877th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Square Product Development Division 6
Publisher: Square

I’ve been looking forward to playing Front Mission 3 – at its core a tactics game like Final Fantasy Tactics, but with mechs and all that. It also seems appropriately story dense and in my prep I’ve seen that there’s a split in the storyline early on. It feels completely up my ally and if anything, I’ll need more time with the game in the future. We’ll see whether I do keep going, but let’s get started.

Our Thoughts

Front Mission 3 challenges you from the start. While the tutorial obviously is straight forward enough, a few missions in I felt the squeeze and battles early on felt like a puzzle to solve where I didn’t know all the pieces I needed to put together. I used a guide to help me out, with a lot of it telling me to stay put. It seems best to play defensively, letting the opponents wade into battle as you ambush them and use counter fire to weaken them. It took some going, but I got there after a while.

It’s a system that’s made more interesting – if less predictable – by the more complex damage system. Damage is modelled not just for different parts of the mechs – arms, legs and so on, limiting your actions appropriately – but also for its pilot. This allows the pilot to jump between mechs if needed, giving you some more options to continue the battle for them as you need to. Add to that the mech customization, at the appropriate times, that makes them even more individual, and it takes the complexity of the battles up by a fair amount. It’s an interesting system, although I felt overwhelmed soon enough.

The story in the mean time is quite interesting in how it’s told. There are two strands, with your protagonist either following his friend or his sister based on a decision early on. It doesn’t get sign posted – I didn’t know I was locked in until a while after – but it certainly seemed interesting. I’d like to see more of the other path – perhaps it would have been easier with less back-to-back battles – and that’s for a future playthrough. At the same time, even at this point I got a feel for the story. There is a big internet-type network implemented in the game with news articles, websites for various organizations you encounter and other names. It helps with the plot a few times, but mostly is a lot of background information that’s a lot of fun to dive into as well.

Final Thoughts

Front Mission 3‘s storyline is an interesting one to explore, one that you obviously can’t do in a single playthrough by design. That’s combined with a tactical game that has a lot of depth, even more with the extensive customization included in the game. I need a guide to deal with it right now, but there’s a lot more here to discover.

#193 Raiden

Posted: 19th June 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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876th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1990
Developer: Seibu Kaihatsu
Publisher: Tecmo

Thanks to one bundle or another, I found out that this game has had at least four direct sequels, as well as, it seems, a couple of spin offs. The plot of the fifth game goes beyond alien invaders that try to take over the earth, with deception and evasion and multiple endings. The original game, though, stays with the usual shoot ’em up storylines: an alien race (the Cranassians) have invaded the Earth and you have to fight them off.

Our Thoughts

You know what the basics of this are – you fire at enemies as you move left and right, back and forth, killing your enemies as they keep spawning around you. Here, those controls are solid, as a game that feels good to control, which helps a lot. In fact, there are a bunch of those things – for example, the game always gives you a special weapon when you restart after dying – the enemy is always spawned in in addition to everything else. It’s a small touch, but it helps feel like the developer wants you to feel good.

The special weapon feels good anyway – rather than having you switch between them, you get cumulative upgrades that make you feel a bit more powerful. It’s a good way of handling them, where you don’t feel like you’re missing out at any point.

Final Thoughts

Raiden is a good shooter – hitting, you could say, the right buttons for me through out – that feels like it’s helpful enough to keep you going even as it does the usual thing of overwhelming you. For what it is, it really is a good shooter.

#1009 Dark Souls

Posted: 15th June 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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875th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2011
Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games

Hearing everyone talk about it, I feel I should consider Dark Souls a big game. Although Demon Souls did it before, this is the game that started the Souls-like trend – difficult games that reward you banging your head against it as you slowly progress, giving out scraps of story and progress. FromSoftware has created a number of them with different combat focuses, such as Bloodborne, but the Dark Souls trilogy still stands out.

I’ve been skirting playing it, in part because of the frustration – Demon Souls was tricky enough anyway – but also because it felt like a big next step to take. Still, I have the time now, I feel mentally prepared and I hope to get some feel for it so I can play more of them later… They say it’s worth it.

Our Thoughts

While the ruins of Dark Souls are the result of some sort of curse that I haven’t had explained – and probably won’t be – it also made me think about how they make for such good game settings. While you rarely get to rebuild them – although I’ve been tempted to replay Skyrim with some mods that would change that – here they are the reflection of your hero, getting his power from killing others and absorbing their lives, but losing almost everything when you die – unless you get to a safe point in time. Even when you do get to a safe point, the well known bonfires, your enemies respawn and challenging them starts from scratch – hopefully while you’ve improved with the souls you gathered and from the experience of repeatedly beating the same thing.

