Classics


Super Metroid

Super Metroid remains one of the best designed Metroidvanias of gaming, with fantastic level design and visual distinction, as well as good controls and excellent player options. Put this alongside fantastic tone and atmosphere, and you have a game that has aged beautifully over the years.
Total Story Score: +18
Total Gameplay Score: +47
*Sushi Game*

 
Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Atmospheric usage of music and sound
  2. Incredible, and consistent, gameplay and story integration
  3. Excellent pace of events, following a flow from highs, lows, spikes, and pauses in tempo and intensity
  4. Visual storytelling is everywhere throughout the game
  5. The Wrecked Ship and the story it tells without a single line of dialogue
  6. The fantastic visual and audio storytelling of the post-Ridley fight
  7. Tourian in its entirety, with good atmosphere, distinct visuals from the rest of the game, music and audio both designed to augment the tone, and the enemies being used as a storytelling tool
  8. Making me somehow care about the death of a metroid… dammit
  9. Did I mention this game has amazing Atmosphere?
  10. Brickwork always helps sell the scenes
  11. Doodad placement is excellent throughout
  12. The game clearly builds on Metroids 1 and 2 for some great External Continuity, and not just in cutscenes (Kraid gets special mention)
  13. The Intro immediately puts you where you need to be; Tense, atmospheric, intense, and the stakes are immediately laid bare
  14. Rare for a platformer, but the Lighting is used to good effect to accentuate many areas and scenes
  15. Music is really used well to sell scenes, tones, bosses, horrifying ghost ships, etc.
  16. Special props to the entire Outro for really building us up to the final boss fight, and then the final dash out which is absolutely terrifying
  17. In line with Music, the Sound Design also complements every single area of the game (again, that friggin’ ghost ship…)
  18. Good Visual Continuity throughout the zones

Story Negatives:

  1.  

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Good usage of the demo at start to tutorialize as well as inform
  2. Ceres Station; Stylized design, quiet lack of music without being silent, clear showcasing of things being wrong, first glance at Ridley. You can’t lose the Ridley fight, avoiding punishing new players too badly. The red filter (contrasting the earlier blue), fake damage from steam, music, alarm, timer, tilting, all make the player feel threatened without actually introducing legitimately difficult or irritating level design
  3. Honestly Crateria is hard to under-estimate how well designed it really is. Nothing there is difficult or hard your first time through, it’s all in-game tutorialization, but the second or third or fifth time through some of the jumps, tricks, and challenges are wonderfully mean
  4. Brinstar definitely gets its own plus for being probably the most ‘connective’ zone, being the place you most often peruse through to reach other areas, and having so many alternate paths to get around
  5. And yes, Norfair is just as awesome, in fact it’s so awesome…
  6. …it actually gets two positives, because while upper Norfair is nice, Lower Norfair is mean. Easily the hardest area in the game, with brutal enemies, very specific terrain challenges, and low margin for error
  7. Incredible, and consistent, gameplay and story integration throughout
  8. Excellent use of directed level design to push the player in given directions without railroading them
  9. Consistent usage of the ‘filling the cracks of explorable area’ mentality throughout the game
  10. The map design showcases major items and areas, does not show everything, and also gives the player a guide on where to go
  11. The mini boss serves as a good combat tutorial; He has three main attacks, one that’s designed to be dodged, one that’s designed to refill your ammo and health, and one that’s designed to just hurt you
  12. The Spore Spawn is a great fight. The music compliments the constant nature of the threat of the boss, given that (unless you know what you’re doing) there’s no ‘pause’ or ‘safe’ moment. The difficulty on this mini boss is increased without being unfair, and the game gives you all the tools in the fight to defeat him
  13. Kraid is just an awesome fight. Huge, great music, seemingly tons of damage coming from everywhere but actually mostly light damage or easily avoidable, and a big obvious weak point to help guide the player into harder fights
  14. The music is just phenomenal throughout
  15. The graphics are great and have aged well. They use color well, each area is distinct, the spritework is distinct, and there are visual indicators everywhere
  16. You are encouraged, rewarded, and guided in exploring throughout the game
  17. Phantoon is the first genuinely difficult boss, and serves as an exam for all the previous mini-bosses as well as Kraid. His presentation is excellent, he has only a bit of randomness to him, you have very little room to maneuver making it much harder to dodge, and he has many attacks
  18. The Wrecked Ship is just great. The design of it is completely the reverse of normal; fight boss first, which changes the ship format, which leads to a good type of backtracking, and the reward from it all opens up almost the entire world
  19. Maridia in its entirety is great, but especially since there’s a natural flow to the underwater sections that leads itself towards both the major objectives for the area (the boss and the power ups)
  20. Ridley is a great fight. Very traditional difficulty with fast moving boss and attacks that hurt a lot, the fight is very vertical and allows for a very frenetic pace, it’s fun, there’s multiple ways to kill him, and it feels very satisfying pulling it off
  21. Everything about the Mother Brain encounter, from the lead up, the bait and switch with the Metroid 1 expectations, the music during her fight being loud and bombastic and terrifying, and giving the player the rampage moment to avenge the baby
  22. Massive replayability
  23. Mostly excellent usage of backtracking throughout the level design, making backtracking either varied in terms of terrain, or varied in terms of path and utility for the player
  24. Everything about the final escape sequence is a perfect bookend to Ceres at the beginning. It is intense, it escalates in difficulty, it is frantic and honestly difficult at times, it is wonderfully visually presented as the background and level goes more and more unstable, and once again it is good backtracking
  25. Good Enemy AI, especially in the later levels and bosses
  26. Animations are excellent and always tell you what’s happening where and when
  27. While there are a few issues, Controls are responsive, tight, and awesome
  28. Core Combat is simple but…
  29. …at the same time, it’s excellently designed and very fun
  30. The Core Mechanic of Metroidvaniaing up is great as usual
  31. The Difficulty Curve is exceptionally smooth…
  32. …and also has proper peaks and troughs to keep things interesting and fun
  33. Each Encounter is manually designed and properly structured for the area it’s in
  34. Enemy Variety is through the roof, with all kinds of enemies…
  35. …that move, shoot, and are vulnerable in their own unique ways
  36. Spritework is fantastic…
  37. …and always works in service of the core gameplay
  38. A second positive for the excellent Music
  39. Pacing is just phenomenal, with the game never missing a beat…
  40. …or failing to keep things interesting and varied as it moves through its paces
  41. Samus herself slowly but surely gets more and more capable throughout, the Power Progression Curve smoothly arcing her to being death walking by the end
  42. As with all good Metroidvanias, the game’s Replayability is excellent
  43. Sound Design is fantastic
  44. Thought is always put into the design of the Terrain, not only for encounters…
  45. …but for general navigation
  46. Between the dash, speed jumps, space jump, and wall climbing it’s a lot of fun just Traversing the world
  47. As with SoTN, the Tutorialization continues through most of the game
  48. The Visual Continuity always helps you know where you are and where you’re going
  49. Some of the best Visual Distinction in gaming…
  50. …with it always being easy to see what’s where…
  51. …and what can be interacted with, how

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Some of the power ups here and there have absolutely no indication of their existence whatsoever and either require shooting everything or scanning every square inch of the world
  2. The Grapple Beam has squirrely controls, is intended to be mandatory, and just generally frustrating
  3. There is a lack of proper checkpointing throughout, especially in Tourian, which leads to making the game more frustrating than it should in punishing mistakes
  4. That low health Bdleep can go to hell

Innovators and Codifiers: 1

  1. Codifier:Effectively started the Metroidvania genre, along with Castlevania SoTN

Donkey Kong Country

While still a good game, Donkey Kong Country is mostly notable for how it would set the bar for the future games in the series. Featuring a lot of frustrating gameplay and imprecise hit and hurt boxes, the game nonetheless is still a classic net positive and is still fun to go through to this day.
Total Story Score: +4
Total Gameplay Score: +8

 
Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Amusing and well characterized ending. Also, everything about Cranky Kong
  2. Surprisingly good Doodad usage in stage design
  3. Good Visual Continuity, to the point where you can actually tell where you are and get an idea of where to go based just on visual design
  4. Visual Storytelling in the background design is pretty good, especially in the later factory levels

Story Negatives:

  1.  

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Excellent music that is both atmospheric to highlight the levels, as well as enjoyable to listen to on its own
  2. Continued variance and usage of music to compliment the level design
  3. Significant effort done to design a very specific graphical style of the pseudo 3D, and maintain it throughout the work
  4. Varied usage of gimmicks and challenges across the levels
  5. Re-use of existing enemies and obstacles in new and different ways to vary gameplay
  6. King K. Rool is an awesome, varied endurance fight
  7. The last world has legitimately challenging, fun, and varied levels, which is a nice breather from the previous two. These levels include Tanked Up Trouble, Manic Mincers…
  8. …and Loopy Lights, one of my favorite levels in the game
  9. Different playstyle between the two Kongs is good, ease of switching between the two is good, and not having to rely on a given one throughout is good
  10. Usage of bananas to indicate where to go and help with secrets and jumps
  11. Surprisingly good Outro, starting with the last world and leading up to the final boss fight

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Hitboxes and hurtboxes are just too damned difficult to figure out on the fly, and are inconsistent
  2. Generally bad and frustrating checkpoint placement, as well as overworld save placement
  3. Camera is awful, taking too long to catch up or not showing the right things, which leads to an over-reliance on ‘gotcha’ traps to artificially increase difficulty in the middle worlds

Mega Man 7

Despite looking nice, Mega Man 7 just has not aged all that well, and relies on unusual and imprecise difficulty to elongate playtime, and generally lacks the polish and refinement of previous and later Mega Man titles.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +9

 
Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. As is admittedly usual for the Mega Man series, some good background lore in the imagery of the stages implying and indicating story elements
  2. Some legitimately great Doodad utilization across the levels

Story Negatives:

  1. Failure to follow through with story elements, interrupted character arcs, and a disappointing ending

Gameplay Positives:

  1. In addition to the usual explorative power ups and items, player can improve their toolkit with an in game bolt currency, as an option
  2. Excellent variety and distinction of graphics and general spritework
  3. Great music… except for the shop song
  4. Exceptionally precise controls and movement
  5. Dynamic levels based on boss kill order, weapon usage, and player interaction (melting, freezing, powering up, etc.)
  6. Level design varies and challenges in new and different ways across the original 8 stages
  7. Burst Man’s stage is one of the best ones, with the unique water height mechanic, lots of avoidable spikes, the timer bombs, and enemies that vary based on location
  8. Slash Man’s stage has some cool elements // Spring Man’s stage has some fun elements, especially with the.. uh, springs // Turbo Man’s stage has a few fun and interesting jumps
  9. Wily 1 has some very fun stuff, especially with the rotating platforms that turn off the lights and periodically throw you off them
  10. The Robotmaster fights are good, enjoyable, varied, and challenging
  11. As per usual for a Megaman game, great Core Combat
  12. Good manually placed Encounter design
  13. Good Enemy Variety
  14. As per usual for a Megaman… great Enemy Variety
  15. Very good Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Sound design is just awful across the board, but most notably with the charge shot tone
  2. Unskippable cutscenes before difficult boss fights
  3. Boss refights are boring and barely different, resulting in padding
  4. Wily 2 has too many discordant elements in its boss fight, and the result is just lackluster at best
  5. The Difficulty Curve is very wonky, especially when you get to the Wily levels
  6. Honestly that entire Outro is pretty weak to play through

Golden Sun

While the story lacks any real strength or oomph to it, somehow this RPG manages to be consistently enjoyable to play, owing mostly to surprisingly excellent level and puzzle design. Sadly the approach to trash encounters is just awful, making combat boring after a certain point, and aggravating even further on.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +5

 
Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Each individual region has their own story arcs, which are tightly contained, interesting, and engaging, and contribute to the feeling of being out adventuring
  2. Some amusing Animation that helps with cutscenes
  3. Good Doodad usage, in both towns and dungeons

Story Negatives:

  1.  

