#756 Final Fantasy IV

Posted: 15th January 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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572nd played so far

ffiv

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: SNES
Year of Release: 1991
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square

It’s been a while since we covered the Final Fantasy series, isn’t it? Last time is a year and a half ago, for Final Fantasy X, a game I’ve finished since then, although before that it was back in 2011, when we had just gotten started.

I’ve given it time to let time catch up, so we were more fairly through it, with five more games in the series left about this – about one every hundred (as I suspect one will end up on our Special List).

Today we start with the oldest on the list, initially placed in an odd place on the list (based on a rerelease), hence itsĀ  high number. Also known as Final Fantasy II in the US and Europe, here we are with the fourth game in the series, the first to be released for the SNES.

Our Thoughts

I’m not sure I can quite grasp how this game might have stepped up the Final Fantasy franchise. The active time battle system moved it away from simple turn based battles, instead introducing an additional element to keep track of and making it a bit more exciting. The characters you play as get more evolved, and unlike the earlier games where you had the same four from the beginning, here they switch in and out as they advance. I think this might also be the first Final Fantasy where they had predefined role, making the story more revolve about what you do.

It means the characters have fairly predefined development paths, giving less customization for them than some other games in the series, but this also leads to more interesting gameplay mechanics. We get a mage who knows powerful spells, but can’t always remember them. Characters change classes and abilities as the storyline demands. Some spells are learned based on story reasons, rather than just character advancement. It’s far more interesting and makes for really fun gameplay moments.

When it comes to looks, the game is a lot simpler. Even the later SNES games end up looking better and animated a bit simpler. Playing the PSP version, it luckily looks a lot better.

Final Thoughts

Final Fantasy IV combines a bunch of good elements – interesting, deeper characters. A good story that slowly unfolds. Gameplay that builds and keeps adding facets, at least so far. There are some places where it’s not quite there yet, but as a purely fantasy JRPG, it’s a lot of fun. This game is starting to convince me that the 2D games certainly have some advantages over the 3D Final Fantasy games – I certainly feel like I enjoyed it more than some of those.

#154 Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

Posted: 11th January 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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571st played so far

Ghouls_and_Ghosts_sales_flyer

Genre: Platform
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1988
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

After earlier playing Ghosts ‘n Goblins, it’s time for its sequel now.

Run around and deal with undead rising from the graves, demons and all. It’s what we were expecting.

Our Thoughts

I’m not quite sure what to say after Ghosts ‘n Goblins. It’s more of that platforming. It probably looks a bit better. I’m told the levels are bigger. One thing that’s clear is that it’s more difficult. I don’t think I ever made it past the first boss – I believe mid level boss even, not even the end of level boss. Even then I kept dying far earlier each time. There’s so much going on, it’ll easily overwhelm you. You’re never facing one challenge at a time, and they combine in a way that really feels like it conspires against you. I had trouble dealing with them all at the same time.

The downside of that is that there’s not much I can see of the game, and why I rely on videos and other reports for this one. That seems to give the same impression – bigger and more difficult. It’s fine, but if (like me) you’re not as much into the game, it doesn’t give you that much to work with unfortunately.

Final Thoughts

If you had to pick between this and Ghosts ‘n Goblins, this is probably the better game. But at the same time, it isn’t, because it starts off at a higher difficulty. But you don’t have to choice, and at this point this game feels like it comes second for me.

#48 I, Robot

Posted: 7th January 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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570th played so far

I,_Robot_flyer

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1983
Developer: Dave Theurer
Publisher: Atari

Isaac Asimov is an amazing speculative fiction writer (I know that sounds pretentious, but it works best to describe his work). I, Robot is one of his collections of short stories, an amazing read that I really loved.

As far as I can tell, the title is pretty much the only thing this game shares with that work. It might be intended to reference it, but I’m not sure why the shooter would be what it is.

Our Thoughts

I, Robot is an interesting shooter, more complex than those that have come before. 3D is still in the early stages at this point, so a game that makes use of it to the extent that this game does – moving left and right as well as forwards and backwards was pretty good. It really works for this game, creating an early idea of the on rails shooter while still giving you a lot of mobility, especially with the slight puzzle elements.

Your goal is mostly to shoot your target in the distance, while changing the colour of tiles so you can proceed. As an old game, this is mostly trial and error, but it feels like it’s mostly intuitive. I never actually struggled with it. It’s pretty straight forward, which makes the different look more effective. You can play through, get it quickly and proceed in the game.

As simple as that is, it’s quite addictive and fun to play. It also drags in more difficult situations quite soon, the levels are that challenging. Luckliy the debug modes made it more forgiving, but if that doesn’t work a drawing minigame is also included which is at least a bit lest challenging…

Final Thoughts

I, Robot is a good twist on the concept that feels like a clear predecessor to later game, bt also works well on its own. The more puzzley elements are certainly different, but they probably make the game worth it, to make it more than just a standard shooter.

569th played so far

Links_Awakening_box

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Game Boy
Year of Release: 1993
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Although we had been jumping around the Legend of Zelda canon early in the blog’s life, lately I’ve been trying to get through them in order. Today is the first handheld outing, with one of the stranger stories in the game. Not gameplay – that’s mostly in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – but in the oddness of its story.

