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Topic: Games You Recently Beat?

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Bankaj

Got the credits rolling for Bastion. Fun game if you wish to enjoy a story in Action-RPG style for a couple of nights or just a weekend. The game's of high quality with a unique artstyle to my opinion (at least how the world builds up).
In the end my preference was the combo of the Dual-Slinger + Machette + Distract Special. Easy recommendation and often on sale!

Edited on by Bankaj

Bankaj

Tyranexx

I finished Grim Fandango Remastered last week. I picked it up on sale this past summer and decided it would be my Halloween game this year. That was my first time playing this gem; I missed out on the original PC release as I was too young to know about or play it at the time. The music, unique premise/setting, characters (Glottis is one of the best companions ever), plot (weird as it gets sometimes), and voice acting are all phenomenal. The graphics aren't top-tier (heck, this game originally came out in 1998), but I found the game to be perfectly enjoyable with all the still images and slight jaggies.

My only major complaint, and the one that made me resort to using a walkthrough, is how obtuse and obscure many of the puzzle solutions are. I thought I KNEW puzzles in most games quite well, but late 90s action/adventure games are a new level entirely. XD A few I did solve on my own or through trial and error, but I guarantee that without a walkthrough 1. my playtime would have either more than doubled or 2. I wouldn't have finished the game.

Definitely not one for the young'uns (language, some themes, some violence, plenty of smoking, booze), but I think this one is enjoyable for a teen audience on up. Especially if you don't mind a unique noir story and working your way (or cheating your way) through some wonky puzzles.

Currently playing: Secret of Mana (CoM/Switch), Pushmo

Switch Friend Code: SW-3478-2466-4791 | Nintendo Network ID: Zelda_By_Night

Dogorilla

@Tyranexx That's how I feel about Grim Fandango too. It's a fantastic game, just let down slightly by the confusing puzzles. When I played it I found this website which has clues for the puzzles without immediately giving away the answers, so that helped me get through the game while still having some sense of accomplishment. There are hints for quite a few other games on that website as well so it's worth a look if you ever play another obtuse 90s adventure game

Dogorilla

Tyranexx

@Dogorilla Thanks! I'll keep that site in mind for the next obtuse 90s adventure game (Apparently this was a trend then? XD) to roll into my backlog...and for other games too. The walkthrough I resorted to using (over on Eurogamer) was mostly sufficient, but it did pretty much tell you the solutions outside of a couple of puzzles that required experimenting. I was playing mainly for the setting and story, and there WAS a sense of accomplishment still, but I would've liked less help lol.

Currently playing: Secret of Mana (CoM/Switch), Pushmo

Switch Friend Code: SW-3478-2466-4791 | Nintendo Network ID: Zelda_By_Night

Ralizah

Super Mario Sunshine HD Remaster (via the Super Mario 3D All-Stars package)
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Completion status: 120 shine sprites and 240 blue coins; a 100% run, as far as I can tell

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Super Mario Sunshine (henceforth SMS), originally released worldwide for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, has always occupied an awkward space in the series. Released as a platform exclusive on one of Nintendo's lower selling consoles, the game itself never saw a re-release or remake until now (unlike the other two games in this collection: Mario 64 has enjoyed re-releases on Wii and Wii U, as well as a full remake on Nintendo DS; the far more recently Super Mario Galaxy has, itself, been re-released on the Wii U) and has long suffered with the reputation of being the black sheep of the series, whose odd design choices and reported glitchiness made it unworthy of being talked about in the same lofty tone as the (almost) universally acclaimed Super Mario 64. I myself played it in the early-to-mid 2010's and enjoyed myself at the time, but never fully completed it (collected all the shine sprites, I mean; I, of course, beat the game). I thought it would be fun to continue my collectionist streak with this game and see what I think about it years on in its new HD remastered form.

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SMS is, no doubt, a very unusual game in the series. It begins with a fully animated cutscene of Mario, Peach, and her trusted steward Toadsworth (who I previously encountered in Paper Mario: TTYD, also on GameCube) flying to the Isle Delfino to enjoy a vacation. When they arrive there, though, they discover that a mysterious, shadowy entity shaped like Mario, known as Shadow Mario, has used a magic paintbrush to defile the island with goop. This defacement is so profound that the Isle's guardians, the shine sprites (sort of a living power source), have retreated to various parts of the island, throwing the lives of the local Pianta people into havoc. Mario is locked in a jail, sentenced by a local court for Shadow Mario's crimes, and then sentenced to clean up all the goop that ruined the natural beauty of the Isle Delfino. Thankfully, Mario has the aid of the FLUDD, or Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, an apparently sapient device that Mario wears on his back and uses to manipulate the power of water.

Although there are multiple kidnapping attempts through this game (life must be hell for the Mushroom Kingdom princess), the most apparent distinction from older Super Mario games can immediately be seen: while still light on plot, it has an actual narrative. This is all fairly rudimentary, of course, and the bulk of the game's storytelling happens at the very start, but after Super Mario 64 (the plot of which can be summarized as "Peach invites Mario to her castle for 'cake' before getting kidnapped"), it's nice to have some narrative grounding to enjoy. The game actually has around 14 minutes of cutscenes! There are some minor plot twists related to the Shadow Mario villain as well.

