After beating Suikoden, the thought of jumping right into Suikoden II left me salivating. That game’s status as the best in the series, and one of the best JRPGs of all time is pretty much universally agreed upon . But, I slowed my roll. Typically, I sandwich a few shorter games in between playthroughs of role-playing games, considering they generally take thirty hours to complete, at a minimum. After all, I’m a grown-ass adult, with grown-ass adult responsibilities, so I don’t have the time to just sit around playing video games all day. Rest assured though, they do occupy way too much of my thoughts.
Anyways, collecting myself, I laid out the three games I’d be playing. The futuristic, yet mechanically ancient first-person shooterCodename: Tenka wasn’t a total bust, but after a couple of hours, I couldn’t justify playing it anymore. In contrast, the one-of-a-kind insect simulation Mister Mosquito only took a few hours, and was right up my alley. Finally, there was Mars Matrix. Spurred on by intriguing compliments delivered by Brandon Sheffield on Twitter (that I can’t seem to find now…), and the realization of how much the Dreamcast version sells for in the secondary market, I figured I ought to give it a shot, or a second one, since it turns out I played it back in 2011, an experience I’d all but forgotten about.
As I’ve explained before, I’m a sucker for achievements and trophies, at least on the home consoles, where most of my game time is spent. It was disappointing then, to learn that Army of Two had achievements tied a piece of DLC that was no longer available. Now, I wasn’t going to be able to obtain all of the achievements for Army of Two anyway, since many were tied to the game’s long defunct online multiplayer mode, but it was still disheartening to learn I’d miss out on some associated with the game’s single player/cooperative campaign.
When Jeff and I started Kirby’s Epic Yarn a few months ago, we were just looking for something to play cooperatively. Little did we know then, that would set us on a path of playing the game’s spiritual successors: Yoshi’s Woolly World and Yoshi’s Crafted World. Since we enjoyed that first game so thoroughly, it just made sense to hop into the follow-ups. They offered us hours of inventive platforming and charming visuals, in addition to a sense of relief of knowing what we’d play next. Like figuring out what’s for dinner, deciding what to play next can be tough, especially when the deliberations include multiple individuals. With the completion of Yoshi’s Crafted World, the most recent of Good-Feel’s oeuvre, we were once again hemming and hawing about what to play next. We’d been on a kick of playing games with full-on cooperative campaigns and decided that was the only criteria a candidate needed to fulfill. Scanning the shelves of games before us, we vetoed proposals and backlogged others, agreeing that “yeah, this one is good, but maybe later,” before striking on one that was tailor-made for our situation: Army of Two.
The middle class Japanese family just couldn’t catch a break in the late 1990s and early 2000s, could they? Besides having to deal with the economic ramifications of the Lost Decade, many were put in situations that caused them to risk life and limb. Take the Tanamatsuri family, as highlighted in Incredible Crisis. On a very special day – grandma’s 80th birthday – the family had to deal with all manner of ludicrous obstacles. Their day-to-day routines were interrupted by snowboarding bank robbers, kaiju teddy bears, and so many sinking boats. Other families had their interpersonal relationships put to the test, such as the Yamada family. In the particular summer highlighted in Mister Mosquito, they were plagued by the eponymous bloodsucking pest. For them, he brought about more than itchy bites; he nearly tore the family apart!
It took four hours and thirty-three minutes, but I was done. After hours spent slowly strafing around corners so I could safely shoot enemies, all the while futzing with unintuitive controls; after getting blown to smithereens by yet another enemy missile that seemed like it shouldn’t have even affected me; after multiple attempts trying to complete the same stage, learning enemy layouts and just what it was the game wanted me to do, I had had enough. Codename: Tenka had been on my radar for years, ever since I read about it in an older issue of OPM or PSM in the early 2000s, but I couldn’t justify playing it anymore.
If you could glean anything from my Kickstarter pledge history, it’s that I’m fond of video games. A closer inspection would reveal a narrower common thread: I’m especially fond of Japanese video games! Following a string of high profile campaigns in 2012, the crowdfunding site saw its legitimacy grow in the industry. In the years since, a number of well known Japanese designers have turned to it to revitalize the types of games they once made, such as Keiji Inafune with Mighty No. 9, or Koji Igarashi with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The latter is still on my backlog, and from all accounts is a worthy successor the Castlevania series while Mighty No. 9… well, the less said about it, the better. In a similar vein, Yu Suzuki was able to bring Shenmue III to fruition, which I loved! And that’s probably the most important aspect of these campaigns in particular: they’re reviving something beloved, that’s been absent for one reason or another. Well, as of August 29, 2020, there’s one more project can be added to that list: Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.
