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Topic: Games You Recently Beat?

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Ralizah

@NintendoByNature Fantastic! Did you get the true ending?

Playing depressing games alone in my cold, dark room <3

NintendoByNature

@Ralizah lol no. In typical NBN fashion I just went straight for the big bad and only had 10 black magic. When I got to the gravestone( final island) and pirate master ended up dipping, i was like WTF? Then shantae said I should find all those BM and I was like " oh no.." I was only passively looking for them. I started to get worried I needed all them to even face him but i went back to scuttle town and started looking for them 1 by 1.

Admittedly, I had no idea where he was supposed to be. So I figured I would just look for more BM. I started in that hard as nails gauntlet that was so relentlessly unforgiving in scuttle town haha. Got all the way to the top of the tower and I was saying to myself, there better be like 15 of these cacklebats or I'm gonna flip. And low and behold, there he was! I beat him pretty easily considering I had tons of auto potions and super monster milk. I could kind of tell things would have gone different if i had all 20 BM by the way NPCs were talking..but ive never been a completionist so I wasn't worried about it. And honestly, if I had gotten that far and the game tossed a "now you need to find all 20 or you can't proceed to pirate master," it would have really ruined the experience that i loved to that point.

Edited on by NintendoByNature

NintendoByNature

Ralizah

@NintendoByNature Yeah, I've never been a fan of games blocking you from beating the game until you find X number of things. Metroid Prime did that, and that's the biggest reason I don't consider that game to be one of the best releases on the GameCube.

Realistically, it only changes a few minutes at the very end.

I'm glad you enjoyed the game.

Playing depressing games alone in my cold, dark room <3

NintendoByNature

@Ralizah yep me neither. I typically consider it a design flaw when a game tosses that at you.

I never played MP yet but i will eventually. And I'm glad you're telling me that ahead of playing the game though.

NintendoByNature

kkslider5552000

eh, the Metroid Prime 1 isn't a big deal, there's like 2 or 3 that you need to backtrack to get to really, and I think they're all in the same area.

Prime 2, now that's a different story.

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MsJubilee

kkslider5552000 wrote:

eh, the Metroid Prime 1 isn't a big deal, there's like 2 or 3 that you need to backtrack to get to really, and I think they're all in the same area.

Prime 2, now that's a different story.

I might be alone here. But I thought the trilogy was okay. I wasn't blow away like most people were.

I don't enjoy suffering alone. However, I don't mind making others suffer alone.

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I am juggling through Dishonored 1, Bayo1, and Duke Nukem 3D.

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Ralizah

@kkslider5552000 Nah. If you don't naturally find the artifacts before the end of the game, you have to backtrack through the entire game looking for twelve or so objects. Granted, a few can be collected as a natural part of the game's progression, but most of them are hidden from the player.

That would be fine for an optional objective, but to make it a requirement to beat the game? Completely destroyed the pacing, and made the last several hours a royal pain (I guess you could just look them up in a walkthrough, but that, in itself, is a testament to bad game design when it makes you think: "maybe I should cheat").

@MsJubilee The Metroid Prime games did a great job of translating the basic gameplay of Metroid into 3D, but the first two have design issues that harm the experience. No idea RE: Metroid Prime 3, as I've yet to play it.

Edited on by Ralizah

Playing depressing games alone in my cold, dark room <3

kkslider5552000

Ralizah wrote:

Nah. If you don't naturally find the artifacts before the end of the game, you have to backtrack through the entire game looking for twelve or so objects. Granted, a few can be collected as a natural part of the game's progression, but most of them are hidden from the player.

When you first go to the Artifact Temple (which you can get to when you get the double jump right near your ship), you're able to scan the things to get clues on where the others are (which are easy enough to figure out if you do a quick check on the room names on the map in the area they say they are in). Granted, you need to get some more to get ALL the clues, but you do end up naturally going back to Tallon Overworld a couple of times before the endgame. Like my first time playing the game when it was new there might've been one extra I missed, but otherwise I always only have the Phendrana ones left during playthroughs.

besides, the real worst part of a first time Prime playthrough are the Chozo ghosts :V

Primes 2's much worse in hindsight regardless, because I'm pretty certain you HAVE to wait until near endgame to get the ability to collect either most or ALL the things to unlock the final boss area.

though none of this is half as bad as the triforce quest in wind waker, that part kills the game in hindsight, thank god for the hd remake

Edited on by kkslider5552000

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Cotillion

Ralizah wrote:

If you don't naturally find the artifacts before the end of the game, you have to backtrack through the entire game looking for twelve or so objects. Granted, a few can be collected as a natural part of the game's progression, but most of them are hidden from the player.