The cutscene that opens the game is actually rather surprising, because this is one of the few Super Mario games where characters actually verbally talk to one-another. It might seem funny to non-Nintendo fans, but when Mario characters are prone to only uttering a few, very basic voice clips over and over, it's rather shocking to hear them speak in complete sentences. Mario himself is exempt from this, unfortunately. The cutscenes also have a cinematic quality to them that was surprising when I first played it as well.

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The naturalistic quality of the presentation extends to the level design. Everything feels very... organic in SMS, especially coming from the very abstract levels in 64. Like that game, Mario returns to a hub world that connects him to various levels where he will need to complete various tasks to find and return the Shine Sprites. The hub, Delfino Plaza, is large, open, and fairly dense, with various buildings to enter, ports, beaches, fruit vendors, towers, and nearby islands to explore. Most of Delfino Plaza's secrets can be unlocked as the player unlocks upgrades to their FLUDD, with a few being locked by story progression.

The levels themselves also follow this trend insofar as they're all just different parts of Isle Delfino. As such, the entire game is steeped in a tropical/beach theme, which some might find tiring, but I actually really enjoyed how the world in this game felt coherent and less explicitly gamey than in other Mario titles. It also allows for unique level themes I've not seen in other Mario games, as he explores sea ports, large beaches, hotels, theme parks, and so on. The crucial thing is that all of these locations feel like they could reasonably be in the same broad landmass, and it brings a sense of cohesion to the adventure.

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One of the immediately controversial aspects of this game has always been how dependent Mario's moveset is on the FLUDD. Sans Mario's creepy talking water backpack, a few things have changed about his moveset: the long jump is gone, as is the (pointless) punching, kicking, and crawling. In their place is the spin jump, which allows Mario to go spinning up in the air, allowing for greater verticality than the usual jumping movement. Most other movements from Mario 64, such as the triple jump, backflip, etc. are still here. With that said, on his lonesome, Mario feels a little bit gimped with his long jump, which is an issue during challenge levels (more on that in a bit). Thankfully, the FLUDD is available during the majority of the game, and it adds tremendously to Mario's versatility of movement. The FLUDD comes by default with the hover nozzle, which allows him to shoot water at the ground and keep him suspended in the air for a short period of time. Nozzles unlocked throughout the game will give him a high-speed dash (which he can use to cover large distances quickly, as well as smash into doors to access secrets) and the ability to rocket high up into the air. Additionally, Mario can shoot water out of the nozzle at enemies, which tends to be tremendously helpful during the game's boss encounters (which are much more frequent than they were in Mario 64, thankfully). He can also shoot water at his environment. One tremendously helpful move is to shoot water at the ground and then to immediately send Mario into a dive, which allows him to slide large distances on his tummy. It can take a bit of getting used to coming off of other Mario games, but the FLUDD really does add a tremendous amount of freedom to Mario's moveset when it's combined with normal Mario platforming, which is often necessary to find some the VERY hidden collectibles in this game.

Nozzle upgrades become available throughout the game as the player advances the plot by completing various episodes in each world. The more plot-driven nature of this game means that, unlike Mario 64, the player is basically required to engage with almost all of the game's levels before they can head to the final boss confrontation. This sensibility feeds into the design of the hub level as well, since some levels, and many secret shines available in the hub, aren't accessible until the player is able to use one of the unlockable nozzles, or until a plot event changes in the environment in some way. It's probably worth mentioning that the game has a significantly smaller number of levels to explore versus Super Mario 64 (7 levels with 8 main episodes each, versus 64's 15 worlds with 6 episodes each), which might have motivated the move away from player freedom in this regard. I definitely think I prefer SMS's approach to content, however: while it has fewer environments to explore, and fewer episodes overall. environments tend to be denser and more thematically engaging. Mario 64 often felt like a level pack to me, with almost no plot progression or sense of continuity between environments.

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I mentioned that Mario feels a little gimped without his FLUDD, and that exact aspect of the game crops up every now and then during episodes where Mario is tasked with entering a secret level and retrieving the shine sprite at the end of it. At the beginning of a secret level, Shadow Mario temporarily steals the FLUDD from Mario, forcing the plumber to get by purely on his own ability. These levels are abstract, utterly linear, and focused entirely on platforming across large, rotating shapes and platforms. I believe I mentioned these levels in my review of A Hat in Time, because their design is incredibly similar to the Time Rifts in that game. With that said, it can be easy to become too comfortable with the safety net afforded by Mario's FLUDD (particularly the hover nozzle, which has saved me from certain doom more times than I can count), and you can easily end up feeling incredibly naked and vulnerable without it. They're usually decent challenges, though, and the platforming is never too enraging thanks to the changes in how Mario moves in this game. The horrible little pivot that plagued Mario's turns in Mario 64 is gone. Surfaces are no longer slippery unless you're on a proper incline. Frankly, even without the long jump, Mario is much more of a joy to control in this game, as he feels weightier, and I almost always felt like I was in controls of his movements.

I also want to briefly mention how much better the camera is in this game than in Mario 64. While it still has an unfortunate habit of getting 'stuck' on scenery at times, it still allows the player almost full control of the camera at all times, and, in general is incredibly responsive. It might be a little disappointing in a more modern game, but given the age of the experience, I think it works fairly well.