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Animation in combat is good and interesting, and helped by pseudo-3D elements
  2. The spritework in general is excellent, with good visual distinction
  3. The puzzle design dungeons with Synergy as the toolkit are fun and interesting
  4. Some quality of life features (ability to save anywhere, restoring MP by walking out of combat, time-based summoning) encourage the player to feel more free to use abilities, experiment, and feel less stressed
  5. Usage of pushblocks to vary up dungeon design and a lack of encounters in puzzle-heavy areas contributes to enjoyable level design
  6. Continued variety in puzzle design across the dungeons
  7. Still continued variety and enjoyment of puzzle design across the dungeons, all the way to the end of the game
  8. Decently good Enemy Variety

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: The lack of any meaningful options or settings // Targeting does not rollover in combat // No memory cursor in combat
  2. The trash is just awful. Encounter rate is too high, fights drag on too much and require you to pay attention too much, and the trash is not particularly rewarding in gold or experience, making the whole thing drag
  3. A special mention to that awful Encounter Rate

Valkyrie Profile Lenneth

A great core concept hampered by constant design issues peppered throughout, the game is still fun and something I recommend everyone give a try at least once. As an aside, I would also recommend a walkthrough for getting the good ending, as it adds substantially to the story and gameplay.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +2

 
Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The core concept is fascinating; gathering people up, seeing short stories of the end of their lives
  2. Very unique directorial style; events being portrayed in short-hand, rather than literally, implying more than is shown on camera

Story Negatives:

  1. The voice acting is just… awful. Wrong tone, wrong emphasis, wrong everything

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The spritework is just fantastic
  2. Additional plus for the really good spritework, combined with excellent animation
  3. The combat is, for the most part, legitimately enjoyable. Smooth, fast-paced, well animated, and the hotkey system works great, as well as timing combos and other effects
  4. A second plus for the combat, which is a decent way to bring player skill into turn based combat
  5. The music is pretty good throughout
  6. Avoiding enemies is relatively easy to do, between jumping and freezing, and grinding is generally de-emphasized
  7. The inherent gameplay structure is so well designed that, despite interface, bad translation, and other issues, the core gameplay concept was quick and fluid to pick up, as well as fun to pursue
  8. Aggregate: Difficulty is a smooth enough of a curve that, even while avoiding no enemies, there were no real difficulty cliffs so long as you keep up on equipment // Dying in a dungeon just costs you time, not progress, allowing you to keep experience and equipment
  9. The Controls are actually quite good, and the ‘use a button for each character’ mechanic works really well given the timed attack thing

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. There is actively misleading or poorly designed information on concepts and items throughout
  2. The game heavily leans on walkthrough-itis to figure out when to do what events, what items to keep or send, how to get the real ending, et cetera
  3. As with a huge majority of older RPGs, the trash design is lacking; too much of it, too required at a certain point, and just boring after a while
  4. Jumping is just plain awful, which is compounded by the platforming sections
  5. Unskippable cutscenes
  6. Aggregate: Bugs, including one where every time Lenneth changes equipment it de-equips her skills, which is just aggravating // The map is not good, with bad color choice, visibility, and panning // Many dungeons have almost identical appearance and textures, leading to both getting lost and being bored
  7. Several long sections of Backtracking in those dungeons

Treasure of the Rudras

Another fascinating entry of older RPGs and one I definitely recommend trying at least once… with a walkthrough handy. It suffers many of the same issues older RPGs tend to have, but there’s a core nugget of great concepts in both story and gameplay that make it worth trying. Sort of recommended.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: -4

 
Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The scenarios weave into and through each other, which not only elevates each but is generally awesome
  2. Surlent’s story has actual plot twists, character development for Sork, background lore, and setting building
  3. The lotus machine section of the factory for Riza’s story was cute, legitimately funny, well done, and has no penalty for screw ups

Story Negatives:

  1. The ending in its entirety. Riza’s sudden turn around, a preachy message being abruptly shoved in, the awkwardness of their vision of doom, the decision to damn the planet and invalidate literally the entire game in favor of a vague ‘we’ll make it’ all just does not work at all
  2. Several long, weird stretches of Padding in the narrative, especially in the middle

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The mantra system is interesting on almost every level
  2. A second plus for the mantra system; which rewards you for jotting down spells and prefixes, is entirely freeform, let’s you build anything at any point limited only by mana pool
  3. The animations in combat are quite good, with idle, casting, attacking, and this is despite having a large cast of characters. Enemies have pretty good animations too
  4. The scenario system is also good in gameplay, as choices you make and the order in which you do things directly affects how things turn out in other scenarios
  5. Allowing the player to fully control the party turn order in initiative is huge, leading to a decent amount of strategy in combat

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Encounter rate for trash is too high, and trash is way too boring
  2. A second negative for the trash problem; by the time you get to the second scenario, its just gotten old, plus you can’t generally auto-A through trash at a certain point in the game
  3. Unskippable cutscenes
  4. The walkthrough-itis is heavy in this one. Often there’s no clues at all for what you’re supposed to do, further limited by requiring you to (sometimes illogically) speak to a specific NPC to advance the script, and even further hampered by the trash encounter rate discouraging exploration
  5. The entire game’s pace is just off, making it feel like a complete slog after a certain point
  6. The final boss has multiple aspects which are okay individually but when combined make it awful; It’s a multi-stage fight with no pause or recovery, you have a limited inventory size and no option to refill it, the final phase has several RNG elements to it, Flow is not properly defendable, and the game rather suddenly just requires you to grind right at the finish line
  7. The game really likes its Backtracking…
  8. …Not just in dungeons, but in the general overworld
  9. A second negative for Walkthroughitis, as per usual for older games

Super Mario Bros

This was a very difficult game to review objectively, but per my usual approach I tried to remove nostalgia and ‘considerations of release date’ and review it as if it came out today. And while it does to many things legitimately right, it also has pretty substantial flaws that, ultimately, make it a game that hasn’t aged all that well. We did have to come up with a new concept for this review though.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Cheats: No.
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 4 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-3-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The core music is upbeat, catchy, loops nicely onto itself, and does not get old
  2. The in-game tutorialization built into the level design is great, especially in 1-1
  3. The level design in general is good iterative design, varying between obstacles to avoid and obstacles to overcome
  4. Aggregate: The rarity of 1-Ups makes it interesting // Multiple power ups in almost every level to help mitigate loss and death // Mid-level checkpoints in almost every level
  5. Aggregate: While not the best at it, there is good replay value for people, speedrunning or elsewise, in no small part thanks to… // Warp zones, allowing for a varied experience, skipping content you don’t like, or just playing faster
  6. Need to give a special mention to that Intro, all the way through 1-4

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Artificial difficulty in the form of the game over and limited number of lives (yes I know there’s the trick to skip back to the proper world)
  2. Sudden lack of mid-level checkpoints in World 8 just adds to irritation factor
  3. The sudden and substantial difficulty cliff from world 5-1 onwards

Innovators and Codifiers: 2

  1. Innovator: Of sidescrolling platforming as a concept, and bonus points for revolutionizing gaming as a whole
  2. Innovator: Music innovation for making actual, good music an accepted and recognized concept in game design

