Ever since I completed this visual novel, I struggled for weeks to come up with something significant to say about it. You know, something a little more powerful than "I give this game feels out of 10". As a critic, I don't get many opportunities to actually think about a videogame, especially one that I already finished. Usually I'm too concerned with the next game, and trying desperately to stay on schedule. For Lucy - The Eternity She Wished For - to rattle around in the nether reaches of my brain for so long, perhaps it's something truly special.
Lucy Valentine is an android, an artificial being programmed to mimic the behavior and feelings of a human. Her emotions aren't truly legitimate...are they? This question sparks what could be considered a journey towards validation. She's trying to find her purpose, and prove to those around her that she's more than just a tool. How exactly does one do that? After all, she is an android. Whatever she does or says will be immediately countered with "...but you're a robot. This is all part of your programming."
She isn't real. Well, that goes without saying, considering she's a videogame character and all. The thing is, we as a society carry feelings for numerous persons or objects that aren't "real". Perhaps there is a TV or movie character whose death we lament, a piece of music that stirs emotion, an object of sentimental value, or even just words on a page that make us cry. For us to show feelings for anything that is not flesh and blood, but deny Lucy her emotions, it just seems selfish and wrong.
What makes validation such an interesting concept is that it's what we're always in pursuit of. We spend the bulk of our lives trying to find our place in the sun. Sometimes we never actually get there. We become lost in the fog, not knowing who or what to reach for. After spending enough time in the fog, people lose sight of everything. Take this game's protagonist for example, he has never known what it's like for somebody to take care of him, while he's sick. What we (likely) took for granted when were children, is an absolutely incredible event for him. An android is showing him more care and affection than his human parents ever did. It's the simple times like these that cause the boy to question his anti-robot beliefs.
Lucy is more than just "well-built". She has many wonderful qualities. Every moment spent with her, no matter how inane, is just perfect. Granted, there are times in the story that practically force the player to feel sympathy. The protagonist tends to be a miserable jerk to Lucy, which is frustrating to watch. In all honesty, I'm a bit strange. When it comes to visual novels that involve relationships and/or romance, I tend to get more attached to male characters. In other words, even though I'm a straight guy, I'm totally in love with Kent from Amnesia: Memories. Maybe this says more about the VNs that I've played, but I don't know. Lucy is quirky, but not annoying. She's naive, but in a way that's charming and not revolting. She has more depth and agency than her programming lets on.
Some would argue that this visual novel is predictable and manipulative. The story isn't exactly unfamiliar to science-fiction enthusiasts, and certain events are expertly composed for maximum effect. Even with that in mind, I was still completely overwhelmed. For me, this was probably the most emotionally impactful media I've experienced since the movie I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK. This game does so much with a relatively short period of time.
The "Overwhelmingly positive" rating is well-deserved.
I enjoy well-drawn tatas as much as the next guy, but let's call a spade a spade here. If it weren't for breasts and the desire to look at them, this game would not exist. I mean, I'm not trying to be down on the concept. If anything, it's actually an ingenius idea. Perhaps more videogames should have hooters in the background. Bioshock Infinite is an alright game, but all that sky and air is boring as heck. So how about we replace the clouds and the other nonsense with some yum-yums? Maybe then it would have deserved all those Game Of The Year awards.
I'm only slightly kidding.
Seriously though, the problem with background mammaries is that they're distracting. They cause people to stop paying attention. Before they know it, they're wondering why their wallet just got a little bit smaller. Staring for too long causes one's IQ to drop to single digits. If you're like me, you probably bought Uncraft World and then realized "Oh yeah. I hate these freaking rage-inducing platformers."
In this game, you take control of an unholy abomination with a jetpack. Your mission is to avoid traps, grab huge chests, and uncover pictures of barely clothed women. If that doesn't quite get your fire stoked, then you're free to make changes. Thanks to Steam workshop, those pictures can be of whatever you want... Eh... Maybe not WHATEVER you want, you sicko. Anyway, the process of going through levels while collecting hot pix isn't terribly complex. It's pretty goshdamn infuriating though.
