Classics 3


Ori And The Blind Forest

While the game has some substantial flaws (excessive bloom, cinematic camera during gameplay sequences, and trial-and-error gameplay) this is still a good game that was very fun to play through, that I highly recommend for any fans of Metroidvanias or precision platformers in general.
Total Story Score: +6
Total Gameplay Score: +5
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 10 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-6-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Animation is very top notch, both in cutscenes and in gameplay
  • Art design is phenomenal, with very well designed areas and entities
  • Direction in general for the cutscenes is fantastic
  • Music direction is perfectly keyed to suit the story presentation
  • The escape sequences in general are very well designed, with great music and intensity
  • The feels are real, both in the intro and the outro

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Music in general is good, and segues nicely into other songs as you move
  • Bash is a fascinating tool for both maneuvering and combat and is well used in puzzle and enemy design (also good audio cue)
  • Looping level design ties into the usual Metroidvania style of slowly expanding playable area
  • Pacing is good in controlling types of levels and challenges you face, with good ‘breather’ segments usually just after getting a power up
  • The controls are responsive, fluid, and precise
  • There are many very fun jumping challenges throughout
  • The additional challenges of the new Definitive area are very fun and well designed
  • The Forlorn Ruins were really, really fun and I loved the gravity altering mechanic for the level
  • Dash, and grenade are fun additions that add good mobility

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The Ginso tree escape was pretty badly designed gameplay wise, with unclear hurtboxes on the water, very low margin of error, no checkpoints, and worst of all rubberbanding
  • The Horu escape is also pretty badly designed, with very low margin of error, no checkpoints across a huge section, and heavy reliance on memorization
  • Bloom is way too high, to the point where (at sections) it’s legitimately hard to see properly
  • Aggregate: Heavy requirement of minimalized error in jumps a bit too often // The Forlorn Escape was heavily reliant upon memorization // Issues with visibility in the Mount Horu // Cutscenes are pseudo unskippable

Jak and Daxter

We played the PS4 version. While not outstanding, this was still a fun game (marred by some frustrations with the camera… frequently) and I can see why the series and the developer took off after this. Probably one of the better collectathons of the era.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-9-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Camera direction and usage (cartoon)
  • Animation in cutscenes is legitimately top notch, even now
  • Voice acting is quite good overall

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Guidance and direction in level design
  • General platforming is decent but aided by the quick respawns, frequent checkpoints, and lack of any real lives system which gives good pacing
  • Sound design is surprisingly good, especially in helping the player figure things out if they’re ‘stuck’
  • Visual distinction on interactables and color coordination on types of power ups

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The camera is just bad, bad, bad and consistently in the way of performing and enjoying the game
  • The camera also has an awful tendency of focusing on entirely the wrong thing, requiring either blind jumps or just getting hit or dying
  • Aggregate: The void escape isn’t that bad but it’s pretty badly designed (camera focuses on everything but the platforms and the characters, very little margin of error, no checkpoints) // If you die in a certain spot in the underwater area you respawn in completely the wrong area, requiring a game restart // Unskippable cutscenes

Phantasy Star

Well this is an odd one. Solid, but dated, this game is actually quite good… for the time. A lot of things that could have been bad or negatives weren’t, but there wasn’t much pulling it up, resulting in what seems like a neutral score, but honestly I’d recommend giving it a go. There’s some fun stuff here. To be clear, we played the Sega Ages version.
Total Story Score: 0
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough)
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 10 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-14-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • The pause menu and the spell lists, item lists, equipment lists and who can equip what, what they do, and how much they cost / what strength they are being built into the game is pretty nice
  • Aggregate: Automap helps tremendously with this type of dungeon design // Animations / enemy designs // The option to play with the ‘ages’ version or original is good // Several generally good design decisions throughout

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Dungeon song (short loop, very repetitive) // Excessive button mashing to get through text boxes (opening chests, doors, etc.) // Severely limited inventory size compounded by… // …key items you can’t remove taking up inventory space // No real indicators of where to use the ice digger

Grandia Remaster

First and foremost; if you have any kind of motion sickness, be warned. This game made me legitimately nauseated constantly and I had to take dramamine to push through it. Aside from that, it has a cool leveling system but is lackluster in most elements of gameplay, but is bolstered by a good story that remains solid throughout disc 1… and tapers off in disc 2. Recommended if you can stomach it.
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: -5
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough)
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 33 Hours
Time Reviewed: 4-28-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Camera usage and general cinematography is quite good
  • Doodad utilization and detail is great, especially in towns and indoors
  • Great back and forth of party members to NPCs
  • Lindblum Effect is great, with tons of NPCs and lots of dialogue and fleshing out of a living world
  • Character spritework and animation is good
  • Sue is really adorable and a treat
  • Sue’s sendoff is wonderfully heartfelt and sad, and helps show the direction the story is taking
  • World building is all over the place (in a good way)
  • Portraits are good but the way they add tone and expression is great
  • Dining / camping sequences are a fantastic way to have the characters talk with each other, cover recent events, and develop story
  • Justin & Feena grow together surprisingly well over the course of the game, and their dynamic is good stuff
  • Disc 1 is actually really good (pacing, tone, theme, tightness of storytelling and self cohesion)

Story Negatives:

  • The entire Pakon, kidnapping, forced-into-marriage thing is bad in its own right but its entirely played off for laughs (and honestly there’s a lot of ‘here’s some horrible thing, but it’s okay cuz it’s a joke!’ going on… and honestly a lot of the game just sort of brushes off horrible things as ‘it’s a joke’)
  • Inconsistent tone shifts between silly zany fun (falling from a cliff with no issue, ha ha they’re going to sacrifice us, ha ha it’s the zany military trio) and well reasoned and logical (Sue is too young to adventure regularly, cohesive world building, end of the world threat)
  • Aggregate: The five minute retirement feels exceptionally off, especially since literally the next scene is the ‘we’re all with you’s cene // Mullen’s VA actively ruins every scene he’s in, most egregiously during Leen’s death

Gameplay Positives:

  • Spell and weapon combo abilities are decent, but what really helps sell them is the variety of abilities and subsequent paths to power progression
  • Sound design is good for the time and pretty varied
  • Aggregate: Auto-battle is decent // Stat ups upon raising weapon and magic skills which encourages spreading out leveling without enforcing it // Music is pretty good // Decent enemy variety across zones