That would be fine for an optional objective, but to make it a requirement to beat the game? Completely destroyed the pacing, and made the last several hours a royal pain (I guess you could just look them up in a walkthrough, but that, in itself, is a testament to bad game design when it makes you think: "maybe I should cheat").

@Ralizah I remember reading an interview with one of the developers at Retro about this in Prime 2. He explained that they had basically finished the game, but were unsatisfied that you get to the point where you have the Light Suit and basically really nothing much to do with it, so they tacked on this awful scavenger hunt to make the player use the suit (by using it to traverse the light shafts to aid in the scavenger hunt). There wasn't really much thought out into it besides making the player use the suit.

Prime 1 wasn't nearly as bad, as you can get most of those naturally, you can get the clues pretty early on, so you can search as you progress the game. May need to backtrack at endgame for a couple, but its not bad enough to harm the experience, IMO. Prime 2's hunt is awful and really does harm the experience of an otherwise pretty solid game. As @kkslider5552000 pointed out, you can't even begin searching for them until pretty well the end. Even without the developer interview, it was pretty clear they just tacked that on as filler and no one gave it much thought.

Cotillion

Ralizah

Shantae and the Seven Sirens

Platform: Nintendo Switch (also on: PS4, Xbox One, Windows PC, iOS)

Time to completion: 10 hours

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Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the fifth Shantae game to release in the series since the Game Boy Color original in 2002. As in other games in the series, you play as the titular half-genie Shantae, who, this time, is invited out to the tropical Paradise Island as a guest of honor for a Half-Genie Festival. When her fellow half-genies are kidnapped before festivities can kick off, however, Shantae takes it upon herself to find the missing girls and inadvertently stumbles upon a larger mystery involving the history and nature of the island itself, encountering old rivals and new enemies along the way.

As a brief bit of background: the first three Shantae games connected narratively and formed a trilogy of sorts. The fourth game, Shantae: Half Genie Hero, functioned as both a soft reboot of the narrative as well as a pretty dramatic shift in game design, abandoning the free exploration of previous entries for a mostly linear adventure. This shift in design didn't sit well with a number of fans (including yours truly), so I was happy to see Seven Sirens not only return to a more exploratory form of gameplay, but actually draw primarily from the very first Shantae game as its primary source of inspiration. While the first three games all focus on exploring environments and using transformations or tools to access new areas (heck, even Half-Genie Hero features this, to a limited extent), the series drifted away from the connected world of the GBC original, which featured multiple towns and themed dungeons, over time. The second game, Risky's Revenge, was a smaller-in-scale DSiWare title that didn't feature multiple towns or elaborate dungeons, and the third game, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, featured a more contained hub world design, where the player would venture out from one town to multiple, elaborate themed islands. Seven Sirens marks a reversal of this trend toward increased linearity, and features a fully inter-connected world map in the style of the original Shantae, along with the return of multiple towns and more elaborate, themed dungeons.

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The most immediate change from previous Shantae titles is in the setting. This is the first title in the series to not take place at least partially in Sequin Land, and the iconic Scuttle Town is abandoned as well in favor of fully focusing on Paradise Island. This gives the game a chance to focus on crafting an entirely unique new environment, which it mostly does. It was interesting to see an entire Shantae game with a tropical/aquatic theme to it.

In addition, this entry has seen a complete revamp of the animal transformation system that has featured in almost every Shantae game (except for Pirate's Curse, where she temporarily loses her half-genie powers and is forced to rely on pirate gear from her long-time pirate arch-rival, Risky Boots) to date. In previous games, Shantae would have to stop and perform transformation dances to assume different animal forms in order to progress through environments. While fans often tend to love this aspect of the series, many felt like it slowed down the pace of exploration overall and were spoiled by the comparatively lightning fast gameplay of Pirate's Curse, where pirate gear can be instantly used without needing to interrupt the flow of gameplay. WayForward clearly took this feedback to heart and crafted a clever have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too solution to the problem of transformations in this game. Via the use of "fusion coins" that you gain for rescuing and completing a task for each of the other kidnapped half-genies you rescue, you can now initiate animal transformations at will, temporarily, based on the use of context-sensitive button presses. For example, the newt transformation can be instantly achieved by air dashing toward a wall, when you hit the wall, you'll be in your animal form, but when you feet touch the floor, you turn back into half-genie form. While this sacrifices the ability to wander around in your transformed state (which there is usually no real reason to do), it allows this new game to preserve the iconic animal transformations that are part of the series' core identity while also allowing for the more fluid and dynamic gameplay introduced in Pirate's Curse. Shantae still has her dances, but they're reserved for separate magical ability now, such as revealing hidden platforms or filling the screen with electricity.

