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Sprite Machine

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  1. So, with the help of Rico the current Battle Champ, I beat the creature in the sewer that was murdering people, and then I continue the daily gear battles, reach the finals, beat Rico and become the new Champ. This essentially frees me from the prison district, removes the explosive collar, and I can roam the whole city of Nortune, the Kislev capital. This is such a weird game; new plot strands keep popping up and I can only assume they're related otherwise they're all over the place. The creature in the sewer... seemed to be intelligent, maybe a mutated human, will that be resolved? And mutants are suddenly a thing, big green Rico being one, and he used to be a human boy and possibly the son of the current Kaiser of Kislev, but that's not clear. The weird masked man, Wiseman, shows up during the tournament and finally reveals that he was friends with Fei's father Khan, a soldier from some other country that hasn't been mentioned before, and that Grahf is after Fei because he has some some of great power, and meanwhile the Gebler forces have been ordered to blow up an ancient buried reactor underneath Kislev and 'purge' the "Lambs", which is what those weird brain people were talking about so I guess they're commanding the Gebler or something? And I expect Elly will defect and join the party again, but who knows? I've never had more than three party members at once, and the game doesn't feel like it's truly "opened up" yet. I'm approaching 20 hours into the game and I don't fully understand a great deal at all. This is either a ludicrously long game, the surface of which I've barely scratched, or it's just, like... a bit mad. And the gameplay is rather undeveloped in places, like you have weapons sellers and all characters have a weapon slot, but nobody except Bart actually uses a weapon - the others are all hand-to-hand fighters, including their gears. And then there's the combo system - save a few ability points each turn and you can build up a combo... but you can use combos every turn anyway, and surely you'd do more damage by actually using your AP rather than saving it, so I'm not sure what the point of that is. I may be misunderstanding the battle system but I'm also finding the game relatively easy and no battles have lasted long enough to save much AP, so I don't know what to think.
  2. You have to approach the Original Series like it's some dramatic stage production rather than a TV show. I'd also probably skip about half the episodes.
  3. More bloody sewers, man! On the plus side, there's an enemy called a "Rotten Sod".
  4. I really want to like this show and enjoy Star Trek on TV again, but I'm just finding it a bit depressing and clichéd. To be fair, it's not really any worse than I expected it to be, but I just didn't expect it to be very good in the first place. Seven of Nine is now a renegade and to show how 'bad-ass' she is, she... wears a leather jacket, dual-wields guns and drinks whiskey straight. It's such an unoriginal turn for any character, and it was especially glaring when she first downed that drink because I was immediately reminded of the episode of Voyager where it's established Seven can't handle alcohol. I realise that doesn't have to remain an immutable aspect of the character, but come on, do something interesting with this, for goodness sake! There was one good bit where she and Picard talk about their shared Borg experience, and this was really nice and seemed true to the characters. But it was over and done in about 30 seconds. "Gambling planet" is lame. Surprised they didn't end up in a strip club. Did they not build any other parts of the ship set and that's why we're spending so much time in Holo-Vinyard? I didn't think much of Maddox. He didn't look or sound anything like the original guy, it could have been literally anybody else. A wasted opportunity. The gory Icheb scene was horrible. I actually liked French Pirate Picard. Silly but fun, and PatStew seemed to be enjoying himself. It's just a tonal whiplash problem, isn't it? It was nice to see the plot move on slightly, though. Are we half way through yet?