The Witcher 3

What can I say? Even after repeat playthroughs, I find this game to be fantastic. Lots of good decisions gameplay wise, and a truly amazing story that knocks it completely out of the park. In the interests of total honesty, this final calculation takes into account both expansions as well as the base game.
Total Story Score: +79
Total Gameplay Score: +20
Cheats: Yes (duration and Lorerun purposes)
Total Play Time: 15 Days // 87 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-14-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Excellent voice acting
  2. A second plus for the nuance of voice acting (such that one can pay attention to how people say things and, correctly, infer what they mean and why)
  3. Excellent weaving of exposition into the narrative
  4. General excellent graphics, both in detail and in scope, which adds to immersion and atmosphere
  5. Doodad placement and usage of items, animals, and people to add to Lindblum Effect
  6. Second positive for repeated and excellent usage of doodads and set design
  7. Excellent and repeated usage of continuity in tying a huge number of things across the game into itself
  8. Good use of the Bioware Standard animations mixed with manually captured animations
  9. The approach to romance in the game is exceptional (fully optional, can ruin it completely, but also available to both sides and is satisfying and well done for both choices)
  10. Retroactively adding a second positive for well crafted romance for both routes
  11. Substantial effort is put into varying the visual detail of NPCs to help them feel distinct (and hide the repeating faces)
  12. The usage and implementation of the notice boards as a way of divulging quests, flavor lore, and fleshing out of the areas
  13. Excellent usage of camera angles and directing to flesh out scenes
  14. Pluses for side quests. Frying Pan Spick and Span, Missing In Action, On Death’s Bed, Twisted Firestarter
  15. A Greedy God, Fists of Fury, A Dangerous Game, A Tome Entombed, Fencing Lessons, Novigrad Hospitality
  16. Of Swords And Dumplings, The Volunteer, Master of the Arena
  17. The Nithing, A Knight’s Tales, A Portrait of the Witcher as an Old Man
  18. Duck Duck Goosed, Extreme Cosplay, Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Granite, Till Death Do You Part
  19. The Gwent Tournament in Blood and Wine, Wine Wars
  20. Precious Cargo, Fool’s Gold
  21. Cat and Wolf Play, Haunted House, Wild At Heart
  22. Gwent Tournament (vanilla)
  23. The Last Wish
  24. The Keira quests, especially A Tower Full Of Mice
  25. All the Djikstra quests, especially…
  26. …Reason of State
  27. A Matter of Life and Death and the related Triss quests
  28. Dandelion’s arc, especially Carnal Sins
  29. In Wolf’s Clothing, Possession
  30. Paperchase
  31. The Warble of a Smitten Knight
  32. Equine Phantoms
  33. Generally high quality writing, mostly in terms of dialogue (making it sound natural)
  34. The Ciri sections are constructed differently in gameplay to emphasis the person constructing the story, and add to her as a person (helping the player get invested despite otherwise not seeing her)
  35. Phillip Strenger, the Bloody Baron, is extremely well done. He has good voice acting, voice direction, animation. He is multi-faceted, well layered, neither a good or evil man but simply a human. The game does many things to, efficiently and in a short period of time, accent each of his character traits one after the other, helping to flesh him out in short order. And his quest has multiple paths through it, allowing you to see differing sides of him
  36. The visual disparity between major zones is fantastic, and allows a neat progression narratively and thematically as you move from fighting curses and monsters, to fighting people and politics, to fighting both
  37. Geralt himself is an exceptional character, with just the right balance of wisdom, neutrality, snark, kindness, wariness, and a dozen other personality traits that make him interesting, awesome, and fun to play as
  38. Geralt’s voice is very well done; there are many, many sections where Geralt is talking to himself as a form of quest design and he has surprising range within the confines of his gravely voice, and the actor has gotten loads better since the previous games
  39. Novigrad is very well designed (one of the better cities in video gaming); it feels like a living, breathing city with good density of activity, doodad placement, and story presentation
  40. The Novigrad main story chains going through Dijkstra, Dandelion, Ciri, the play, and Priscilla are all great stuff and involve good personal moments, comical events, awesome sequences, and political intrigue
  41. The ‘side’ quests of the An Crates are exceptionally well done, and for characters we’ve barely met or known does a good job of characterizing them and investing us in their plights, as well as insight into their brands of leading for the future king quest
  42. All of Kaer Morhan is great, including the lead up and the ‘drunk scene’
  43. The reunion with Ciri is the best scene in the game. Directing, camera work, sound design, music application, showcasing of angles, motion capture work, everything
  44. The Battle for Kaer Morhen in its entirety
  45. An excellent finale, multiple well-done endings, and a generally awesome conclusion to the vanilla story
  46. Good world building and background info woven into flavor text of fast travel points
  47. Triss is an excellent character by herself
  48. Yennefer is an excellent character all by herself
  49. Ciri is a fantastic character all by herself
  50. Aggregate: Dandelion and Priscilla, combined, form an excellent duo of characterization and enjoyability
  51. Aggregate: Zoltan and Dijkstra are both great characters, suffering only from a general lack of screen time but being excellent each time they grace the screen
  52. A third voice acting plus for just awesomeness to voice acting
  53. The camerawork isn’t merely good, but moves into genuinely fantastic range in the expansions, with more motion work, panning shots, and great angle usage
  54. The Heist Quest in its entirety is fun, involved, and great
  55. The Wedding Quest in its entirety is fantastic, and an excellent ‘breather’ quest from the normal fare
  56. Gaunter O’Dimm is one of the most wonderfully terrifying, charismatic, intruiging, awesome villains in gaming in general and is wonderfully acted, animated, written, and used as a storytelling device
  57. Toussaint’s visual presentation is phenomenal across the board. Color filters, usage of green, people, architecture, and the massive variance between Toussaint’s ‘poor’ vs. Novigrad or Velen’s ‘poor’, the gorgeous graphics upgrade, random dialogue as you pass, etc.
  58. Regis is fantastic, especially given how relatively quickly they had to develop him, and manages a very difficult balancing point of being elder without arrogant, intellectual without irritating, and passionate without melodramatic (among others)
  59. The music direction across Toussaint is substantially better than the previous two segments and is, consequently, excellent
  60. Yet another plus for the amazing, wonderfully done, gush-worthy camera work
  61. Corvo Bianco made for a very satisfying denoument, epilogue, and retirement for Geralt with his love and his vineyard
  62. Beauclair is just as well designed as Novigrad, but arguably even better with clear visual and audible distinction between districts, as well as between it and all other towns in the game
  63. A lot of work and effort is put into making even generally crappy side quests have satisfying or interesting cutscenes, with directing, dialogue, and little details (examples; furnishing the house, the three vineyards, and the Gwent tournament)
  64. The little-fish Henrietta scene with the three vampires and Geralt is just joyful at every level
  65. The Epilogue… is awesome, and deserves a plus by itself
  66. Second positive for truly fantastic Animation usage, mocap and Bioware both
  67. And a third
  68. Lovely Atmosphere for most of the game
  69. And great Tone for every area that isn’t Velen
  70. Love that Background Lore
  71. Excellent opening Cinematic
  72. Lots of Consequence Storytelling
  73. Second positive for Consequence Storytelling
  74. Second positive for that Dialogue
  75. Third and final positive for excellent Doodad usage
  76. Great External Continuity from Witcher 2
  77. Humor actually gets me more than a few times
  78. Love that Intro
  79. Second positive for great Intro to really help establish everything, and being very fun to go through
  80. Good usage of Lighting in many areas to accent mood
  81. Lovely NPC Set Dressing, really, especially in Novigrad
  82. Toussaint should get its own NPC Set Dressing positive
  83. A third and final positive for enjoyable Outro to vanilla and Hearts of Stone
  84. Plot is simple but centric and enjoyable
  85. Storyboarding is very tight in most scenes
  86. Second positive for generally good Writing

Story Negatives:

  1. The Crones quest arc is something I actively hate and it leaves a distaste in my mouth everytime I do it, and I also feel it doesn’t properly conclude its story threads
  2. An unacceptable amount of squick that made me want to actively skip the scenes and almost made me put the game down at points
  3. The excessive pushiness of Shani as a romance option (across her entire quest, no less) combined with the lack of acknowledgement of any pre-existing relationship
  4. Higher Vampires are just too much, to the point where it detracts from storytelling. Nearly invincible, super strong, can regenerate from nothing, can’t be tracked or scry’d, et cetera.
  5. Aggregate: There are several scenes where the presentation falls completely flat, utterly deflating the scene // Spending weeks (if not months) of time wandering around when we have access to Yennefer and portal travel is ridiculous, stupid, character-breaking, and a lost opportunity // The positioning of the random 7 Dwarves quest in the middle of the Ciri conclusion just kills the tempo and pace of the story for that section
  6. Aggregate: The finale of Blood and Wine is just… rushed. They take away your 3 day timer for no reason across a single transition cutscene, Beauclair’s destruction feels tacked on and (worse) has no consequence, and the entire affair feels like fake drama // The endings compound the problem, with each feeling like bits and pieces of the choices the ending should have included, and some lacking polish where others shine in weird ways
  7. Honestly the Velen area is so, so aggravating in Tone that it literally lowered my overall mood and made me irritable and not enjoying the game, such that I didn’t even notice until we finally left Velen and it was like a breath of fresh air

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Lots of good options regarding gameplay
  2. Excellent visual presentation of information in the HUD, all of which is toggleable
  3. The general design of the White Orchard is really good, especially for a tutorial area
  4. Roach (Summonable, good off -road, auto-steering, multiple speeds)
  5. The approach to dialogue options allowing you to decide the flavor of Geralt you play
  6. A combination of options that allows you to approach combat how you’d like to; with or without prep, multiple types of preperation, and leaning difficulty
  7. Gwent is fun, mostly optional, surprisingly complex, and reasonably well designed
  8. A second plus for the layers and depths of Gwent as it goes into Blood and Wine
  9. Proper New Game Plus is, as always, a plus
  10. Various decent abilities, talent points, mutagens, synergies, grindstones, and set bonuses to allow moderate horizontal leveling customization and relative ease of respeccing
  11. Excellent Level of Detail usage ot ensure gameplay remains smooth regardless of speed of transit
  12. Excellent side quests, using a variety of mechanics as well as cleverly covering up ‘normal’ quest design
  13. Multiple Princess Peach segments with Ciri, which are fun to play and good variety
  14. In addition to being an excellent story segment, the Battle of Kaer Morhen is well done in gameplay, paying attention to previous quest decisions and choices during the battle
  15. The Super Gravity Gun Moment while playing as Ciri leading up to Caranthir, and the fight with him, is awesome (especially as it was built up across her segments throughout the game)
  16. The Heist Quest (with consequences, choices, impact on gameplay, and multiple paths)
  17. The Wedding Quest (mostly ‘minigames’, and good breather and variety from the main game
  18. The housing mechanic of Corvo Bianca gives actual gameplay benefit as well as serving as a nice gold sink in late game
  19. The final boss fight with Detlaff is interesting, varied, brutal, and awesome
  20. Animations are generally great in combat, and necessary for dealing with many enemies
  21. Decent side mechanics for Alternate Leveling
  22. Good overall Boss design
  23. Good manual Encounter design
  24. Very good Enemy Variety
  25. Second Enemy Variety positive
  26. Great Graphics Fidelity
  27. That entire lengthy Intro section gets special mention for being fantastic and very fun to play through, including the White Orchard and the flashback as well as the opening sequence of Touissant
  28. Intro mk. 2
  29. Intro mk. 3
  30. Good general Pacing between roaming, questing, talking, fighting
  31. Decent overall Power Progression Curve
  32. Good, well designed Save System
  33. Good Visual Continuity to help you figure out where you are at a glance pretty much anywhere in the game
  34. Good general Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Consistent audio balancing issues throughout many cutscenes
  2. A second negative for lack of audio balance issues throughout the vanilla game
  3. Lack of auto-run and related issues for such a massive game and area to traverse
  4. Dandelion’s awful, awful voice for load screens when loading a save (made worse by the repetition)
  5. Occasional, yet repeated, issues with voice clips being too loud, too often, and talking over important dialogue
  6. The clunky nature of the controls themselves function against the player’s smooth actions in combat rather than in favor of them, making combat less enjoyable than it should be
  7. The interface in Gwent is lacking in almost every respect, with no deck save options, filling out of cards, a clunky interface, etc.
  8. Though only periodic, virtually every escort quest in the game has the usual escort problems
  9. The vanilla map is just not good, being odd to control, tracking only one quest at a time, no distinguishing level range or types of events, etc.
  10. The nature of and significant amount of combat in this game made me quit playing the first time through due to a combination of frustration and a lack of interest. While the combat itself isn’t particularly bad compared to many worse games, I just did not enjoy it and as such have resorted to cheating to enjoy all future playthroughs
  11. Aggregate: Geralt’s movement is a bit too janky, even with alternate movement on, which can lead to occasional frustration // Similarly, there’s multiple issues with trying to talk to someone or looting something and whoops, candles ignited // A lack of a good minimap for underground areas // The inability to jump in combat can, occasionally, cause issues
  12. Even the expansions have audio balance issues, to the point where I gave up and just pushed the music way down to be able to hear the characters
  13. There are several frankly bad quests in Toussaint (the three vineyards and the Gwent tournament come to mind)
  14. There are some issues with the Overworld design, with no real flow to levels, difficulty, events, or quests