Before I transition away from talking about the game design, I do want to discuss what is perhaps the most often criticized aspect of this game: the blue coin collectibles. 24 of the shine sprites needed to get to this game's total of 120 are locked behind collectibles Mario will find throughout the various levels called blue coins. There are 30 of these coins in each level, and every 10 of them unlocks a shine sprite. Some of them are easy enough to find, as they're either openly visible and can be found in any of that world's episodes. But a surprisingly large chunk of these coins are an absolute nuisance to find, as their placement is often obnoxiously random (blue coins have popped out of tiny, seemingly ornamental background fixtures that the game provided no reason to interact with, for example, or even just random spots in the environment that are totally unremarkable otherwise) and, even worse, some coins can only be found in certain episodes in a level. Of course, the game doesn't tell you how many coins are in a given episode, which leads to a potentially dreadful amount of tedious trial-and-error gameplay as you hunt around already cleared episodes with no clue at to whether you even have a chance of finding them there. The endgame grind of hunting around for various blue coins is a total drag. I ended up using a guide to find a few that I just could not seem to find anywhere. I recommend others use a guide way sooner if you want to fully complete the game. Or, better yet, don't bother 100%ing the game, as you get nothing for it apart from a different splash screen at the very end of the game.

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I feel like my discussion of this game has been broadly positive so far, and, indeed, my experience was broadly positive, but I do want to highlight how infuriating some of the levels in this game are. Beyond Tick Tock Clock-levels of infuriating, frankly. During my initial GameCube playthrough, the hidden pachinko machine and lily pad levels were my bugbears (and, indeed, a level where you're on a moving object, are forced to collect red coins, and die the instant you touch any of the water surrounding your tiny lily pad vehicle is still utterly worthy of my scorn), but I was surprised to discover how many of the normal episodes in this game also hinge on design choices that can only be described as ridiculous bullpucky. I'll highlight a handful: two from Gelato Beach and three from Pianta Village.

The first particularly annoying episode in this game, for me, was The Sand Bird is Born, where the player is tasked with entering a special level where they have to platform across an enormous bird made of sand and collect red coins as it passes them. Sounds simple enough, right? Shadow of the Colossus without being able to grab hold of the colossus. Unfortunately, the level is pure misery from beginning to end. Mario is constantly being knocked off-balance by the flapping motions of the bird's wings, and sometimes just by the rocking of its movements in general. So even interacting with the thing normally is annoying. The level becomes particularly dire once the bird decides to start turning mid-air, forcing the player to awkwardly try and hover their way onto the side of the bird, and then back again when the bird repositions itself. Oh, and, as this is happening, the player is forced to try and collect tiny red coins that are easily missable.

Things get worse in The Watermelon Festival, an episode where Mario has to safely push watermelons to a Pianta on a tiny, rickety pier without breaking them. Two things massively complicate this mission. The watermelons themselves control horribly. The player basically has to just barely nudge them in order to maintain any semblance of control over their movements. This is especially fun when you're trying to move them across thin planks of wood and prevent them from falling in the water. What makes this even worse, though, is that the stage is literally riddled with these horrible enemies that all try to send your watermelon flying into the air. The watermelon, of course, breaks upon hitting the ground again. You can spray them with water to very briefly incapacitate them, but you're pretty much surrounded by the horrible things the entire time. And you can also say goodbye to your watermelon if you allow one of them to get too close to you, because they'll send you flying across the stage before also destroying the watermelon you've spent several minutes very deliberately moving across the huge beach. The experience is horrible from beginning to end.

The frustration and anxiety are amped up in an episode titled The Goopy Inferno. In this episode, the entire level of Pianta Village is covered in magma, and the player is forced to try and navigate across and underneath it in order to retrieve their FLUDD after it's again stolen by Shadow Mario. I lost count of how many routes I tried to take before discovering the right path. And once you do, you still have to contend with these horribly grate-climbing sections where you're left defenseless as enemies skitter after you to try and knock you off to your death. You have no recourse against them, and god help you if an enemy in front of you takes any level of interest in Mario, as he's effectively done for at that point, and you have to start over from the very beginning of the level and spend several minutes getting back to where you were previously. I can't count how many times I died in this level, and even going back to it to look for episode-specific blue coins (thanks for that, Nintendo) was pure misery.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the special level in Pianta Village where you have to get chucksters to toss you between tiny platforms. The slightest little change in angle in terms of how Mario is positioned when he talks to one of these jerks is the difference between survival and being tossed into the abyss. Frankly, whether the player gets to the end feels a LOT like luck: if they keep trying their hand at the level enough, EVENTUALLY the chucksters will toss Mario onto the platform where the shine sprite is located.

OK, so that sound intolerable, right? Now imagine that level... but with red coins and a very strict time limit that allows for no mistakes. One of the shine sprites in Pianta Village is locked behind this challenge, and it's every bit as miserable and rage-inducing as it sounds.

Thinking about it, Pianta Village could be removed from the game entirely, as far as I'm concerned. Solidly half the episodes feel poorly-designed, like something out of a rage platformer designed to inflict suffering on the player.

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These aren't, for sure, the only annoying bits in this game. I could also mention how, to even get to the secret lily pad level in this game, you're forced to ride a yoshi across a variety of boats in order to get to the island where the level is located (yoshis can't swim, apparently), which means undergoing a profoundly tedious process of spending ten literal minutes largely just waiting for boats to slowly ferry you to other boats. Of course, the boats are small, so if you slip and the yoshi dies near the end of the ride, well, guess what? It's ten more minutes of tedious waiting time for you, buster! Same thing happens if you don't eat enough fruit and your yoshi runs out of energy before you reach the island. I should also mention that, when you lose a yoshi, you also have to repeat the process of getting a yoshi in the first place, which means trudging to the fruit market to find a piece of fruit and then slowly trudging back to where the yoshi egg spawns in Delfino Plaza in order to convince the louse to hatch in the first place. So screwing up even once during this process ends up penalizing you fifteen minutes or so. It's aggravating as hell. Thankfully, I discovered that you can skip a huge portion of this sequence by manipulating some of the glitchy physics in this game.