Released for the Switch on March 29, 2019, Yoshi’s Crafted World is the most recent collaboration between Nintendo and Good-Feel, whose partnership goes back to the latter’s 2005 founding. While the studio doesn’t work exclusively with Nintendo, they’ve collaborated on a number of titles between then and now, such as this game’s predecessors: Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Woolly World. Of the common threads that bind these games together, none is more pronounced than the remarkable art design that adapts real-world materials with side-scrolling platforming gameplay. Taking inspiration from crafting in general, this entry features the broadest and most inventive environments of the trio. But the stage design itself, speaking from a gameplay perspective, is the least inspired of the bunch. In writing this review, I had a hard time thinking of stages or sequences that left an impression on me; a far cry from the excellence of the previous games. I still had fun playing Yoshi’s Crafted World cooperatively with a friend, but it didn’t rise to the level of its precursors. Continue reading Yoshi’s Crafted World [Switch] – Review→
Red Steel was… fine. As a first-person shooter on the Wii, especially a launch title, I was surprised by how competent it was; the system’s unique controller really was a good match for the genre! Moving my avatar with the Nunchuk and aiming at the screen with the Wii Remote was accurate, responsive, and most importantly, fun! Now, this setup wouldn’t be suitable for every FPS, but for a single-player campaign, or even the split-screen multiplayer Red Steel offered, it was pretty good. Red Steel also had sword fighting, and you’d think the Wii Remote would be a perfect match for swordplay… but it wasn’t, at least as implemented. Half the time, it seemed like my swings weren’t recognized accurately. And when they were, well wouldn’t you know it, the enemy blocked my attacks! Sword fighting was a real bummer, and dampened my enthusiasm for the game. Still, when I finished the campaign, I wanted to give the sequel a whirl. Continue reading Red Steel 2 [Wii] – Review→
Craving another Wii game following the completion of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, I turned to Red Steel, for some reason. Up until recently I’d never even tried it, but as one of the most publicized games in the lead up to the launch of the Wii, I’ve long been familiar with it. The trailers from that era, with gratuitously animated actors showcasing the capabilities of the system’s unique controller, are hilarious, and Red Steel’s are some of the best. There are a handful of these pre-release trailers floating around, and while they showcased how you interact with the game pretty accurately, they’re just so over the top. When the actors mimic their avatar taking cover by jumping behind furniture themselves, or pause to eat sushi while strolling through a sushi restaurant in game, I mean, c’mon.
This one, apparently from E3 2006, is especially novel now that I’ve completed the game, as it seems like it may be an original proof of concept trailer. First off, the visual fidelity is much too good; richly detailed environments and impressive character animation give off the aura of a pre-rendered trailer rather than actual gameplay. Then there’s the fact the actor is using what appears to prototypes of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. And, of the scenes portrayed, I believe only one appears in the final product. The three other trailers I’m familiar with were clearly produced closer to the game’s launch, and one of them even serves as the game’s attract mode. They retain the exaggerations of the first trailer, with interstitial gameplay sequences lifted directly from the released game. Continue reading Red Steel [Wii] – Review→
When a friend and I beat Kirby’s Epic Yarn about a month ago, the decision on what we’d play next was pretty easy. Kirby’s Epic Yarn was a relatively simple side-scrolling platformer with enjoyable co-operative gameplay, some inventive stages, and an incredible design aesthetic. It was a game that just emanated happiness. Yeah, we wanted more of that. And so, we tracked down a copy of Yoshi’s Woolly World, the spiritual successor to Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Structurally, the two games weren’t awfully different, and mechanically, the stars in both functioned similarly. But the abilities unique to Yoshi, namely tossing eggs, allowed for a broader range of platforming challenges and additional ways to interact within stages; it was slightly tougher, and more engaging. These considerations, in partnership with the remarkable art design, resonated with me; Yoshi’s Woolly World was an outstanding video game! Continue reading Yoshi’s Woolly World [Wii U] – Review→