The Vita Report

The trailer made this look like a fun, wacky game with a colorfully retro look and sound, but I just couldn’t get into it. The gameplay consists entirely of holding down X, aiming, and letting go. That’s it. Occasionally you can unleash a powerup move, but it doesn’t happen very often or seem to help a great deal. Mainly it’s just that same aiming combo over and over and over again as you stand there motionlessly. It’s tedious, the aim doesn’t seem quite right sometimes, and the constant need to hold down the X button kinda makes my thumb hurt too. Oh well. Next.

Some people are not going to like this, but I just didn’t like this series enough to finish it all. I liked the first game the best of what I played. It felt very much like a clone of Mario 64 and had a nice looking world and a good collectible system, but it also had some serious control problems. The camera wasn’t great, making judging all the tricky jumps tricky business. Not impossible, but sometimes frustratingly difficult, especially when the 2nd jump on the double jump seemed to have a really bad habit of sticking and ruining your jumps. Even worse were the vehicle controls. Those hoverbike things (I already forget what they were called) had such awful handling that all the driving levels and driving challenge areas were pretty painful. They almost drove me to quit more than once, but I had gotten so far already that I kept on going.

The second game actually improved on the platforming controls a lot. Moving and jumping felt much smoother and more precise. Unfortunately, they also completely ditched everything I liked about the first one and turned the game into some kind of kiddie-dark pseudo-open world game with a heavy focus on vehicles, which seemed to somehow control even worse than before. Soooo much time is spent driving around the “open world”, which is really just a huge area full of nothing but clutter between far away objective points. For some reason they decided to make the city a huge, sprawling maze too, which is weird given that there’s nothing to actually do there. They really went overboard on all the walking and driving NPCs all over the place too. So basically when you need to drive across town for your next objective, you’re just plowing through piles of civilians and constantly crashing into other vehicles and all the many tight corners. You can adjust the hover height level, which I guess is supposed to help you navigate these parts better, but both the ground and air are usually so cluttered that it doesn’t really matter.

These long and unpleasant treks between each mission are bad enough, but the missions themselves weren’t much fun for me either. A mysterious lack of checkpoints in missions, which forces you to start the whole level from scratch each time you lose or die, and some rather unpleasant objectives like the dreaded escort missions, just didn’t work for me. An awkward new gun mechanic didn’t help matters much either.

I don’t know, maybe you’d have to have grown up with these games to appreciate them. I’m sure people from other generations that try to play my favorite old NES games probably find them very clunky and annoying too *shrug*. I just couldn’t bring myself to finish the second one and moved on to something else.

Oh, a pixel art horror game. Finally something I can enjoy, right? Sigh. Nope. Didn’t much like this one either. It has an interesting premise and looks nice enough for what it is, but the execution is really questionable. It’s set up like a roguelike, where there are no saves/checkpoints and if you die once it’s game over. I’m…not really sure why though, because it’s a really slow paced adventure/survival horror. Each time you start over you’re forced to play through a lot of forced sequential scripted events, most of which just involves walking back and forth between the same two sections of the game. Doing this part once is fine, but after having to repeat it all for the fifth time or so, it’s pretty repellent. You know, I never even got to see the combat in the game. The first time I played, things ended early due to me accidentally triggering an alternate bad ending. Next time I guess I made a wrong choice and got automatically killed in a cutscene. Next time I got a little further, even finally running into some actual enemies, but I still had no weapon and there were bad guys in every direction I ran, so eventually I just ended up dying again. I just don’t know why they went with this halfassed roguelike system and didn’t even allow you to hurry through all the slow scripted stuff in the beginning. Having to do that all every single time you die is insane and unfun. Pass.

Ahhh, finally something fun. That was an annoying bad streak for a while there. I’m generally not a fan of the steampunk aesthetic, but this was just such an oddly fun game for being all about mining. It seems to often be lumped into the Metroidvania genre, but I think that’s a bit misleading. There are very few set levels. Mostly you’re just digging your own way through giant patches of increasingly tough dirt, searching for all the gems you can carry. It seems kind of silly when you think about it, how all you really do in this game is dig around for gems, which the only thing you can spend on is better gear for…digging around for more gems. It’s oddly compelling though. There is combat, but you really don’t use it much at all. Other than the fact that it’s side scrolling and has a map, I don’t really see how it fits into the Metroidvania category at all. Anyway, fun game though.