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I'd briefly like to mention that I love how, in another aspect that's similar to the original, WF brought back a sort of dancing minigame to earn money.

(this video completely destroys the aspect ratio of the GBC original, but it serves its purpose)

The distinguishing gimmick introduced in Seven Sirens. though, comes in the form of monster cards. When you kill an enemy, there's a random chance that it will drop a collectible card. Depending on the requirements (some cards are usable when you collect only one; others require the player to find several duplicates before they can be used), you'll be able to equip these cards to Shantae and boost one of her stats or abilities. These can vary from increasing climbing speed when transformed, to boosting the power of certain types of magic, to allowing Shantae to auto-smash pots she runs across on her journey. A handful of monster cards are more powerful and are only obtainable by trading items to obtain them. While I liked this extra wrinkle that was added to the gameplay, the game is easy enough that it never mattered too much, and the monster cards don't really drastically change things up enough to make different card load-outs feel like they deeply impacted the gameplay.

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And, to segue quickly into my biggest complaint about the game, Seven Sirens is too easy. Partially because of the way the game throws food at you constantly when you're killing enemies. In previous games, if you ran out of potions, you'd have to tediously farm enemies for heart drops. In this game, though, you're always stacked with various sort of food that heal a TON of the player's health, which means there's never really reason for the player to die. New Game Plus mode (no idea why it's called this, considering nothing seems to carry over; really, it's just magic mode from previous games) tries to balance this by making Shantae take more damage from enemies, which definitely leads to more deaths early on, but it doesn't really address the underlying balance issue with food drops.

Additionally, the boss encounters in this game, while not mind-numbingly easy, don't really feel particularly threatening, either. Partially because you'll always be stacked with healing items, and partially because there's nothing particularly brutal about them in terms of their patterns and attacks. I will say, though, and this is leading into a broader discussion, I LOVE how bosses are introduced in this game. Seven Sirens, in a series first, makes use of fully-animated video clips throughout the game (akin to ones seen in JRPGs like Persona 4 or Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete), and it does a lot to make the game feel more... premium? A lot of care has gone into the presentation of this game, and that extends to this element as well. Before encountering a boss, you'll be treated, each time, to a short video clip showing off Shantae's first interaction with her enemy. They're both fun to watch and do a great job of building a sense of anticipation for the coming fight.

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The character models and backdrops in this game all look quite sharp, and, especially in handheld mode, Seven Sirens is a stunning little indie. The game also seems to run at a perfect 60fps all the time. Musically, the game is a bit less impressive, thanks to the departure of the series composer Jake Kaufman for this entry. His work is iconic, and it's really noticeable when that particular brand of Shantae music fans have been used to hearing from game to game is missing. The compositions in Seven Sirens are not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I can't help but notice the lack of his peppy, middle-eastern inspired tracks, which fit well with a series that had a half-genie as its main character. There were also a number of tracks that were nearly identical from game to game, which helped to give the series its sense of identity. What we get here is... different, although definitely still trying to sound like Shantae music. It's pretty good, actually, but I do hope Kaufman returns for the next entry.

What particularly took getting used to was the new boss theme, which had been the same or extremely similar from the GBC original on.

Compare:

vs.
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Certain pieces also seem to call back to older, more iconic Shantae series themes, such as Armor Town
which rather reminds me of the Burning Town themes from previous games
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The new aural diversity does lead to some interesting new tracks, though. Like this atmospheric piece
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Overall, I'm fairly happy with this game, and I think it's a big return to form for the series. Honestly, this is what I wanted out of Half-Genie Hero to begin with. With that said, putting aside the difficulty complaints, it's still lacking some of the humor and character interactions from the original trilogy. An unusually large number of new characters are introduced in Seven Sirens, but I felt like the game didn't really do enough with them. A lot of great new designs, but they're almost all fairly incidental when it comes to character interactions or the bigger picture of the plot. The dialogue here is as snarky as ever, of course, but there are definitely fewer laugh out loud moments, and I miss that sense of development plot-wise, however rudimentary it might have been, from game to game. Still, it's absolutely one of the better titles in the series (top three, for sure), and most of my hang-ups come from the perspective of someone who is a long-time fan and is possibly looking at previous games with nostalgia goggles on. This is the best new game WayForward has developed since Pirate's Curse in 2013, and one of the better Metroidvania-style platformers on the Switch overall.