It’s a difficult game, intentionally so. For the most part, I suppose it feels fair in its difficulty – you need to know what you’re doing and push forward – although as the tutorial is quite stretched out and I started experimenting, I unnecessarily used some items before I had a use for it or had it explained. It feels like it could have been sped up. I did find the hollowing mechanism frustrating – as I was in it constantly, I always felt like I was on the back foot and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Recovering felt expensive, and perhaps, if it didn’t have the slower start, I feel I might have been better off starting over. I hope it would have gotten better with more practice, but then again, this blog isn’t as good for getting through these games. I needed a lot more practice and just didn’t get it quite enough.

Final Thoughts

Dark Souls has this intriguing, undead world that looks fascinating, with a lore that I want to explore further. However, the game does its best to make sure that takes a long time, with a focus on dodging that I can’t quite pull off (maybe Bloodborne would suit me better) and a general difficulty curve that I was never going to beat in the context of this blog. Still, it presents a challenge that I do want to explore further once I’ve got the time available to me.

874th played so far

Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Nintendo

It’s always a bit weird when both parts of a known horror franchise are on the list when I hadn’t heard of it before the list’s existence. We covered the Fatal Frame series, a survival horror game that focuses on using cameras, with Fatal Frame II, and I’ve struggled with the fourth game as it was only released in Japan. Survival horrors do in part rely on their story to convey the horror and not knowing what’s going on would lessen some of the impact of the young girls being led around.

Thankfully, a fan patch has been released and with some work we managed to set it up and play it that way. Time to dive into another mystery…

Our Thoughts

As always, a survival horror game’s effectiveness doesn’t come from its big monsters, but from the suspense it creates before you encounter it. The opening to Fatal Frame IV capitalizes on that, showing the horrors at a distance, never giving you a chance to react. You’re safe, sure, but it feels like the danger is still there. Then when you find the spirit camera the game revolves around, there’s a danger that a ghost is anywhere. You can’t see them without the camera and that tension is enough to try to find them and photograph them. Various features and happening invite you to keep checking the camera, with that danger always lurking. At the same time, the moment you can use the camera, it becomes an odd shoot ’em up where you have limited resources as you try to capture the ghost in photographs and the camera, which feels like an effective metaphor of gaining control over it by having it always be visible.

It’s a simple adventure beyond that – go places, find items and keys while also hunting for upgrades and film for your camera. It’s not too complex, with the upgrades that require you to get extra stuff having some more puzzles sometimes and having some side scares. Still, nothing more complex than a Silent Hill or Resident Evil, but with the danger not coming from what’s around the corner, but what’s hiding next to you.

Adding to that is the atmosphere. Where the second game took place in a village, this game kicks off in a hotel that you, at least initially, explore taking different routes through the same building with different characters until it slowly opens up further. It works well, setting up progress through a familiar space that shifts and opens up to new things.

With that, the game integrates the Wii controls quite well, and pointing feels like an extension of aiming a camera. It’s a nice supplement to the game that expands the franchise well enough – it makes the wonder where the sequels would take it.

Final Thoughts

Fatal Frame IV has an idea, sticks with it and keeps working with it. It’s a tense game, looking just right enough to pull off its effects but also a bit grainy. It feels like the game expanded well on its camera ideas and the world is one I’m not sure I want to explore further, but there’s something compelling in its tension.

#104 Alex Kidd in Miracle World

Posted: 7th June 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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873rd played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Master System
Year of Release: 1986
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Rather than discussing yet another platformer, can I say how much I enjoy this style of box art? You see the blue lined graph paper on a couple of boxes and the fun art on top of something serious looks quite good and sort of talks about a serious object like a computer being used for something fun. It somehow hits the right buttons for me and even though it doesn’t say a lot about the game, it’s enough to get you a little bit excited.

Of course, that doesn’t quite apply anymore to a 30 year old game, but where the box art still feels different, I’m afraid the game itself would not be.

Our Thoughts

On some level, Alex Kidd starts off feeling like a reverse Kid Icarus – you descend down a ravine, with some limited jumping but mostly when you get further down, you can’t get back up. The platforming is tricky enough, but the first level is also packed enough with enemies that give no quarter – the hitboxes are large enough that it is hard to avoid them, and the controls floaty enough that you need to really plan ahead and be careful. You can get some weapons to defeat them to replace your martial (and because of hitboxes dangerous) punch, but anything better, including anything ranged, gets lost on death.