Final Fantasy XV

Both times I’ve reviewed Final Fantasy XV I’ve walked away with the same impression; a very good, very flawed game. There are parts I enjoy, tremendously, and there are parts that drive me nuts, and this is on both the story and gameplay axis. It is worth noting the following score takes into account all the Episode DLCs, but not the Dawn Timeline.
Total Story Score: +15
Total Gameplay Score: -8
Cheats: Yes (for Lorerun, though initial playthrough was with no cheats)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 28 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-18-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Ray Chase does an excellent job with his role, managing to make what should be a fairly normal JRPG Protagonist endearing, nuanced, and interesting
  2. Several areas are very well designed, getting across a lot of flavor lore with presentation (notably Lestallum and Altissia)
  3. Altissia itself is just absolutely beautiful and interesting
  4. Good flavor lore throughout in the form of random conversations, adverts, musical jingles, radio
  5. Darin de Paul is just fantastic as Ardyn, and Ardyn’s dialogue is wonderfully written for the first half of the game
  6. The dynamic between the main trio (minus Gladio) is just great at every level
  7. The dialogue is good in general, but extremely realistic and believable especially with the main trio (and Gladio)
  8. The Titan encounter in its entirety (with Gladiolus’ assistance, character bits for Noctis, foreshadowing of Noctis’ power, Lunafreya’s connection, and general epicness)
  9. As usual, the music is quite good
  10. The Leviathan fight is very pretty, very epic spectacle
  11. Ignis’ blindness is one of the better character beats in the game, and across JRPGs in general
  12. The substance and strength of the story elements and character connections between Ignis, Ravus, and Ardyn in the Ignis DLC are great
  13. Substantial and actual consequence to Ignis’ blindness and people’s reactions to it
  14. The manually-crafted banter between the four as a form of in-game cutscenes is great
  15. Noctis is a legitimately interesting and engaging protagonist whom we get to slowly watch his life fall apart around him
  16. Prompto is just amazingly human, awkward, endearing, believable, and natural
  17. Ignis is the perfect lynchpin between the other two, being the cook, driver, political advisor, and loyal friend
  18. Ardyn is one of the more interesting FF villains to-date, and in addition to his voice acting just has fantastic presentation value, as well as being a great Type 2 Villain
  19. The final cutscene, with the final campfire, hits the feels in all the right ways
  20. Aggregate: The flavor of the ‘field trip’ and camping is good, with the light music, cooking, photos, etc.
  21. Some excellent Animations in cutscenes
  22. Especially for the main 5
  23. Second positive for main party Banter
  24. Aaand a third one
  25. Great Camerawork on cutscenes
  26. Great Doodad usage… at least in some areas (notably the cities)
  27. Several good elements of Gameplay/Story Integration
  28. Special praise for the Localization, most notably for the main party members and Ardyn
  29. While only sporadic, there’s some good NPC Set Dressing in the two major cities
  30. Legitimately good Storyboarding helps salvage quite a few scenes

Story Negatives:

  1. The main plot is… not great, and noticably lacking compared to other elements
  2. The world building and setting building is just kind of absent in the game, leading to several gaping holes in our knowledge and understanding
  3. The initial flash-forwards to the Ifrit fight is pointless, meaningless filler
  4. The Starscourge in its entirety is poorly realized, discussed, explained, or utilized and is easily the weakest point of the entire story for me… especially damning considering it’s THE main plot point
  5. The absence of information from ancillary resources in-game that really should have been present (and instead is found in Kingsglaive, Ultimania, etc.)
  6. The inclusion of the ‘movie cutscene’ feels awkwardly placed, redundant, detracts from the impact of the following scene, has no context unless you’ve seen the movie, and was poorly edited
  7. The position of the ‘recover the Regalia’ mission is completely off; it emphasizes the deadliness of imperial troops without backing it up, has no proper explanation for recovering the car, and generally feels off (side note; this mission would have worked better much earlier in the narrative, when losing the car and revenge against the imperials was at the forefront of the characters’ minds)
  8. Lunafreya is such a massive, gaping hole in the narrative that it negatively impacts almost every connecting point
  9. Gladiolus is such a drama for drama’s sakes character at multiple points, but most noticably after Leviathan and during Ignis’ blindness
  10. There are several massive logic gaps in the finale, including but not limited to; a 10 year time skip for no reason, everyone going along with Ardyn’s ploys for no reason, Noctis needing to die for no reason, etc.
  11. The sudden switch-flip of Ardyn becoming evil came out of nowhere and wasn’t earned or properly executed (and is even made redundant later when Bahamut forces this fate on him)
  12. There are several pretty lacking areas where the near total lack of proper Doodad utilization is awful, notably the dungeons
  13. The game is somewhat… lacking in Internal Continuity, to the point where it feels like the game actively ignores its own events
  14. The Intro is exceptionally lacking, even not counting the Ifrit flashforward
  15. There’s several weird issues with how the Story is Sequenced, to the point where in many cases you’re not sure why you’re doing things given what’s just happened

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The cooking mechanic, presentation, attention to graphical detail, and general flavor and stat influence
  2. The teamwork techniques are a decent way to allow multi-party control and offer good variety to combat
  3. The variety of differing gameplay styles and mechanics for the DLCs are good additions
  4. The gameplay of Ignis’ episode in particular deserves special mention, with varied attack ranges and styles which can be slotted in and out of combos, as well as the fun hookshot mechanic
  5. Consequences of story permanently altering gameplay (Ignis’ Blindness, slowness, changing abilities, Noctis’ Armigers, Summons, etc.)
  6. The way encounters are presented as avoidable or encounterable helps the overall ‘Encounter Rate’ substantially
  7. Legitimately good Enemy Variety, albiet mostly in the first half of the game
  8. The game is pretty anti-grind in its Leveling
  9. Enjoyable and clear HUD
  10. Mod support!
  11. Some good Music in this one
  12. Good Save System

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Easily, accidentally, permanently skippable conversations
  2. The Luminous Engine… and it’s many, many issues
  3. The Titan fight is just… bad. It’s boring (phase 1 is pure QTE, phase 2 is just ‘hold down the button’), and it takes far too long (boss has way too much health), and it has no mechanics or significance (it also is a disservice to the song)
  4. Invisible walls and the bad / irritating usage thereof in the ‘open world’ segment
  5. The gameplay elements of the summons are just awful. They’re random, they function as an ‘end the fight’ button, they only activate on low health, and only in certain terrain
  6. The forced stealth section with binary difficulty and no clear indicator of visibility, with associated irritations
  7. Time sensitive events to progress, which require you to find a campfire and wait
  8. Altissia is just a massive disappointment. It’s like being forced past an amazing exhibit on a tour while being unable to stay or do anything with it
  9. The Leviathan fight is actively boring, literally consisting of holding down the attack button
  10. The Prompto DLC is lacking in multiple ways (Corridor fest on foot and vehicle, gun sounds are awful, controls are lacking, combat is too easy, too many encounters, terrain is irrelevant)
  11. The final boss of the Prompto DLC is juuuust terrible. It has too much HP, it’s a turret section, and has no mid fight checkpoints
  12. The final boss fight with Ardyn is boring, at best. It follows the same ‘hold button’ combat approach Leviathan did, and fails massively on the potential of the fight
  13. The health sponge problems are real and constant
  14. There is simply too much padding in the game, in terms of number of encounters, HP of encounters, distance to travel, difficulty in traveling, etc.
  15. Aggregate: The map and menu require far too many clicks to be useful and are not intuitive // There are simply too many aspects of travel and open world that are irritating (travel time, stamina bar, move speed) // The requirement of having to pay for gas which functions as a side element // The jumping Zelda Roll Syndrome is irritating for the usual reasons
  16. Some pretty bad Audio Spam… “Imperials above us!”
  17. The optional hunts system is just kind of dull, and many of the optional dungeons are… eh
  18. The Intro fails at the Gameplay axis as well, as it consists of just walking around and doing random X of Y quests, and takes entirely too long
  19. I have to give special mention to the entire Outro…
  20. …because the entire thing is just grating, boring, and unfun

Paper Mario

The classic remains so for a reason. While it’s somewhat simple, what it does it does well, and it’s easy to see why it helped establish a strong line of Mario RPGs to follow (though mostly in the handheld market). The moment this gets released on the Switch I’m buying this again.
Total Story Score: +15
Total Gameplay Score: +32
Cheats: Yes (Lorerun)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 17 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-20-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The game utilizes a lot of tools to quickly and efficiently do something that, at the time, was brand new to the Mario franchise; world building. Friendly Koopas and Goombas, Toads from other realms, methods of transportation built into the lore, towns and villages rather than empty castles, etc.
  2. The text rendering tool is a great storytelling tool, allowing the game to change how the text is rendered as a form of getting across emphasis, tone, and characterization
  3. Goombario’s Tattle ability adds an absolute ton of lore to the world, having a tidbit for every zone, NPC, and enemy in the game
  4. The Princess Peach segments (which also named the Loreium) are an excellent way to showcase ‘off camera’ lore and plot elements
  5. Even to this day this game makes me smile and laugh
  6. The entire Chapter 7 sequence, especially the ‘murder’ mystery, is just joyful
  7. The Finale, final boss, playable ending, and parade epilogue are fantastic
  8. Animations are well used to help with cutscenes
  9. Some good cutscene usage of Cameras
  10. Good generally interesting Characters
  11. The Intro beautifully sets up everything; the storybook styling, the status quo change from the usual Bowser machinations, and the overall goal
  12. Localization is very well done
  13. Music really helps sell many great scenes
  14. NPC Set Dressing is fantastic in Toad Town
  15. Surprisingly enjoyable, if simple, Plot
  16. Very tight, logical Story Sequencing (we even see those flowers super early!)

Story Negatives:

  1. As tends to be the case, the inability to bring multiple party members means missing out on dialogue and lore

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The variable XP and 100 XP system (meaning if you’re under-leveled you get more experience to catch up, if you grind you get diminishing returns, and if you fight normally you’re always at the ‘right’ level)
  2. The gameplay and story integration of actually playing as Peach helps with the Princess Peach segments
  3. The smooth design of the difficulty curve is beautifully crafted
  4. The smooth design of the power progression curve is also beautifully crafted, and dovetails almost perfectly into the difficulty curve
  5. The reduction of stats means that each stat matters, each one is significant, for you and enemy both
  6. Badges are an excellent way to vary up playstyle, allowing a lot of customization in how you set up your team
  7. Timed Hits add some fun interactability to the turn based combat
  8. The positional combat is wonderfully comples without being convoluted, and well tutorialized
  9. The music design is good in general, and the variety helps add distinction to each region
  10. The trash design is great, with very few trash fights, each fight being significant, non immediate respawning, and easy avoidance
  11. Enemy design is good, with a whole lot of good variety in enemy types and gimmicks
  12. The Koopa Bros Fortress is a good showcasing of proper backtracking and puzzle design, as are the Dry Dry Ruins
  13. The Boos’, valley, and Tubba Blubba’s Mansion have some fun sequences and puzzles
  14. Jade Forest can be a bit confusing but is well laid out and Lavalava Volcano has some great parts
  15. Lava Piranha and Huff N. Puff are two of the best boss designs in the game
  16. The Crystal Palace is the second best dungeon in the game, with lots of creative usage of everything
  17. Variety in partner use both in combat and out
  18. Chapter 3 and 5 are both have good pacing, with new varieties of playstyle chunked up into a 3-act structure within the chapter
  19. Bowser’s Castle is a well done dungeon in general, but especially as a final dungeon… with lots of rest points, items, variety in puzzles, enemies, bosses, and great music
  20. Aggregate: Many nice design features including but not limited to; hotkeys for overworld items, party member usage, indicators of how many turns buffs and debuffs last, clearness of HUD, memory cursor, etc.
  21. Lovely Animation in combat
  22. The Badge system and party members make for some good Alternate Leveling
  23. Second positive for the Badge system
  24. I already mentioned it, but the Difficulty Curve of Paper Mario is one of the best designed curves in RPG history
  25. Earning a second…
  26. ..and third positive
  27. As per usual for this type of game, good Encounter Rate and avoidance
  28. Good thought put into manual Encounter Design
  29. Second positive for Encounter layout and variety
  30. Lots of little tidbits to help Guide the Flow of the game
  31. The Intro does as much well Gameplay wise as it does Narratively
  32. Great placement and distribution of Itemization
  33. Second positive for the great Outro
  34. A second positive for Power Progression Curve
  35. And, as with difficulty curve, a third positive for that amazing Power Progression Curve
  36. Good Visual Distinction design

