#593 Mario Power Tennis

Posted: 27th September 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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901st played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo

Now we’re reaching the end of this project, I’m getting more restricted in the games I pick, and so scheduling and choice means that this time, the post-milestone game isn’t an indie or weird game. Instead, today is another entry in one of the biggest video game franchises, which at this point had a big sports game legacy anyway. Mario Power Tennis, unlike the early Mario Golf games, focusing clearly on playing with all the characters we know, and so we get to the Mario Kart of tennis – but without a Wiimote quite yet.

Our Thoughts

As you might expect, a Mario Tennis game doesn’t just have you play tennis like all the other games like it. It implements the rules, sure, but there’s always a twist. For one, as you play different characters of the Mario franchise, you don’t exactly play fair. Instead, each character has different powers – a power shot and a defensive safe to catch a ball you would otherwise miss. They look different for each character, but for the most part they work the same, either a shot that’s hard to defend, or an ultimate defensive action, just with a neat different visual that makes it feel like you do something special.

Although there are some normal courts, the game also has a bunch of gimmick courts, which are the other part of the game that’s interesting. This ranges from fields that move around under your feet to ones with ghosts floating around that freeze you for a while. Ones like the latter can really change the game – and with their random nature, unbalance them, which is a bit frustrating when you’re stuck for an extended amount of time. It’s an interesting choice for a tournament format, but as a casual experience it’s fun enough.

Final Thoughts

You don’t come to Mario Power Tennis for a balanced, deep tennis game, as it simply doesn’t offer that. What it does do is giving you a fun way to enjoy tennis, with enough twists that are likely enough to go your way that they stay fun that way. It really manages to be a Mariofied version of tennis, with the weird details that entails.

50 Game Round Up: 851-900 (Jeroen)

Posted: 25th September 2020 by Jeroen in Round-Up

As I mentioned two days ago,  reaching 900 games is such a big mental milestone – it feels like we’ll reach the end of so many things soon and I know I’m so close to finishing it now that I shouldn’t give up. Still, though, after this there are a few more of these wrap up posts as it feels my selections get more random – and probably higher quality, as I feel I’ve been saving the best for last (something I needed anyway to give me that extra push to keep going). So what stood out during these last fifty games?

Best Game I Had Not Previously Played

It’s going to be an RPG heavy bunch this time, as I’ve kept some good ones behind that came up during these fifty. I adored Grandia II and want to get to more in the series and it likely would have taken this place if I didn’t get a last minute chance.

As you’ve just read, I loved Mother 3 and on some level, this might be the near-perfect RPG for me. I’ll need to play more of it – in about a year, I guess, when this all ends – as there was so much more there that I wanted to uncover. It’s probably one of the better games of the list for me – and it’s probably time Nintendo recognised it.

Worst Game

On the other hand, it’s probably quite clear that the run and gun and other platformers feel like the worst games right now. I don’t have fond memories of Alex Kidd, for example and Gunstar Super Heroes is in a similar boat.

The least memorable, most generic entry in that group, though, was Alien Soldier. Even now I couldn’t tell you much about it. I’m sure it’s decent in its genre, but it just didn’t have anything in it for me.

Most Surprising Game

I feel like I could have put Suikoden III in some of the other best categories, but it feels like it’s the best fit for this category: I was expecting a decent RPG not unlike several others, but the scope of the game, its characters and everything else were so good that I bought the others in the series as well to play later. It was just that massive, and I wasn’t expecting that going in – it’s possibly one of the bigger finds of the list for me.

Biggest Disappointment

What didn’t live up to my expectations? There were several and I must admit that Far Cry, for example, didn’t quite live up to the expectations you get from this world.

But really, though, Jak II was the genuine shame.I can’t say that the original was the best of its kind, but between it and its handheld version I was expecting something quite fun. The sequel’s difficulty sucked out any joy I had in the missions, with some misjudged control choices. There are some interesting possibilities in the world, but I couldn’t see too much of it.

Games We Kept Playing

I was looking at what game was in this list, but I haven’t gotten back to most of the big games, in part because I’ve been playing more ‘modern’ games in my spare time (Final Fantasy XV is really my thing). However, there is one game I’ve gotten back to every once in a while when I grabbed my tablet: Slitherlink is that addictive. It’s easy to pick up and play a level or two of and get through. It’s a lot of fun and just works that well.