  5. Genuinely thought that was a parody. Fuckin' Poe's Law, man.
  6. As I mentioned in the "backlog" thread, I reckon I've got a semi-reasonable chance of completing (or trying and abandoning) my current "To Play" pile, so long as I don't buy anything else this year. My backlog was significantly bolstered when I bought a SNES mini full of games I (mostly) hadn't played before, but I'm determined to get my money's worth out of the little box of joy, not to mention my Steam backlog and a handful of other downloads, past purchases and various odds and sods I've accumulated. To set some structure to this task, I've decided I will systematically play through the 40-ish games I "own-but-haven't-played-yet" in chronological order -- that is order of release. The one caveat to this rule is that if the game is a remake of an older game, I'll play it in the order of the original release instead (this handily gives me a get-out clause if I happen to "accidentally" buy FFVII-Remake this year. ) This is of course a completely stupid idea but then stupid ideas are pretty popular at the moment, so what the hell. Maybe this thread will help me stick to my plan? January: AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake) - PC - 2016 (1991) This is a remake of Metroid 2, so it technically came out in 1991, you hear? Okay, it didn't, it's practically brand new, rebuilt using assets from 'Zero Mission' and some new art. It's a lovely, sparkly new remake of the monochrome Gameboy game and I loved every second of it. Genuinely Nintendo-quality stuff, made by a bunch of amateurs. The expansion of the old levels, the introduction of new bosses, new areas and powers, the log entries, the music and atmosphere, and the overall 'feel' of the game are superb. Some will argue the change of style and tone are not true to the original bleak and lonely feel the Gameboy original had, but personally this didn't bother me. The original is still there for those who want it - but this remake brings the ugly stepchild of the series into line with the other 2D Metroids. I can't recommend it highly enough, not just as a surprisingly good example of what the fan community can do, but as a legitimately enjoyable Metroid game in its own right. Ecco The Dolphin - Mega CD - 1992/3 I fancied playing this after watching Strafefox's mini-documentary on YouTube (link - check out the channel, loads of a great videos). I remember bits of Ecco The Dolphin on the Megadrive when I was younger and less patient with hard games. I didn't get very far with it, but I assumed being older and wiser, I'd appreciate it more. Eh... sadly not so much. While the concept/premise of the game is excellent, as is its redbook audio soundtrack, Novotrade built some frustrating, badly designed gameplay around it. The potential for a classic was badly squandered. The last level in particular is an excercise in torture. Were I not playing through an emulator with the crutch of save states, I'd never have finished it. Seriously, don't bother. Just read a plot synopsis and imagine a far better game in your head. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - 3DS - 2012/14 Jumping ahead a bit, but this was one I still had from last year. (My handheld schedule and my home systems schedule are entirely independent.) So, what did I make of this one? A rare and overpriced 3DS game that merges Capcom's Ace Attorney franchise with Level-5's Professor Layton. I didn't realise that it was actually the first 3DS version of both of these, it just took so long to come out in the west that the proper debut of both franchises beat them to market. So this was the first incarnation of Wright's courtroom finger pointing in 3D, and all of those expressions and moves and environments carried over to the new format really well. There are some issues with the use of stereoscopic 3D, the anime cutscenes in particular have badly composed layers, but the game as a whole is really nicely done. It's got all the courtroom drama of the Wright games with the town exploration and puzzles of the Layton games, and pretty much merges them into one another like two riffle-shuffled decks of cards. It's not the best of each but it's a nice combination, and the story is the usual far-fetched bobbins but I enjoyed seeing the characters interact. A fascinating project with a sufficient amount of emphatic pointing. No objections here. February: Mega Man X - SNES - 1993 My first Mega Man game and probably not the best one to start with. Getting used to not being able to shoot diagonally or duck was a toughie. So, this game is all about hard bosses, finding and exploiting weaknesses and using those weaknesses to determine in which order to fight the bosses. I love this as a structure! What I'm less keen on is the repetition. The levels themselves aren't actually that tough, so repeating them over and over to reach the boss at the end is a bit of a chore. But then it gets to the final boss(es) and it's the hardest thing I've ever played. Like, maybe I'm wrong but I cannot think of anything off the top of my head that I've played that's more difficult than the last boss of Mega Man X. Were it not for save states (thanks, SNES mini!), I would probably never have finished it. I must have reloaded that final fight a hundred times before I finally got the technique down. Not even exaggerating - a hundred times, easily. Figuring out what weapon does damage, figuring out the timing of the 'claws', when the lightning blasts come, how to avoid the energy pulses, how to best wall jump into position. All the while my thumb is getting blistered and sore. And if I didn't have save states, I'd be back at the start of the level doing the first two 'mini' bosses again and sitting through the dialogue, rather than instantly jumping back into the final fight. That's more punishing/tedious than games need to be, particularly when they rely so much on learning from failure as this one does. I'm sort of glad to have finally played it, I think. I'm just not sure I actually enjoyed it that much. Super Metroid - SNES - 1994 Yeah, so this one is still a classic. I only played it for the first time when it was released on the Wii, though I found the control pad a bit spongy. I decided to play in again on the ol' Mini. Coming off AM2R, 'Super' feels old-fashioned in places. Very floaty movement, less colourful graphics, the weapon-switching, the dedicated 'run' button, and some of the save point placement. But all that aside, it is an incredible game and still ranks up there with the best of its genre. A masterpiece, frankly. I still slightly prefer Zero Mission but each time I play Super it edges higher in my estimation, so y'know. Donkey Kong Country - SNES - 1994 First played on the GBA and I thought it was alright. Reminded me of Crash Bandicoot, as in that series definitely took inspiration from DKC. Playing through it again on the SNES and, well, it's fine I guess, it just hasn't aged well. The pre-rendered look is rather dated, although it's technically clever. The general feel of movement is nice and solid and bouncy, but then it's got enemies with really annoying movement patterns, or an entire stupid mine cart level, or stupid barrel cannon levels, and a save system that sends you back when you run out of lives like it's still 1991. I reached the end of each level with relief, not a desire to replay them. The game seems intent on causing frustration and 'catching you out' rather than having a good time. The final few levels are a bit of a slog. But the music is ace and some of the visual effects are astoundingly clever, particular the lighting in some levels. I can see why people were blown away by it in 1994.
