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.Continue reading Suikoden [PlayStation] – Review
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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
I had a pretty memorable Independence Day this year. Among other reasons, I finally sat down and played through Incredible Crisis. It’s a quirky game that has been on my backlog for a while now, and on my radar for even longer; I probably first learned of it surfing the net in the mid 2000s. For me, it’s remained a stalwart example of the scores of zany Japanese games that somehow saw release in the west during the late 1990s and the mid 2000s. Maybe off-the-wall games like it had been, and perhaps remain, prevalent in Japan, but at least in the west, it seemed like they came and went during these years. Continue reading Incredible Crisis [PlayStation] – Review
Probably the quintessential example of a cult classic in the video game industry, at least here in the United States, the Super Nintendo RPG EarthBound had an underwhelming debut when Nintendo released it June 5, 1995. The SNES was reaching the end of its commercial lifecycle, and RPGs on the system had matured to include ever more complex gameplay systems and grandiose visuals. Heck, the Sega Saturn had released a month prior, Sony’s PlayStation was on the horizon, and Nintendo was already discussing the next generation Ultra 64 publicly, so it seemed 2D graphics were on their way out. Yet here comes this simplistic looking game based in a reality not unlike our own instead of an imaginative fantasy or sci-fi backdrop. Similarly, the plain combat system could’ve been considered a throwback, even then. But, there was an audience for the game, and in the years since its debut, that audience has grown into a thriving fandom. Now that I’ve experienced firsthand the charming, unique adventure that EarthBound offers, a fandom so vibrant is well deserved, I’d say. Continue reading EarthBound [Super Nintendo] – Review
As a character, Kirby is well-known for his youthful innocence and delight in simple pleasures, like eating. Simple is also an apt descriptor for the majority of games he’s starred in, generally platformers; simple, but often inventive, in one way or another. In the case of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the game is a pretty basic side-scrolling platformer with a remarkable visual identity. The yarn and felt visuals were more than just window dressing though, as they influenced the gameplay in creative and subversive ways. Continue reading Kirby’s Epic Yarn [Wii] – Review
I’m competitive, always have been. I spent my youth playing organized soccer, and the desire to win was real. This translated to other activities, such as Monopoly, or anything else that had an element of competition to it. I wanted to win! In terms of my schooling back then, my parents instilled the importance of studying, that the effort I put in would result in good grades, which in my mind was a competition of sorts. Not necessarily against others in this case, but against myself. Competition was a means of self-improvement. It was the mechanism that gave me the drive, the motivation to succeed. Heck, even Pokémon encouraged competition, whether through the core trainer battles in the video games or via the infectious theme song of the anime.
And speaking of Pokémon, I can make a case that that franchise influenced my completionist tendencies. As I’ve mentioned before, when I experience something, I want to experience the whole of it. Similarly, when I play a video game on a modern PlayStation or Xbox, trophies and achievements materially impact my experience. If I’m digging the game, I’ll do my best to unlock as many as possible. When crafted well, they can complement the gameplay experience by rewarding experimentation or offering up unique challenges. Even when they’re not crafted well, I still feel compelled to obtain them, or at least do a cost-benefit analysis to determine which are worth my time. They’re a fun element of modern gaming; a nifty way to compare progress with and compete against friends, and an element that I care way too much about.
Bastion is one of those games that has been near the top of my backlog for years. From all accounts, it was a hit when it debuted on the Xbox 360 on July 20, 2011, and in the years since, it has gone on to appear on damn near every platform, like an indie version of Resident Evil 4 or Skyrim. I first acquired it through a Humble Bundle in May 2012 and have checked it out a few times since, but never for more than a half-hour or so. In fact, I’ve spent more time listening to the soundtrack in the intervening years than actually playing the game! Obviously I think the soundtrack is great, but hey, it turns out the game is pretty good, too! Continue reading Bastion [Switch] – Review