#684 Mother 3

Posted: 23rd September 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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900th played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Brownie Brown/HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo

We’ve reached 900! While, yeah, the majority of games that will follow will still be pretty standard, it feels like the landmarks will all be a bit more significant. This isn’t just a 100 game landmark, this is the last one we’ve got, with the full 1000 putting us properly in endgame. It leaves me with a bit more than 100 games left to play, but it feels really close now… or as close as another year on a project that’s approaching its first decade soon.

To celebrate, today’s game is Mother 3, the sequel to Earthbound (which was known in Japan as Mother 2). This game was never officially released outside of Japan, seen as too tricky considering Earthbound didn’t sell well, but about a decade ago an acclaimed fan translation was released. I’ll obviously be playing that, which comes with a gorgeous guide to help find my way through the game. I’ve been excited for this for a long time and am dedicating a lot more time to it as I want to see as much as I can.

Our Thoughts

There is so much in this game, it’s hard to see where to start. Mother 3 starts off by creating a small, charming world, initially a town, a nearby forest and mountains to a grandfather’s cottage. As you play through, you both get to know of the people in the village and live through their tragedies. It’s heartbreaking story from the start, told from a light, sometimes childlike perspective that allows it to stay silly from time to time. It works to reinforce each other, where you grow to care for these characters and the hits really hit. It’s all simple, a semi-modern setting without big monsters, without fantasy settings and so on, and that focus benefits it in a way that’s hard to describe.

You follow several characters through the story, with some different perspectives, that meet and merge later on (although of course they are all set in the same town, at least now). There are some time jumps involved as the town changes, which means the different initial leads give you a chance to see it through different eyes as it has changed.

It is, of course, long too, which meant that I haven’t had a chance to actually see all of the mechanics yet – the psi mechanic, which replaces magic in other games, gets introduced late in the second chapter, which felt like it’d take double digits of hours to reach.  It does look like it’s fairly standard magic with different names, but it’ll be nice to explore. The battle system seems to be that much more in depth than you’d expect from the simple setting – not just mixing these system, with extensive status and item use, but also feature per character abilities including characters you don’t control who do weird things – distracting the enemy and such. It makes the battles a bit easier, but with the difficulty it’s also assistance you need. Then there’s a rhythm based section that add to the damage you do. It’s a nice additional feature that seems to add more layers.

Final Thoughts

Mother 3 really is this perfect treat. it’s eclectic in its sense of scale, how it creates the world and what it includes, but has heart and pulls off everything it tries to do here. It’s long, it feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface, but it lives up to the Earthbound legacy and I feel like this may even have outdone it that in working for me.

899th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Sega Saturn
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: Entertainment Software Publishing/Sega

I feel like I’ve been running into a lot of Treasure’s games lately. Silhouette Mirage was a recent action platformer, but with Radiant Silvergun we follow the trend of Sin and Punishment and Gradius V in covering bullet hell shooters instead. Since it’s probably their strand of game that I enjoy more, that’s probably a good thing here.

 Our Thoughts

I have to say that these manic shooters reached a decent place of being readable versus looking good at this point in time, with Radiant Silvergun really looking quite nice but retaining that readability, with the real background a bit blurry and what you need to look at being focused enough.

Even so, the game does tend to get overwhelming quite quickly, as you get attacked from all sides and it became hard enough for me to keep up with all of them. It’s a good thing that the game starts you off with a set of guns from the start, as it gives you a better tool to deal with enemies, especially as they’re not always right in front of you. The game’s guns really are one of its credits and the game really encourages you to make the most of them from the start, which is really nice.

Final Thoughts

As many other top down shooters, Radiant Silvergun is a pretty nice looking game that becomes manic really quickly. This isn’t a game that you can rush through, but it feels like for its genre, the difficulty is justified, as long as you’re willing to take that manic challenge.

898th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1991
Developer: Sensible Software
Publisher: Image Works/Ubisoft/Virgin Interactive

As with Powermonger, I remember reading about Mega Lo Mania in a Mega Drive/Genesis guide collection long before I had a chance to play it. It feels similar – a colourful strategy game with a vaguely cartoony look that makes for something that just looks fun on their own – even without knowing quite how the game plays.

I’ve never sought out more for Mega Lo Mania, but it has been something I’ve been waiting to try it out, and today we go for it.

Our Thoughts

Although the modern tower defense started with games like Desktop Tower Defense, earlier games had a similar feeling. Mega Lo Mania feels like it has shades of it. While tower placement isn’t as much of a thing, you are in part working on upgrading your defenses on different forts, with one fort per area of the island, and work your way through by conquering those islands square by square. When you do this, you basically assign your attackers to a square and have them run wild without control until your units are all gone or the fort is overwhelmed and you take control of it.