This theme of not respecting the player's time recurs throughout the game. The Pianta Village level, for example, is an absolute chore to get to, as it requires the player to locate and equip the rocket nozzle before dragging themselves all the way to the top of the town to rocket themselves up toward where the entrance to the level is. While I really like the expansiveness of some of these environments (especially considering how much verticality there is to Mario's platforming this time), it really sucks how much time I had to spend effectively re-treading my steps over and over again.

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If my review hasn't provided any indication, the game is a bit weird, but that sometimes works in its favor. I mentioned before that there were more boss encounters in this game than in Mario 64. They're not just more frequent, however, but sometimes wildly creative. I can't think of another Mario game that would have a setpiece where Mario is riding around in a roller-coaster, firing missiles at an enormous, robotic version of Bowser, for example. One boss was repeated too many times, though, and I feel bad every time I beat it. At least three separate times you'll have a face-off against a giant squid called Gooper Blooper. In reality, this thing is usually laying around minding its own business, and, to beat it, the player will have Mario begin savagely ripping its tentacles off one by one before nearly ripping its face off. It's seriously the most grisly, disturbing thing I've ever seen in a Mario game, especially considering the dismembered tentacles will flop around briefly after you rip them off its body. I felt even worse when I was informed that the player can technically defeat Gooper Blooper without slowly, methodically dismembering the poor thing. The game made me think otherwise, however, as the FLUDD effectively instructs Mario to rip its tentacles off before attacking the face. Not cool, Nintendo. Even cartoonish animal cruelty still turns my stomach.

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The Super Mario 3D Collection has gotten some flack for being a low-quality set of remasters, and I kind of defended Mario 64 from that charge a bit, but SMS is less defendable. Let me explain.

Image quality-wise, the game looks pretty good on Nintendo Switch. It was always a looker on Gamecube, and the in-game image is being rendered at 720p in portable mode and a crisp 1080p on the TV, respectively, which makes it feel a lot more modern than Mario 64, which caps out at 720p on the TV. Another impressive aspect of the game at the time was how far the draw distance extended: you could climb up on a building and see collectibles pretty far off in the distance, or get a sense of what challenges awaited you before you ever got to them. And those fine details are even easier to spot now given the boost in resolution. Before getting into my complaints, I'd like to note that the art direction still looks fantastic in this game: colors are bold, environments are surprisingly detailed given the age of the game, and the water was and remains flat out gorgeous, which is good, since you'll be seeing a lot of it. I'm not as big of a fan of the Pianta designs, but you certainly can't knock for his game for a lack of visual identity. Every single aspect of this game FEELS tropical.

I do have one big technical gripe with this game, though. Unlike other people, I don't mind so much that this game is running at 30fps, as I figure the game was built with that framerate in mind, and so doesn't really need to be 'fixed' to run at higher framerates. I do expect a smooth framerate in a remaster of an 18-year-old game, though, which makes it frustrating that, just like in the original, the game is constantly chugging in Delfino Plaza. I'm not a framerate snob, but it's distracting when the framerate is dipping into what must be the mid-20s constantly in the hub area. This is, thankfully, less of an issue in other environments, but it's unacceptable given the age of the game, in my opinion.

I'd also like to point out that Nintendo 'fixes' the aspect ratio issue with the in-game cutscenes by cropping and stretching them, which means you're missing out on the outer edge of the image during cutscenes. This is more understandable, though, given it'd be impossible to properly remaster these cutscenes. Nintendo would have to just re-create them for this release.

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Musically, while Sunshine isn't exemplary like certain later 3D Mario titles (mainly due to a lack of diversity), its OST is still fun to listen to.

I really like the relaxed tropical vibe of the music that plays in Gelato Beach. It really sells the low-stakes vacationey vibe of the game. This feels like it belongs in a game with the word "sunshine" in the title:

I'm also a big fan of the arrangement of the World 1-1 theme that plays in the secret levels:

While I'm not a fan of the boss music in this game, the music that plays when you fight Mecha-Bowser is OK. Reminds me of something from a Pokemon game, frankly.

Although, arguably my least favorite track in the game is the one that the player will hear the most. I wish Nintendo had opted for a more complex arrangement for the music that plays in Delfino Plaza. It's... a bit repetitive.

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I did some complaining, but I did come out the other end of Super Mario Sunshine still really enjoying it for the most part. A handful of its levels are frustrating, but it represents a MASSIVE step up, both technically and artistically, over the painful Super Mario 64. Visually, it still holds up well. The music doesn't make me want to scrub my ears off. The camera works well (mostly). The overall feel of the controls is great. It has more of a sense of narrative and progression to it than the random assortment of worlds in Mario 64. The FLUDD is a lot of fun to control. It's a good time. I'd just recommend ignoring the blue coins and playing the main eight episodes in each level. Not an immortal classic, necessarily, but I'm glad a new generation has the opportunity to experience this.

