#363 R-Type Delta

Posted: 6th January 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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661st played so far

Genre: Shoot-Em Up
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Irem
Publisher: Irem/Agetec/Sony

Today we go back to the world of R-Type, a side-scrolling shooter that is more or less just that. It was decent, incredibly difficult but with really good bosses… assuming you reached them.

We’ve now reached the fourth game in the series, made for the Playstation and so focused on something to play at home, which would hopefully rebalance the game to make it more playable.

Our Thoughts

So this game is still difficult, but the solution is, well, pretty much like how I played the original R-Type: the game gives you a lot more continues than you see anywhere else, hence giving you a lot more chances to make it through the game. You still hit a wall, but as you can push through, you get to develop more strategies. Obviously, earlier sections become easier as you play them more, so you get further. It seems like a good middleground between difficult and accessible, even if it is still fairly time consuming.

It’s still punishing, but at least you get to more bosses faster. I always feel like these are the most interesting part of these games – more than just dealing with enemies you learn to beat, there’s something unique and cool about them. It doesn’t always pay off, but here it feels like it mostly does. It pays off, and that’s great.

The game looks good too, and that helps. There are some of the PS1 era jaggy edges, sure, but it mostly hides it well and it makes it all fit together well. The futuristic looks help, smoother with some detail in background where it can be textured. It’s pretty effective and becomes its own treat to see new things.

Final Thoughts

I had a decent feeling about this game – the later shooters always feel more fun to play than the old ones that dominated gaming early on and feels like an improvement without sacrificing its difficulty.

#277 Killer Instinct

Posted: 2nd January 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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660th played so far

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Arcade/SNES
Year of Release: 1994
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Midway/Rare/Nintendo

While I had the Rare Replay disc out, this came up, so it felt like a good game to pick up next. I’ve had a couple of Killer something fighting and shooting games on the list.

Of course a lot of the research I went for shows the new game, so I can’t say I feel quite as prepared, but we need to see where it leads.

Our Thoughts

Considering the age of this game, I felt it looked very good. The graphics worked well, seemed very natural and it was quite pleasant to look at. And I lead with that because I have to start somewhere.

I felt that Killer Instinct was a bit too difficult, at least for a game to play at home. Orchid was the first fighter I went against – you do as most characters – and I didn’t really beat them, I mostly got to fight others by switching to her and others who didn’t have her first. It’s a real shame – possibly an arcade holdover, but on this disc I didn’t have the difficulty adjustment options other games allow for.

I understand that there are combos that will help, I couldn’t learn any of them and didn’t see any in the documentation. Range also made a big difference, and I guess one where I lost a lot – if you can lock people in at a distance, you have a far easier time.

Final Thoughts

I can see where this game is good and how it would fit in, but after Virtua Fighter, this doesn’t provide anything special. There are some copycat feature – Mortal Kombat would have provided some inspiration there -and the game looks fine, but I didn’t really see anything that really felt special to me.

#408 Jet Force Gemini

Posted: 29th December 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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659th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Rare

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned our Rare Replay purchase before, which is perfect for this blog as well as easier access to a bunch of classics. I dug it out today for a random game, although we’ll have a follow up from the same disk soon after.

Here, we get a 3D third person shooter originally for the Nintendo 64, and it shows in the screenshots I’ve seen. Beyond that, I’m expecting more standard action adventure work.

Our Thoughts

The graphics for these games are always a bit risky – trying to look realistic in the late nineties can quickly lead to muddy textures that blend together. This game tries to give more than that – at times intentionally looking alien with its colours – but they’re still not sharp or strong. It just didn’t always work.

So the game itself is sort of a shooter, sort of a platformer, but it doesn’t work for either. The controls feel really floaty, but the main issue is with aiming and moving your viewpoint. What we’re often used to is that moving your point of view ‘sticks’ – that makes it easier to aim because you know where you’re at. Here, however, your viewpoint snaps back if you move back, which makes it more difficult to aim and adjust your aim as you’re moving or the opponent is moving. It made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be and really made the machine gun’s random shots far more powerful than pistol precision. I wonder whether this was a compromise choice because of the platforming elements, but it feels like it shouldn’t need to be.