It’s very much an 80s difficult platformer, with liberal checkpointing but not enough lives to really get into it. I made it to the bottom of the ravine a few times, but the timing gets even more ridiculous there and I swear there were some parts that were impossible. It’s a difficult game, probably innovative enough for its day – it certainly feels like there’s a lot going on in here – but also too hard to keep going with.

872nd played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Cavedog Entertainment
Publisher: GT Interactive Software

I vaguely remember playing Total Annihilation with friends, in an era where Warcraft dominated the RTS conversation at school. Aside from the futuristic setting – Command & Conquer had that – there was something about the 3D graphics, and I believe the upgrades that were possible impressed me too. I’m expecting something that hasn’t aged as well, but I’m still excited about finally giving this game a go again.

Our Thoughts

Sometimes these games do disappoint a bit. Total Annihilation has an interesting setting that has a central conflict that I feel comes through better here than in most contemporary games. As you chase each other through these different systems, it feels like the excitement is there. It’s a huge campaign by default, and progress is pretty slow to get through it, which is probably great to immerse yourself even if for me I was hoping to see a bit more a bit sooner. Part of that is that it’s all a bit outdated compared to what we are used to now, so the controls are more frustrating to work with. It’s all a bit janky – it plays as a decent old style RTS, but not as accessible.

As for those upgrade, they came out really slow – another reason I was waiting for everything to go that bit faster – and there wasn’t as much customization as I remembered. There’s still some, which is quite nice, but I wasn’t as exciting – I guess it’s another thing where time caught up with it.

Final Thoughts

Sure, Total Annihilation is still a good RTS – I got quite deep into it. It’s a bit janky, it’s old, and man, there are times when I wished it would step up a bit, but we have a fun game here still that I think I just need to take more time with.

#840 Maboshi: The Three Shapes Arcade

Posted: 30th May 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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871st played so far

Genre: Puzzle
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Mindware Corp
Publisher: Nintendo

With all the digital storefronts disappearing – in particular Nintendo’s offerings disappear early – it feels right to get these indie titles done earlier so I don’t have to worry about disappearing or breaking consoles. So far we’ve been lucky, but Reset Generation‘s disappearance still haunts me and I feel like we barely scraped by to cover that.

There are, of course, other ways to cover them, but it feels right to maintain decorum on this. MaBoShi: The Three Shapes Arcade is three games in one, where you pick which to play. When you play multiplayer, however, different people can play different games while they different boards interact with each other. Still, for me that’s three discussions in once!

Our Thoughts

As said, Maboshi has three games inside it, some more interesting than others. Square is probably my favourite, a Snake type game where you need to make your way up and burn blocks with the trail of fire that follows you. You need to keep yourself from getting trapped or exploding yourself. Circle is good fun – you’re switching the direction of a spinning circle as it bats enemies away – but while it quickly gets challenging, it gets too frustrating before you get to see different variants of it. The last, Bar, I liked the least. You need to fling a bar to the top of the stage. It’s an interesting idea, but controls annoyingly enough that i tried to avoid it when I could.

While these are okay games, the AI will join you playing if there are no other players who do. As they do well in the game – and they usually do a lot better than me – they send off waves that help kill or destroy things in your game to make your progress easier. You obviously do the same thing too and it really feels like you’re helping each other out as you do so – it’s quite nice to see the chain reactions cascade.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure whether Maboshi could keep my attention for a very long time – especially considering my skill at the game – but it isn’t really meant to. Instead, it’s a fun diversion with simple enough mechanics that grow quite quickly and organically. I sometimes struggled with the controls though, and it does feel like they were sometimes trying to stick too much to the one button controls when you don’t need them.

#585 Doom 3

Posted: 26th May 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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870th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Activision

Doom and Doom II were the two games that started the FPS genre – not the first to exist, but they defined a lot of how it worked. Being open sourced let to its life being lengthened, but even now the networked versions are revered as a pur, early example. Making a sequel a decade later, in a post-Unreal, post-Half-Life world creates a challenge as it no longer works as well in that world. Even fifteen years ago, coloured key cards weren’t enough and you needed storytelling in your world, not just random corridors with some occasional hints at function.

Doom 3 is meant to provide some of that, but the test will be whether id Software managed to learn enough from those games to bring the series into the new world.