What makes a platformer despicable is when it can only be cleared through very specific actions. To put it another way, imagine a game where the carpenter has to stomp on an evil armadillo. Now, let's make it so the armadillo is covered with spikes, except for one tiny spot. Going further, picture the jump itself. It must be done in a very specific and perfect arc. If the carpenter is off by a millimeter, then he is impaled by thousands of spikes inexplicably floating in mid-air. This game is the same way. You must play it to the exact expectations of the developer/level-designer. Any deviation is rewarded with instant death, and a swift kick back to the last checkpoint.
The only time these games are entertaining is when you get to watch somebody else suffer through them. I'll gladly admit to being a masochist. I like the 2D shmups where millions of bullets fall like neon pink raindrops. Still, even I have my limits. Spending several minutes to an hour on one stage, or better yet, one checkpoint? That's some Ninth Circle of Hell garbage right there.
All that said, I stuck with Uncraft World. The game is solidly put-together. There's a decent amount of content, and the controls aren't too bad either. Sometimes ledges can be a little suspect though. I can recall numerous times where I managed to "slide" off a ledge and into oblivion. Also, the level-designers go overboard on the voxel lava. It's one thing if the floors and walls are hot death, but at least make sure everything is clearly indicated. Even if lava in the foreground is harmless, it's still a really bad idea. It's almost as distracting as... you know.
Admittedly, more often than not I was charmed by the background details. Yes, I'm talking about the other background. One of the stages takes place during a war. There are all these paratroopers and they're getting gunned down or exploded. It's pretty neat stuff. I really could have done without the "rage voice" though. When you die, a random guy yells expletives. He can be turned off, but he still butts in with a "YEAHHHHHHHHHH" as soon as you complete a stage. I don't know about everyone else, but I don't like jerkwads stealing my moment of triumph. I worked hard to look at that picture of jugs, dammit!
To be honest, I think I spent more time on this game than classics like Super Meat Boy*. If that isn't a winning argument for background knockers, then I don't know what else to say.
*In all fairness, several of those hours were spent idling for those godawful "find the object in space" achievements.
It's actually a little strange. I'm not a fan of the 1981 arcade classic, but I'll put some serious time into its many clones. In my opinion, the best of the bunch is Gals Pani X. Not only is it ridiculously deep, but all of the bosses have attacks ripped from various shmups. How cool is that!?
Anyway, Pretty Girls Panic! is modeled after Qix, with a few extra features to appeal to modern audiences, such as online leaderboards. The goal is to draw lines to fill space, while avoiding evil sea creatures. If an enemy touches the player-character while they're drawing a line, then it results in a lost life. The same holds true if an enemy touches the line itself.
It's a simple concept, but what makes it interesting is the strategies players come up with. A plan of attack is necessary to obtain high scores. For example, rather than just randomly draw lines until all of the space is filled, try to "box" enemies in. If you really want to do some damage, consider building a series of thin walls that go across the entirety of the screen. Not only are you relatively safe while doing this, the results tend to be awesome. We're talking "45% of the stage in one fell swoop" awesome. All enemies that get caught in walls are destroyed, and they can be chained for tons of bonus points.
On the downside, the power-ups kinda break the game. If the hero becomes invincible or manages to stop the clock, then they usually have enough time to create a massive wall that crushes several foes at once. Power-ups randomly appear, so sometimes the player will simply luck out. The harder stages really pile on the enemies, but it doesn't make that much of a difference. The RNG's blessing will go a lot further than skill or experience.
While the randomness is a major issue, Pretty Girls Panic! still gets a recommendation. It plays well, the production value is solid, and it's entertaining enough to last a few hours.
Redux: Dark Matters pays homage to classic shmups such as R-Type, XEXEX, and Pulstar. Is it as good as any of them? Not really. Is it still worth playing? Ehhhh....I guess? Possibly...possibly maybe...maybe possibly...but certainly not definitely.
First off, it's a good-looking game, but it's also not. Everything looks sharp and really clean. The problem is everything also has this bright and cheery aesthetic. In a way, it's a conscious design-decision. The backgrounds are fairly muted, while the player-ship, enemies, and bullets are colourful* and easily distinguishable. While I respect that, I think the artist went a little too far. In stage 2, it seems that half the enemies are firing flowers. Are they trying to kill me with kindness? What's the deal here?