While there are some interesting ideas here, the marrying of 3D platformers like Banjo Kazooie that made Rare big in this era with the shooter elements doesn’t work perfectly and it diminishes both parts. There’s some neat ideas with the setting, with there being these aliens worlds, but it doesn’t work quite as well for me and I’d rather play the games that do manage it, even if that is because they focus.

#735 Virtua Fighter 5

Posted: 26th December 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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658th played so far

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Arcade/Playstation 3/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Sega AM2
Publisher: Sega

The Virtua Fighter series, as we saw with the first game, is a series that, for me, still feels like it introduced 3D fighting and created far more open arenas.

Quite some time on, we’re now at the fifth iteration – the most recent, but in true fighting game style, often adjusted. With it having been around for over a decade, redone a few times, I hope it will hold in comparions to the others.

Our Thoughts

Virtua Fighter 5 was a good fighter. It feels slower paced than other fighters, but that works because the game feels more deliberate. It’s been a good way to get into the fighter anyway, and it did for me – I got into the quest single player mode and while it certainly didn’t have a deep story, it was a nice way to interact with the fights in what felt like lower stakes than most other vs AI modes – it doesn’t have to be difficult if you get loads of fights.

The fights themselves are really enjoyable. The environments are varied and make a difference in the fight. Most importantly, there are a bunch of effects in them that make them more visually interesting and include more. There is still a limited area to fight in – ending out of the ring, where you can, does cause a loss (something I believe isn’t in earlier games – I recall moving around a lot before).

Final Thoughts

Virtua Fighter 5 was a fun, strong fighter that was easier to keep up with than most. I didn’t find as decent a story mode, but the quest mode did provide with a better, interesting way of exploring the fights. It’s probably not as good when you’re more experienced, but for me it really worked.

657th played so far

Genre: Action/Role-Playing
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square/Square Electronic Arts

So today, we’ve got an action RPG as another random pick. It’s obviously a more time consuming option that comes up. With that said, Vagrant Story isn”t a game I had heard of before this list. It looks like it fits into the mass of other RPG series Square created around this time, with Threads of Fate coming to mind as another example. What will make this stand out?

Our Thoughts

Aside from a minor introduction, it seems like Vagrant Story is a long, big dungeon crawl. That’s not too bad, especially as the areas seem well designed, but it makes me wonder where the story goes.

So what you get is a decent action RPG that you explore screen by isometric screen. I struggled a bit with the controls and when to attack, but it’s interesting. On the other hand, it adds a decent mechanic through risk, where big attacks reduce your concentration and make you take more damage, creating an interesting trade off of how much you attack.

There’s a decent development system as well to learn through using them, while magic is learned from books you need to use once. It’s a decent way of doing it.

Final Thoughts

Vagrant Story is a decent game with an interesting setup, but most of it doesn’t feel that memorable now. The story is pretty simple and more an excuse than anything. There’s some nice ideas, but I’m not sure it has much that hasn’t been done elsewhere, sadly.

#592 Mashed

Posted: 17th December 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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656th played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Playstation 2/Xbox/PC
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Supersonic Software
Publisher: Empire Interactive

Mashed is another racing game. Third person, at what looks like an over the shoulder perspective – something that seem rarer, most games that I can think of in the genre are either from inside the car or in an almost “over the shoulder” near to the car perspective. Having the distance from your car should make for an interesting change, especially as the title implies and promises a lot more crashes than other games.

Our Thoughts

The basic concept of this game is pretty good, a racing game that isn’t really about finishing laps the fastest, but instead focuses on gaining the lead on your opponents, pulling ahead repeatedly, if necessary by throwing them off bridges and out of your way. The challenge certainly feels different and removes any excuse for rubberbanding.

Still, though, the game doesn’t feel entirely fair, and a lot of that comes from the camera. Zooming in and out, there are several times where I lost overview – I couldn’t see where I was, at times actually lost sight of my car. It meant I fell off ledges several times because of what felt like the camera being against me.