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable cutscenes
  2. The unnecessary backtracking at the end of chapters is not good, and is mostly padding
  3. Chapter 4 is weirdly lacking in quality compared to the other chapters; it’s short, disinteresting story wise, involves a weirdly large amount of backtracking, the music is grating, the enemies are irritating, and it’s non rewarding
  4. For all the good they do with party members, Parakarry is just irritating, being effectively a swappable HM and requiring you to use him often

Paper Mario 2 and the Thousand Year Door

This is one of my favorite games of all time, and with good reason. While a review with the analytical eye revealed some holes in the game I hadn’t really acknowledged before, the core goodness remains and helps elevate this above and beyond most other RPGs for me. The biggest flaw of this game is it’s locked away on the Gamecube, with no port, remaster, or remake.
Total Story Score: +26
Total Gameplay Score: +45
*Sushi Game*
Cheats: Yes (Lorerun)
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 23 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-23-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The sheer amount and quality of world building and background lore Tattle adds is amazing
  2. The text rending tool adds tremendous resources to determining tone and pace of dialogue
  3. There is a truly insane amount of world building present in the game, connecting it to Paper Mario as well as the Mario & Luigi series
  4. Lots and lots of atmosphere and tone in visual presentation
  5. Chapter 4 in its entirety is just fantastic, thematically, character-wise, and world-building wise
  6. The Princess Peach (and Bowser!) segments
  7. Luigi’s adventures (and his companions, and the accompanying book) are just awesome
  8. There is a great amount of inter-weaving characters, events, plot arcs, and world building that goes mostly unnoticed unless you seek it all out
  9. Interesting, unique, and memorable characters throughout
  10. Excellent visual aesthetic that doesn’t go too far but still makes the game stand out and age well
  11. Chapter 6 is great, varies up the formula, adds interesting characters, continues existing threads, and is a breath of awesome
  12. The finale of everyone uniting and sending their well wishes to us as we fight the Shadow Queen hits me right in the feels, even to this day
  13. Great Animations for cutscenes
  14. Excellent Background Lore
  15. Some really good Camerawork for cutscenes
  16. A second positive for excellent and memorable Characters
  17. A surprisingly large amount of Consequence Storytelling throughout
  18. Really well designed Dialogue
  19. Good Doodad utilization throughout, dungeon and town both
  20. The game is legitimately funny even to this day…
  21. …earning a second positive for Humor
  22. Second positive for Internal Continuity
  23. Absolutely love that Intro, in how it sets so many dominos in motion
  24. Lovely Localization…
  25. …with lots of work to really flesh it out to be awesome
  26. Great Music Direction in service of scenes
  27. NPC Set Dressing is fantastic, especially in Rogueport
  28. Excellent narrative Pacing across the chapters
  29. Plot is actually quite engaging and has several nice twists and turns
  30. Extremely tight Story Sequencing
  31. Second positive for the best World Building we’ve seen in the Mario franchise

Story Negatives:

  1. The thousand year gap is, as ever, not only unnecessary but actively detracts from the plot considering how many people and things had to just sit there, untouched, or undiscovered for a thousand years before stuff started happening
  2. There are several points where dramatic potential is sapped by people somehow, miraculously turning out okay (Koop’s father in Chapter 1, Mush in Chapter 3, etc.)
  3. Several significant character deaths are casually and pointlessly undone in the ending
  4. Several sequences in the narrative are, honestly, quite Padded
  5. As per usual, limiting the Party Members means missing out on lore and story

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The positional combat is, as per the previous game, awesome and well varied
  2. The leveling system is just as good as it was in Paper Mario
  3. The power progression curve is very well designed, especially with regular gameplay boosts at story beats
  4. The difficulty curve is astonishingly smooth, with very few bumps outside of optional combat
  5. The reduction of stats mean every stat matters substantially and makes turn tactics relevant
  6. The badge system gives tremendous customization and options to the player in how they want to play (a few sample builds; Item heavy, Partner heavy, Full Defense, Berserker, One-Hit-Wonder)
  7. Timed Hits, which are fleshed out even more than the previous games by more varieties of QTEs and the added benefits of Stylish and Perfect Counters
  8. Variety of partners, in combat and out
  9. Several noticable improvements to the systems of the first game help elevate the complexity and enjoyment; Stylish attacks, First atrikes being a full attack, Enemies always giving at least 1 experience, Faster leveling speed, More levels to work with, Many more things to spend coins on (improving overall value of coin)
  10. The action commands are far more engaging in general, allowing more interaction and variety in combat
  11. The Partners are far more involved, with more abilities and actual HP bars that add new tactics to combat
  12. Chapter 3 adds wonderful variety to the combat section of things, via the victory conditions and the manually crafted encounters requiring a variety of strategies, complimented by the game allowing you to restock, heal, rebuy, and redo your setup completely in between fights
  13. Chapter 3 and onwards noticeably change up the formula of each chapter gameplay wise, in a good way
  14. Once again the first dungeon (Hooktail’s Castle) serves as an excellent showcasing of proper backtracking and general tutorialization
  15. Keelhaul Key has some fun and innovative puzzles and is a lot more action oriented than most of them to date
  16. Excess Express is probably my favorite ‘dungeon’ in the entire game and with good reason
  17. The puzzles and platforming in the X-Naut Fortress are just fun, difficult, and enjoyable
  18. The Hooktail fight is actually really fun, and is optionally much more difficult
  19. The Magnus von Grapple fight is a great introduction to multi-add fights and how to deal with them, and has some enjoyable attacks to avoid
  20. Macho Grubba is a unique design in that the longer the fight goes on, the harder it gets, which also encourages you to think carefully about your turn usage
  21. The Cortez fights and the Lord Crump fights are both fun stuff
  22. Despite some related issues, the enemy variety is excellent and very fun
  23. The music is generally good to great throughout
  24. The final dungeon, while lacking in the music department, is well designed gameplay wise and serves as a good final exam to everything thusfar
  25. The last few boss fights are well designed, brutal, and awesome
  26. Great Animations in combat
  27. That Badge system is some really fun stuff, earning……a second and…
  28. …a third positive
  29. Second positive for Builds gameplay in Badge design
  30. As with Paper Mario 1, the Difficulty Curve really is excellent
  31. As per usual, good Encounter Rate
  32. And great Encounter design
  33. And a second positive for great Encounter design
  34. And it’s worth mentioning that great Enemy Variety too
  35. Special mention for some truly delightful Graphics design
  36. And a second positive for that Graphics fidelity
  37. Good Guidance towards general Flow and Exploration
  38. Generally good Interface design
  39. Good Itemization distribution throughout the stages and chapters, in both items and Badges
  40. Good Kit between party members and Badges
  41. Some legitimately fun Minigames
  42. Second positive for Music
  43. And a third for Music as well
  44. Great Pacing in gameplay design…
  45. …with lots of wonderful flow in how you do what and when
  46. As with Paper Mario 1, truly amazing Power Progression Curve
  47. And a third Power Progression Curve positive
  48. Some of the best Princess Peach segments in gaming, between Peach and Bowser
  49. Some good Quality of Life features
  50. Good Tutorialization in the early stuff, and with Toadette
  51. Good Visual Distinction
  52. Second positive for Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable cutscenes
  2. The action commands are far more mandatory in this game, meaning for basically every encounter unless you are substantially stronger than your enemies you really have to think about each fight (aka Factory Worker Syndrome)
  3. Chapter 2 has several significant issues, including but not limited to backtracking, irritating music, frustrating enemies, and Puni mechanics which are both lacking and irritating
  4. Chapter 4’s EXCESSIVE backtracking is just awful, going back through the same area no less than five times minimum, with difficult enemies that are hard to avoid and no variety in terrain or puzzles
  5. There are just too many sections of excessive backtracking in general, even in otherwise good areas
  6. Chapter 7’s General White Backtracking Quest is awful; few hints, irritating absence of shortcuts, and just arduous to an extreme (with shortcuts, Yoshi, and knowledge it still took 20 minutes)
  7. Some issues with Padding, notably in Chapter 2, 3, and 4

Super Paper Mario

I remember the story of this game fondly, and with good reason… even though it has severe pacing problems and a lot of padding. But I had forgotten how basic and generally not-fun the gameplay was. Still worth at least a once-through if you can get ahold of a copy, and unafraid to pull punches in its narrative, but good lord this was a slog.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: -12
Cheats: Yes (Lorerun… though I didn’t cheat until the end)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 16 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-25-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. There are a lot of small points connecting the plot in the background for those paying attention, which help repeat viewings (Babylon 5 Effect)
  2. The game does a good job of slowly building the nature and scale of the threat, visually and in terms of impact
  3. Despite everything, the ‘visual novel’ sequence with Francis still makes me laugh
  4. Legitimately interesting backstory
  5. Increased, interesting characterization for Bowser, Peach, and Luigi
  6. Most of the villains are fun and enjoyable, and recur enough to keep them involved
  7. The history’s connecting points to the main plot are interesting and well thought out
  8. Bowser is legitimately awesome the entire game, deserving his own credit
  9. The ending, while massively cliche’d, still was satisfying for me; the ‘friendship’ that helps defeat the big bad comes from the villains, and its usage of the various forms of love is great
  10. Some great Animations for cutscenes
  11. Some great Dialogue throughout
  12. A very good Intro, getting you into the scale and scopes and silliness pretty much immediately
  13. Good Music Direction, especially in the last few stages
  14. Lots of Visual Storytelling, mostly in the later worlds

Story Negatives:

  1. There is a weird amount of whitewashing of the enemies, making them far better than they should be given they were totally okay with killing all the worlds in the multi-verse
  2. Aggregate: Absolutely bizarre pacing of events // Far too much story at beginning and end, with huge gaps of bleh in the middle // Timpani’s ‘video game amnesia’ is as irritating as it usually is in games

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Each playable character is substantially different
  2. The music is good throughout, to the point where I bothered to grab the soundtrack

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Presented as a platformer, but… that platforming is iffy, floaty, and imprecise
  2. Combat is just disinteresting and repetitive, with very, very few enemies requiring anything beyond basic bonking
  3. The ‘breath bar’ of the 3D gimmick is just awful, irritating and forcing the player to pause rather than naturally explore at their own pace (side note: The reward that removes this gimmick takes far too much time and effort to get)
  4. The low-health Zelda beedleeps which are, as usual, aggravating
  5. Unskippable cutscenes
  6. Waggle controls which, as per standard for the Wii, are bad
  7. The level design is just disinteresting
  8. The level design is actively bad for every world, with lots and lots of samey empty areas with few obstacles or enemies
  9. I feel the need to add a level and encounter design negative to the Sammer Kingdom. The encounters aren’t fun, and they repeat way too much, and it’s always just a long flat terrain of boring stupid
  10. The fact that you are forced to use Mario constantly just so you can do the 3D gimmick is absolutely aggravating, especially given how often you need or want to swap to the other characters
  11. The backtracking is pretty bad
  12. Bad boss design across the board (boring, low windows of vulnerability, emptiness of mechanics, little skill… two of the recurring bosses are both defeated in the same manner by the same weapon)
  13. The final dungeon is awful, disinteresting, and a disappointment for being the final dungeon
  14. Power Progression Curve is actively bad… to the point of barely existing (even if you look at it like a platformer and not an RPG, it still fails at that level)