Still, this is merely nitpicking compared to Redux's most glaring issue; it's way too easy. When fully-powered, the player-ship is protected from about 90% of the enemy's arsenal. Sure, lasers and bullets that might hit from behind are worrying, but they don't come up all that often. If that wasn't enough, there are usually 2-3 extra lives in every stage, plus a couple extends from surpassing certain score thresholds. If that wasn't enough, then the player can hit a button. This causes a vortex to swallow up any nearby bullets for several seconds. This special ability is tied to a meter, but it refills fairly quickly.
Now if all of that still(!) wasn't enough, there's also the portions of the game that went overlooked. The fourth boss has laser cannons placed along the top and bottom of the screen, except for a massive space towards the left side. This is the most obvious safe-spot I've ever seen. Instead of forcing the player to weave in-between bullets approaching from above and below, all anyone has to do is sit back, watch, and laugh. I'm guessing that when this game was remade in wide-screen, nobody bothered to account for the additional real estate.
I play a lot of STGs, but I'm a mediocre talent at best. I still cleared this game with 10 lives remaining, on my very first play-through. Granted, this was on the default ship, which is practically invincible. Redux added a ship designed specifically for veteran shmup-players, but it's loaded with oversights. The most obvious and ridiculous of the problems is that the veteran-ship's weaponry OVERLAPS THE ENEMY BULLETS! When I saw this, my jaw hit the floor so hard it drove through the earth, and then I cut my chin on the sharp edge of a dinosaur bone. I can't even remember the last time I saw this happen in a shmup.
Was this an actual idea by the developer? Did they think: "Those guys who play shmups by holding down the fire button all the time annoy me soooooo much. We have to do something about them."? I can't come up with a reasonable explanation, I simply can not. So if you're firing away, there's a good chance that you won't even see most of the bullets that are coming directly at you. That's just great. Veteran-ship also lacks the force-pod/other shields, which causes the game's difficulty to do a complete 180. Situations that were originally exceedingly simple become absurdly improbable.
Dux originally started off as a strict R-Type clone. It employed a checkpoint-system, which kicked players backwards whenever they died, rather than respawning them immediately. Over the next couple re-releases, the game has become considerably more lax, but that isn't enough of an excuse to assume that anyone can reasonably finish it without shields. The amount of bullets on-screen never hits danmaku levels, but it's overkill all the same. On a normal play-through, anyone can sleep-walk through Redux, but they'll hit a brick wall as early as stage 2, with the veteran ship. That isn't balanced, not in the slightest. If it were up to me, I would have made the charge-shot slightly wider, so that hard-to-reach enemies don't get quite as many opportunities to clog the screen with bullets. I also would have lowered the density of certain bullet-patterns.
Or I would have just made a different game, one that's not actually designed around having force-pods or shields just to survive. Redux is an otherwise competently-made shooter held down by a complete lack of challenge. When it tries to break away, it goes too far. In any case, this shmup simply isn't entertaining.
Geometry Wars is a testament to quality game-design. It's a twin-stick shooter where the only goal is to shoot shapes, and yet it's exceedingly entertaining. Why shapes anyway? Besides the fact that this is the Geometry Wars series, I believe the importance of using shapes can't be understated. Speaking in terms of twin-stick shooters: shapes are simple, easy on the eyes, and players are immediately able to recognize the behavioral differences between them.
Why would "Zombie Wars" not work? Zombies, despite their lack of functioning grey matter, are really complicated. They're walking moaning hunks of undying flesh. Let's say you want to have a zombie with a gun in your twin-stick shooter. How will the player know the zombie has a gun? In the middle of chaos, nobody is going to notice the few pixels or couple polygons that's supposed to represent a gun. So here's an idea: Let's give the gun-toting zombies police-hats. Since everything is seen from an overhead perspective, the blue octagon-shape clearly indicates that these zombies have guns. Those fire-breathing zombies? Give them red oval-shaped fireman hats.