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Playing depressing games alone in my cold, dark room <3

kkslider5552000

Cotillion wrote:

I remember reading an interview with one of the developers at Retro about this in Prime 2. He explained that they had basically finished the game, but were unsatisfied that you get to the point where you have the Light Suit and basically really nothing much to do with it, so they tacked on this awful scavenger hunt to make the player use the suit (by using it to traverse the light shafts to aid in the scavenger hunt). There wasn't really much thought out into it besides making the player use the suit.

Which is a shame, since the part where you explore new parts of the dark aether version of the overworld (and how you can now also more easily explore it without multiple trips between light and dark world) was a good idea and could've been how they handled all of it. Instead IIRC its otherwise just small areas you've been in or near in the main three areas, some of which aren't even interesting challenges or anything (a single room with an especially challenging thing to overcome would've at least been something).

Edited on by kkslider5552000

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ChozoGhost

I'm going through my original Gamecube library those days. Finished Skies of Arcadia Legends last week for the third time (once back in the Dreamcast era, and once about 10 years ago on GC). It just confirmed it is still my all time favorite RPG. the atmosphere of this game, the exploration, the ship battles... It also aged very well in my opinion.

I'm about half way through Starfox adventure now, i haven't touched it since i finished it back when it released. I didn't remember much of it, just that i loved it. So far i find it really nice with and great soundtrack, controls are a bit outdated but still work well.

ChozoGhost

NintendoByNature

I finished Crash Bandicoot 2 last night as the recent crash 4 announcement had me wanting to go back and actually finish the trilogy.

The first game had me feeling indifferent, honestly. Some good parts, but a lot of frustrating parts. I heard the 2nd game was more fleshed out and made some changes to fix the issues. My biggest issues were the hit detection and/or depth perception of platforms or enemies.

I can honestly say I didn't see much of a jump from 1 to 2. The only saving grace in crash 2 is that there are none of those bridge levels. Those were by far the worst part of the first game.

Most of the vertical levels in 2 are still hard to judge how far to jump on a platform or enemy which has me wondering why they originally went this route and didnt make the entire game 2d horizontal platforming. It's much more enjoyable in these sections.

My other nitpick is that there isnt much to distinguish between crash 1 and 2. The only thing i can see is different is a warp room to pick levels and that you have to collect purple crystals to actually advance. Which sometimes, Can be passed up and youre forced to replay the level. This can be frustrating when you're struggling on certain levels and you finally make it to the end and realize, you forgot or didnt see the crystal.

The difficulty is all over the place. I was able to beat a handful of levels with only 1 life or less, but the majority were balls to the wall, tough, for me at least. The funny part, is the last warp room, was the easiest for me, hands down.

But when it was hard, IT WAS HARD. I'm talking 4 or 5 continues on one level at times. And its not so much that its hard because the gameplay is hard or enemies are tough. Its that level design made it difficult( not seeing properly or bad enemy placement) and only being allowed one hit before dying.

The last issue, is that the final boss of the game, was easier than every boss and level prior. The only reason i died the first time facing him was because I didn't realize the chase was timed. Once i realized you had to speed up and hit him only 3 times, it was a cake walk.

I know i sound like I'm ragging on the Game, and maybe i am, but I personally am a little surprised how much love the games get, When they seem inferior to most platformers of the 90s. Especially considering this was supposed to be the Mario beater.

Did i hate it? No. Did I love it? No. I guess I was sort of in the middle. I will eventually play 3 and if 4 comes to switch, I will probably grab it to see how the series rounds out the game decades later.

Edited on by NintendoByNature

NintendoByNature

tzahn

@MsJubilee I pretty much agree from what I've played. I got the first one on Cube and played maybe half of it? Picked up the Trilogy on Wii U. Beat Prime 1 and was kind of disappointed at the backtracking at the end. I thought it was pretty good overall, but underwhelmed me. Then I played Prime 2 and was actually enjoying it more than the first one, but never finished it. I apparently didn't get to the forced backtracking in that one or it would've killed it for me. I just prefer my Metroid as a 2D experience I guess. That is, if it's done right. The backtracking in Super Metroid just feels so perfectly designed. Could be that I like shorter games now too with limited time to game. Or just ones that I feel don't needlessly pad themselves out and waste my time.

Love anything Zelda. Most other Ninty franchises too! Purposely vague...

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tzahn

I beat Star Fox Adventures a few months ago. Man, do I have feelings about that game. Overall, I thought it was a fine game, probably a 7/10. There were some really enjoyable moments, but some design and control choices that just frustrated the heck out of me. It was a 15 hour game that probably should've been 8 hours. If they would've made it a much tighter experience, I would've liked it more.