ACTIVELY PLAYING
Switch Lite: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Diddy64

To add a little bit which I consider important on the Super Mario Sunshine's review, the last level is the most cruel, as not only it is very hard, but obviously obligatory to clear if you want to fight the last boss and to see the ending cutscene (In my opinion, you are better watching this on YouTube or other video apps, if you don't want to experience misery like never before you have experienced).

This is the most unfair level (imo). Just like other levels, you have to start from the beginning if you fall or die (if this was changed, please let me know). But, there is section where you cannot hit any wall while you are in a (SPOILER ALERT) boat that's hard to control, and if you hit a wall, you lose a life (I cannot answer why you lose a life as that will spoil the level. But it isn't difficult to figure it out) (END OF SPOILER). As the reviewer said, it is still a good game and I agree with him/her.

Just wanted to help those on the fence about trying this level. If you think this level (and others) would seriously anger you and you no longer enjoy it, don't feel bad about stopping playing this game. I no longer play Dragon Ball Z: Super Sonic Warriors 2 (DS) because the AI computers are literally perfect (more than in Smash Ultimate to be more precise). I am from the SNES/64 times but I believe enjoying a game is more important than trying X or Y challenge. Of course if you like challenges, good on you.

Undergoing games:
Zelda BotW (playing it)
Fire Emblem Awakening (playing it)
Octopath Traveler (on hiatus)
Hyrule Warriors DE (on hiatus)
Zelda Phantom Hourglass (on hiatus)

ToadBrigade

@Diddy64 To be fair, a good number of the most difficult levels are required to beat the game. In fact, that’s one of the biggest downsides of Sunshine’s system of progression. TBH, I really don’t think Corona Mountain is anywhere near the worst level. The key is just to use tiny movements with the boat, and be patient.

Hollow Knight for Smash!

Diddy64

@ToadBrigade If only many of the new generation kids/teenagers were as patient as us but, you know 😅
I was never good with the boat controlling. Since I have struggled with that level more than Goofy Inferno, The Watermelon Festival, The Sand Bird and even the Fluddless Pianta throwing episodes, I have always view the last level as the hardest. Even being careful I end up losing a life. Perhaps my precision was bad in those years.

Undergoing games:
Zelda BotW (playing it)
Fire Emblem Awakening (playing it)
Octopath Traveler (on hiatus)
Hyrule Warriors DE (on hiatus)
Zelda Phantom Hourglass (on hiatus)

Screen

Just Beat a Hat in Time in about 10 hours. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than Odyssey because it just felt more cohesive, like the world was designed around the move set given to the player given you the freedom to explore without completely breaking the natural progression.

Color Splash is underrated!

Ralizah

@Diddy64 Corona Mountain wasn't too hard for me (you can squirt water out in short amounts to micromanage the movements of the boat, which helped a lot), but collecting all of the blue coins in that last section, and getting sent back to the beginning of the level when you eventually fall into the lava, is exceedingly tedious.

@EngineerMario It is, indeed, a very interesting game.

ACTIVELY PLAYING
Switch Lite: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Diddy64

@Ralizah I see. Maybe my experiences as a teenager with less gaming experience has blinded me. I may find it more easy if I try it now. Kudos to you for obtaining the blue coins I can imagine how tedious it must have been for you.

Edited on by Diddy64

Undergoing games:
Zelda BotW (playing it)
Fire Emblem Awakening (playing it)
Octopath Traveler (on hiatus)
Hyrule Warriors DE (on hiatus)
Zelda Phantom Hourglass (on hiatus)

LatsaSpege

Pokemon SW/SH Nuzlock

Challenges: Every time a Pokemon faints, it dies, Only one Pokemon per route, No healing items, Pokemon centers can only be used once, I had to name all my Pokemon, And you CAN use Pokemon camp.

Playtime: 30 Hours

Pokemon Lost: Lucky, Dusty, Dmitri, Luigi, and John. When John died I wanted to cry.
F in the chat for all of them.

REVIEW: The nuzloke made the game way more fun, but it still has the same issues. Like to much diolouge, and not that much innovation.

But the Nuzlock was real fun and I had a good time so I guess that's all that maters.

I play way too much Smash Bros, and other games and stuff
The best Animal Crossing Villager is Cheri
I hope you have a nice day!
¯(ツ)/¯ can't think of anything else to put here 🤔. Bye! ^_^

Switch Friend Code: SW-0370-6056-2926 | 3DS Friend Code: 3755-1656-4298 | My Nintendo: LatsaSpege

Tyranexx

Super Mario Odyssey

It's been awhile since I last played a 3D Mario game; I think my last was Super Mario 64 on the Wii U VC a couple of years ago. I had so, so much fun with this game. The platforming was tight and felt very much like a 3D Mario, the controls were very easy to adapt to, and possessing (most) enemies with Cappy is a hilariously fun time. I really hope they bring back enemy possession in a future game!

The plot was your typical Mario fare - Oh no, Princess Peach was kidnapped by Bowser! Better get her back! - with new baddies thrown into the mix. Gone are the Koopa underlings and replaced with some not-so-nice bunnies, the Broodals. Mario and Cappy follow Bowser and this conniving bunch through various kingdoms in their world. The kingdoms are varied and fun to explore, rife with Power Moons (the stars/shines of this game), collectible coins for each area, secrets, and the rare Easter Egg. You can use normal coins or the local kingdom's currency to buy clothing for Mario, more Power Moons, an extra heart to double Mario's health meter, and stickers + knickknacks for the Odyssey, the hat-shaped ship that Mario travels around the world in.