And just like that, we're right back where we started. In the time it takes to read that inane scenario, every single enemy shape & color in Geometry Wars can be memorized. The basis of a great arcade game is in presenting everything that is necessary to the player's survival, within seconds of pressing the start button. The sequels to Geometry Wars expand upon its simple concept, but never to the point where they endanger what makes it work. The adventure mode in Geometry Wars 3 is liable to be where most players begin. Each stage has a specific goal, and there's usually a factor to consider such as contracting walls, a boss, or a complete lack of weapons. However, none of these stages ever go as far as to contradict how the game is meant to be played. You survive by dodging shapes and improve your score-multiplier by collecting geoms.
Alongside its classic 2D stages, Dimensions Evolved adds numerous 3D stages. At times these can be interesting, such as the "rainbow" stages that require players to destroy painters. The painters can spawn on the other side of the field, or tucked away into corners just out of sight. However, there are those rare moments where the perspective can be distracting. It's like the designers are running dangerously close to visually overloading the game. Either that, or I'm just prone to looking for excuses when I fail.
This edition also adds load-outs such as drones and mines because... eh. I don't dislike their inclusion, but it's really not something that feels necessary. In these games, strategies are usually come up with "on the fly". As the in-game situation constantly changes, the gears in your head are spinning, and the intent is to always stay one step ahead. Load-outs add pre-game strategizing, so you might find yourself saying "I bet if I used the sweep drone, I would have beat my friend's hi-score." Everything about Geometry Wars is strong enough to stand on its own, it doesn't need load-outs. On the bright side, if you lack the "mad skillz" to succeed, then the load-outs are only a band-aid. Besides, it's not like everyone on the leaderboards isn't using them either.
Also, there is a degree of cleverness to the drones that I have to applaud. The aforementioned sweep drone flies in a full circle around the player, but it can bounce off of walls. During one stage, I discovered this quirk, and then used it to get out of tight-spots.
Geometry Wars 3 features a wealth of content. The adventure mode is 50 stages, and a couple of free expansions tack on even more. These aren't the "play once and forget about them" kind of stages either. Although, there are a few that can be annoying or dull. There's one stage that involves destroying giant snake-shapes. It was so easy I had to destroy myself, just so I could move on. Still, the occasional boring stage is forgivable. There are also a handful of classic modes, which are 3D & load-out free for the purists. Everything you play has a leaderboard attached to it, with solid friend support to boot. There's also a co-op mode. I assume it's nice, but I'll probably never play it.
Thanks to a recent humble bundle, this game has likely recieved a large influx of new owners. My advice is to give this game an immediate look. As a Geometry Wars fan, I'll say that this entry nails everything that it needs to. Some of the new ideas don't click perfectly, but at least I know where they were going with them. All too often, sequels make the mistake of adding something completely different, and it takes away from the core game. Even in the fully 3D stages, Dimensions Evolved's core is still very apparent and fantastic.
Posted September 12, 2016. Last edited September 12, 2016.
Borderlands is an action-RPG / first person shooter. It features cooperative-play, phat loot(tm), and vehicles. This is a game designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. In this regard, it's a success.
But what do I think of it? Well... eh. I mean, I like Borderlands well enough... I guess. When it comes to this game, the best statements I can muster come off as half-hearted and wishy-washy. I've always been a fan of loot-driven games, but there has to be some sort of hook beyond the basic qualities. It doesn't have to be something particularly clever, but it has to make the game stand out. I think Borderlands lacks this quality, but it's still an alright way to spend a weekend of four.
Oh wait. You're probably expecting an explanation of what this "quality" is supposed to be aren't you? When it comes to videogames, originality can only go so far. Oft-times, we just have to accept the fact that not every game we play is going to be completely unique and excellent. Sometimes we end up buying games because they look interesting, are in a genre we enjoy, or our friends are playing them. Borderlands is a perfect example.
To me, the words perfect and mediocre, are two sides of the same coin. Today's perfection is tomorrow's mediocrity. What was once the gold-standard, has now become the base-line. Borderlands has everything it needs to accomplish its goal of being a competent FPS Lootemup, and nothing more. The shooting mechanics aren't anything brilliant, the controls are acceptable, and the story/writing serve their purpose. The skill-tree system is neat, but only in a "that makes sense" sort of way. The build you create isn't really important, because the same two or three abilities tend to dominate every encounter.