Our Thoughts

By using a far away moon base – something the Doom franchise really demands – it feels like the game’s world lost some of the realism of Half-Life and the like – I’m sure you don’t need to show much living space to get through things, but it feels like the base is still a fairly linear corridor with only the occasional side track for goodies, rather than a real space that makes some more sense. The game hides it by occasionally offering multiple paths around an area – sometimes making it clear in advance that something else is coming up – I remember energy streams that could be shut down to open a bridge being shown off explicitly on your way in, while you had to use that on the way back. The detailing is, obviously, more there than in the previous games, but they still feel like a twisting corridor that, yes, requires you to collect key cards as you go through. They’re specific ones tied to people’s identities, but still…

At the same time, there is a small hub of sorts where these cards expand what you can do, so it works well enough. You also get hints to open lockers and such around the world – scouring audio and text logs for numbers or find them given to you in other places in the world. They’re not that common, and mostly just give you some extra ammo, but it feels like the game tries. These logs also give you more of a story, which is nice. That story is mostly about a demon invasion and the things leading to it, but it works well enough as a story – not as flavoured as others, but it feels like they’re making some effort.

Aside from exploring this world, which doesn’t have much to offer that feels like a reward that goes beyond the immediate gameplay, you obviously do the shooting. As is now common with these games, it takes a while before you can fire a gun, but once you do the enemies come hard and fast and you keep fighting off monsters, without much time to breathe. It actually gets quite boring as they’re fairly samey and happen too often, and it struggled to hold my attention at that point – the bosses being bullet sponges make this worse, as it drags and the resource management bits don’t become more interesting.

Final Thoughts

That last bit makes it sound like I hated playing Doom 3, but to be honest, when it was on, it was on. I struggled through parts, and having to replay parts after I died both showed the tricks the game had, but also clearly made it easier. It relies a lot on surprise enemies, which I don’t think are the most fun and removes a bit of the strategy the earlier games may have had. It still looks quite good though, and the world holds up to a point, hinting at a lot more to be discovered than I had so far.

#283 Alien Soldier

Posted: 22nd May 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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869th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Mega Drive
Year of Release: 1995
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: Sega

Throughout this list, the run and gun shooters continue to put me off – Alien Soldier was the most recent at the bottom of the list (like Return Fire) and I keep not really seeing why I’d spend as much time on it. I know it was popular – especially in the arcade – but it feels like the way it overwhelms you doesn’t work for how I play. It bores me even if it tries to keep me busy. Return Fire turned me around, will Alien Soldier do the same?

 Our Thoughts

For me, Alien Soldier played, as I said, like a pretty standard run and gun game. It looks okay – not amazing – and when playing I couldn’t get past the first boss as its HP was high enough that I couldn’t take it down. My skills aren’t the best there, but it didn’t entice me to play. You pick your weapons beforehand, although switching between them is fairly clunky.

I mean, I wish I could say more, but to me, nothing much stood out in this game. Even if there were places it was unique, it’s not something that worked out here.

#769 Odin Sphere

Posted: 18th May 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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868th played so far

Genre: Action/Role-Playing
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Vanillaware
Publisher: Atlus

It feels like the Playstation 2 era is one of experimentation, a time where a lot of different variants of the game are created, made possible by better hardware while not being big enough to constrain by the size you might get. GrimGrimoire is on the edge of an RPG definition is there, while Grandia II and Dragon Quest VIII play with their variants of the genre and Square had a bunch of other experimentations at the time.

Atlus published its own variants as well and Odin Sphere is one of them, with the way it’s meant to build story. I’m quite keen to try it, if only because i know it’ll bring something different.

Our Thoughts

Playing through Odin Sphere, it’s hard not to be reminded of Muramasa: The Demon Blade. While Odin Sphere doesn’t have as much of a platforming, vertical focus, the paper cut out 2D feel is somewhat similar and the way you run around these levels feel somewhat similar. Here they wrap around, going in a circle, with your focus (still) on fighting off enemies in an action setting, using more powers as you unlock them. The comparison doesn’t hold up for too long, but it’s difficult to ignore here.

The game looks lovely too. I mostly played in the remake’s updated graphics, but switched back and forth for comparisons and they still look really nice. As said, the 2D sprites look gorgeous, and they fit in well with the levels and aesthetic. There’s a bit of artificiality in there, which  suits the game being stylized in that part of its play as well.

Another interesting side of the game is that the story isn’t sequential. There are several characters you play with and after you play through one player’s story, you run through another character before and after the events of the earlier story, showing other sides and such. It’s flexible and interesting enough to want to see through later.

Final Thoughts

I was really annoyed that I almost had to give up on this game. Your inventory is limited and during an alchemy tutorial I couldn’t pick up the items needed – clearly the game wasn’t programmed with the idea this could happen and it was quite frustrating to work out how to fix it myself without any prompts. With that, obviously it showed how much I enjoyed playing it and how I wanted to keep up the loop and move forward.