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The game’s approach to camera (most noticeably in combat) is actually nauseating, giving me and several viewers issues
  • Sadly the sheer quantity of combat necessitates a second negative for nausea and headache inducing camera in combat
  • Combat voice clip spam is pretty bad
  • Unskippable cutscenes
  • Some of the songs are actively awful, with far too short of loops and far too little music
  • There’s little delays in many actions in the game; between talking, selecting actions, animations, all of which contribute to a ‘drag’ on the game which makes it feel like it’s taking longer than it really is and makes the whole experience start to just… drag after a while
  • The Outro is pretty lackluster. The final dungeon is pretty boring, but made worse by disinteresting visuals, actively bad music, and many… many enemy encounters smashing you in the face, plus two bland boss fights (admittedly the final Baal fight was actually pretty good)
  • Aggregate: “Encounter rate” is honestly just too high, especially on disc 2 // The Warp dungeon is… not good, with confusing one-directional inconsistent doors, irritating encounters, and having to backtrack out (like most dungeons)

Grand Theft Auto 4

You probably don’t need my opinion here, but in case you haven’t played it, I do still think this game is worth at least a once through.. especially with the expansions done right after. The Rockstar team really shines when it comes to storytelling for this game and it’s probably the best designed GTA to date… in story. But good lord, playing through it is just a chore, an aggravation, or both.
Total Story Score: +26
Total Gameplay Score: -6
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 6 Days // 50 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-5-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • IV: Niko is a surprisingly simple and complex person at the same time, and is probably my second favorite GTA protagonist ever
  • IV: Roman is… easily my favorite GTA character to-date, wonderfully human, flawed, enthusiastic, voiced, presented, everything
  • IV: Voice acting is top notch
  • IV: Motion capture animation is great as usual
  • IV: Foreshadowing / Babylon 5 Effect is extensive, with entire scenes taking on a whole new light the second time around
  • IV: Attention to detail in the city really helps fill it out and add to the feeling of being in a real city
  • IV: Doodad utilization is fantastic everywhere
  • IV: Pretty much the entire intro sequence just has absolutely fantastic storytelling and writing, teasing just enough while still having human conversations that sound natural and avoiding spoiling things early on
  • IV: The dialogue is some of the best written in the entire franchise, bar none
  • IV: The usual radio and satire plus for humor
  • IV: There’s a lot of detail and humor built into the websites, of which there are many
  • IV: The entire Vlad arc and how it showcases Roman, Niko, and begins the events of (really) the entire rest of the game is just poetry
  • IV: The final Broker mission, the reality crashing down on Roman and Niko, their dynamic, Roman’s voice acting, it’s just poetry
  • IV: Little Jacob is a total bro, Brucie is surprisingly enjoyable, and Dwayne is relatable
  • IV: Dimitri and Mikhail have surprisingly good dynamic and a ton of density to their relationship while they’re on camera
  • IV: Interconnectivity within this game is really tight, with the threads logically connecting everywhere
  • IV: The big mission where you go after Bernie and confront him is just poetry gold. The way Niko reacts, the way Bernie reacts, the astonishing amount of characterization Bernie gets in just one scene, Roman being there with him despite everything, it’s just great
  • IV: Packie is standout by himself but there’s also tons of great supporting characters
  • IV: The climax mission (no not Deal / Revenge, Darko) is just absolutely amazing in how powerful it is, how emotionally core it is to one of the game’s main themes, to Niko, to Roman… just, incredibly powerful, and the choice itself feels impactful
  • TLaTD: Animation / Mocap is, as per the vanilla game, quite excellent and really helps sell the characters (Ashley is a standout example of really well done animation)
  • TLaTD: Voice acting is excellent as per standard
  • TLaTD: The core plot of the downfall of the Lost and Johnny’s descent is really well done, for however depressing it is it remains powerful and well crafted
  • TLaTD: There are many interesting, varied, and well done characters in Lost
  • TLaTD: Johnny himself is a great protagonist, who manages to really sell the knight in shining armor thing while remaining level headed and also a pushover who tries his best but screws up and is a generally well done three dimensional tragic figure
  • TLaTD: Connectivity between this and the other two games is good, and the pacing of the plot is excellent
  • BoGT: Animation and motion capture are, as usual, excellent (special props to Tony’s)
  • BoGT: Voice acting is, once again, fantastic
  • BoGT: Connectivity and continuity usage are good, arguably at their best here as this one most clearly ties all three together
  • BoGT: Luis is surprisingly interesting when actually analyzed, and despite his generally straight-man attitude he is engaging to play as, especially alongside the contrasting Tony
  • BoGT: Yusuf is entertaining and a bro and just great whenever he’s on screen
  • BoGT: The extra context and fleshing out of side characters helps overall (Bulgarin, Brucie)

Story Negatives:

  • IV: The money gameplay / story segregation
  • IV: The post-Roman kidnapping up to about when Darko and Bernie re-enter the narrative part of the game is honestly just bloated and vaguely disinteresting
  • IV: Plenty of incidents of cutscene incompetence (almost always ‘hey let’s stare at them while they slowly get away’)
  • IV: The endings… don’t feel like they earned it at all. Both are horribad because tragedy but the build up, moment, and payoff doesn’t work in both cases. Plus there’s a lot of unpolished nature to them and they just didn’t feel like they had any impact other than brute force shock value
  • Aggregate: TLaTD: Improper connections with Jim, Johnny, and Ray // BoGT: Armando and Henrique // Luis just sort of survives the end game somehow via plot armor

Gameplay Positives:

  • A: Custom radio station as well as new options to make it more radio’y
  • A: Surprisingly decent fast travel system (hail a cab, take a trip there, take a fast trip there, take an instant trip there, go anywhere you’ve discovered including mission points)
  • A: Aggregate: GPS // Micro improvements (better health, better guns, better air design, less frustration, driver AI and pedestrian AI improvements) // Different banter on replay // City design and layout
  • TLaTD: Aggregate: Formation driving and related bonuses // Terry being available basically whenever for resupply // The ‘calling for backup’ mechanic which also levels them // Comrades not being garbage
  • TLaTD: Mid mission checkpoints // Call bike functionality // Pacing // Grip improvements
  • TLaTD: Mission design is much tighter and better designed overall, to the point of having variety and enjoyment in missions
  • BoGT: Mission replay, smart dialogue skipping, mid mission checkpoint design
  • BoGT: Substantially better mission design in general and better variety

Gameplay Negatives:

  • A: The car controls are just not good, and the bike controls are actively awful
  • A: The controls remain irritating throughout a 50+ hour game
  • IV: Poor coding
  • IV: Excessive and very railroaded tutorializing
  • IV: Hard crash issues
  • IV: Frequent bugs which legitimately inhibit gameplay rather than just being quirky or cosmetic
  • IV: No mid-mission checkpoints combined with long missions
  • IV: Samey ‘go here kill this’ mission design combined with ‘go here and have a shootout’ mission design
  • IV: The fat and padding of the middleish section of the game is real
  • IV: Lack of music in mid mission
  • IV: It’s way too easy to accidentally, permanently skip dialogue and cutscenes and there’s no real method to re-watch or re-listen
  • IV: Outro missions are… astonishingly badly written
  • IV: The missions themselves are entirely too railroaded, to the point where they actually become boring (have to just ‘follow calmly’ during a ‘high speed chase’ kind of deal)
  • TLaTD & BoGT: Lack of music in mid mission

Dragon Age Origins

While the game wasn’t as good as I remembered, the fact is it’s still one of the best games I’ve ever had the fortune of reviewing. Absolutely incredible story design and legitimately fun gameplay with some issues and flaws that drag it down, but ultimately still managing to be a game where I feel like my choices actually have significant impact on events and I feel very invested in how things progress. It was a treat replaying this one, flaws and all.
Total Story Score: +40
Total Gameplay Score: +9
Cheats: Yes (to respec, to test, and to fix a bug)
Total Play Time: 8 Days // 49 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-22-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The opening cinematic does a lot, good, and in a short period of time. The basis of the mythos and the background threat we face, the hints of what the Grey Wardens are (whispers), the golems and the dwarven armies, and the fact that our enemies have complex armor and weapons all helps establish things very quickly, smoothed over by Duncan’s excellent narration
  • Voice acting is excellent throughout
  • Voice acting continues to be awesome even for minor characters (also good voice direction)
  • The codex… has so, so, so much lore in it
  • The way the setting is built around magic and the Chantry is frankly fascinating and some awesome world building construction
  • Dwarven society is legitimately fascinating in how its structured, how it utilizes (and mis-uses) the castes, and how screwed they really are while relying on those they abuse the most
  • Dwarven Commoner Origin by itself is very well done, very well written, has great exposition and good gameplay and story segments while simultaneously showcasing a lot of the setup, characters, and world
  • Human Noble is well crafted, and crucially is integral to the overall narrative in tying you directly towards the main plot and the Loghain plot
  • Dwarf Noble intro is fantastic, with great insight into Dwarven culture, politics, and setting up several good character bits for later
  • Doodad usage and attention to detail are just excellent
  • The game manages to make me laugh even to this day, many times
  • The game has legitimately branching narrative and allows a surprisingly large number of permutations of how the story can go
  • Banter between characters is excellent
  • The Fade is a good insight into the characters, and the Tower itself is (mostly) a reasonably done section of the game with good elements
  • The Dalish quest in general is interesting and well done, with a reasonably well done twist, but the ‘best’ ending is great, the ‘kill the elves’ ending is appropriately horrible, and the ‘kill the werewolves’ ending is just as messed up
  • The NPCs in general are fun, well acted, and memorable
  • A second plus for the sheer quantity of quality NPCs
  • The Harromont vs. Bhelen decision itself is probably one of the better decisions in the game, and the entire Orzammar section is pure gold and has lots of interesting quests, lore, character moments, reactions, options, and paths
  • The non-question of the Darkspawn propagation (deliberately unaddressed in the narrative) served wonderfully to build up to the reveal of what Broodmothers are and how they work, and is incredibly, beautifully horrific
  • The entire section to procure the ashes, the Gauntlet, the Spirit of Regret, there’s some good character stuff there and some good world building too
  • The escape sequence in Denerim has some real comedy gold in it and is well designed story wise regardless
  • The Landsmeet is a fun culmination quest, with a lot of permutations on how it can function and turn out, depending on how its designed
  • The lead up to and initial strikes against Denerim are awesome, and Alistair’s big speech is a fantastic moment that still gives me chills
  • Choices actually matter
  • The Outro in general is just as epic and fulfilling as it should be, depending on how it’s played (either the funeral if you die, or talking to everyone and seeing the end/continuation of their arcs)
  • The Epilogue is arguably the best Bioware ending ever done in my opinion and does a lot (a lot) to acknowledge your choices throughout the game, even if most of it is effectively retconned by future games
  • The romance options in general are fairly well designed with just about some of the best romance quests and companions in gaming
  • Morrigan and Alistair’s romance options gain a second positive for sheer quality and quantity
  • Alistair is the lovable snarker who hides a deeply insecure man who desperately wants a family to call his own, something he’s never had before. His voice actor is amazing and his character is fantastic
  • Morrigan is one of my favorite companions across gaming, a woman torn between harsh pragmatism and internal idealism and forced to choose between intangible and tangible. She has many layers to her, and seeing the reality of the woman so utterly lost by something as simple as being given a gift with no desire for something in return is telling
  • Claudia Black really deserves special praise for elevating Morrigan so. Her voice acting is top notch, and she adds incredible nuance and tone to lines that, otherwise, would probably be substantially lacking
  • Zevran is a great, amusing character who hides the pain and grief he carries with him, his coping mechanisms forcing him to adapt as he goes while secretly hating himself. His romance is also one of the better ones as it pries open his shell and shows the broken man within
  • Duncan, despite having relatively little screen time in the main game, gets a good showing in each Origin and serves as a great grounding point for several elements of the game, and is enjoyable regardless
  • Wynne is a bit naggy but ultimately just trying to do her best with the limited time she has to impart upon those after her, and she’s a genuinely caring person who’s been around the bin many times
  • Leliana and her sordid past, her desperate desire to be more, and her constant worrying about what her true nature is are all excellent
  • Sten is probably my second favorite Qunari across the franchise, being seemingly coarse and rude but ultimately just being very blunt and basic in his approach. He’s the perfect type of soldier, one who questions you because he needs to know you’re doing things the right way for the right reason
  • Oghren is not as great as the other characters, but there is still a fascinating tale in his backstory. The incredibly skilled warrior (he survived the Deep Roads by himself for weeks!) who was forced to come home and adapt to civilian life, a task he failed miserably at because he didn’t know how to handle himself, who then lost his entire family and his wife to obsession. His turning to drink to wash over all that is understandably tragic
  • Shale isn’t as in depth or as fascinating as the other characters, but she does have the HK-47 factor going for her; she’s hysterical, and makes me laugh to this day
  • Loghain is surprisingly complex of a character, especially on repeat viewings, and you can see a lot of what he does and why through his eyes and see how things make sense in his twisted way of thinking
  • Aggregate: Some Babylon 5 Effect (notably with Loghain) // Little hints and details of the various Origins creep up in the story even if it’s not yours // The Architect, while not having much screen time, is a fascinating and interesting character and the source of tons of debate about his purpose and methods
  • Awakening: The rulership and Keep mechanics add some wonderful flavor and enjoyment to the element of being landed
  • Awakening: Party banter is, once again, great
  • Awakening: The main companions aren’t as fleshed out as Origins’ but they’re still good, and still enjoyable characters for the most part
  • Awakening: The core plot is actually quite fascinating, and the idea of so upsetting the status quo with talking Darkspawn (and Darkspawn factions) is a well unveiled mystery
  • Awakening: Voice acting is the usual high quality standard
  • Witch Hunt: The setup and dangling threads are well done and presented and, honestly, are super engaging. The lack of follow through is not this game’s fault