The guns, the aspect that should set this game apart from the pack, are merely okay. One commonality among loot-based games (especially more recent ones), is that very few character-builds actually use their weapon. By that I mean the sword, polearm, or otherwise is merely a stat-boosting piece of equipment. Usually, the player just uses their skills in order to kill enemies, instead of swinging a large piece of metal around. Practically the sole method of killing in Borderlands is through the usage of guns. Unfortunately, 98% of them are useless. This is especially true of the "gimmick" guns dropped by bosses. More often than not, you're going with the standard weapons, just because they're actually effective. In other words, instead of swinging the boring swords, you have to fire the boring guns. The inability to create an identity through play-style is the #1 reason why this game fails to stand out.
A game like Borderlands could have really benefitted from more intricate level-designs, as well as a greater level of depth in terms of controls. I'm thinking that the developers could have come up with all sorts of crazy manuevers to pull off. Sliding, air-dashes, back-flips, shoulder-charges, some parkour stunts, you get the idea. Not all of these moves would have to be in the game, but even a couple of them would have lended more dynamism to the combat. This would also make the maps more fun to explore, well... if there was more to them besides wide-open spaces to catch a ride(tm) through, or the bog-standard "rooms filled of cover" that's in every other FPS.
The RPG elements, while appreciated, sometimes make the game feel too much like an MMO. I know it's just a guideline, but when everything has a level suggestion next to it, the atmosphere is lost. While I always enjoy the immediate pleasures of leveling up and finding better gear, the world-building gets pushed away. Didn't TellTale make a Borderlands game that addresses this very concern? Hm... Perhaps I should look into it.
When a game makes an attempt to stand out, it can instead become flawed. The developer tried something different, and either it was a bad idea to begin with, or they didn't quite get it right. Borderlands doesn't take these risks. It's a perfectly mediocre product that delivers enough incentivization to keep gamers playing, it doesn't strive to do any more than that. I don't think that makes this game worthy of praise, but I still enjoyed it well enough... I guess.
Posted September 6, 2016. Last edited September 6, 2016.
As Satazius is to Gradius, and Gigantic Army is to Assault Suit Valken, then Wolflame is very much in the spirit of Toaplan. The deal with Toaplan shootemups is that they excel at the fundamentals. When you play one of these classic games, you're not going to be dazzled by fountains of pretty bullets and thousands of shiny gold medals. Every moment of these games is a life or death struggle. The one tank that you miss just might be the one that takes you down. ASTRO PORT delivers yet another thriller that is sure to please any shmup fan.
Like most other shmups, Wolflame has no story to speak of. The goal is to destroy everything, collect a few medals, and try not to get shot down too often. The scoring system is pretty basic. All of the medals you collect in a stage are cashed in at the end for a lot of points, provided you don't die and lose them. Actually, you might as well try not to die at all, because spare lives are worth a ton as well. Unlike most shooters, there's no huge penalty for using bullet-clearing bombs. Even if you manage to collect a full stock, any extras are worth a measly 100 points each.
There are two kinds of bullets in this game, the kind that distract you, and the kind that kill you. The killer bullets are easy to spot. They're purple, thin, and fast. Most of the enemies that fire purple bullets are tanks, turrets, and so on. It's actually pretty sensible, since smaller ships don't have the power to maintain control, while firing such a powerful weapon. Typically, the killer bullets are fired when the enemy has you in their sights, so if you're not constantly moving, then you're probably going to die. As soon as a tank appears on-screen, either destroy it or get out of the way, because they're extremely deadly.
That's not to say there aren't any of the typical bullet-spreads we associate with STGs, but they're only a part of the threat. These slow yet plentiful bullets are there to catch your eye, force you into bad situations, and basically "herd" you into just the right spot. What happens next? If you guessed that a tank would appear practically out of nowhere and snipe you, then congrats! Your prize is a trip back to the last checkpoint.
Yes, Wolflame is a checkpoint-based shooter. That means you don't instantly respawn when you die. Thankfully, there's usually a nearby power-up that restores all of your lost weapons. The checkpoints are also a lot more reasonable than some of the earliest shmups. Still, getting kicked backwards upon death can be very punishing. Having to re-do bosses as well as brutal segments can chew through your spare lives pretty quickly.