The graphics are superb, and the music is memorable in most cases and fits each area quite well. I also enjoyed the 8-bit Mario sections; some of this is nostalgia, but the game uses these in unique ways to obtain more Power Moons and collectibles.

Perhaps my only (mild) gripe is how the buildup to Bowser and Peach's wedding amounted to nothing. To be fair, the two were fighting over trying to appeal to Peach at the end, and I suspect at that point she had had enough. But still...at least give Mario a hug or something! Honestly, I kinda felt sorry for the two....

This is a game I can easily recommend for all ages, especially those who like all things Mario and 3D platformers. There are plenty of places to explore, areas to unlock, and things to collect after the credits roll. It's probably my second favorite 3D Mario game, but it doesn't quite, despite its openness, trump Super Mario Galaxy in my book.


Abzu (Switch)

I picked this one up recently as it was 90% off. From some of the team responsible for Journey, this game puts the player in the shoes (flippers?) of a diver exploring and revitalizing the ocean using sonar. The game is a wonderful audiovisual experience, with a neat cel-shaded art style and an amazing orchestrated soundtrack.

The main objective is to explore at your leisure. Swimming is pretty easy to pick up and is (mostly) intuitive, very important as many games fumble this aspect. The game isn't challenging by any means; the point of the experience is to enjoy the visuals and music on offer. I found it quite relaxing. There is a plot to the game, told in a nonverbal fashion primarily through the drawings and motifs of an extinct civilization that had a close relationship with the ocean you're swimming in. There are shells to collect - usually easy to find - and humanoid shark statues where you can "meditate" and temporarily follow along with one or several of the creatures swimming in the immediate area.

Abzu is a game meant for those looking for a relaxing, gentle experience. It isn't about making it to the end by overcoming some great challenge, but about taking your time and enjoying all it has to offer with your senses. The running time of the game is somewhat short; I think it took me 2.5-3 hours to finish it. It's more eye and ear candy than anything else, but I found it to be a nice change from the norm.

Currently playing: Secret of Mana (CoM/Switch), Pushmo

Switch Friend Code: SW-3478-2466-4791 | Nintendo Network ID: Zelda_By_Night

Ralizah

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 (aka Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, as the series is known in Japan)
Platform: PS2
Playtime: 80 hours - 45 hours for DDS1 and 35 hours for DDS2

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The Digital Devil Saga games, from veteran JRPG developer Atlus, released in the United States in April and October of 2005. Although they're separate games, they were conceived of as being one story and so I thought it made sense to review them together. Like the increasingly popular Persona series, DDS1&2 are part of the broader Megami Tensei franchise, although they're unique in certain ways that serve to heavily distinguish them other SMT-related properties.

Unlike the majority of other modern MegaTen games, DDS1&2 aren't set in modern (or apocalyptic) Japan. The first game is set in a dismal, rainy purgatory known as The Junkyard, where various tribes are locked in a cycle of perpetual warfare. Our main character is Serph, the leader of the Embryon tribe, whose life is changed when he discovers a mysterious girl who materializes from a mechanical egg. This discovery leads to the people of The Junkyard being infected with a demonic virus that transforms them into monsters. Serph takes the girl, Sera, under his protection, where they are quick to discover that she is a "cyber shaman" who possesses the ability to soothe their demonic rage and help them to control their powers. Unfortunately, she becomes a target when the Karma Temple, the ruling theocratic authority of this land, declares that whichever tribe defeats the others and brings Sera to them will ascend to Nirvana.

In the second game, Serph and other members of his Embryon tribe escape to Nirvana, only to discover that it is, if anything, a more desolate hell than the one that they escaped from, where the sun has turned coal black and transforms any humans who come into contact with its rays into stone. The few remaining humans in this world largely stay sequestered underground as they mount an increasingly desperate resistance against the demonic inhabitants of The Karma Society, who are unaffected by the light of the black sun.

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Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 were Atlus' stab at creating a more traditional JRPG experience, so the monster collection aspect that is a defining characteristic of the MegaTen franchise is completely absent here, which radically alters many aspects of the game design. In the Digital Devil Saga games, your characters turn into demons who can weaken, terrify, and consume other people infected with the demonic virus. You consume demons to level up a 'mantra' the character has equipped, which, when fully leveled up, allows the character to learn a new set of skills. Normally, in an SMT game, you would negotiate with demons to 'collect' them and then fuse them together, which yields stronger demons that learn new skills. DDS1&2 lack this Pokemon-esque setup, so this system is meant to allow for the learning of progressively more powerful skills and abilities.

The mantra grid system is different between the two games, but features significant refinements in the second game. In DDS1, your characters unlock nodes on separate, linear charts in order to learn new abilities, whereas, in DDS2, all of your character work across singular, identical grids. Secret mantras are locked up throughout the grid, and are only unlocked when all of the mantras around them have been unlocked. In DDS2, your characters can work together to unlock secret mantras by each partially clearing normal mantras around them. If character A unlocks two mantras, character B unlocks two different mantras, and character C unlocks the final couple of mantras surrounding the secret one, their collective effort will culminate in the secret mantra being unlocked for everyone. Sometimes these mantras just unlock stat bonuses for the characters, but other times they allow for the learning of unique new skills that wouldn't have been available otherwise.