I beat Paper Mario: Sticker Star because I bought it like 5 years ago for $10 and never touched it. Figured I should hit the backlog a bit. I used a guide when I got stuck and thought it was actually a pretty fun game. The stickers as a battle mechanic does get tiring. Just let me have moves or equipment that I can upgrade instead of disposable stickers.

Also, just beat Minish Cap again for the 3rd time I think? This game is underrated imo. It might be my 3rd favorite handheld Zelda behind Link's Awakening DX and Link Between Worlds. The kinstones may be a bit annoying at times, but seeing the world through the size of the Picori is a nice touch. The art is beautiful, the bosses are fun. A nice, tight experience.

Love anything Zelda. Most other Ninty franchises too! Purposely vague...

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MarioLover92

I just finished Mega Man ZX Advent via the Zero/ZX collection. And with that, all 6 games have been finished by me. I beat the game as Grey.

There's a few aspects that have been improved over the last game, namely the in-game map and how all given missions are enabled from the get go (meaning you no longer have to go to a transerver, pick a mission, then go to that specific area to begin said mission. That was my pet peeve with the first ZX game). Model A is pretty fun to use, too. I think the level design is good for the most part, but I did run into a few frustrating parts. There's some instances of jank enemy placement as well. (I'm looking at you, motorcycle reploids...)

There's also the feature where you can copy entire bosses when you defeat them, but they're very situational. I only used them for getting to certain spots to acquire hard-to-reach items. Other than that, I'm sticking with Model A. I would've preferred brand-new new biometals in line with what the first game had, with the same kind of mobility and new weapons. Oh and Models H, F, L, P, and even ZX come back, so I stuck with those too.

Overall I liked it. It's not my favorite Mega Man game, but it's a solid one overall. The pixel art is nice to look at (I adore sprite-based visuals), and the music is great stuff (major shout outs to Drifting Floe!!!). Oh and there's some cheesy voice acting too, if that's your sort of thing.

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Snatcher

Just beaten all three crash bandicoot games Planing on getting A hat in time later.

Snatcher

MarkL1987

A few weeks or so, I beat the original Paper Mario on N64

Favorite Switch games:
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Super Mario Odyssey
Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee
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kkslider5552000

I finally beat Mario and Luigi:Dream Team. Y'know what, this game turned out better than I thought it would, and certainly better than the early parts of the game made me think it was gonna be. It takes a while to get going, but when it finally does, it felt like a worthy successor to Bowser's Inside Story. Not quite as great of a game, and the issues I heard or assumed about it were accurate enough. At least for the most part, it definitely turned out to be a bit more creative than simply just "Bowser's Inside Story again, with a new Luigi coat of paint". But when you get past its issues, its another great Mario and Luigi game, which is what I wanted after all this time.

But I will say, whatever comedy came from this series I don't get by this point. Like why is 800 references to muscles and muscular people funny? You said beef a lot, congrats. Please tell a 2nd joke now. I'm not sure I even chuckled once during this game, a game that's often trying to be funny. That's a shame. But otherwise, cool game. These games still have the best combat, even more than Paper Mario.

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Ralizah

Yakuza Kiwami
The Goro Majima Show!

Platform: PS4 (also on: PC, Xbox One)

Playtime: 42:40

68/78 substories completed
SSS rank for Majima Everywhere

So, while this is my first proper, complete experience with the Yakuza franchise, it's probably worth noting that I also spent 15-ish hours with Yakuza Zero when that came first released. I thought about returning to Zero, but Kiwami was accessible via PS+ anyway, and I've heard that, as a follow-up to Zero, Kiwami is a bit disappointing, so I thought it'd be better to begin my proper trek through the series with this entry.

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And really, what better entry to start with? Yakuza Kiwami (YK henceforth) is a PS4 remake of the original PS2 "Yakuza" in a new engine that was also used in Yakuza Zero, and features new cutscenes and additional mechanics in addition to changes to the presentation and mechanics to bring this old game back to life for a new generation. Players take on the role of Kiryu Kazuma, an ascendant 20-something yakuza who is on the cusp of running his own family. Tragedy strikes, however, when his pal Akira Nishikiyama kills their family's patriarch in order to save Yumi, a mutual childhood friend that the patriarch was attempting to rape. Kiryu convinces his friend to allow him to take responsibility for the crime. He's expelled from his family and spends ten hard years in prison. The bulk of the game is played when Kiryu is fresh out of the clink, now in his mid-30s, as he gets wrapped up in a mystery involving his old friends, an internal conspiracy within the ranks of the yakuza, stolen money, and a young girl who is looking for her mother that Kiryu takes under his wing.