One more thing: Like a number of vertical shooters, the screen shifts slightly to the left or right depending on your position. This can be useful, because enemies don't fire when they're off-screen. However, you also want to make a mental note of any enemies that are off-screen, just so you don't move over and suddenly get point-blank blasted by a killer bullet.
It's interesting that Twin Cobra is mentioned in the store-description for this game. Twin Cobra is the game that got me to fear tanks again. After several years of danmaku bullet-hells, where avoiding billions of bullets almost becomes effortless, I was re-introduced to the dreaded tank. Tanks in Twin Cobra only fire one bullet, but one bullet is enough in a shmup. Wolflame understands that same philosophy, and its legions of meticulously placed tanks and turrets are sure to confound and enrage a new generation of gamers.
Omega Force's trademark Warriors franchise has developed a sort of immunity to typical criticism. "Why don't the enemies attack?" "All you do is press one button repeatedly." After 20 or 30 games, you'd think the average reviewer would get the hint. This is a franchise very much set in its ways, and as long as it remains appealing to its sizable fanbase, then I see no reason to complain. There isn't a shortage of videogames in the world, so it's not like gamers don't have a choice. Although, it's possible I'm just saying this, because I'm a huge fanboy when it comes to Musou. If I were to list all of the games I played in this genre, the Steam servers would crash harder than during the Winter sales.
Anyway, DW8:XLCE is a ginormous helping of 3rd Century slaughter. In the story mode, you can determine the fates of the Three Kingdoms, follow Jin to conclude the era, or side with the great hero Lu Bu. Each storyline has an optional path, which is unlocked by helping certain "doomed" heroes in their respective stages. Assisting Guo Jia's recovery from his illness, or keeping Sun Jian from taking an arrow in the face, could be keys to accessing these hypothetical stories. These "what-if" routes are pretty entertaining, even if they lack the drama that the Three Kingdoms is well-known for.
The free mode allows players to use any hero on any stage. Yet more stages are unlocked by completing the story mode and its many routes. These stages also have a ranking system. It's a neat idea, but some ranks are determined by completing specific goals. One such goal might be "kill 200 soldiers with EX attacks". EX attacks are charge-attack follow-ups such as X X Y (Y), if the enemy dies before you press Y a second time, then it doesn't count. By the time I got around to this mode, most of my enemies died as soon as I pressed X! While it's not all that well thought-out, at least this addition gives added value to free mode. There's also a challenge mode, which might be worth checking out... once.
When you want to conquer China in the name of the Emperor, then you'll want to play Ambition mode. This is also a fine way to grind out the experience levels of your favorite heroes. At first, your goal is to raise a hamlet into a city fit for an Emperor. This involves a ton of farming missions, and the only real challenge is to not lose your mind. Once that's over and done with, then you get to unify China. By the way, if you managed to recruit all 80+ warriors in part 1 of Ambition mode, then congratulations! In part 2, you get to do it all over again! Better yet, it's a far more painful task! Hurray!
In Ambition mode part deux, in order to win battles, you have to defeat leaders. This involves taking control of nearby bases. It's similarly to DW5, although a bit more repetitive. You also have to account for nearby enemy soldiers, as they will retake bases if given the opportunity. Playing on harder difficulties and capturing more bases before winning battles will allow you conquer lands more quickly, which is great. However, this mode gets very old and extremely dull, if you try to re-recruit everyone. Only the enemy leaders of these battles tend to be playable characters. My advice is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and use a guide to find out where your faves are in each land.
While all of this recruiting, farming, and conquering is going on; you'll also do a little bonding. After every mission, one of the heroes you recruit will have something to say. This can involve everything from "I respect your abilities" to "You're a good friend" to "Please! Wife me this instant!" It's very odd that Dong Zhuo comes off as not the biggest creep in these one-sided conversations. Earlier, Zuo Ci, who must be 300 years old, called me the "epitome of feminity". There's a line I'm going to try the next time I'm at a bar.