Story Negatives:

  • The City Elf Origin… is too much. The way sexual violence is portrayed is not well done and honestly has issues with edgier for edgier sakes, artificially stupid evilness (which the player can be a part of), and general squick
  • The fact that the party is not all present is a personal irritation but even ignoring how much I don’t like that (and missing out on personality, characterization, and banter) there’s also the fact that they’re effectively just hanging out at the camp doing nothing while we’re off trying to save the country
  • Anora’s voice acting is probably one of the worst in the whole game, but it really shows when you hear her ‘big epic speech’ prior to Denerim which juuust fails, laughably so
  • Aggregate: The lack of knowledge as the method of story construction // Ostagar, while epic and with a lot of good stuff, still sort of contrasts and contradicts several key character and plot points that the rest of the game posits // The Origins, really, don’t have anything to do with the rest of the game and are unsatisfactorily brought back up in almost every case // The fact that the game is so incredibly limiting in how Loghain can survive the Landsmeet is just aggravating
  • Awakening: The game has aggressively bad continuity with DA:O with regards to importing (and while this is for behind the scenes reasons that is understandable, it still makes the story suffer substantially for me, especially going into Awakening immediately after DA:O)
  • Awakening: Oghren… is just not Oghren in Awakening, and moreover he’s just crude humor

Gameplay Positives:

  • Multitude of dialogue options allowing for the player to vary up their personality significantly
  • A second positive for consistently good and varied dialogue options
  • Smart autosave (zone lines and plot areas)
  • Toolset was released by the developers, meaning mod support
  • All Roads Lead To Rome gameplay design
  • In addition to this, there is a degree of branching quest design at several levels (especially because of the whole ‘supposed to be standalone’)
  • The Mage Origin, while doing some good stuff story wise, really shines gameplay wise (tutorial, ‘town’ section, dungeon section) and has good events, escalation, presentation, and pacing throughout
  • Dwarven Noble Origin has some good general gameplay design, with multiple optional sections, multiple paths you can take through segments (Trian being a big one), and good pacing in terms of types of encounters (‘town’, combat, town, dungeon, etc.)
  • Proper and well fleshed out difficulty options (changes many, many things including the literal AI scripts the enemy run)
  • A second positive for just incredibly work and effort done into proper difficulty modes
  • The core concept of the Fade ‘dungeon’ is actually pretty interesting and, honestly, fun. The different forms having their own specialities and abilities and using them to progress through a series of pseudo mazes is pretty fun…
  • Mages are actually quite well designed, with good kit and variety of options and lots of fun spells, plus the combination system where you can combine spells for greater or different effects
  • The Cauthrian fight is one of the better designed fights in the game, and is probably one of the best ‘supposed to lose’ fights I can think of in RPGs. It is defeatable, but if you don’t it’s followed by the Escape sequence where the game gives you the option of trying to sneak out, or try to sneak/talk/break in with party members of your choice, putting how to progress through it entirely in the player’s hands depending on setup, preferences, or elsewise
  • The Landsmeet is great in how many paths and methods it can progress, and the quests and lead up, and finally the fact that you can lose fully and still progress is generally good design
  • Choices actually freaking matter (at least for this game)
  • A second plus for, within the game of Origins, a huge amount of branching choices that are significant alterations and also really making the player feel like their choices, their decisions, have a substantial impact on the world (this is of course excluding the sequels)
  • Enemy variety and design is pretty decent, with a large number of enemy types that require different strategies and usually have things designed to work with the terrain they’re found in
  • The random encounters on the overworld are good, manually crafted encounters that don’t overstay their welcome and usually are involved in one quest or another
  • The Outro was quite good, with fun design for Denerim, the tower, and the final boss (ballista, summoning adds depending on your choices, nameds, putting a vendor in the final area to do a final restock and resupply, splitting the party between sides)
  • Aggregate: Dialogue log for missed conversations // Ability to change difficulty on the fly at will // Ability to enable or disable blood splatter // Gambits and related benefit to customizing your party and how they operate
  • Aggregate: Spell combos are neat if not properly fleshed out // Kit from traps, potions, and poisons // Gold design is actually pretty good, where you have plenty of things to spend your gold on and how much gold you have is all about how thorough you are in exploring and looting
  • Awakening: Several quality of life changes that help flesh out things (stamina potions, the bank, respec books, bombs, enchanting which is incredibly useful, etc.)
  • Awakening: I love the choices and actions of being a ruler, and each choice you make has impacts and results throughout the expansion
  • Awakening: Quest structure and flow is good except for main quests
  • Awakening: Kit is better overall than in Origins, mostly because of being added to