Another steampunk game? Sure, why not. This return visit to Steamworld instead takes the form of a turn-based tactical lite-RPG. It wasn’t quite as compelling as Steamworld Dig, but it’s still a very enjoyable adventure with a pretty decent amount of content. The battles get really difficult after a while too. I probably should have turned it down a notch, but the game made a point of telling me that “experienced” was the recommended and intended difficulty, so I took that as a personal challenge for some reason. Anyway, I made it through eventually.

In related news, it’s since been announced that the upcoming Steamworld Dig 2 will be coming to Vita again, so I’ll definitely be checking that out.

And finally, everyone has probably heard of this game by now. It’s a side-scrolling Dark Souls clone. It does quite a good job of creating a Dark Souls type of experience, without being too derivative. Playing a game like this in 2D is a bit odd. One less dimension means it’s often a lot easier to hit what you’re aiming at since the baddies have one less dimension to dodge into, but this works both ways. There’s much less space for you to furiously dodge-roll into when you get into a sticky situation.

I’m not sure what the point of adding a second form of currency was. You can use gold to buy items at some shops instead of salt (souls) and you lose a chunk of gold when you die, but still have to go retrieve your salt if you want it back. I don’t know, it just didn’t seem to really add anything. I guess I saved some salt by not having to spend it on store items, but then there weren’t very many shop items that I needed to buy anyway. *shrug*

Something about an intricate inter-connected Souls type of world seemed harder to keep track of than it did in the 3D versions too, though maybe this was just because I didn’t play it as heavily as I usually did with the Souls games. Not that it’s not a fun game, I just don’t often put as many hours into Vita games as I do full ones. Anyway though, good game if you like this sort of thing, with many tough levels and enemies. Good times.

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite Collector’s Edition arrives

Woooooo! On the plus side, these statuettes are a nice bit bigger than I thought they’d be from the ads. On the minus side, these light up Infinity Gems (I know they’re called Infinity STONES now, but I am, as always, stuck in the past) look like fucking Easter eggs.

They’re noticeably cheaper looking than they were in the ads and for some reason I had assumed that they would be actual removable gems, but instead are just permanently attached lights in a cheap plastic box. Oh well. Luckily I mainly got this for those statuettes, and those turned out to be even better than expected, so I count it as a win so far.

Now to go play the game. Review to come some time next week, naturally.

That Final Fantasy XV ending

WARNING: This is obviously going to contain massive spoilers for the game, so you probably want to stop reading right about now if you don’t want to know all the secrets yet. If you don’t want spoilers, try my spoiler-free review HERE instead!


So, there seems to be a lot of anger out there regarding the ending, specifically regarding the lack of details and the seemingly contradictory actions of the big bad, Ardyn. Ardyn reveals late in the game that he’s that he was king before your family became the line of royalty, that he was the one who saved his kingdom from the demons by absorbing them all into his own body, which resulted in him being exiled for his troubles because no one wanted this crazy immortal guy full of millions of demons hanging around, and so everything he’s done has been to get his revenge on the new royal bloodline.

This is a guy who was basically running the evil empire from behind the scenes by whispering into the emperor’s ear, who used his stored demonic powers to help the empire create demon/human hybrid soldiers to win the war with by experimenting on thousands of children, who was responsible for the overthrowing of Noct‘s home and the death of his father, went on to plunge the whole world into a demon-infested eternal darkness, and was personally responsible for murdering Noct‘s fiancee right in front of him.

And yet throughout the game we see him helping Noct several times during his journey. He seems to go out of his way to ensure that Noct gains access to more royal arms and aeons, which will only make Noct more powerful and help him with his efforts against the empire. Ardyn even goes as far as to make sure that Noct receives the ultra-powerful Ring of the Lucii, which is supposed to be the most powerful royal artifact and the key to saving the world. Ardyn literally has his hands right on it and flat out refuses to take it, insisting that it must get to Noct, and it does eventually lead Noct to the final power he needs too, which he uses to beat Ardyn in the end, which he probably wouldn’t have been able to do without.

