an enemy, it goes onto someone else's screen. And so it turns into a last-man-standing kind of game. That's all well and good - and people seem to like it - but it just don't click with me.
For me, Tetris is a prime example of a competitive game. But a side-scroller like Mario? That just feels like a single player experience to me. To be honest, I didn't even love playing New Super Mario Bros in co-op. Nevermind playing AGAINST people.
Look, I applaud Nintendo for trying to think outside the box. It worked with Tetris 99. And this kind of experimentation led to other games that I do enjoy like NES Remix or to another degree, Mario Maker. But Super Mario 35 just feels like a curio to me. One that I doubt I'll remember by the time it exits the eShop in March.
I was deeply into Rocket League a few years back. I initially got it on PC when I was doing a weekly game night with some friends. They lost interest quickly, but I kept at it and it became one of those sort of EVERY NIGHT kind of games. Then after a while a buddy of mine became interested in playing it on Xbox One, so I grabbed a copy there and got into it AGAIN. When it was announced for Switch I figured I'd pick up a copy at some point. But now... it's FREE.
I just got in a PDP JoyCon grip thing that makes the JoyCons feel beefier - like a real controller, plus adds better triggers, AND it came with these stupid little nubs to put on the analog sticks that I CAN'T BELIEVE really do make a huge difference. And I wanted a game to test this thing out on. So I fired up Rocket League.
For whatever reason I decided not to link my old Steam or Xbox accounts, and just start fresh on Switch. It was like hitting the reset button. But my goodness. It's all coming back to me. (And now that horrible Celine Dion song is stuck in my head).
The first match I played online just to test this controller out, my team won 4-1 with me scoring 3 goals. Yeah. I love Rocket League. It seems so simple - SO SILLY - it's soccer, but with cars. Yet... it's amazing.
I feel like I'm going to get sucked right back in.
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.