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YK is, at heart, a dumb 80's action movie cosplaying as a crime drama. For all of the talk about organized crime, it's impressive how little the player actually learns about the organization of it, or even engages with it at all. One might look at a game like YK and mistake it for a sort of Japanese GTA, where you play as a young thug who makes his way up the ladder of Japan's organized crime world, but nothing could be further from the truth. YK's plot, as gripping as the added backstory segments can be, is at bottom designed to facilitate fun action setpieces for our morally unambiguous criminal hero. And, yes, like any good action movie, the game ends with two men dramatically shedding themselves of clothing as they prepare to beat the tar out of one-another. This approach works for it, though: what YK's plot lacks in subtlety or originality it makes up for in passion. The game unironically wears its heart on its sleeve. The evolving father/daughter dynamic between Kiryu and Haruka, the young girl he cares for, is cliched but still pretty touching, in particular.

Really, it's amazing that Kazuma Kiryu was ever a member of the Japanese mafia at all, considering how upstanding he is. The man is far closer to a superhero than to any sort of fictionalized gangster I can think of: he's a morally righteous and unyielding force who dispenses pure justice with his fists in a largely lawless land. He's even willing to sacrifice his freedom and place in the world for a friend at the drop of a hat. It's difficult to imagine Kiryu engaging in the sort of thuggish activities that yakuza are known for. But, considering YK isn't really a crime drama, it fits that Kiryu isn't really a gangster.

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But where would any decent hero be without a villain or rival to keep him on his toes? In this case, that role is filled by Goro Majima, an insane yakuza boss who sits in some uncomfortable middle-space between shounen anime rival, obsessed stalker, and thirsty ex-boyfriend who just won't take a hint. This dude wants to be the Joker to Kiryu's Batman, and has apparently made it his life's goal to help Kiryu attain his full potential as a warrior by keeping him on his guard 24/7. There's a major gameplay system in Yakuza Kiwami called "Majima Everywhere," and they mean 'everywhere.' You can hardly run around for more than ten minutes at a time without this psycho ambushing you: he'll pop out of trash cans, crawl out of the sewer, follow you into fast food joints, pretend to be a cop and stop you on the street, invade street fights you're having with someone else, etc. etc. It never ends. Goro Majima is the God of this little world, and he'll continually think up new ways to surprise you and force you to fight with him.

This aspect of the game ends up consuming a sizable chunk of the player's engagement time with the game. As you fight Majima out in the wild, you'll gradually level up a meter. Whenever you go up a rank, after a certain number of fights, you'll have a more elaborate, scripted encounter with Majima. Additionally, there appear to be scripted events that trigger at unexpected times, as well as scripted encounters that only happen when you engage with certain side activities. Chances are that, if you spend any amount of time doing something in the game, Majima will eventually invade that space. I'm still halfway surprised that Majima never showed up in the karaoke bar I went to, considering how often he pops up everywhere else.

The character possesses an almost Bugs Bunny-esque quality in this game in terms of how varied your encounters can be. Majima dressing up in gaudy disco garb and breakdancing as he attacks you? Check. Majima pretending to be a police officer and, ahem, patting you down so that he can find weapons and find an excuse to attack you? Check. There are at least four or five different forms Majima will show up in, and these changes aren't just aesthetic. His fighting style, movement patterns, and weapon use changed drastically as well. The level of variety is actually pretty cool. One of his forms is so weird and unexpected that it actually shocked me. Lengthy scripted sequences also accompany the initial appearance of new forms, which is also quite entertaining.

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Of course, you're not fighting this dude for the hell of it. YK actually has multiple fighting styles that Kiryu can swap between on the fly as he battles, but one of his styles, the Dragon Style, isn't like the others. The "Rush (lightning fast, but each of your attacks does very weak damage), "Beast (super slow, but your attacks are staggeringly powerful when they connected), and "Brawler" (a balance of speed and power) styles are all upgradable with xp generated by completing side-quests, eating at restaurants, fighting punks, completing story missions, etc., but the Dragon style's upgrades are connected primarily to your fights with Majima, and you'll need to complete various scripted encounters, finish a number of fights with each Majima form, etc. in order to build up the power of the style.

There's also a sort of martial arts expert who can help you unlock a certain number of special techniques in the Dragon Style. Most of these end up being fairly impractical during normal battles, but you'll want to at least learn techniques up to the Tiger Drop, a powerful late-game technique that, with some patience and timing, largely trivializes most of the game's harder one-on-one fights.

I mentioned that there are multiple fighting styles in the game, but I have to confess that I wasn't really a huge fan of this approach. In general, with the exception of boss fights, I found that Brawler style featured the perfect balance of power and speed I needed to take out enemies quickly. I find myself wishing that the game had opted for a more cohesive battle system, instead of one splintered multiple ways. There are so many techniques and moves that seem like they could be cool but that I just flat out ignored because it was almost never worth switching to another style to bother with them.