I won’t spoil that part, but Link ends up, in this adventure, on a deserted island that has some strange inhabitants, with a quest that involves retrieving musical instruments.

Our Thoughts

Link’s Awakening is a real Zelda game when it comes to mechanics – killing, slashing past places, all with the equipment from A Link to the Past and the like. The difference feels like it’s in the setting – the island Link washes up on – with some different environments, and how there appear to be more unique enemies.

The main downside of that is that you have slightly newer patterns to learn for some of them, but as normal Zelda enemies usually don’t feel as iconic to me, that’s fine. Beyond that, as it’s standard gameplay, it feels familiar while being just about different enough.

The overworld is interesting to explore, possibly the most different, interactive and varied that I feel I have played with so far. It certainly starts early, sending you around and changing things in the area. The dungeons are still a major highlight, however, really putting you to the test and putting in the specific gauntlets that really challenge you as you move around.

Final Thoughts

I do sometimes wish I had a bit more patience with the more challenging levels. The feeling of wanting to do the list means that some leave me thinking that I’ll play the games later, but I do fear I miss out. Here, certainly, the dungeons wore me out. Still, this game presents an amazingly fun place to explore through time.

#815 Galcon

Posted: 30th December 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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568th played so far

Galcon_box

Genre: Action/Strategy
Platform: iPhone
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Phil Hassey

Galcon looks like a shooter. At least, that’s what I thought when I saw the screenshots (and every time I googled it to see what was happening). Loads of colourful shapes, mostly abstract – the semi-retro look of, say, Geometry Wars.

It’s not, though. Instead, this is a strategy game (with some action elements) where you send ships around to conquer planets… yeah, let’s go for it.

Our Thoughts

Galcon is a simple strategy game. All you really decide is what planet to attack next, and how you deal with the incoming enemies. It’s not a complex game, but with games lasting only a few minutes, it works just well enough. It’s a fun diversion – it’s on the iPhone for a reason.

The graphics pleasantly afford that, streamlined and slightly futuristic, but incredibly functional. The effect works really well, making for something that looks quite pleasant.

Final Thoughts

This game comes down to numbers, thinking strategically to match risk to reward. You don’t have loads of time to plan, but you need to have a plan going forward. Nothing over the top, but fun nevertheless.

#225 Mortal Kombat

Posted: 26th December 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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567th played so far

Mortal_Kombat_cover

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1992
Developer: Midway Games
Publisher: Midway Games

What a glorious game for Boxing day, right? Pure coincidence, I can assure you – just how the numbers happened to work out.

Mortal Kombat is an early moral outrage game. People fighting each other in games was nothing new, but its notorious fatalities – hidden finishing moves that are far more gorey than you’d normally see – made it stand out as something the kids shouldn’t play. Now it seems tame in comparison, but it certainly made it stand out.

Our Thoughts

What seems to set this game apart from its contemporaries is the art and characters. As a rarity for the time, these were motion captured and are basically digitized recordings – some more obviously so than others, but these are real people doing some of the moves, making them stand out from the more cartoonish backgrounds and effects. It heightens the reality, however, which makes the injuries and fatalities seem more real and gruesome. It’s an approach that was never really repeated, but certainly put the game on the map.

Beyond that, I must say it’s more difficult to tell the difference with other sidescrolling fighting games. It doesn’t quite stray into the fantastical as some other games do – its motion captured characters make sure of that – but it has plenty of it in the attacks (such as fireballs) and obviously the fatalities are grotesque and over the top.

It’s been interseting to play around with the differnet characters, who feel unique, although the full thing never had it stand out.

Final Thoughts

Mortal Kombat is noticeable in this list because of its controversy, but mostly the reasons why – graphics and fatalities. It is also a solid good fighting game, but the latter doesn’t work as well for me. I can see why it’s that good though.

#192 Rampart

Posted: 22nd December 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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566th played so far

Rampart

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1990
Developer: Atari Games
Publisher: Atari Games

After a break, back to the Midway collection. Only one left after this, I promise.

But no, we need a new strategy game anyway, based on our numbers, and it’s always good to see a different one, predating the likes of Dune 2 and Advance Wars. It’s simpler and will have a potentially different focus. Fun and time to try!

Our Thoughts

Rampart is made more interesting by the double gameplay mechanic, even if I’m not sure it’s always to the game’s benefit. Half of the game gives you limited time to set up defenses, placing cannons inside your fortifications where available – fortifications that need to surround your castle to count as well. You then fire these cannons to ward off invaders, who try to destroy your fortifications and conquer your castles.

It’s the building that’s an interesting idea, adding its own strategy element. However, unfortunately it also feels a bit too time restricted, and getting the wrong pieces means you might not even be able to repair a single castle, let alone grow your network. It unfortunately felt a bit unbalanced, at least with the PSP controls I had to use.

The shooting portion is fine, but feeling a bit clumsy as well. It’s not the controls, necessarily, but your firing rate is a bit inconsistent and with enemies all over the map, doesn’t always feel the best.