The presentation is great, although the voice-acting is still suspect. Overall, it's an improvement over the Playstation 2 days, but some characters sound extremely bored. Then again, I guess if I was stuck voicing a plank of wood like Yue Jin, I wouldn't sound very enthused either. I also still have a soft-spot for DW3's classic "You flaming idiots! Take this!" voice-acting. The cut-scenes are all pretty good, though I tend to skip the in-between story chapters commentary. That's just me, I'm on my fourth reading of the Three Kingdoms novels, I already know the story.
As for the rest of the game, it's altogether very solid. This entry is more dynamic and versatile than DW7, which was already a massive jump over DW5. Almost all of the weapons are fun to use, and the heroes have more interesting EX attacks, which definitely helps in terms of variety. The harder difficulties are fair enough, provided you're a high level, and there are plenty of secrets and awesome items to acquire. Although in standard DW fashion, finding the best weapons pretty much requires a guide. Outfitting these weapons with powerful skills and obliterating hundreds of soldiers in seconds, will never cease to be enjoyable for me.
As far as the port is concerned. I got this game back when it first came out*. At the time, I considered it an okay port. The assets are lower quality than I would have liked, and the lack of online multiplayer is definitely a head-scratcher. On the bright side, at least it runs well on a lower-end PC, the load-times are superior to the console versions, and sweetfx does wonders with the colors. I gave Tecmo/Koei a pass then, because I figured they would deliver improved Omega Force ports in the future.
With that in mind, I still recommend this version... at least when it's on sale. DW8XLCE is overall a fantastic entry. It has a ton of content, and I believe the game-design, controls, and other elements are the best the series has seen to date. There are the issues that I mentioned earlier in the review, but it's not really problematic. If anything, I respect that Omega Force continues to throw around ideas. Despite countless sequels and spin-offs, this is a franchise that I can go back to again and again, because it has so many appealing qualities. These "comfort" games are perfect to come home to after putting myself through the grinder that is 2D shootemups.
*I probably could have gotten this review out *a little* sooner.
Posted September 2, 2016. Last edited September 2, 2016.
The Adventures of Shuggy follows a feline vampire who just inherited a new house. Unlike a certain other popular Vampire; Shuggy doesn’t get along with the undead, ghosts, monsters, or even robots. Instead, these foul creatures are haunting his new home and wrecking havoc. In order to boot these pests out of the house, Shuggy has to collect a mess of gems and bop a few bosses, over the course of 116 levels. It is an impressive number no doubt, but the game is reasonably paced as all of the levels should take no more than two minutes a piece to complete. Although, you’ll be replaying those levels over and over again, because two minutes is an awfully long time to spend on one level. If you want to compete on the leaderboards, your best times have to be in seconds.
The puzzle-platformer is about as simple a genre to explain as anything. In order to collect all of the gems in each level, Shuggy will probably have to do more than just jump on top of things. Each level is defined by its gimmick. This could be something direct like Shuggy being able to jump really high, or it could be something obtuse and unique. For example, Shuggy could have to use multiple versions of his self or direct little buggers called Shmus to unlock gem-holding cages. Shuggy’s mansion is divided into five different areas, and some will focus on a particular level-type more than others. Even though the gimmick changes constantly, the basic mechanics are very sound, and it takes mere seconds to figure out what to do. This aspect of the game so well done that I don't think it's fair to even call them gimmicks. Shuggy rotating the entire level to reach gems or switching between clones to reach switches is just as natural as running & jumping.
Shuggy is the fragile type, so he has to worry about nasty creatures that walk, jump, fly, fall, and roll. Also questions must be raised about anyone who decorates their home with spikes. Worse still there are also time-distorting levels where Shuggy must use his past selves to step on switches and open paths to gems. Ever seen Time Cop? What happened to the villain can also happen to Shuggy, if he ever makes contact with one of his selves. Thankfully, in this game it isn’t quite as gruesome but the result is definitely something to be avoided. I’m particularly fond of these levels, since they require Shuggy to take differing paths around the room, and to pay attention to where Shuggy-from-5-seconds-ago is going next.