The most notable (and entertaining) gimmick of the battle system in YK (and probably Yakuza games in general) is found in heat actions. Heat actions are special attack animations you can trigger when you've built up a special meter (which increases by attacking enemies and decreases when you're hit, which incentivizes damage avoidance) that usually involve exploiting an object or the environment in some way. As a simple action, if you're fighting the street and grab a baseball bat, if your heat gauge is high enough, you can trigger a heat action that involves viciously blundgeoning your opponent with said baseball bat. There are a variety of ultraviolent and honestly hilarious special attacks you can pull off in this way (the game isn't afraid to go full anime and have Kiryu destroy an enemy with a volley of supersonic punches akin to what you might see in a fighting game; I can certainly see why the Yakuza devs were granted access to the Fist of the North Star license). This obscene brutality doesn't even demand guilt on the part of the player: it might look like Kiryu just shattered every bone in some guy's body by slamming a 1000 lb motorcycle on his prone form, but, come the end of the battle, he'll apologize tearfully for jumping Kiryu and limp away like everyone else does (people only die in this game when the plot demands it, which is probably a good thing, as your environment would be filled with hundreds of corpses otherwise).

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And you'll be fighting... a lot. Kamurocho, the lightly fictionalized setting of the Yakuza games, is one hell of a dangerous place. Kiryu can't run for more than a block at a time without attracting unprovoked assaults from groups of thugs or running across shakedowns, muggings, potential rapes, etc. practically every time he rounds a street corner. The crime stats of this city must give even cartel-controlled territories in Mexico a run for their money. What this means, functionally, is that, on average, you'll be getting into fights every minute or two as you play the game. You'll be getting into fights so often that even the game's hilarious ultra-violence will eventually seem mundane, and battering someone nearly to death with bicycles after curb stomping their friends will seem like a normal aspect of life, hardly more noteworthy than picking up a fast food order from the local Smile Burger.

Of course, this all makes sense when you realize that Yakuza Kiwami is like a very streamlined, miniaturized version of an open-world RPG. All the elements are there: the ability to explore an open environment where you'll stumble across a variety of side-quests (or substories, as they're called here), random-ish encounters designed to help Kiryu accrue skill points, random events that are designed to break up the monotony of getting from Point A to Point B, the ability to goof off to your heart's content between story quests, inns (restaurants are functionally similar to inns in this game, except you also gain some XP for using them), merchants who sell weapons and healing items, checklists and a variety of side activity to engage in, points of interest (if you're wearing the item that allows you to sense where substory trigger spaces are located), etc. Yakuza Kiwami is essentially The Witcher if you dramatically shrunk the scope of the environment and plot overall.

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The meat of the side-content in YK is found in its frequent substories, which are small, optional quests that are automatically triggered when the player enters specific locations in the game (at first, you'll have to poke around to find these, but at some point in the game I found a very helpful item that allowed me to see the activation locations on the map, which made it tremendously easier to hunt them down). The substories in YK aren't as gripping, elaborate, or funny as what I saw of the substories in my brief time with Yakuza Zero (I game I played maybe 20% of three years ago or so), but the scripting still isn't bad for what is a fairly faithful remake of a PS2 game, and several of the missions here help to flesh out Kamurocho as well as aspects of the main plot that the game doesn't really touch on. Of course, even more are sort of throwaway events, like this series of substories involving thugs who keep bumping into Kiryu and feigning injury in order to scam money out of him. On the whole, though, I think they add to the experience.

YK also plays host to a variety of mini-games, from the mundane (you can play darts, hit balls in a batting cage, play pool, sing karaoke, etc.), to the irritating (Pocket Circuit, a minigame that involves customizing and racing tiny miniaturized cars, is perhaps the most irritating activity I've ever hassled with in a video game) to the outright bizarre (there's an extensive series of substories that can only be completed by engaging with Mesoking, a bizarre digital card game that plays like rock-paper-scissors and involves scantily-clad women dressed as insects wrestling with one-another; even more strangely, this game seems to have attracted an audience composed almost entirely of small children). These distractions can be briefly entertaining at times, but I quickly grew to resent the fact that achievements, substories, and the like were gated behind these largely unfun activities. There's also some sort of hostess dating feature in this game, but, to be honest, I didn't mess with it at all. Kiryu doesn't have enough room in his life for a woman AND Majima, after all.