The other side is the more complex base management you have. Rather than building units, your people reproduce as you assign them to that tasks. In others, they get trained to be soldiers or build weapons, or they start researching both defensive and offensive upgrades to expand that potential. It’s a pretty decent system that keeps you busy with management, especially as the individual forts have different research counters, but also because the balance between defense and offense can shift depending on where you are in your conquests.

Final Thoughts

It feels like Mega Lo Mania‘s big set up,  with large groups of worlds, is still somewhat unique. The setup certainly works and is really addictive. The learning curve is quite steep and, because of its age, the controls remain fairly awkward, but even so it’s a nice look into an RTS set up that never quite was – unless you want to think of the combat systems of the likes of Crusader Kings as effectively different takes on this.

#267 Monster Max

Posted: 11th September 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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897th played so far

Genre: Adventure
Platform: Game Boy
Year of Release: 1994
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Titus France

I guess I always forget how long the original Game Boy stuck around for. These isometric games in the vein of Knight Lore and Fairlight belong, in my mind, in the eighties, but Monster Max shows the genre survived into the nineties. What I hope is that even if the genre feels outdated, this game makes them more playable.

Our Thoughts

One of the big wins Monster Max has over these other games is that combat isn’t as important. There are some enemies, but you don’t really fight them. Instead, you focus on solving puzzles. Your main mechanic are the items you switch behind – with jump and duck being represented alongside bomb use and the like. You have to have the right items with you as you go along and swapping between them – you can carry two at a time – is a large part of the puzzles.

The levels build quite well, giving you some time to learn each of these mechanics, and on the whole the game feels more modern – it’s not as clunky to control, it’s a bit smoother, and although the difficulty is there early on, it’s a lot of fun to play around and see these weird worlds. Similarly, the graphics are more detailed than before, which feels like it makes a big difference as well.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it feels like Monster Maxtakes an existing genre and updates it with ten years of hindsight to be more playable, less frustrating and more like what I felt I would get out of these games. I believe this is the last of its kind so now, as I get to the end of the list, it feels like a high note to end these on.

#779 Puzzle Quest

Posted: 7th September 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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896th played so far

Genre: Puzzle/Role Playing
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Infinite Interactive
Publisher: D3 Publisher

Yeah, I’ve kept Puzzle Quest until the end. It’s a puzzle RPG which, to make it easier on myself, I’ll be playing on the DS so I have some TV distraction if I want it. I’ve had a great time with You Must Build A Boat, an endless runner RPG that similarly builds on the match three genre, which makes me hopeful we get something good out of it too.

Our Thoughts

One of the big joys of a match three game are the big combos, where destroying one set of blocks leads to another as things keep cascading down. Even more, to make that happen you do your best to plan ahead and set it up so you get that big five in a row on the next round. That strategic layer is completely lost in Puzzle Quest as you alternate turns with your enemy, which moves your goal from setting up the combinations to preventing your opponent from getting any. It puts a cap on the excitement and progress through the game. Added to that, the gems add up to give you mana, which gives you a chance to fire spells at your opponents. However, as they take up a turn, they rarely seem worth it – board effects aren’t worth it when that’s the case and the damage seems a bit low sometimes. It’s all a bit of a mess and the imprecise controls don’t help, when a wrong move means you forfeit the turn rather than being allowed to try again.

And yet despite of these battle issues, the game is incredibly addictive. It’s grindy, but I kept chasing more as the quest expanded around the world. I had to keep going, grind out another step in the quest, get my stats up and find some spells to use. It’s not the most special story, but there’s a lot more going on in the world that it stays interesting.

Final Thoughts

Puzzle Quest works despite its core puzzle mechanic, not because of it, and I see the places where that could have been changed. There’s a great world here and I am sure I’ll explore it again at some point – and hope the sequel changes as much of this.

#338 Intelligent Qube

Posted: 3rd September 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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895th played so far

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: G-Artists
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Intelligent Qube feels like it fits in with a number of these puzzle games with simpler graphics, using the system’s 3D capabilities but using the abstraction to not need complicated graphics. Devil Dice comes to mind as a similar game, as well as the Nintendo 64’s semi-tech demo Wetrix.  It looks like this comes in in the same mold – which isn’t the worst idea, as I at least got some entertainment out of those games for a while.