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Memory leak (per request; A memory leak is, in very simple terms, when the active memory the game generates to help it load things doesn’t get ‘cleaned out’ regularly like it should, leading to it storing more and more and more until it effects game performance and slows things down to a slog)
  • Spiders (complex issue, but in short, there are very very few games that deliberately try to make their spiders as horrifyingly realistic as possible and this is one of them, and given the commonality of arachnophobia and the relative ease with which a toggle to just alter them would be–as evidenced by the no spiders mods–this ultimately detracts from the game by effectively forcing some players, such as myself, to download a mod to play the game at all)
  • Audio balancing issues with music (it’s either too quiet or too loud)
  • The combination of lack of respec, the fact that the game is not particularly well balanced, and the ability to build yourself into a corner either in terms of capacity or playstyle (general fun factor), and the fact that you don’t really feel how your class plays until hours and hours into the game leads to… a negative
  • The lack of gambits functioning for the unit you’re controlling which leads to deadsticking which is irritating for the melee builds and, on top of that, the toggle already exists in game to turn gambits off but universally does not apply to whomever you are currently controlling
  • …the Fade, to continue from earlier, is a good idea badly implemented. While I did legitimately enjoy several aspects of it (forming the Positive up above) the fact is the initial section sucks, it’s unnecessarily harsh (especially on harder difficulties), the backtracking is real, the whole section is a bit too long for having to endure boring terrain, visual effects (which can be turned off admittedly), and music… and all of that is compounded by the fact that you don’t start off with the forms necessary to progress and, frankly, have fun
  • Rep system and connected problems with rep being tied to dialogue and gifts, the inability to bring all party members to conversations, major events having no rep impact if the characters weren’t present, rep gating abilities and content, etc.
  • While the gameplay of carefully planning out encounters can and is fun, especially with proper difficulty options, there’s just a few too many encounters across the game to the point where it gets old after a while
  • Bugs. Several bad bugs and several hard crash bugs.
  • There are several songs that I actively dislike in this game, made worse by the fact that they’re the most common songs that play
  • Aggregate: There are several elements of Amgarrak which are just irritating to push through, especially given how easy it is to be completely screwed build wise // The final Archdemon defense encounter of the Darkspawn Chronicles DLC is just awful, with entirely too much relying on RNG and not actual skill, plus the encounters leading up to it are honestly just one long boring slog
  • Aggregate: Lockpicking is just kind of not well designed in this game, with so much of the loot being trash and then the occasional great loot, and hardly any significant quest or non loot usage for it // Various bugs and crash issues // The limited nature of Loghain and how to procure him which, among other things, pretty much guarantees his build is crap by the time you get him (especially compared to Alistair)
  • Awakening: Bugs. Game breaking bugs, quest skipping bugs, possible-to-skip-conversation-and-quest bugs.
  • Awakening: The problem is the game sort of needs to be played in a certain fashion, or ‘broken’ by recruiting someone (Sigrun or Velanna) and then abandoning their quest in order to have real time with them
  • Awakening: Memory Leak 2.0
  • Awakening: The Outro to Awakening was, at best, more of the same and ultimately just devolved into another series of fights against the same types of enemies we’d fought to that point

Suikoden 2

While it suffers a lot of issues that are the usual for Konami titles and older RPGs, the core nugget of quality is still there and this is still a great game that I’d highly recommend.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough)
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 40 Hours
Time Reviewed: 5-28-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The opening credits crawl contains some surprisingly great animations and exposition therein without a single line of dialogue
  • The scenes around being captured, Rowd’s speechifying and the seemingly callous way he allows his own people (who are teenagers for goodness sakes) to be whipped to death while he admires the sunset and talks about himself, only for it to be flipped and Flik and crew to rescue us… is brilliant. It establishes Rowd, helps set up Luca, sows the seeds for Jillia, and endears us to Flik and Viktor
  • Intro: Slow build, the ‘chores’ which lead to the escape, the reveals, slow escalation of conflict, good perspective of the ground floor, establishing much of the setup and premise, and the initial events of the war
  • Spritework and animation is quite good and really helps sell the ‘cutscenes’ of the game
  • The core first arc’s plot is actually quite good throughout, with the emphasis not just being on the war but on the shifting perspectives of the war and the consequences of the war
  • Consequence writing. There’s plenty of specific moments and elements actually show real consequence regarding actions which helps both investment (continuity) as well as logical progression of events (Siege of Greenhill)
  • Comment Box adds some wonderful flavor lore to the characters
  • Several characters are interesting or engaging in their own way (Nanami, Miklotov, Camus, Georg, Anita, Oulan, Sierra)
  • Another plus for good characters (Flik, Annabelle, Fitcher, Simone are all enjoyable characters in their own right, only hampered by a relative lack of screentime)
  • The Massacre of Muse is just as horrifying as it should be, and is a great showcasing of both Gorudo, Blight, and the Highlanders who follow Blight (including Jowy) but the follow up where you find the totally empty city is a wonderful one-two punch to help emphasize the moment
  • The follow up scene where (some of) the knights of Matilda switch sides and turn on Gorudo is just awesome
  • General quality writing (IE instead of stupid decisions for drama’s sake or other nonsense there’s actual tactics on display and proper portrayal of strategy)
  • Luca Blight is a one-dimensional character, but they do a really good job of embracing and portraying it, and he has a weird staying power and memorability because of it
  • Lindblum Effect in towns and keep, with lots of variance in what NPCs say and the slowly burgeoning feeling of a full army filling out your keep
  • The endings are decently well done, and do a good job of showcasing what happened (in brief) to everyone you recruited

Story Negatives:

  • Doodad usage is actually pretty bad in this one. While it’s okay in towns, there’s just too many areas that are just too bare, and it hurts (especially in dungeons)
  • Translation issues just… everywhere (bad translation, wrong translation, and rarely there’s literally no translation)
  • The entire second story of the game hinges on some ideas that are just… not present in the narrative, and the entire thing feels like it’s trying to force the ‘friends must fight each other’ arc without actually earning it in any way, which is even more aggravating because it would take so little for the story to push that on screen

Gameplay Positives:

  • Animations are excellent in combat, some good stuff
  • The Keep itself is mostly interesting in how many people slowly fill it out and how we can see all the people we recruit
  • The Let Go system is great (effectively removing encounters that are too low level for you) and the leveling system itself is quite good (variable experience relative of your level to the enemy’s level, which means there’s effectively a grind ‘ceiling’ at which point you get very little or no experience… but there’s also a huge catch-up mechanic where you get tons and tons of experience if you’re underleveled)
  • Cooking is great fun (provided you save first) and I enjoy getting recipes and items for even more cooking fun
  • The Viki / Mirror option makes getting around so much better and serves as a functional hearthstone / waypoint system
  • The Luca Blight marathon is just as epic and fun as it should be (awesome fight, possible to lose and progress twice, maintains health across, possible to beat first)
  • 79 party members and 6 sized party, which allows for a decent amount of ‘bring your favorites’ and a lot of possible combinations
  • Aggregate: Unite system is pretty cool // Equipment setup is a cool feature (3 slots for items and accessories) // The ability to sort and organize all units (not just party members) at the Keep is a nice quality of life feature

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Unskippable cutscenes (which is especially bad due to how limited saving is)
  • Walkthroughitis (both with searching for the 108 as well as quest flag hunting)
  • Tactical battle RNG focus (attack, defense, Rune, specials, but really it’s all about the dice rolls… even when overwhelmingly stronger or weaker)
  • Dungeon design is awful throughout (boring, repetitive screens with no variation or events of interest except for the occasional push puzzle)
  • Aggregate: Interface design is not great in general // No music in tactical battles bug // Mandatory dice game to progress the main plot // Encounter rate // Inventory management (very limited space, irritating to move items around) // No mid-mission checkpoints on the Luca Blight fight