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While this massive change to the way new skills are unlocked gives the games a strong sense of personal identity, it's worth pointing out that combat otherwise feels similar to the combat in Atlus' previous MegaTen game on the PS2, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, including the near wholesale importation of the brilliant "press turn" combat system from that game, which has also made appearances in subsequent Atlus titles. For those unacquainted with the series, Nocturne's battle system made it where the player and enemies fought by the player could gain or lose turn icons depending on how well they exploited or defended against elemental weaknesses, which turned even random battles into potentially fraught encounters. Boss battles in Nocturne forced the player to constantly build new teams of demons that possessed the right skills and qualities to take advantage of the enemy's weaknesses and guard against their strengths. In Digital Devil Saga, preparing for difficult battles is far more simple, as the player merely has to identify what skills they require and then grind the mantras required to unlock those skills.

I used the word "grind," and I think this is the primary weakness of Digital Devil Saga's setup versus more traditional SMT gameplay. In mainline SMT, there's very little grinding, as success in battle depends far more on fusing the right demons for battle. All one needs to do to be prepared in DDS is to unlock the right mantras, though. Mantras are learned by collecting points that either accumulate slowly by killing enemies or more quickly by consuming them. The bigger problem is that mantras are unlocked with macca, which serves as your in-game currency. So even putting aside the random battle grinding that needs to be done to learn skills, you often have to grind battles to collect the necessary macca to even get to the point where you can unlock the necessary mantra in the first place. So this leads to a LOT of random battle grinding, unfortunately.

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It would have helped if the music in these games lived up to the standards of other post-Noctune MegaTen games I've played, but, unfortunately, it has one of the worse OSTs in the series. Well... I shouldn't say worse. The music, especially in the first, is heavily inspired by 60's alternative rock, so it's a LOT of guitar music. It's not my thing. There's more variety in this regard in the second game, which has more electronic-sounding environmental themes, but there aren't any bangers in that game, either.

I'll link a few tracks here.

Here are the random battles themes for the two games, respectively (i.e. the musical tracks you'll be hearing the most of in these games):

A couple of environmental tracks from the two games, respectively.

It's not bad music. But compared to the soundtracks for Nocturne, SMT IV, SMT IV: Apocalypse, Persona 4 Golden, Persona 5, etc.? It's not great.

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Gameplay between the two games is broadly very similar, although DDS2 adds a few layers that weren't present in the original. The first is "karma rings," equip-able items that grant a variety of different effects, such as boosting strength, allowing the person equipped with one to take two turns in a row, or (and this one is by far more favorite) almost doubling the amount of macca received from battle. These are nice, although the effects they grant in battle aren't usually drastic enough to alter battle strategies, so they don't add a ton of depth to the experience. The other wrinkle is the addition of a new mechanic where, at peak solar energy, your character enter some weird half-demon/half-human hybrid state. So, to briefly explain what that means, SMT games often have game mechanics centered around changes in the phases of the moon. Since the black sun is the primary focus of narrative attention in DDS2, Atlus changes this slightly to focus on waxing and waning levels of solar energy, which trigger the transformation. Unfortunately, this mechanic doesn't end up adding much to the game. Atlus could have designed something interesting around this hybrid transformation, but I found that my characters either one-shotted all the enemy demons with ease, or missed all of their attacks and left themselves vulnerable. So, in general, if my first character missed their attack, I'd retreat from battle, since it likely meant all of the other characters would miss their attacks as well. It was an interesting idea that was poorly executed.

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Both games are primarily dungeon crawlers, although the way dungeons are designed is another big difference between the two. The dungeons in DDS1 are often very wide, non-linear, and filled with puzzles (environmental and otherwise) which need to be solved in order to progress. This can sometimes lead to aggravation, but, more often than not, the locations explored in the first game of the duology are engaging, thematically distinct, and memorable. DDS2's dungeons are, comparatively, incredibly boring, and often consist of excessively linear and empty corridors that require little in the way of puzzle-solving. The game attempts to account for this by padding the size of the environments; most of the dungeons in the second game are composed of multiple floors, so the player will spend numerous hours running down seemingly endless corridors until they trigger the next cutscene.

Speaking of cutscenes, it's worth spending some time discussing how different the pacing and overall flow of the gameplay is between the two games. DDS1 is very... slow. It spends a lot of time with worldbuilding, developing characters, and generally fleshing out the world of The Junkyard. While it sometimes feels like it's spinning its narrative wheels, this does give the player an opportunity to appreciate the environment Atlus has crafted. The player will frequently return to previous locations between dungeons, engage in some minor exploration, talk to characters, etc. There's a lot more foreshadowing than there is actual plot movement.

DDS2 is almost the complete inverse of this. The game hits the ground running the moment it begins and never feels like it slows down. While this makes it almost impossible to get bored, it doesn't help when the second game is far more narrative-heavy and is in such a rush to keep the plot moving that it never feels like it properly establishes or develops almost any of the new plot elements it introduces to the player. Lots of stuff happens in the second game. There are revelations which feel like they would have had more impact if the game had cooled its jets a bit and allowed me to process what was happening, but there's an almost mechanical relentlessness to the way the game paces itself: dungeon, cutscene, dungeon, cutscene, etc. etc. The game rarely requires the player to backtrack or talk to other characters, and I felt like I was constantly being shuffled from one main story location to the next. As such, the sequel feels extremely linear in comparison to the first one.