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Another downside in this game are the boss encounters, which are... pretty terrible, if I'm being honest. The combat system in Yakuza Kiwami kind of breaks down when you face a powerful boss enemy. They almost universally don't seem to stagger and, even worse, pretty much continuously break any kind of combo you use against them, often with attacks that take off a disproportionately large amount of your health. And this is just against single-target boss fights. Later in the game, you'll oftentimes face off against multiple boss enemies in a fight, and these miserable encounters almost always end with Kiryu being knocked unconscious every five seconds because it's nearly impossible to focus on whittling down the health of one target without another coming in to stab or shoot you. Unfortunately, despite all of the techniques, styles, etc. that Kiryu can utilize throughout the game, the one fool-proof strategy I discovered when faced with bosses was to switch to Rush style and begin the insanely tedious process of slowly knocking down the enemy's health bar by punching and dodging back, punching and dodging back, for however many minutes it took to get the fight over with.

Oh, and whoever thought it was a good idea to give these already irritating bosses the ability to restore health unless you use very particular heat moves on them (one of which you'll need to spend a ton of time grinding Majima fights to learn) should resign in shame. It's a horrible, horrible mechanic.

Thankfully, these complaints mostly apply to story bosses. Majima's encounters are often challenging, but in a much fairer way: once you learn the movement patterns he employs across his various incarnations, you'll be able to take him down while suffering only a minimum of damage. Additionally, the coliseum fights are a lot of fun as well, even if they become inordinately difficult near the end.

I want to mention that the final boss fight, which is presented in quite the emotional manner, is also probably the best single encounter in the game.

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I also didn't appreciate the fact that xp accumulation stopped mattering 30 hours or so into my playthrough. Once you fully upgrade the Soul, Tech, and Body skill trees, xp ceases to unlock anything, but you'll likely still have a ton of Dragon-style upgrades to unlock. This would be less of an issue if certain Dragon style upgrades didn't feel borderline necessary in order for the last several hours of the game to not feel overly frustrating (I would NOT want to fight the final few bosses without the Dragon-style boss heat action unlocked, since they recover so much of their health otherwise), but one tends to end up playing for several hours longer than they need to, grinding the same Majima fights over and over in order. In general, I feel like the implementation of the Dragon style into this game was more detrimental than anything, and this would be a moderately improved experienced without an entire skill tree being tied to Majima fights.

This leads into an issue I had with the pacing of the game itself. While the actual plot is quite pleasantly snappy, this implementation of Dragon-style makes it difficult to play the game in a way that doesn't lead to the player halting main plot progression for long periods of time. From what I've heard, the elaborate combat style system was imported over from Yakuza Zero, and that actually makes a lot of sense: being a significantly meatier game with a much longer core campaign, the slow trickle of upgrades probably matches up better with the length and pacing of that game.

There's a decent level of post-game content to engage with here, though. One can start a NG+ file, start up their save file but choose to wander around Kamurocho cleaning up the available side content and tropies, and engage with a extensive combat-focused post-game mode that challenges players to clear out waves of enemies within a time limit. There might be more, but that's all I engaged with before moving on from the game.

Presentation-wise, Yakuza Kiwami is a mostly quite attractive remaster, but, as with all remasters, there are areas where the seams show. Sega has done an amazing job upgrading these faithfully captured old cutscenes to look presentable on a modern-gen console, but it's still pretty clear when the game is actually adding in new cutscenes that weren't there originally, because the character animation quality is noticeably improved. Moreover, while the story content is all presented quite attractively, background characters and details can take a pretty big hit. A lot of the people walking around Kamurocho look like something out of an early PS3 game when you stop to actually look at them, frankly. So, it's a great, but not perfect, remaster of a game originally built for the now ancient technology of the PS2.

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The game holds up reasonably well musically as well, although I hope you enjoy what you hear of the battle themes, because you're going to be hearing the beginning of them a LOT, considering how many fights you run into (particularly this first track). Really, fights take up most of this game, and so battle tracks are the majority of what you'll notice in this game.

While I mentioned that most of the boss fights suck, it helps that the unique tracks you hear during many of those encounters are actually quite catchy as well.

Yakuza Kiwami, despite a significant visual and mechanical overhaul, is still a dated and somewhat clunky experience that's filled with a number of little niggles and issues, but it's one I have a hard time criticizing too strongly. The game is unique, has a fantastic sense of humor, a reasonably strong plot, fun set-pieces, and does a great job of revitalizing a Sega classic for a new generation of gamers. I've heard this fares poorly compared to most other games in the series, which is actually exciting to hear, because if this memorable little game is near the bottom of the list, I can't wait to see how good future entries are.

Playing depressing games alone in my cold, dark room <3

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