  7. So, the retaking of the Aveh capital goes awry when some skull-faced dude named Grahf gives Vanderkaum super powers and he explodes or something? I dunno. And the Yggdrasil gets blown up and sunk into the desert, so that's gone. This feels like some "end of disc 1" shit, but it's not (yet). Fei wakes up in a hospital in D-block of the Kislev capital city, with no memory of how he got there. It's a prison district and he's got an exploding collar on so he can't leave (why is there always a prison section in RPGs? ). The place is a slum, and even the music's got a 'Midgar' vibe. After an initiation fight with other inmates, I'm ranked 'A' and offered a place in the Gear battle tournament. Citan arrives in the city, posing as a doctor with a plan to help me escape, and some other dude who looks like a hamster sells me weapons and items. Curiously (and suspiciously), my trusty gear, Weltall, is provided to me to fight with. But the first fight goes wrong as Weltall catches fire before I can win, like it was sabotaged or something. Meanwhile, some creature is attacking people in the sewers. And there's some very weird shit going on elsewhere, possibly in space(?) with some floating station full of large-brained aliens discussing how they can destroy the city or something? I've no idea what's happening. The 'Battling' sections are not like the normal battles, they use a realtime one-on-one fighting engine. Goodness knows why, this game doesn't want to let me play with one single thing for any great length of time. Just hit the 15 hour mark. It's generally enjoyable but I don't feel like I've gotten my teeth into any of the game's systems yet. I'm hoping some degree of freedom or exploration develops soon.
  8. I think I enjoyed that, but I was also falling asleep for the last 15 minutes so I suspect it'll be like catching up with a fever dream at the start of next week.
  9. Sigurd must have heard my complaints about the vague/unclear story because five minutes later he's dropping loads of exposition and explaining how he and Citan were Solarians who escaped, and where the Solaris people live (through a dimension gate in the sky, apparently). There's still lots I don't understand but that'll do for now. We launch an attack on the Aveh capital city, in an attempt to defeat its leader Shakhan, the man who overthrew Bart's father and sent Bart into a life of exiled swashbuckling desert piracy (sounds fun, to be honest). The Gebler, the ground force of the Solaris, are helping the Aveh but their forces are thin in a few areas so we can distract them, lure them away and then take the capital. At least, that's the plan. It doesn't quite go as planned, since they seem to know we're coming and ambush us. Maison, the butler, rescues us from the capital in Citan's flying spider-gear. Meanwhile, Fei's band of Gears take on Vanderkaum's border fleet, which is easier said than done. One thing I'm confused about is how do I heal/repair damage to Gears? Other than at shops, I mean. Potions only affect characters, not Gears. And I have to fight several enemies and two tough bosses in a row, while they gradually whittle down my HP. Am I missing something or are all Gear sections basically gauntlet runs?
  10. And it's done. A bit of a slog in parts but it's not terrible. The music is ace and some of the visual effects are astoundingly clever. I don't particularly want to go back and collect all of the token thingies, so I'm calling it finished. --- Next up on the SNES mini is Chrono Trigger. Yeah, it wasn't one of the included games but it's easy to add to the system and it's emulated perfectly. So, here's the thing. Chrono Trigger is one of my favourite of Square's early RPGs - hell, it's one of my favourites full stop! I've played through it four or five times on various platforms but never the original. I emulated it back in the 90s on an old PC that couldn't run it properly, but I still finished it using a keyboard. I then bought an overpriced import of the PS1 conversion (complete with loading pauses, anime cutscenes and a different intro). I later bought the DS version with all of its changes and additions. I've never actually played the original SNES version, at full speed, on something resembling original hardware. So, now I am! And it's marvellous. I bloody love it all over again. Simple but addictive RPG mechanics with a wickedly fast pace, fun storytelling, original characters and some of the best music from the genre.