Our Thoughts

One thing Intelligent Qube carries over is how streamlined the game is. The graphics are about the same as on the box, translucent cubes on which a small character moves around as you control them. A couple of blocks roll towards you and it’s your duty to destroy them by laying down ‘mines’ and triggering them as the blocks go over them. There are some different cubes – one that place a bigger ‘mine’ and another that shouldn’t be destroyed. Any blocks that fall off the edge instead of being destroyed (except for the ones that aren’t allowed to be) add up to shorten the stage, both amping up the pressure as you need to destroy the blocks faster and giving you less room to move around before the blocks kill you. Being rolled on by a block kills you and lets the current set go to the end – making everything worse.

As you can tell, this creates a stressful game, where failure induces more failure and you are rushing around to figure out what to do as you die. Both the time limit and the blocks moving at a somewhat erratic pace (or in a way that I haven’t quite figured out yet) don’t help. It’s frustrating, but it’s also some extra pressure that helps the puzzles stay more interesting.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know whether I can take playing this game for too long at a time, at least at the moment, but there’s something that works in its simplicity. It’s worth a visit, but like the other puzzles, maybe not something that’ll sustain you for that much longer.

#413 SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash

Posted: 30th August 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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894th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Neo Geo Pocket Color
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK

Although Pokemon: The Trading Card Game dates back a good two decades by now, it feels like the genre hasn’t taken off until the release of Hearthstone about six years ago, with plenty of other games following – including one I had a hand in, the ill fated Fable Fortune. Since that’s after the last revision of the book, it’s no wonder that none of these are mentioned, so what we get instead is this odd series, using SNK and Capcom characters to create a card game instead.

If we look at the Marvel vs Capcom series, we know that Capcom has plenty of characters ready, and this particular clash has also appeared in Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000. Here, though, the fighting mechanics don’t matter, and it’s all about the way the different rules play here.

Our Thoughts

Although at this time, there are some limits to what the systems can do, the aforementioned contemporary Pokemon Gameboy implementation was quite a decent implementation of a card game like this. At the same time, we have some other card games that follow the same idea like Yu-Gi-Oh, focusing on characters with high numbers to attack and defend. With it being a video game rather than cards, Card Fighters Clash can bring in some logic that you can’t easily do in person, but you’re more limited by the logic you can bring in as you’d need to program each special case.

What that means is that there are a lot of character cards in the game and that different group of characters (through their relationship in the franchise) get boosts when paired together. On the other hand, there aren’t many utility cards – probably the more complicated ones to edit, but you really end up focusing on getting characters set up. It’s a nice feature, but the default decks don’t have that much synergy and it feels like a lot of work and take a lot of time to actually get to that point.

What doesn’t help there is that the battles get quite boring – since you’re not modifying your deck much, and the loop of attacks and defending gets quite repetitive, there isn’t much more that the game seems to offer – get your matches right and use the utility cards when you can get them – just not that many.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know what more they could have done, but somehow this feels a bit emptier than the game could have been. It’s a good way to see an earlier version of these games, but it’s interesting to see how the genre moved on since then – and a later edition of the book would probably have gone for the more modern iterations.

#170 Revenge of the Shinobi

Posted: 26th August 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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893rd played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Mega Drive
Year of Release: 1989
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

I’m sure I’ve mentioned wanting to make sure I spread out entries in a series, but I haven’t done a great job with Shinobi. I played the previous one just over two years ago, but here we’ve got the second of its platformers while the Playstation 2 3D action/adventuer still waits (the box is in our big pile right now). With a three entries series, I should probably start the second before we reach the final 100, so here goes…

Our Thoughts

I guess this is the point where I mention that there isn’t that much that I feel I can add to the game. The game still looks nice, considering the time in which it was made, as before, and that helps make it nice to play.

At the same time, there are its differences. You’re no longer scurrying around the level to rescue different hostages – your only goal is to reach the end of the level, as your one hostage is there. It’s a bit of streamlining of the design, but in this case means it just blends in further with the many other action platformers that we see here.

On the other hand, the moves you get feel a lot better. You get several different attacks. They’re limited by ammo counts – making the game even more difficult – but there are some options. The enemy variety is still great enough that you can keep planning around that, which helps build up that combination.

Final Thoughts

Like Shinobi, Revenge of Shinobi takes the existing genre and executes it well, creating a game that’s varied but also very, very difficult – too difficult to show too much of itself to me, but it’s clear there’s still a reason why it’s this notable. I’m not sure it’s an improvement over its predecessor – I’d style it as a step sideways, showing something different to be done within the series.