So you win by getting far enough ahead of your opponent, but it doesn’t seem to have been just distance – or if it is the distance differed, as I had wins and losses at different distances. The game doesn’t seem to communicate anything about this or another part of the rules surrounding winning, which just made the game feel unfair.

The driving itself wasn’t as great either. Maybe plaing the PC version is to blame, as it can mess with the controls, but I couldn’t get there with the game, unfortunately.

Final Thoughts

Mashed is an interesting concept that works well with the right players, controllers and setup, but it was a bit too inconsistent for me to constantly enjoy the game. I didn’t hate it, but there were a few places that were just too frustrating, even when the game didn’t force it by making it 3v1. There’s some decent weapon systems though – I guess that’s the nice touch, when applicable.

#638 Animal Crossing: Wild World

Posted: 13th December 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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655th played so far

Genre: Life Simulation
Platform: DS
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo

So we’ve reached our second jump into the world of Animal Crossing, after playing the first game. In the mean time, we have also played Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the series’ 3DS entry, and so Wild World lands at the middle point between these two experiences.

Our Thoughts

For Wild World, I must admit I struggle with what to use as my reference point. Compared to the original game, plenty of things seem to have changed, but New Leaf is my real Animal Crossing touchstone, the one I played most, and it has more to it than Wild World, absorbing all its new features and adding its own. It’s trickier for it to compare.

On its own, the game is its charming self, building a house under dubious circumstances while decorating, helping out characters and living out your life. It sounds a bit more boring and sure, it’s not a high action game, but there’s something quite relaxing about it, an extra place that becomes your home, celebrates your birthday and so on.

There are some nice distractions while you do so, though – fishing, buying and selling, collecting and decorating. It sustains play and gives you a reason to come back each day while not forcing too much of an investment. The game adds a bunch of these, and streamlines some from the first game, but it really is down to some incremental improvements.

Final Thoughts

The Animal Crossing is ideal for handhelds, really, a game to immerse yourself in for bits at a time, without requiring a big commitment. It works out well here, with plenty to do without ever being overwhelming. It’s a fun diversion, in a second life, and now set on a platform that’s great for it.

#325 Star Control 3

Posted: 9th December 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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654th played so far

Genre: Strategy/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Legend Entertainment
Publisher: Accolade

There are a bunch of hybrid games, that combine two genres that don’t normally fit together, but manage it with their own spin. Prior to starting Star Control 3, I’d already seen parts of its predecessor in a let’s play, so I’m ready for this adventure-strategy hybrid, the shoot ’em up part coming in during battle sequences.

I’m now looking forward to trying this for real, see where the story leads me.

Our Thoughts

Star Control 3 really grabbed me. It’s really an adventure/strategy/shoot ’em up, with the latter part – controlling several battles that happen in these games – being partially optional. You can let the AI play them, but they’re not as good as you would be playing on your own. That’s fine too – the battles feel like an annoying version of Asteroids, although with loads of different ships with their own stats and setups. I do wish we’d see something more strategic here instead, considering the size of fleets you can acquire.

The strategy portion adds more to this. There are a whole lot of base building and planet colonization options. These don’t go quite as in depth as 4X games (Master of Orion and Galactic Civilizations came to mind), but there’s still some optimizing you can do. This includes colonizing other worlds, but so far it felt like the time needed to do that wasn’t always worth it in the timeframe I had so far – especially as it takes away resources from the original planet. The focus is also on creating resources for your own fleet, rather than growth on its own terms.

What appeals most to me are the adventure/growth elements. Your first step is to gain the support from nearby alien races. Some will do so easier, others require you to jump through some hoops. Doing so requires some fuel balancing as well, so you can continue to travel, made more complex as your star map is actually 3D.

It’s this personal touch, where you actually have to build relations and focus each race, that is interesting. It adds a lot more personality to what could otherwise be an interchangable set of races with some unique units. That these alliances shift as you progress only make the game more interesting.

Final Thoughts

While, as said, the genres of this game are more complicated than we express in a short summary up there, it actually holds together well and you move between the layers seamlessly. It’s incredibly compelling, once I ignore the ship battles, and make for a series I feel I need to explore further – it’s a shame only this entry is on the list.