  11. That's Margie rescued from the Bledavik tower and the fighting tournament won relatively easy. I could have done without the tedious swimming upstream through underground rivers, but hey ho. Margie has a stuffed toy called Chu-Chu that turns out to be alive. And now we return them to a city called Nisan that's hidden behind a secret underground tunnel in the desert. At the heart of Nisan is a cathedral, so this place has some significance in the world. Is there also where Bart is from since everyone knows him? Aveh might be preparing to attack Nisan soon. Meanwhile, Ramsus, the leader of the Gebler forces, recognised Fei's fighting style and they might be related. In an enigmatic flashback, some super-powerful fighter beats up a trio of Gears, but it doesn't look like Fei. Nevertheless, Fei is gonna turn out to be some powerful 'chosen one' or something, isn't he? And the Gebler (and the Solaris) are, what, "Sky People" or something? They refer to the others as surface dwellers and that cutscene at the beginning of the game sets them up as space travellers. Probably ancient, since their Gears are buried all over the planet. Citan and Sigurd know each other and are, or used to be, part of the Solaris people, possibly? The Ethos dishes out knowledge to the surface people but who controls this and why? I don't know, I can't keep up with all the plot strands and weird names. I mean, the pirate sand ship is called the Yggdrasil, I can't even pronounce that! The plot is interesting but it's a mystery that slowly unravels and it feels like I'm wrapped up inside of it. I'm pretty much just following the plot and doing what I'm asked - much like the main character!
  12. This was one of those 'lost' Squaresoft RPGs that I heard about back in the days before I imported games, so I never played it. I always meant to go back to it but never found the time. I heard it was good, if flawed. I'm about 8 hours in so far and it's quite enjoyable, if nothing original. It feels like every JRPG I've ever played rolled into one, but as I've not played any new JRPGs in a while, that's actually fine. It's sort of... comfortable? At the moment, it's very much putting the plot first and the mechanics second. I mean, the battles are fine but I'm almost 'auto-pilotting' through them. I don't feel like I'm forging a team and choosing my strategy so much as I'm being dragged along the path of a story and fudging my way through battles using the only options I have. Levelling up happens quite rapidly - I gained nearly 10 levels for both Fei and Bart in the stalactite cave section... although that was primarily because I was lost. That's my main issue with the game so far is that it's very easy to lose sight of what direction you're going. Instead of pre-rendered static backdrops, the little PlayStation renders an entire area in polygons and gives you a fully rotatable camera. I mean, they obviously realised this was a problem because they give you an omni-present compass in the corner of the screen to help you remember what way you're facing. For all its simple rendering, though, it's quite a nice looking game in its own right. It's got that retro style of old sprite-based JRPGs but it does some neat visual flourishes with it - some excellent use of lighting, stylish scene transitions and so on, some of which would have been tricky to pull off on the PS1. There are even details that it didn't need to include, like when you get drunk on beer at the Aveh festival and the screen wobbles about - or how you can see your balloon floating off into the sky if you leave the festival area while holding it. The few anime cutscenes so far have also been outstanding, although the English dub is... not great. The plot isn't the easiest to follow, what with all the places and character names thrown out without context but the general themes of the plot are and I think I can see where the story is going. But we'll see. I've got a castle to break into and a hostage to rescue. There's a lot more to come.
  13. While I'm still plugging away at Xenogears and rather enjoying it (I might post in the dedicated thread later), I'm still going through some SNES games on the ol' Mini. I'm making a concerted effort to at least play all of the games on this little retro console, even I don't complete them. As I never had a real SNES, I feel I've missed out on a piece of history. Super Punch-Out!!. I was pretty bad at Punch-Out on the Wii but I blamed that on analogue HDTV lag. I don't think I can use the same excuse now, I'm just not very good at it!! This one feels like more of a proper boxing game, with life bars, blocking and multiple strategies for beating each boxer. I got through the Minor League but the Major League is harder. It took 20+ attempts to beat Dragon Chan once and then I couldn't do it again. My brain just can't process the left-right/high-low responses needed to his ever-changing stance, and I can't get the timing right for counters. It's one of those games that I'd probably have to play for months to get any good at it and I can't be arsed, frankly. Donkey Kong Country next. I've only ever played this on the GBA, which I understand was slightly different, so I wanted to play the original. I gotta say, it has not aged well. The pre-rendered look is rather dated, although it's technically clever. The general feel of movement is nice and solid but then it's got enemies with really annoying movement patterns, or an entire stupid mine cart level, or stupid barrel cannon levels, and a save system that sends you back when you run out of lives like it's still 1991. I reach the end of each level with no desire to ever go back to them, rather than a sense that I've enjoyed myself. The game seems intent on causing frustration and 'catching you out' rather than having a good time. That said, I'll probably push on with it! ---- (I'm sounding a bit down on SNES games at the moment, but on the other hand I completed Super Metroid the other night and that was absolutely magnificent.)
  14. Caught up with episode 4 at last. Good god, this is both boring and stupid.
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