So why did Ardyn go to such great lengths to both torment and help Noct? The answer seems kind of obvious to me (probably from reading all those damn comic books): Ardyn really just wanted to die. Here was a guy that was so powerful that he could defeat an entire legion of demons by himself, who became immortal because of it, but was stripped of his crown, shunned and exiled, and probably in constant pain from having to deal with containing all those demons. Everything he had was gone, no one wanted anything to do with him, and he couldn’t even die in peace.

Sure, he probably really did also want revenge on the new royal family too, but that was just a bonus. Think about it, every action he took was to help make Noct more powerful, and looking back on it, what seemed like simple sadistic torment, was actually Ardyn taking every opportunity to make Noct hate him and want to kill him as much as humanly possible. It was all about creating the ultimate weapon to destroy himself with. Ardyn even taunts Noct after the final battle when they’re both in the spirit realm, making sure to let him know that his body dying won’t actually stop him from coming back, that his spirit needs to be completely destroyed too. Why in the world would you say something like that at that moment unless you were asking for it?

It’s interesting because it seems like a semi-happy ending for the world, where Noct gives his life to defeat the big bad and bring light back to the world to banish the demon infestation, and so hooray, things are great for everyone, right? Except…Ardyn actually got everything he wanted, didn’t he? Not only did he finally find his eternal rest, but he took every single one of his enemies with him in the process, and hey, too bad for those who knows how many people that died and/or lived torturous existences as Magitek troopers. Everything went exactly to his plan. The bad guy won and no one even noticed. How fucked up is that? As barebones as the plot of this game was, I have to at least give it credit for this aspect of it.

So…anyone else out there finish this game yet and actually read this? Got any thoughts? Alternate theories? Horrible insults? Whatever?

The Vita Report

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This seemed like a fun little vertical shoot-em-up with pretty good graphics, but the joke was on me because it turns out that this game follows some godawful free-to-play mechanic where you can only make progress by grinding the same levels over and over again for hours or as the internet informs me, by spending real money on buying special ability cards. Even worse, I didn’t see anything about these cards or any purchases anywhere in the game. I guess those features are only for PC and full consoles? So I would have no choice but to grind endlessly. Yeah, no thanks. Congratulations Infinite Dreams Inc., you suckered me out of $3. Very impressive.

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This one was a side scrolling shoot-em-up that looked a little more flashy and didn’t seem to have any slow grinding involved. They got me again though. There’s no free-to-play aspect here, but there is a bottleneck where you can’t play the last few levels until you meet certain conditions. I played through most of the game, but was locked out of the last level because I still needed to find at least 4 secret keys in each of the preceding 6 stages. I was only missing a few, but I tried a few times and just couldn’t seem to find them. I tried to look for more information online and found that some keys would only appear if you had above a certain rank at just the right time. I tried to look for the ones that weren’t like this, but the guides were pretty vague and I couldn’t seem to find anything in the areas they described. With my only choice apparently becoming another endless grinding scenario, I just gave up and moved on. Another $3 wasted. Wahhh.

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Oh good. This was a bit more fun. Dragon’s Crown is kind of an RPG/beat-em-up with a pretty fun combat system and some bizarrely over-sexualized lady characters that were the subject of some controversy back in the day. Ehhhh, let’s not even get into that whole thing again. Anyway, the game is fun enough, but sure loves to give you the runaround. Sidequests will send you back to the same levels over and over again and the main story even becomes a continuous loop eventually, wanting you to play each and every level over and over again with increasing difficulty because….reasons. I’ve come to realize that despite the nice visual design and gameplay that Vanillaware brings to their games, they sure do like to pad things out with a lot of forced repetition. Muramasa was much the same, and I hear Odin Sphere was too. I kind of wish they’d just let these games end normally and go out on a high note instead of all this artificial lengthening, but I guess some people are into this kind of never-ending repetitive post-game content. Oh well.