Final Thoughts

The concept of the game is strong, the execution (possibly due to its arcade roots) sometimes less so. Still, the gameplay is enjoyable enough to make up for it, though maybe not for sessions that are too long.

#598 Metroid Zero Mission

Posted: 18th December 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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565th played so far

Metroid_--_Zero_Mission_(box_art)

Genre: Platform/Shoot Em Up
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

More 2D Metroid! This game brings us back to the stylings of Super Metroid and the like after our interesting trek into Metroid Prime‘s 3D world, doing so as an enhanced remake of the original Metroid game.

In this game it means that it starts the same and has the same basic structure, but expands by adding a lot of secrets, some abilities and so on. The other Metroid platformers have been enjoyable, so I’m hoping this will follow suit.

Our Thoughts

I’m not sure how I would have felt about this game if the original had been on the list. There have been some unnecessary remakes on the game before (Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes for one), but here the original isn’t listed. I have played bits of it, but the difference is so much more noticeable here. There is a significant graphical upgrade – NES to GBA does that for you, and the game takes full advantage of this.

The main gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect from it – wander around giant cave systems, screen by screen, avoiding and killing enemies while the world slowly opens up as you gain more powers and abilities. You can backtrack for extra secrets but still have a partially prescribed path to get to your real goals. The standard Metroid abilities are here – things like rockets and bombs, map and save rooms, and plenty of enemy variety.

Still, it pushes you forward by always having more barriers as you unlock places, keeping up the pressure to keep exploring. The main blocker are the boss battles, big and one that I just as often seemed to reach it half dead without resources. Relying on save points here feels annoying, even if it’s understandable.

Final Thoughts

Metroid Zero Mission is a fun Metroidvania game. The original’s design shines through, either that or it was updated really well here. It teaches you the game without saying much leads you without often being prescriptive. The graphics create a good environment, with differing cave environments that set the different parts of the game apart. I’ll be playing more soon.

#46 Time Pilot

Posted: 14th December 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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564th played so far

Time_Pilot_Flyer

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1982
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

The nice thing about sometimes grabbing the next game in order is that these tend to cover genres that I otherwise would often be reluctant to touch. I am nearly constantly behind on playing shoot ’em ups because they don’t come to mind when selecting games, not being a genre I’m drawn to. I don’t know much about it anyway.

So next is Time Pilot, which looks like a fairly straight forward fly around the area and see what you kill shooter.

Our Thoughts

The game is a pretty straight forward shooter. You can move in an infinitely scrolling area, killing other planes – ones that upgrade slowly to newer models between levels. It’s really just running around and firing at them in a twin stick shooter.

It feels like it doesn’t even look that exceptional, the graphics are fairly simple, but functional. Gameplay has been the focus of the game.

And the game is a good twin stick shooter. Brutal in its difficulty, and limits on continues. It doesn’t feel like a game that aspires to be more. It can’t necessarily do loads more, but doesn’t try to get creative either. The occasional extra ship type, some pilot you can try to catch, but it’s not as big.

Final Thoughts

Time Pilot is what it is, not a complicated game, but very good as a shooter. It’s good if you’re into it, but for me it falls flat in that there isn’t anything really drawing me in.

#825 Fable II

Posted: 10th December 2016 by Jeroen in Games
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563rd played so far

Fable_II

Genre: Action/Role Playing
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

By the time you read this, Fable Fortune will have had its Kickstarter campaign, and so I can’t spoil much by saying I’ve worked a little bit on it. In fact, that was one of the reasons I played the first Fable game when I did (so I could play it before I started work on that) and this play through started in similar circumstances.

It isn’t my first stab at the game either. I abandoned a play through half a decade ago because… well, I didn’t really have time anymore. Now I get to go back to it and (sort of) play it properly.

Our Thoughts

On a game of this size, it’s hard to know where to start. There is a lot of story, using some twists that you don’t often see in other stories, but mostly still the story of a hero saving the world. It doesn’t need to be more – while there’s plenty of characterization in the game, the main point is that you go out and do things, no matter what. One of the Fable series central tenets is its alignment system, and that feels like it is enough of a reason to be a hero or a villain.

It’s part of the style that defines this too. The graphics are a bit cartoony, the dialogue often going for dry humour and there are several actions that are included, I’m sure, because they seemed funny. Most NPCs don’t have loads of interaction, but they comment on plenty of things, which is what you need.

The interface is definitely improved. Fights were more comfortable to handle and I didn’t fare as badly in towns. I have plenty more exploration to do (and some passages are quite well hidden), but that’s all fun. There are plenty of minigames, but that really makes sense for the type of game.

The real attraction is in the sidequests and minigames you do to build up funds and power, as with most RPGs. However, with the lower number of areas it all feels a lot denser. You do need to proceed through the main quest to get to place and unlock options, and it feels like there is a lot of focus on collectables. I wouldn’t call it a bad thing here – it’s different, but it works for the lizard parts of my brain.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think the Fable series will ever produce my favourite RPG. The story isn’t in depth enough and it’s a bit too whimsical for me to get that seriously into it. It’s a fun time to play though, with a good range of activities and options that will keep things more fun for me.