Trails In The Sky 1

Though the gameplay in general was not my cup of tea (it felt, in many ways, like a first attempt at an RPG) the core story is quite good. It meanders quite a bit, but if you stick with it it will pay off beautifully. I also highly recommend you make it a point to talk to all the NPCs regularly throughout, as the world building is top notch.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: -1
Cheats: Yes (super cheats)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 29 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-2-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Doodad utilization is quite good in everywhere except dungeons and helps flesh out towns substantially, along with…
  • NPC Chatter and stories which develop as you progress through the regional story, which contributes to…
  • World building; there is so much history and lore to the backstory of the world that it’s silly and basically everything (NPCs, journals, side quests, and even character tidbits) are in service of it
  • Perspective (low to the ground); the entire story is effectively the events of one group of one kingdom of one continent and not a particularly large kingdom at that. It’s all very ground level and works well to keep things grounded
  • The theme of the game is pretty enjoyable; journeying and exploring the countryside on foot, studying to become a better bracer, adventuring, touring areas and their sights and cuisine (which also helps the aforementioned world building)
  • The entire Ruan segment was pretty good; lots of good foreshadowing, a fairly understandable and reasonable build up of the regional story, the regional story itself was simultaneously personally and locally impacting, and the big climax with the Mayor was good (right up until it was bad, but that’s neither here nor there)
  • The dynamic between Joshua and Estelle is quite nice really; While it could be better (especially the romantic angle, which the game pushes too early) the fact is the two bounce off each other well, have good chemistry, and grow naturally together throughout
  • The internal continuity is good stuff, with connecting points throughout
  • A second positive for internal continuity; with individuals, smaller plot threads, little stories, historical points, and even minor traits being brought up multiple times throughout
  • Weissman’s big scene is a truly excellent scene and really highlights the kind of villain he is, and the build up and foreshadowing to his reveal was very well done throughout
  • The playable epilogue is good for the usual reasons, letting the player just skip it if they want but also containing tons of follow-through dialogue for many of the NPCs (named and otherwise) we’ve interacted with throughout the game
  • The final scene between Estelle and Joshua is easily the best written scene in the entire game, and beautifully encapsulates both characters and their chemistry, as well as being a fantastic cliffhanger
  • A final plus for just how well done the cliffhanger is, in that it immediately created a massive desire to know what was going to happen next

Story Negatives:

  • Empty Text issues almost throughout the entire work (except the ending), which artificially pads the run-time
  • Cutscene incompetence combined with ‘defeating an enemy in combat and, whoops, they’re totally fine afterwards’

Gameplay Positives:

  • Notebook and its info serves to put the information into the game rather than relying on FAQs or strategy guides
  • Leveling system (catch up mechanics, where the amount of xp you get is relative to its level vs. yours, aka its easy to catch up if you fight higher monsters and it actively discourages level grinding)
  • The ability to retry battles (and optionally lower the enemy stats), and the ability to escape with 100% success rate
  • As usual, a plus for good New Game Plus (can select what carries forward as well as the difficulty)
  • Aggregate: The ‘use CP to hijack turns’ system is a neat mechanic which allows you to have a little more control over the turn order // The orbal system itself is mostly just kind of there but I do like a few things about it. First, I enjoy the combo system and being able to use differing ‘weighted’ quartz in combination to try to access new and different spells. Second, I like how each character has an orb clock device thing that allows for some customization but still inclines itself towards certain types of setups, allowing for both ‘character matters’ and ‘player customization’
  • Aggregate: Visible enemies on the overworld which can be avoided or snuck up on which is good for the usual reasons // Ability to hold down A in combat // Color coded map design // Ability to save anywhere // Hold A down to interact with stuff automatically in the overworld // The fast forwards toggle

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Intro is pretty bland gameplay wise, and the initial sewer tutorial dungeon is linear, heavily tutorialized, and boring
  • The amount of time necessary to do side quests in order to have the money in order to afford food and items in order to be able to recover from encounters is just a whole lot of padding for no real gain
  • Trash encounters in general are not super well designed, usually involving too many enemies which have too irritating of attacks which require you to treat them seriously, which would be fine except A: There’s too many of them and B: There’s not enough reward for doing them. This is compounded by the general design of needing to use magic and arts for most fights with a lack of proper memory cursor
  • Unskippable cutscenes (which is saying something in a game where cutscenes can take 20+ minutes)
  • Dungeon design reminds me a lot of Suikoden 2’s; long, boring corridors with enemies, occasional chests, and samey graphics (and no map!)
  • Lazy difficulty aka health/damage multipliers
  • The Outro is… not that great. The ‘final dungeon’ is just another dungeon with a different skin and music and ultimately has the same issues every other dungeon has. In addition the enemies are quite sloggy and the final four encounters are also quite sloggy and have to be done with no checkpoints. Granted this was not originally supposed to be a ‘final dungeon’ but for this game it’s just lacking