653rd played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door came up the week before I played it, but as I needed more time to it, I wanted to dedicate a day to it – something I did today (as I write this).

Aside from it always being good to get an RPG in, the Mario series always provides really good ones. The first Paper Mario was a lot of fun to play and I started this one years ago… just didn’t finish it because a certain blog starting eating up quite a bit of my gaming time. Now I get to properly play more of it!

Our Thoughts

Thousand-Year Door is as charming as the earlier games and hits a bunch of the same mechanics. Where it expands, though, it does so wonderfully, in a way that works really well for the story, world and game. Throughout, for example, you have an audience for your battle. They get excited as you do better and will increase your star power, as well as throwing helpful items. Sometimes they get infiltrated by enemies, which you have to be careful with, at just the right rate to keep it interesting – often enough that you don’t forget about it, but not often enough to dominate.

In a lot of games, that’s a system you expect them to add but then forget about. Here, the game keeps referencing them, with bosses scaring them away and them playing out in different circumstances. It’s a place where systems mix and fit in well. In a similar vein, the normally for-fun attack fx badges (which changes the sound effects) actually have a gameplay effect in at least one (major) battle. It’s not the biggest thing, but plays with the mechanics in such an interesting way that it feels fair but fresh.

It feels like this happens more out of battle too. While the first Paper Mario played with the mechanics already, I feel like there were more paper based elements in here – both in powerups you get, such as flying around as a paper airplane, which happens quite often, and in the way the world changes, using paper style cutouts and the like that felt more frequent. Add to that a lot of use of the different planes and we get to a world that’s filled with interesting things, while feeling a bit more condensed (in a good way).

The story, too, feels a bit more creative. Rather than a standard Bowser kidnapping, we get another new villain group. Doing so really works better for Mario RPGs, as it means there’s a new group of enemies to use while allowing the basicc enemies to populate the world and fill it out, avoiding a bunch of basic beats.

Final Thoughts

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door lives up to the expectations of a Mario RPG. It’s charming, looks good and introduces its own set of gameplay rules that add to the game. I really need to keep playing – at least I’ve got a few more RPGs like it left in the list, as there are some good ones in there.

#467 IL-2 Sturmovik

Posted: 1st December 2017 by Jeroen in Games
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652nd played so far

Genre: Flight Simulator/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: 1C:Maddox Games
Publisher: 1C/Ubisoft

So we’ve had another random game, and this one worked quite well – I needed another flight sim and, with two games in the series, IL-2 Sturmovik was a good one. Not that I know more of it than that you’re flying around in battle simulation, but it’s going to be interesting to play one of them again.

Our Thoughts

So I really didn’t appreciate the start of this game. Tutorials can be a bit of a problem, repeating the same motions for every game in case someone doesn’t know how mouse look worked. On the other hand, however, not having one means that it becomes more difficult to learn the game specific areas. The latter can be done through game specific introductions, but it will depend on the game you play.

For IL-2 Sturmovik, the choice feels a bit worse than normal. The tutorial basically consists of a bunch of non-interactive cutscenes that explain what you have to do, but don’t give you a chance to actually try it. They feel like videos that are in engine instead to save on space, but the lengthy explanations meant that I forgot most of it before I had to use it and skipped most of it after a while.

The game itself appears to want to be a realistic sim that’s difficult to keep up with even in the easiest mode. There are a lot of things to keep track of and I suspect the difficulty is mostly down to damage done/received when you encounter combatants. You’re still having to do your best to keep control of the plane and go through what feel like difficult motions to chase down an enemy and shoot down their planes – more complicated than I thought they would be.

Still, there’s a lot to do in the game. I’m playing from the GOG version, which merges in some different packs, but there’s a lot to be said for flying around the different areas, taking on others in combat and feeling in the middle of everything. It’s difficult, but feels realistic.

Final Thoughts

I think I was probably too overwhelmed to get fully into this game. It’s difficult to learn everything, but it shows there’s a lot to do in here and a lot of depth that feels like it would be great to get into. It’s just been too much of a challenge for me to get everything out of it yet, but I didn’t quite have the time…