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One of the free games of the month on PSN, Neon Chrome seems to get compared to Hotline Miami a lot, but it really isn’t that kind of game. It’s a top down dual-stick shooter, but that’s about the only thing they have in common. This game is a randomly generated roguelike that’s got some pretty enjoyable gameplay. This is another game that suffers from a poor ending and repetitive post-game content though. You have to fight through 27 floors to win, with a boss fight every 5 floors or so. The first boss is a giant robot spider thing, the second is a big robotic worm, the third is some flying tank thing, but then the fourth is…three of the first giant robot spiders, and the fifth and final boss is…another giant robot spider, and that’s it. This is not one of those roguelikes where the bosses are randomly selected from a big list either, those are all the bosses every time.

As usual with a roguelike, once you win you’re expected to start all over again, but this time it’s even harder. With the lack of variety in bosses and no new characters or anything particularly exciting looking worth spending more time unlocking, I just stopped after the first victory. I would maybe give it a play again someday, but it just didn’t have enough going for it to warrant immediate multiple playthroughs like Binding of Isaac or Risk of Rain.

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Lone Survivor is a game I’m still not sure how to feel about. It wants to be a 2D Silent Hill, and in some ways it’s very successful at that. The pixel art is nice, the sound and music are effectively creepy, and the need to sleep, eat, and maintain your character’s mental health add an interesting twist to things. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of enemy variety, a nearly incomprehensible plot that seems to have taken a lot of cues from David Lynch, and a very abrupt and unsatisfying ending. Still, it’s entertaining enough for a short diversion, if you’re really into Silent Hill type games.

Now Playing: Resident Evil – Outbreak File #2 (2004)

Yeah. Just not feelin’ this one. It’s just too similar to the first one, which is to say it’s a barely tolerable version of Resident Evil with a lot of running around through empty rooms full of sticks and toilet brushes, unpleasant battles with dumbed-down, poorly animated versions of enemies you’ve fought a million times before, and constant fucking inventory management due to your insanely tiny carrying capacity and braindead AI companions. It’s not terrible enough to have stopped me from playing one of them, but when the second one is basically just the exact same thing all over again, nope, can’t do it again. Not going to waste any more time on this unpleasant game. The Outbreak games just don’t hold up well at all compared to the real older Resident Evil games. Resident Evil Outbreak can go back to being the forgotten bastard child of Resident Evil like it deserves.

Now Playing: Outlast 2 (2017)

Wooooo Outlast 2 is here! We always need more new (good) horror games, and this one did not disappoint. Outlast 2 plays much like its predecessor, with enough gore and depravity to make even the strongest of stomachs turn at least once and hours worth of tense hide and chase scenes where a whole new batch of disgusting maniacs want to do terrible things to your special bits.

Continue reading “Now Playing: Outlast 2 (2017)”

Now Playing: Contra series (1987-?) Part 2

Contra madness continues with the next generation of Contra on Playstation 2.

Contra finally becomes Contra again with Shattered Soldier. SS is very much a Contra title again, unlike the weird PS1 entries, full of crazy sidescrolling action and a shitload of bizarre and challenging bosses. This game actually looked really good for a PS2 game and the level and boss designs were impressively twisted, often seeming almost like a horror game, at least in appearance.

Continue reading “Now Playing: Contra series (1987-?) Part 2”

Now Playing: Thumper (2016)

Thumper is described by its creators as a “rhythm violence game.” I don’t know if that’s exactly accurate, but it certainly sounds nice and it was a pretty fun game.

There isn’t really any combat in the game, so the “violence” label is kind of questionable. There are boss fights where you have to hit every beat to make some kind of attack beat pop out that you can knock back into the bosses face, which is the only way to damage them, which is about as violent as it gets.

I suppose the violence could be more referring to the amount of times you’ll die. The game starts out pretty simple and manageable, much like the levels you get to try in the demo, but a little less than half way through things start to get way more complicated and fast paced. Luckily the levels are all pretty short, so it’s not TOO frustrating to have to redo one several times.

I guess that was the only real complaint I had, that things started moving so fast that there was no time at all to look at all the crazy, psychedelic scenery. There’s so much weird shit going on in the background, but you just can’t take your eye off the track for even a second or you’ll be dead.

It’s definitely a worthwhile VR title though. It’s not super long, but it’s a bit longer than most of the tiny movie length VR games flooding the market these days. Maybe 6-8 hours or so, not including the extra play modes and trying to get S ranks in all the levels if you’re really masochistic.