Knights Of The Old Republic 2

A very, very good Star Wars story wrapped in a flawed but ultimately still enjoyable game, with one of the worst endings to a game I’ve ever seen. This is still worth a playthrough to this day, and I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t to give it a shot.
Total Story Score: +16
Total Gameplay Score: 0
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough)
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 33 Hours
Time Reviewed: 6-26-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Kreia’s voice actress (Sara Kestelman) is just amazing and manages a wonderful emphasis on enunciation which just adds so much to her portrayal
  • HK’s voice actor is, as usual, just amazing (Kristoffer Tabori)
  • The atmosphere and horrifying approach of Peragus is just fantastic and wonderful and creepy and mostly optional
  • The Princess Peach segment with the droids on Telos station and on Nar Shaddaa is pure gold, and is hilarious to this day
  • The Atris segment is really well done. A lot of good information is dumped very quickly and there are many methods you can use to peruse the conversation to learn even more. It’s also good writing in general, and well voice acted
  • The overall theme of ‘broken’ is a very powerful and well portrayed one at almost every level in the game; people, planets, systems, the Force… the whole thing
  • Internal continuity in showcasing how events interact and impact others within the game
  • Usage of external continuity and tying in threads, ideas, and specific points from Star Wars (EU)
  • The quality of the dialogue is generally good stuff throughout
  • Smart exposition in terms of how the game exposits on KotOR1, the war, the Exile, et cetera
  • Korriban’s tomb and the way it weaves the past into the Exile’s character, while expounding on how the war was, how Revan was, the mentality of the Jedi, is all great stuff
  • Kreia is a fascinating, fleshed out character who is simultaneously engaging, hypocritical, and just as broken as everyone else
  • Atton is seemingly basic until you really dig into his backstory, which not only elevates Star Wars as a whole but shows how diseased people can get
  • Visas Marr is beautifully broken and voice acted, and is a great showcasing of a Force user who is seemingly Dark but ultimately isn’t, plus she’s directly tied into the themes and plot of the game
  • Handmaiden has a fascinating backstory, and her struggle with herself and the inconsistencies in the world around her are a treat to go through
  • Hanharr is, let’s be honest, utterly insane while retaining lucidity. He is a level of deranged and despicable that even the Sith don’t adhere to, yet insists upon it with forthright determination
  • Goto is an amusing character, with a good voice actor and a nice insight into broken droid logic // Mira and her combination of idealism in a sea of cynicism is a nice touch // HK-47 doesn’t have much presence but he’s a treat as always
  • Nar Shaddaa’s overall story and plot is great; showcasing the consequences of war, introducing several interesting side characters, and the unravelling of the ‘bounty’ plot as well as the reality of the broken galaxy is good stuff
  • Dantooine is surprisingly fun and engaging, given how simple it is. For the most part it’s about stabilizing (or destabilizing) the region, but also shows the immediate wake of war, the scars, in not just the terrain but the people and how tense and fragile their hold on things are (and Vrook is surprisingly decent too!)
  • Onderon and Dxun combined are both good fun. We see a nice insight into the Mandelorians, we get some good backstory woven in from Nadd and Kun’s times, and the civil war itself is nice little dilemma to solve
  • Darth Sion only really gets three scenes to him, but all three are oozing quality. The voice actor nails it, the idea behind him is fascinating, and his tragic horror story is great stuff
  • Atmosphere. The game oozes a wonderful atmosphere throughout, this permeating gloom of a diseased and dying galaxy, both at the macroscopic and microscopic level, and it adds tremendously to the feel
  • Despite their later betrayal, the Jedi Masters are well done side characters, both in how they acknowledge your past and your choices, but in how they each unveil more of the story and your exile

Story Negatives:

  • The limited party problem is, as always, an issue in a game with heavy character focus that also relies on influence to see and hear all their stories
  • The conclave on Dantooine is astonishingly frustrating, especially given how it totally ignores your choices (other than to kill them) and turns the Masters on you, while also insisting on smething that is arguably wrong, combined with one of the worst examples of exposition in the game
  • The early parts of the Outro are… not particularly well done, with the rushing obvious and the seams clearly visible
  • Malachor V is… clearly disjointed and off, with references to events that never happened and then dialogue which barely makes sense and random events happening randomly and just blegh
  • The ending is disjointed and off and bad and made even worse by suddenly stopping rather than any form of concluding
  • One last negative for a total lack of payoff and dropped character arcs in the Outro
  • Aggregate: The fact that character creation locks you out of party members // The Disciple in his entirety // The cut content is substantially blatant, to an extent I’ve yet to see in another game. There’s plenty of games with cut content but this one overtly leaves in references to the HK-50 factory and even has a ‘we’ll go there later’ bit, as well as expounding on its purpose in the narrative, and it’s just… not there

Gameplay Positives:

  • The tutorial is actually quite good. In addition to it being fully optional (and being able to skip it after starting it), doesn’t force you into actions, doesn’t rip control or time away from you while explaining things, and flows naturally as you repair and stabilize the ship and Exile
  • The first dialogue boss with HK-50 is awesome, and one of the better dialogue bosses I’ve ever seen. It’s bypassable, has ways to use skill checks or bypass those, and has plenty of nice, juicy, meaty conversation to peruse through
  • Nuance and variety in dialogue options
  • Planets in any order for replayability, same as the first game
  • Customization and crafting of equipment and items is good stuff and allows decent variety in playstyle
  • Build variety and setup is pretty well done and allows for multiple playstyle while still being viable
  • Aggregate: Message log (partial) for missed messages // Combat roll log to show exact roll numbers in combat // Darth Sion’s boss fight (combining skill checks, dialogue boss, and combat into one)

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The usage of Influence is wonky and often-times arbitrary, can lead to locking out of content, and is buggy besides
  • Bugs? Bugs
  • Combat music and going in and out of combat, plus the combat music itself kind of sucks
  • Malachor V sucks as a dungeon in general but is even worse for what is effectively the final dungeon. It’s a bit bland, but the enemies are boring and repetitive, and the Remote section is unnecessary and even more tedious (whether or not you clear the way)
  • The Outro in general is lacking and just kind of… boring and bad, from the moment you start Dantooine up until the Trayus Academy
  • Aggregate: The fact that character creation locks you out of party members // Partially skippable cutscenes // The game reverts hotkeyed items and skills to default at every zone line which gets really annoying // The ‘Sten sections’ for Atton and Mira aren’t as bad as they could be but I still wouldn’t call them good
  • Aggregate: Run speed issues, same as in the first game // Lazy difficulty options // Goto’s ‘yacht’ is just kind of dull, and isn’t properly balanced for 2 party, is absent any real ‘content’ // The cut content is substantially blatant, to an extent I’ve yet to see in another game. There’s plenty of games with cut content but this one overtly leaves in references to the HK-50 factory and even has a ‘we’ll go there later’ bit, as well as expounding on its purpose in the narrative, and it’s just… not there

The Legend of Dragoon

It’s easy to see why this game is still beloved to this day. The story is engaging and interesting, and only somewhat hampered by its translation. I admittedly did not care for the gameplay side of things, but a lot of that is due to an abundance of ambition on the part of the developers. If you haven’t played this, and have the time, it’s something I’d recommend looking into.
Total Story Score: +12
Total Gameplay Score: -2
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough)
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 45 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-10-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Storyboarding is quite good, not just for the time but in general
  • Animation in cutscenes is surprisingly good, quickly and effectively getting across what’s going on
  • A second positive for the continued excellence of storyboarding and cutscene approach
  • Character moments are probably the best parts of the story overall, with semi frequent ‘pauses’ in the narrative for the party members to interact with each other
  • Visual variety and design of towns, dungeons, etc. is all pretty neat
  • The Queen Fury sequence is great, with a little moment for each of the characters talking about them and theirs and learning about them
  • The game manages to make me laugh pretty frequently
  • Rose is an interesting character in her own right but ultimately feels like the main character, and by far has the most interesting arc and scenes
  • Dart slugging Lloyd is just the best moment in the game up to that point
  • There are several sweet, side moments throughout (usually for NPCs) that are good, human scenes
  • The CGI cinematics are reasonably well done and do a good job of adding to the story
  • Aglis, Zenebatos, and Mayfil are fascinating areas, giving insight into how the ancient Wingly evil nation functioned and exactly how screwed up it was
  • Meru is just plain adorable, and honestly could be argued to be the heart of the party, managing to overcome her species’ prejudice and the cultural inertia simply by being that legit of a character
  • The actual ending is great, with probably the best song in the game playing over shots with no dialogue that showcase our party members and what their lives are like, and how things have moved on (and of course, that glass for Lavitz)
  • Aggregate: Lavitz is a decent Obi-Wan character and a bro // Haschel is amusing early on in the game // Kongol is pretty simple, but good for when he’s there (and a consistent source of amusement)