All things considered, death will become the least of your worries before long. Even after you have figured out the solution to the level and grabbed the key, chances are high you’ll want to go back after seeing your position on the leaderboard. Where this game really shines is in replaying levels, trimming seconds or even half-seconds away. There is also an absolute #1 ranking, so the satisfaction of taking that coveted spot, just might be worth the trouble. Some will say that puzzle games lose their purpose when the puzzles are figured out, but thanks to the great controls and mechanics, there is almost always room for improvement.
There is multiplayer support, but my advice is the following: Look into making an open-minded friend in your town OR convincing whoever your dating that this isn’t like those murder-simulators you usually play OR worst comes to worst, begging your parents to have another child. There are 36 cooperative levels, and some additional competitive modes to play, but you need a couch-buddy to coop. From what I can gather the cooperative mode is more than just two Shuggys grabbing gems instead of one. You actually have to work together and co-exist in a fashion, that does not lead to harm for one another.
Game reviews are to nitpicks as an octopus is to ink, so while this game is a quality affair, I can’t very well say I’m done with my review until I get my nitpicking on. Whenever a level begins I would prefer if there was something like a countdown before control is handed to the player. It takes a second or two for Shuggy and all of the objects to spawn into the level, but while those things are happening, Shuggy can move around. It doesn’t take much to memorize what I want to do in the first couple seconds of the level, so thankfully this isn’t a serious issue. There is also a certain random element to the game which I’m kind-of iffy about. A couple of enemies have unpredictable movement patterns. This introduces an element of randomness, which doesn't gel with speedrunning. This isn’t an easy fix since the nature of these enemies gives them their identity, and their change or removal could possibly worsen the game. I’m not quite 100% sure either way, but I still think it is worth mentioning.
While I have my reservations about particular aspects of the game, and the lacking multiplayer support is quite a shame The Adventures of Shuggy is a charming and fun bit of entertainment that I definitely believe is worth your consideration. Again I’m not an expert on the subject of puzzle-platformers but I am a veteran when it comes to recognizing quality. As far as I can tell this game does most everything right.
*** For those wondering about the time spent on this game, I played through the Xbox 360 version. This review is a slightly edited version of one that I wrote for a now-defunct website.
Sometimes I wonder what anyone could see in an old game like Kamui. This STG was released in December of 1999. This was back when everyone had to walk fifteen miles through snow and broken glass, just to find quality shmups. Kamui runs at a pitifully low resolution, and there aren't any tanks that turn into robot-girls. There isn't even any fanart. Why? Because the protagonist is a brain in a ship! That isn't kawaii, not in the slightest.
Seriously though, who cares about all of that nonsense? Kamui is just as awesome as it ever was. It's a tremendous game that delivers everything fans expect from the genre. This game tends to be compared to titles like the Ray Force series, though it has other elements that help set it apart.
Risk Vs Reward is an adage older than time itself, and it's the entire basis of this game. Aside from the main cannon, your most important weapon is lightning. This weapon can be used to power an exceptionally strong laser, that also cancels enemy projectiles. However, using the laser tends to negatively impact your score. Your other weapon is the targeting bolt. Enemies destroyed by bolts offer up a multiplier bonus. Depending on how much meter you have remaining, this bonus can go as high as 16X.
While Kamui gives you a generous supply of hit-points, you're constantly putting yourself into bad situations, just to get the highest possible score. Bolts can only destroy enemies that are below you, and that applies to bosses as well. You might find yourself keeping the boss alive, allowing them more chances to kill you, just so you can get the massive multiplier bonus. As for the stages themselves, your attention is almost constantly divided, due to the prevalence of enemies both below and in-front of you. If you approach this game strictly intending to survive, then it probably won't be that difficult. However, your score will suffer, and eventually you'll give in to the temptations of 16X.
Kamui is a very short game, and doesn't make any attempt to pad things out. Each stage creates scenarios that are fresh and interesting, without straying away from the concept that drives the game. The enemies you face are varied, and the bosses employ numerous strategies in order to take you down. This isn't like some STGs, where you deal with giant pieces of garbage that do nothing but fill the screen with bullets. Every second of this game is creative and dynamic. It's loaded with energy, and has just enough challenge to keep gamers compelled.
In short, Kamui is a classic. Give it a go sometime.
Posted August 16, 2016. Last edited August 16, 2016.