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This logic applies to side content as well. DDS1 is filled with a variety of side-quests to complete, which often involved revisiting previous completed dungeons to unlock new areas. DDS2, in comparison, has a few extra bosses that it awkwardly stuffs into the back half of the game. I guess designing proper side-quests for DDS2 would have interfered with this process of either overloading the player with new information or shuttling them down the corridors of bland futuristic environments. I also have issues with one of DDS2's optional boss fights being hidden behind a Jack Frost you'll encounter throughout the game who will quiz you on mechanical and narrative minutiae that you'd probably need an eidetic memory to successfully recall without a guide. And if you do use a guide, it really slows down the gameplay. Good luck accurately answering 50 questions from this thing when he runs away every time you give him a wrong answer, though, and only seems to reappear every few hours.

Because of the game's pacing issues, the new characters introduced in DDS2 never end up feeling very developed, and the only personalities in that game I felt any attachment to were the properly developed ones who returned from DDS1.

Ideally, the relatively narrative-light DDS1 would have been more fast-paced to make up for the lack of new information, and DDS2 would have slowed down and allowed the player time to adjust to its frequent revelations and plot development. In general, the way the duology presents itself harms the storytelling. There's an interesting early-2000s philosophical sci-fi tale here, but I feel like DDS2 tosses out terminology, weird concepts, and bizarre plot twists without really explaining itself adequately.

More broadly, it would have all ideally been one game. Both games are short by MegaTen standards, and my playtime for both games combined falls well short of the time I spent playing gargantuan epics like Persona 5 and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Structurally, the game's problems feel like they go back to this decision to split the project into two separate products.

And before I get done ragging on DDS2's shortcomings, I HAVE to mention the party shuffling it does, because it's so annoying. While this also happened some in the first game, one thing I really don't appreciate is how frequently characters disappear from your party for plot reasons. It's bad enough in a typical JRPG where it just means having to re-orient your battle strategies around a new party member, but, as mentioned, party members work in tandem in this game to unlock secret mantras throughout the grid, and, moreover, it's disconcerting when you invest a significant amount of macca into learning a powerful mantra, only for that character to disappear for hours at a time, or sometimes permanently. Especially in the back half of this game, the player's party is in a constant state of flux and it made me nervous to invest too deeply in the development of any of my characters.

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So, that's a lot of complaining, but it's not like I disliked the games overall. I mentioned that they mostly adopted Nocturne's excellent battle system, and they seem to have been developed in Nocturne's engine as well, because, visually, they look remarkably similar to that game. This is a good thing, because Nocturne was, and remains, one of the nicer-looking games on the PS2, and the same is true here. Character designs are distinct and visually pleasing, and the settings of both games are incredibly evocative and memorable.

The great presentation extends to the voice acting as well. In an era where video game voice acting was still very hit-or-miss, DDS1&2's cast turns in some fantastic performances, which especially helps with the second game, where you'll be watching a lot of lengthy cutscenes, and the voice actors help to sell what's happening on-screen. The plot and symbolism are fascinating on their own and are heavily influenced by the religious tradition of hinduism. As is the focus on cannibalism and how you have to actually consume your enemies to strengthen yourself, although the visual representation of this is exceedingly abstract (when you 'consume' an enemy, they turn into an orb that you absorb; you don't actually see your party members gobble up your enemies), and the mechanics surrounding it should have been expanded and fleshed out a little more thoroughly than they were.

I should probably also mention that, at least on the normal difficulty mode, the difficulty level of the games feels very balanced and fair compared to the often overtly brutal Nocturne, and especially the NES and SNES-era Megami Tensei games. Save points and stations where you can recoup your health are liberally distributed throughout both games. I also can't recall any encounters where enemies spammed instadeath spells like mudoon at me (eyes Nocturne warily). And there's even a general absence of boss rush sequences here. There's certainly challenges to rise up to, if you want: hard mode is notably harder, and DDS1 features an optional boss fight with Nocturne's Demi-Fiend that is widely regarded as one of the hardest boss fights in RPG history. But, again, you have to be deliberately seeking that challenge out. If you just want to play and enjoy the game, the main story content is all exceedingly fair, and even most of the optional bosses aren't too overwhelming.

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The Wrap-Up

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 are unique RPGs filled with fascinating themes and symbolism, but they're also some of the weaker semi-modern games in Atlus' legendary catalog. They have interesting stories to tell, but the storytelling itself leaves something to be desired (particularly the second game, which feels like it's overwhelmed by its own ideas). Gameplay is solid, but leans too heavily into grinding and away from the tactical considerations that accompanied the polished monster-collection gameplay of most other games in the series. How much one likes the music will probably depend heavily on how fond they are of the alternative rock style the games employ; unfortunately, I wasn't taken with it. Presentation remains the area where DDS1&2 stand tallest, with uncharacteristically excellent voice acting, gorgeous art design, and attractive character designs and demon models that make the games a visual treat, even today.

Of the two games, I'd say that DDS1 is easily the stronger experience, with often superb dungeons, a more focused narrative, and less destabilizing shake-ups of the player's party composition. I do think both games were ultimately harmed by making this story a duology, though, as the first one is TOO heavy on foreshadowing and the second one doesn't have enough time to fully explore all of the concepts it tosses at the player. These games would fundamentally benefit from being rewritten and restructured. None of this should be taken to mean that these games aren't still good experiences overall, though. They're just not stone-cold classics like Atlus' best games.

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Switch Lite: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

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