Story Negatives:

  • Shana being booted from the party basically ‘because plot’ really doesn’t work for me, especially jarring because it’s the first scene that felt actually stupid up to that point. Further, Shana in general is horribly utilized from about disc 2 onwards
  • Miranda in general doesn’t work for me, but the fight against her ‘mother’ representation is awful and the ‘correct’ path being to forgive her mother who abandoned her as a child is just awful
  • The CGI ending is… not good. It’s not very clear what’s going on (in contrast to most of the other CGI which is well storyboarded and directed), the voice acting is the worst in the whole game, and the entire sequence feels just kind of… lacking at best)

Gameplay Positives:

  • Dungeon variety is pretty decent overall
  • The game goes out of its way to be designed in such a way to be fairly anti grind by giving most of the gold and experience in boss fights, with an absolute pittance in trash encounters
  • Gold economy is surprisingly well designed, with gold being relatively scarce but also quite valuable, and never too rare or plentiful
  • A generally smooth and well done difficulty curve, combining additions, levels, equipment, and gold pretty reasonably
  • Aggregate: Percentage potions // Health triangles // Encounter triangle color // Defend heals // Boss design in terms of mechanics tends to be decent // World map showing you your current destination if zoomed out

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Unskippable cutscenes
  • Slowness. There is a delay in almost every action, the menu has slow framerate, actions take several seconds to load, etc.
  • The opposite of quality of life is everywhere in this game. Menus take forever to load, combat takes a while to load, the menus and in-combat menuing are both lower fps and tend to ‘lag’ a bit, there’s no memory cursor or otherwise of any significance, items and abilities don’t priority target, saving takes forever, entering menu resets the music, backtracking, and having to go through dungeons to traverse the overworld
  • Bosses just start to have way too much HP after a certain point…
  • …compounded by the fairly short-loop boss songs
  • Aggregate: Menu and interface translation // XP Distribution weirdness // Occasional difficulty spikes // The entire process of making laws is a bit irritating, not just because of the binary failstate but because you can’t ‘undo’ if you’ve started the process // Getting stuck on terrain (which can get irritating at times)
  • Aggregate: What is effectively a second, aggregate negative for the slowness, boss HP, and music issues

Castlevania Symphony of the Night

To my not-really-shock, this game stands up as being a truly amazing, fun, fantastic game that helped launch a genre and is still great to play to this day. If you have not played this game, I highly recommend it.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +17
Cheats: No
Sushi Game
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 8 Hours
Time Reviewed: 7-16-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • While there’s not much to the story, the intro does do a good job of quickly establishing what’s going on and why (a Belmont kills Dracula, but now he’s back and we’re not sure why, which is the mystery…) // This is then followed through with the encounter with Richter, who refers to this as ‘his’ castle, aaand // The establishment of the core bedrock of almost the entire series (with Lisa’s death)
  • Excellent visual design which lends itself towards good visual continuity (mostly in the background)
  • Atmosphere just oozes without going overboard or horrible

Story Negatives:

  • Voice acting was never this game’s strongsuit but the PS4 version loses the ridiculous charm, making it even worse

Gameplay Positives:

  • The music in this game is good stuff
  • The music in this game is great stuff
  • The spritework in general is excellent, among the best of the era
  • Clear visual distinction in level design. The backdrops, despite being busy, are well distinguished by palette and style from the foreground so you don’t get ‘lost’ in the backgrounds
  • Leveling is basically unnecessary, but the design of leveling itself (xp of enemy = relative of its level to yours) is great, and basically means the game has absolutely no level grinding
  • Animation on Alucard by himself is fantastic, with tons of frames of animation and lots of variety for his various moves, movement, standing, idle, attack, hurt, death, etc.
  • The weapons each have different swing arcs and speeds which is awesome because it matters more than the stats themselves, and allows for several different playstyles (and of course you can equip a second weapon to vary it up more)
  • The level design and map design incline towards exploration (parts of the map that indicate where you haven’t been or where you can go, the familiars pointing out things, etc.)
  • Directional design (like other good Metroidvanias, the game ‘directs’ you in a certain path without requiring it by virtue of what you can access and where, up to the first major split when you hit the library… and of course both areas, the catacombs and the chapel)
  • Circular level design. There are lots of times where you go through areas, and in so doing ‘loop’ back to an earlier area and unlock a shortcut, which makes getting around easier and easier as you go
  • Gameplay flow is excellent, with everything moving and flowing so smoothly you barely notice the time pass (between navigating, discovering, fighting, looting)
  • Boss design is actually really good, with great variety visually and in terms of attacks, vulnerabilities, etc.
  • A second plus for boss fights being varied and awesome fun
  • The inverted castle (work and effort)
  • Enemy variety is through the roof, with dozens upon dozens of different enemies which have different methods of attacking
  • Enemy usage is also great, usually combining enemies properly and/or making sure they compliment the level design of wherever they’re placed
  • There are many feasible ways to play through this game, leading to plenty of possible builds
  • Maria and Richter mode are good hard mode additions which are fun in their own right
  • Replayability is, as per usual for this type of game, through the roof
  • Aggregate: Clear visual indicators of status effects (mana refill) // Bosses give bonuses in addition to simple xp and levels // Audio indicators of multiple aspects of the game // Item distribution is pretty good, at least in the normal castle

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Street fighter inputs are inconsistent, painful, and a bit too much
  • Aggregate: There are plenty of secrets in this game which have no real indicator of where they are // The drop rates of basically every item in the game is awful (which leads to tons of grinding for drops if you want them), so you have no real idea what drops what that’s useful // And both of these points lend themselves towards some pretty bad walkthroughitis
  • Aggregate: Item use is just a pain in this game, combined with… // The menu in general is not what I’d call well designed // The music usage drops off in quality in the inverted castle

Innovators and Codifiers: 1

  • Codifier:Effectively started the Metroidvania genre, along with Super Metroid