Donkey Kong Country 2

While having a few noticable flaws (including the camera issue, which left me with a headache for multiple days), this is still a very fun, very punishing, very brutal game that was a treat to go through. A definite step up from the original.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Cheats: Yes (savestate usage)
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 8 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-16-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Narrative showcasing through visual elements of map and background give a theme, tone, and atmosphere to the game
  2. The fourth wall humor is amusing (especially from Cranky)
  3. Really good Doodad usage in stage design

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Lots of good level design in terms of utilizing bananas to ‘guide’ you towards me mechanics (hooks, ropes, breakable walls, etc.)
  2. The music is good
  3. The music is… excellent!
  4. The game regularly uses level-specific gimmicks to vary the significance of otherwise normal enemies (eg. Castle Crush using porcupines and chompers as ‘straight level’ obstacles on a level all about being on a straight horizontal plane)
  5. Variety of playstyles between the two Kongs is good, even more so than the previous game, allowing you to choose a favorite or swap based on challenge or level
  6. Windy Well
  7. Castle Crush
  8. Clapper’s Cavern
  9. Toxic Tower
  10. Screech’s Sprint
  11. Aggregate: Lots of good little convenience features like safety barrels (usually just one use), frequent DK barrels, design so you can continue without animal buddies, lots of lives, etc. // The inclusion of the coins and how they can be used to learn secret areas, hints, or to zip around are a nice reward cycle
  12. Reasonably good Enemy Variety throughout

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The camera is so loose in how it follows the character that it becomes nauseating
  2. A second negative for the camera, to the point where it not only gave me a lengthy headache but made me actually nauseous to push through
  3. As per usual for the series, the hitboxes and hurtboxes are just… off on basically everything (enemies, objects, characters)
  4. Aggregate: Several of the bosses are noticeably lacking, making them more boring than anything else // Having to pay to save the game (one free per world) // Difficulties with visual distinction on the busier levels

Pokemon Omega Ruby

If you like the originals, you will probably like this one. While it does several things worse than Emerald, it does almost everything else better… with a few note worthy exceptions. In fact, if this game included the quality of life features from later games, this would actually qualify as my favorite Pokemon game. As is it’s still definitely recommended.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +11
Cheats: Yes (999 Master Balls)
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 24 Hours
Time Reviewed: 8-19-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The little tidbits of news and info on the DexNav are nice bits of flavor lore, events, and plot recap
  2. Wally is adorable, wholesome, and great
  3. Tabitha is regularly awesome in every scene he’s in
  4. There is something wonderfully light-hearted about… most of the story, and the way the characters interact is just delightful
  5. Good usage of Doodads, mostly in town
  6. NPC Set Dressing is also good (everywhere, but also in towns)

Story Negatives:

  1. The entire sequence surrounding Groudon, awakening it, the doom of the world, the excess light and irritating music, just… not good
  2. The Zinnia stuff in the Delta episode was not very well handled and, worse, the ‘end of the world’ plot was weak and best and actively disinteresting at worst
  3. Several issues with Cutscene Incompetence

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Lots of info available both in-combat and out (special mention: blue and red colors on stats to show stats changed by Natures)
  2. DexNav shows what you’ve caught in an area, if you’ve caught everything, and sneaking up on special pokemon
  3. Good dynamic of tactics with 6 sized party and 4 moves per (Pokemon Point)
  4. The minigame and training bag method of both showing and training EVs is a big step up and, more to the point, a better way to customize your Pokemon
  5. Gaining experience for capturing is great, and helps encouraging capturing as well as defeating, and the exp share as a toggle similarly helps in reducing grind substantially
  6. The map is actually very informative and helpful
  7. There is plenty of good music (and remixes) throughout
  8. The pokemon contests are actually pretty fun, and have their own layers, depth, and competency of mini game’ness
  9. The core gameplay loop is, as per usual, enjoyable and engaging
  10. The underlying complexity of Pokemon Effect is exceptional in this one, more to the point it is more ‘on display’ than before thanks to the complexity in the UI
  11. The Eon Flute flying around is awesome. It gives a good showcasing of the map, allows you to quickly fly around to wherever (including routes), and adds flying encounters
  12. Substantial and fun post-game, with its own story, events, fights, etc.
  13. Pokemon point for Builds gameplay
  14. Pokemon point for Enemy Variety
  15. Good Fast Travel
  16. Pokemon Point for good Kit
  17. Pokemon point for good Penalty for Failure
  18. Surprisingly good Outro, one of the better ones in the series
  19. Visual Distinction is really quite good

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable cutscenes
  2. Randomness in catch mechanics (Pokemon Point)
  3. Randomness in finding the specific pokemon you want (Pokemon Point)
  4. HMs and their usual mandatory nature (Pokemon Point)
  5. The game is just too easy, to the point of lowering the overall enjoyment, with only a couple of fights being fun (notable exception; the Steven fight was great)
  6. Aggregate: Forced teleport after Normal gym // HMs can’t be forgotten without a special dude who is not found until way late in the game // While Repels do help, the base encounter rate is far too high
  7. One save slot, which as usual is awful
  8. Serious issues with Walkthroughitis, as per usual

Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess HD

Despite some irritations and frustrations story wise, this game really shows off the years of effort and work to polish the Zelda ‘standard’ established way back in LTTP to a beautiful shine. I loved replaying this game so much that I immediately wanted to play the game again. After replay, this has crawled its way back to the top of my favorite Zeldas.
Total Story Score: +34
Total Gameplay Score: +49
*Sushi Game*
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 24 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-3-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Doodad placement is fantastic and immensely detailed
  2. The intro scenes and build up is nicely done; It shows the world at peace time, gives you insights into the politics, lore, and events from the viewpoint of a nobody, it introduces mechanics and characters, and keeps good pace throughout
  3. A lot of wonderful animations are done to really add to the storytelling
  4. Colin’s story arc through the intro of the game, and how he came to realize the standard you hold yourself to, is a good mirror of Link’s own journey and is enjoyable nonetheless
  5. Lots of little connecting threads and internal continuity of areas, history, and characters
  6. Midna. Midna is easily one of the best supporting characters in the franchise
  7. Zant is, despite his pathetic and sniveling nature, very well written and very awesome
  8. The entire sequence with Midna and Zant, losing the Fused Shadow, and Midna nearly dying…
  9. …and the massive characterization for both Midna and Zelda as she passes the Triforce of Wisdom to her, saving her at the cost of herself and her castle, is just great stuff
  10. The build up to and the finale of Ganondorf still gives me chills
  11. Lovely Atmosphere and Tone of melancholy and general somber vibes
  12. Second Atmosphere positive
  13. Lots of good Background Lore
  14. Some fun Banter with Midna
  15. Good Camerawork for cutscenes
  16. Second positive for that Camerawork
  17. Consequence Storytelling throughout
  18. Really good Dialogue, rarely for the series
  19. Second positive for that Doodad utilization, especially in dungeons
  20. Lots of good Internal Continuity
  21. Second positive for that absolutely amazing Intro, between the ranch, the castle, and the ranch swathed in twilight
  22. Good usage of Lighting to accent scenes
  23. Great Localization
  24. Really good Music Direction for the most part
  25. NPC Set Dressing is great for the towns
  26. Second positive for that amazing, impacting Outro
  27. And a third one for the tone and build up
  28. Excellent narrative Pacing, especially the first half of the game
  29. Core Plot is tight and enjoyable
  30. Good Sound Design
  31. Surprisingly good Story Sequencing of events
  32. Very good Storyboarding for most scenes
  33. Central Themes are very powerful in this one. Identity, earning our place in life, and how much we’re willing to do for what we care about
  34. Very good Visual Continuity
  35. Fantastic Visual Storytelling
  36. Second positive for that Visual Storytelling, especially across dungeons
  37. Good World Building…
  38. …across pretty much every facet of the game

Story Negatives:

  1. The ending inconsistency with the Triforce of Power just randomly going away, and Zant doing who knows what is bad by itself, but when even the creators don’t know what’s happening or why…
  2. Midna destroying the mirror runs contrary to the dominant theme of the game (light and dark mixing, neither being good or bad) and the cheap way of pulling at heartstrings
  3. Issues with proper continuity from Ocarina and Majora’s to this game, despite being so overtly connected
  4. Several issues with improper Music Direction in certain scenes

Gameplay Positives:

  1. A lot of effort is put into making the gameplay very fluid; taking action while moving (swinging, talking on horseback) as well as the ‘reach’ mechanic of being a Wolf makes it feel different and fast
  2. Playing as a wolf feels noticeably different from Link and the variety of kit and different puzzles and encounters help you feel like you’re playing as two distinct entities
  3. Mounted combat is fun stuff, and as with everything else, very fluid
  4. The ‘fire temple’ is very fun and varied from the forest dungeon, with good ‘folding in on itself’ design and a lot of circling around, adding to the density of rooms
  5. Boss design is good across the board, with lots of using early enemies or phases to tutorialize encounter gimmicks
  6. Link’s kit is good, lots of fun variety of tools with multiple uses
  7. Good and informative map design and related interface
  8. Good overall fast travel system (unlocks more as you go, procure by first visiting, lots of locations, fast travel from anywhere)
  9. The dungeon design is good in general, varying up standardized mechanics (keys, items) and dungeon-specific mechanics (magnetics, waterflow, monkeys, etc.)
  10. Combat is fun, probably one of the funnest in the Zeldas for sheer combat
  11. Adding moves to combat helps add to the complexity and fun of combat itself which, in addition to being (mostly) optional, is a fun way to advance (variants of moves rather than new weapons or spells)
  12. Gyroscope aiming is, as usual, awesome, intuitive, and freeform
  13. There are a large number of varied and fun side-quests and minigames
  14. The Arbiter’s Grounds is, as usual, fun and interesting (the gimmick of the spinner works well, if limited to just the dungeon)
  15. The Temple of Time is a great romp, with fun puzzles and a great ‘once you get the item’ segment
  16. As much as it causes me issues, the City in the Sky is very well designed and has some of the more interesting puzzles in the game
  17. Fyrus is a fun and interesting fight
  18. Stallord is one of the more enjoyable, if relatively simple, bosses alongside // Armogohma, which despite its random nature has some nice phase jumping
  19. Blizzeta and Argorok are also both very fun fights
  20. The Snowpeak Ruins is easily my favorite dungeon in the game. In addition to being very densely designed, and built around the idea of ice and snow (without being irritating), it also manages great variety in the form of the soup, the Yeti’s, and the friendly feel of the ‘town’ segment of the dungeon
  21. The pacing of overworld > dungeon > overworld pattern (lots to do in between dungeons)
  22. A general pseudo-aggregate for lots… and lots and lots of examples of good game design in small but critical ways (shortcut elevators, pots with necessary items, looping unlock design, etc.)
  23. The boss fight with Zant is fantastic. It has excellent characterization through combat and animation, showcasing his lack of ingenuity and frantic, petulant behavior… as well as being legitimately fun to fight
  24. The final boss fight with Ganondorf is still one of my favorite build ups and pay offs in the franchise
  25. Animations really help with combat and how to deal with enemies
  26. Controls get a second positive for being probably the best Zelda controls I’ve seen
  27. And a second positive for that wonderful, very fun Core Combat (second best in the series, imo)
  28. Difficulty Curve is very smooth throughout
  29. Second positive for the Difficulty Curve
  30. Lots and lots of work and effort put into…
  31. …Encounter design and the manual placement thereof throughout
  32. Usual great Enemy Variety…
  33. …but above and beyond for the Zelda series in how varied they are in attacks and weaknesses
  34. Really great Graphics design
  35. Second Graphics positive
  36. Good overall HUD
  37. Intro is truly fun to play through…
  38. …to the point where I’ve loved replaying it for years, all the way up to that first wonderful dungeon
  39. The Itemization of various tools you get and how the items are distributed is great stuff
  40. Third positive for general Level design
  41. Music is generally good
  42. A second positive for that fantastic Outro
  43. The Pacing of the game is fantastic…
  44. …knowing exactly how much time to spend on each type of engagement and how to swap between them and when
  45. Power Progression Curve of new weapons, armor, tools is nice and smooth
  46. Good overall Save System
  47. Good overall Sound Design, per Zelda usual
  48. One of the few Zeldas where it’s fun to just get from Point A to Point B
  49. Tutorialization is generally good, especially in this version…
  50. …but special mention to that first dungeon which really does so much to Tutorialize the entire game in one neat section
  51. Lovely Visual Continuity which always helps with navigating the overworld
  52. Usual great Visual Distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Unskippable tutorials in the intro
  2. Uncomfortable and unpleasant visuals and audio while in the Twilight Realm
  3. Aggregate: The monkey reverse escort quest // Midna’s lament being interrupted by combat music // Having to manually turn in each bug at Agitha // The arduousness of the Poe quest, and the fact that they’re time locked with no option to wait

Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD

I will admit, this game dipped a bit on replay for me… the dungeon design really didn’t work for me, the bosses were mostly unremarkable, and of course there’s several issues of older, more irritating aspects of game design… the story helps salvage a great deal of the game and, while it did get a bit bland at times, is still very fun to play through.
Total Story Score: +21
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 3 Days // 19 Hours
Time Reviewed: 9-5-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The Forsaken Fortress scene where Rito and Valoo help is nice to begin with, but also very cool in how it changes the stakes and acknowledges events
  2. A general plus for internal continuity
  3. A plus for good external continuity, connecting nicely to Ocarina of Time with only one major plot hole
  4. This Link is easily my favorite Link; in addition to the fact that he’s just some kid (ignoring Skyward Sword), he’s expressive, well characterized, and interesting
  5. There are a surprising number of genuinely funny moments throughout
  6. Art style is used to good effect, varying up zones and adding variety to islands
  7. Tetra is one of the better Zeldas in the franchise and a good character… up to a point
  8. World building is probably the best we’ve seen in the franchise, really fleshing out islands, people, cultures, etc.
  9. Atmosphere is great, getting across a combination of melancholy and light-heartedness
  10. The core themes (knowing when to fold them, and choosing your own path) are awesome, and prevalent throughout the game (in both large and small ways)
  11. The core plot and its assessment of the ideas of ‘following the beaten path’ vs. ‘choosing your own path’ and showcasing how Ganon very nearly completely won, and added complexity this gives the game, is just great
  12. The music is just great, both in music and in direction
  13. The final battle with Ganondorf, leading into the King, is complex, beautiful, and nicely leads into…
  14. …the ending, as brief as it is, is very powerful. Hyrule, Fi, the Triforce… all gone, washed away into a new world, lamented but accepted
  15. Animations really help with cutscenes
  16. Good Camerawork which, again, helps with those cutscenes
  17. Lovely Doodad usage, especially in town islands
  18. Really love the entire Intro, and how it sets up Link and his arc
  19. Good Localization overall
  20. Great NPC Set Dressing in the ‘town’ islands
  21. Surprisingly good Storyboarding for cutscenes
  22. A second positive for those core Themes

Story Negatives:

  1. The removal of Tetra from the narrative and downgrading her from a character to a captured princess is just awful

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Good music throughout
  2. The art style is quite distinct, with no issues figuring out what is where
  3. Gyroscope aiming is, as always, awesome and the second best aiming method for intuitiveness and smoothness
  4. The shortcut pots are a good way of cutting down on backtracking or padding, especially since one is at the boss of dungeons
  5. The Earth and Wind dungeons are pretty cool concepts, and the idea of playing as Medli and Makar is fun
  6. Decent fast travel system (fight one miniboss then unlock everything, good amount and spread of fast travel nodes, fast travel from boat)
  7. The final fight with Ganondorf is one of the best fights in the franchise
  8. Core Combat is quite fun, if a bit simple (the musical beats help)
  9. Good Encounter design, per Zelda norm
  10. Good Enemy Variety, per Zelda norm
  11. I really do love the Graphics aesthetic and approach
  12. HUD is quick and informative
  13. That Intro is also very fun to play through, and helps get you into everything it needs to beat by beat
  14. Usual good Kit for a Zelda game (especially the Grappling Hook)
  15. The Outro has a few issues but that final dungeon sprint, the final boss fight, some really great stuff
  16. Pacing in dungeons is quite good
  17. Save System is quick and efficient
  18. Generally good Zelda Sound Design
  19. Second positive for some of the most clear-cut Visual Distinction in a Zelda game, thanks almost entirely to those stylized graphics

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Long, unskippable tutorials
  2. No proper options for camera controls
  3. After considerable thought, even with the improved sail it simply takes too long to get from Point A to Point B
  4. There is too much padding and irritation in constantly playing the mind control song (or, really, any songs)
  5. The boss refights are the worst type of boss refights
  6. Aggregate: Unnecessary restrictions on where you can sail early game arbitrarily // The auction house… just sucks // A few triforce pieces are a bit too padding’y to grab (and are mandatory) // Several of the heart pieces are just a slog to procure

Star Wars Jedi Knight Jedi Academy

While the game shows its age in more ways than one, notably the engine its tied to, the fact is this game was surprisingly fun to play. The different lightsaber styles are still fun, and it’s still enjoyable romping around playing a jedi in the EU. Worth a look if you’ve never played it.
Total Story Score: 0 or -8 (depending)
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Cheats: Yes (right at the end, just to screw around)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 13 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-16-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. There’s a nice, adventurous tone to just being a jedi and roaming the galaxy helping people

Story Negatives:

  1. The cutscenes are rushed and poorly written.
  2. Note: All Negatives after this point only count if you take the story seriously. If you’re just laughing at it as you go, these aren’t really valid. That being said…
  3. Camera usage is actively dull and poorly executed
  4. The dialogue is very clipped, tries to be amusing but fails (making it awkward), and doesn’t work for the characters
  5. Rosh is… just awful. His Dark Side ‘descent’ happens across like 4 cutscenes, is poorly showcased, and he is both irritating and creepy
  6. The Dark Side ending is really badly done, rushed, and laughable
  7. The Light Side ending isn’t much better
  8. Aggregate: General lacking story presentation across the whole game
  9. Cinematics are… really, really not good

Gameplay Positives:

  1. There are some good, fun things they do with lightsaber combat
  2. Good variety in level design and objectives
  3. A surprisingly large number of possible abilities, guns, and items to vary up playstyle
  4. Force Lightning is just weirdly awesome; good damage, aoe, knock back, looks cool, sounds cool
  5. With one notable exception, the enemies are usually interesting and fun to go through and fight (eg. dualsaber dark jedi are more vulnerable by cuts from above to bypass defenses)
  6. The dual wield and dualsaber styles are very fun (if less effective) and add good variety to combat
  7. The Core Mechanics of the lightsaber remain good
  8. Surprisingly well designed Encounters throughout
  9. Good Pacing throughout the stages

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The collision detection is just not good, causing issues both with lightsaber combat (which relies on it) and general platforming (making gameplay awkward)
  2. The flying jetpack enemies are just the worst. They avoid or ignore powers but the worst part is they have way, way too much HP, making them the only enemy (in the entire game!) that is just irritating to fight rather than interesting
  3. Continuous issues with collision regarding platforming and physics weirdness

Jade Empire

While it has a couple issues, this game has held up better than I thought it would. It lacks some of the Bioware charm, but there’s still an interesting story here, with surprisingly fun combat mechanics, and a good New Game + mode to try out new playstyles. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it. For the record, this was reviewed with the 2013 GOG version.
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 28 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-13-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The game gets creative in utilizing standard Bioware-style cutscenes with pre-rendered ones to craft a larger directorial style
  2. Side quest design is good, and the nature of the quests (comedic, ridiculous, serious, impacting)
  3. The twist with Master Li, in hindsight, is very well set up, presented, and executed
  4. The build up and Babylon 5 Effect related to said twist is also well done, and shows good forethought
  5. There isn’t a lot of world building, but the world building that is there is excellent and just poses more desire to know more about the greater world
  6. Kang the Mad and Zin Bu are both just awesome
  7. The game is surprisingly good at keeping track of Internal Continuity
  8. The Intro section with the monestary works way better than I remembered, and does a lot of good very quickly

Story Negatives:

  1. The voice acting is not stellar, and actively mis-uses tone and presentation constantly
  2. The Camerawork is actively working against the overall storytelling

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The pseudo 2D style of combat works surprisingly well while still allowing tactics and skill
  2. The ability to swap forms on the fly in combat to chain and combo is fun and smooth
  3. Side quests are good, and have good branching options and rewards
  4. As usual, good New Game + is a plus
  5. Aggregate: You are encouraged to tinker in the various playstyles, and each has its own benefits and detriments // Each one is balanced off each other so there’s a degree of both time and resource management built in
  6. Aggregate: Dialogue log, with replayable voice acting // The combat itself is quite smooth, despite the jerky and stuttering animations, which prevent this from being a full positive
  7. The Intro does a lot right in getting you used to the fighting styles, quest structure, and choices gameplay
  8. Surprisingly good Pacing as you progress through the acts
  9. Good Save System

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: There is a consistent issue with No Music, notably during cutscenes // The relative lack of skill points combined with no respeccing discourages first time players from experimenting // Occasionally unskippable cutscenes

Star Trek Legacy

This game is hilariously bad. If you can get a working copy, I actually recommend you do so just to enjoy how ridiculous it is. That being said, some legitimately frustrating issues (most notably the total lack of mid mission checkpoints or the ability to save in mission) do make it a bit of a hassle to slog through. I’m told that many of the bugs I encountered are not present on the XBox 360 version, so prefer that one if you can.
Total Story Score: -11
Total Gameplay Score: -15
Cheats: Yes (invincibility)
Total Play Time: 1 Day // 7 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-14-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Credit where it’s due, Shatner (and only Shatner) is actually really killing it in the Voice Acting department

Story Negatives:

  1. The story is… not good, with nonsensical objectives and unnecessarily stupid solutions to issues (such as not finding a cloaked, stationary space station!)
  2. The voice acting is bland for everyone except William Shatner (who, bizarrely, does a great job)
  3. There’s no sense of continuity across missions, with weird jumps in or between missions
  4. Massive over-reliance on technobabble to push through missions
  5. The Camerawork is, at best, completely dull as dishwater
  6. The game is made legitimately worse by its bad usage of External Continuity to the rest of Trek
  7. This is related to how many issues with World Destruction this one has (I mean really…)
  8. There’s a weirdly large amount of Fake Drama for such a short game
  9. The Intro with Archer really sets the tone… for just how much of a trainwreck the story is
  10. It’s okay though, the Outro feels completely pathetic as well
  11. A second negative for the overall Plot, good lord
  12. The core Themes of generational conflicts and the creation of the Borg and the dangers of logic… really fall flat

Gameplay Positives:

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The in-game UI is extremely uninformative and poorly thought out
  2. The core combat is bland, restrictive, and limiting
  3. The tutorial was actively misleading sometimes, and at other times just did not give out necessary information
  4. There are multiple sound issues, including but not limited to; bad microphones for voice acting, odd clipping on some sound FX, and the combat sounds in general being awful
  5. The missions are long, and there are no mid mission checkpoints nor the ability to save in mid mission
  6. Crash issues and game breaking bugs both
  7. Frequent issues with being unable to perform even basic operations like locking on or firing weapons (appears to be bugs)
  8. Awful ally AI, made even more aggravating by the fact that they’re actually better than you in every way once they actually do anything
  9. The celestial debris mission gets special recognition for poor design; requiring you to destory instantly respawning asteroids, the inability to properly move AI friendly ships to help cover, the asteroids themselves moving deceptively quickly, and having to slowly tractor turrets at impulse to distant planets, all made even worse by the fact that if you screw up at any time you start all over thanks to the no mid mission checkpoint problem
  10. There’s almost a lack of Camera control
  11. Which ties into the theme of having bad Controls in general
  12. The Interface looks thrown together in MS Paint and has issues with working in general
  13. Did I mention the Intro is awful to play? Great lead in to the rest of the game though
  14. And in pairing, the Outro really just sucked to play, unless you’re either making fun of it or drunk (or both…)

Donkey Kong Country 3

The beginning of this game is easily the best of the Rare trilogy, but it has a few issues that pile up by the end, and the quality of level design in general just tips downwards the further into the game you get. On technical score this one rates worse than the previous two and, honestly, that’s almost entirely down to the pain and frustration of the final worlds. Still recommended you give it a try, for the first two-thirds at least.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +2
Cheats: Yes (savestates on Koindozer Klamber and the last boss)
Total Play Time: 1 Day // 8 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-15-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Narrative showcasing through visual elements of map and background give a recurring punk, environmentalist tone throughout
  2. Again, good Doodad usage, as usual for the series

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Almost every level has at least some variance on existing base mechanics
  2. Level design is consistently interesting
  3. Second plus for outstanding level variety and gimmicks
  4. A third and final plus for every single level having a different, often substantially different, gimmick or design
  5. Significant effort is put into maintaining the 3D graphical style and the game has much less visual chaos than 2
  6. Music is good throughout
  7. Good visual continuity through the overworld
  8. Banana trails are used as both symbols for tutorialization and a general guide of how to progress through levels
  9. Good Enemy Variety

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Boss design is just frustrating across the board, with few exceptions
  2. The Koindozer Klamber level is awful. The enemies by their nature troll, denying movement while ‘locking’ them into fail states upon any failure in jumping pattern. This is on top of a difficult to see backdrop and color palette, lack of good positioning for the mid mission checkpoint, and utter bullcrap in slanted slopes and pits
  3. Aggregate: Punishing gameplay prevents proper enjoyment of difficulty // Improper lives system design // Camera shuffles at the edge and pace of the character which, in addition to being too far zoomed in, makes it hard to see enemies or obstacles ahead of you in various levels // While not as bad as previous games, there are still hitbox and hurtbox issues
  4. Aggregate: Essentially this is a second negative for all the same issues in the previous Aggregate as they got much worse in the final worlds
  5. Honestly the Difficulty Curve is wonky as hell, yo-yoing between too easy, too hard, and actually good
  6. Special mention for some awful Level design later on
  7. And one last bonus negative for the entire Outro being so awful I actively wanted to stop playing

Breath of Fire 2

My goodness. So I went through this game with the fan patch, which helped the story side of things, and without cheating aside from savestates and fast forwarding, and good lord is this a flawed game. There’s some legitimately good ideas here, and I’m actually rather with the story, but this was a painful chore to slog through. If you pick it up, play it with a walkthrough, as it’ll help tremendously.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: -18
Cheats: Yes (Savestates and Fast Forward, for slog reasons)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 28 Hours
Time Reviewed: 12-03-2019

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Katt is delightful. She’s adorable, protective, dorky, energetic, sincere, earnest, and can kick twelve kinds of ass
  2. There is a surprising amount of self consistency with internal continuity, both in terms of events and characters
  3. Nina’s section is good stuff, with a neat connection to 1 (with some logical flaws that are explained in 3) and Mina’s tragic sacrifice
  4. Katt’s chapter, the revelation of how simplistic and ultimately inaccurate TIga’s ‘love at first sight’ is, the nature of the church and how it tortures people into submission to feed Eva, and Claris and Tiga’s horrible deaths
  5. The sacrifice of Daisy for her son still has tremendous emotional impact
  6. The lead up to and actions around the final boss are actually pretty awesome, with the charge to the boss, strike, use of Infinity, et cetera
  7. Aggregate: The SimaFort section is pretty neat, showcasing the apathy of more cultural people without strife, and being amusing // There’s good stuff with the various races and how they act around each other // The ending is so so, but the credits showing the name of every single NPC in the game is kind of cool
  8. Credit where it’s due, the game uses Animations well in cutscenes and combat
  9. There is a very dark, gloomy Tone the game maintains surprisingly well
  10. The Intro does great stuff, starting with a tight mystery, character introductions, and getting the plot hooks going immediately

Story Negatives:

  1. The translation (in the original SNES english version) is… truly, absolutely atrocious
  2. Aggregate: Patty’s reveal is, well, silly, and she appears a grand total of 8 times (counting the ending) despite being three separate plot points // Haburuku being revealed as Hulk is just… what? It’s a twist for twist’s sake and makes less sense the more you think about it // There are only two sources of characterization for the party members, and while each one’s chapters are good, the party banter in TownShip are awful because of how arduous it would be to go traipse back at every plot point (on foot) to talk to them
  3. As tends to be a problem, quite a few examples of Cutscene Incompetence
  4. Honestly, the Doodad utilization is severely lacking, which really saps the visual storytelling
  5. Several issues with Story Sequencing (honestly, sometimes it feels like the next plot point is there just because)

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Several cool UI things, such as the encounter rate in the menu, dragon gems showing morality and disposition, discoverable HP bars for enemies, etc.
  2. In-combat spritework is fantastic, for both party members and for enemies, with lots of little cool details
  3. At several points throughout the game, clear effort is made to be creative and vary up the combat of what is, ultimately, a very simple combat (Harpy fight, saving the villagers, etc.)
  4. TownShip is an awesome idea, and can lead to good customization, cosmetics, rewards, and fun
  5. The Shaman system is a great idea, with form changes, stat changes, and multiple combinations
  6. Aggregate: There are fun little gameplay and story integration points throughout the game // Occasionally good doodad placement, mostly indoors in towns // Extra effort on making higher quality sprites for the ending
  7. Just like for narrative, the Animations are great (especially in combat)
  8. Surprisingly good Enemy Variety throughout the game

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Walkthroughitis is just everywhere in this game
  2. A second negative for walkthroughitis as a recurring problem (TownShip, Shamans, Dragon Forms, Fishing, permanently losing access to stuff, etc.)
  3. Unskippable cutscenes, which is particularly bad given how easy it is to die to so many bosses
  4. Encounter rate is through the friggin’ roof
  5. The encounter rate is so high it actively discourages exploration, while at the same time making exploration more frustrating as you get seconds-long glimpses of the dungeon before another fight
  6. The encounter rate is ridiculous, which combines with the fact that the music restarts from the beginning every time it plays, leading to a constant issue of hearing the first 10 seconds of every song in encounter areas over and over
  7. The difficulty curve is unbalanced, and all over the place. If you’re on the curve you crush everything, if you’re not you die in three hits, and there is mandated grind to resolve this (either in levels, zenny for gear, or cooking for cheesing the cooking system)
  8. There is this one, absolutely huge section of backtracking across literally half the world map, on foot, mandating you take 4 total trips (on foot!) with no changes, interesting things to do, variances, or whatnot… and heaven help you if you forgot Sten at any point
  9. The Sten solo section… sucks. There’s no real warning of it, there’s no rewinding previous to it (thanks to how the save system works), Sten himself sucks in story and gameplay which also means he’s likely to be underleveled, the dungeon itself is filled with dead ends, the game in general emphasizes how much solo sections sucks thanks to action economy, and Sten’s special ability literally is worse in every way when he’s solo
  10. Some of the characters are actively worse than others (bad stat growth, bad kit), the power progression curve is all over the place (everyone levels and stat ups at different rates, and too slowly), multiple characters are actively badly designed. Rand’s ability works periodically, Katt’s is a taunt which is useless for the most vulnerable character in the game, Sten’s ability has no value and is actively worse for his solo mandatory section, Spar’s ability is incredibly random and flat out does not work in some areas, Bow’s ability is only useful in very specific circumstances, etc
  11. The music direction is just awful, combined with many songs that have entirely too short of loops, leading to huge, huge sections of gameplay where you listen to 30 seconds of the same song for minutes upon minutes
  12. The Infinity Dungeon. High encounter rate, boring visuals, repetitive layout, the song isn’t particularly good and suffers the ‘first 10 seconds’ problem mentioned earlier, the enemies are irritating and have the ability to just kill you at random, chests are barely worth it and hugely out of the way or require Sten, the background Mode 7 graphic is literally nauseating and disinteresting aside, it is horrifically long, and it forces you to lose your Shaman Fusions at the halfway point
  13. A second negative for the awful boring slog that is Infinity Dungeon. It is, ultimately, everything wrong with the rest of the game, but magnified
  14. The Barubary fight is cheap. He has a ton of health, does AOE damage every single turn, counter attacks, can multi-strike, and does more damage the less health he has
  15. The final boss, by contrast, is completely boring. He has a flat, disinteresting song, and is piss easy (literally easier than the trash outside his room), and a final boss should not be as dull and disappointing as this
  16. A second negative for Backtracking, and…
  17. …a third one, given that there’s so much Backtracking constantly across dungeons, the overworld, and then all of it over again
  18. The Difficulty Curve really has so many difficulty cliffs
  19. As with a lot of older RPGs, the Encounter Rate is ridiculously too high
  20. Did I mention the game is pretty Grindy?
  21. Because the game is very Grindy
  22. There’s a lot of Info In Game that is… not. Part of the walkthrough problem mentioned earlier
  23. I already gave several distinct negatives, but honestly the entire Outro needs another negative to really emphasize just how bad that final trek and boss fights are
  24. Overworld Design is very lacking, with no real thought into what should be where…
  25. …and no real thought into guiding the player, and spreading things out too far
  26. There are a lot of Padding issues across the game