If you’ve read a few of my reviews, you know I often mention my backlog. I’ve made a concerted effort to work through the treasure trove of games I own or have always wanted to play the last few years, and it’s been a fulfilling process.
It wasn’t too long ago that I completed Phantasy Star, many years after first playing it. Thanks to a number of enhancements that allowed the player to determine how much they valued their time, the SEGA AGES release of Phantasy Star proved to be an enjoyable way to finally roll credits. Well naturally, that set me up to play Phantasy Star II.
Suikoden II lives up to the hype. Having heard its praises sung for years, I’ve long been interested in playing it, and the series as a whole. The recent announcement of a spiritual successor reignited my desire to jump in, and I found the first game quite enjoyable. Suikoden II though, is an improvement in almost every regard. Like its predecessor, the developers adapted gameplay systems and formulas common to traditional Japanese role-playing games – think turn-based battles and town-dungeon-town progression – but did so with their own twist.
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.
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→
It’s January 2020 and I think I’m hooked on a Pokémon game more than I ever have been, which is kind of wild considering I was obsessed with the series when it was all the rage in the late nineties, and from 2013-2017 I played nearly every iteration in the series as part of a “grand ambition” to, literally, catch ‘em all. Pokémon Sword and Shield, the newest entries and the ones I find myself wanting to play every night, are just fantastic. Their foundational mechanics aren’t all that different from previous games in the series (a blessing and a curse) but Game Freak has introduced engaging new features and implemented smart quality of life improvements. The games aren’t perfect; performance and network issues bog down some of the cooler features for instance, but on the whole they’re masterfully refined and endlessly addictive. Continue reading Pokemon Sword and Shield [Switch] – Review→
Years after completing the previous entry in the series, and following its release for the Nintendo Switch and renewed hype for the upcoming PlayStation 4 remake, I’ve finally completed Final Fantasy VII. It’s hard to dispute the game’s status as the most popular Final Fantasy, and now that I’ve experienced it in full, it’s easy to see why. The game’s modern/sci-fi setting and appealing characters make for a more relatable experience than previous entries. The fundamental RPG gameplay is rock solid, and the Materia customization is addictively satisfying. Also, it didn’t hurt that this was the first entry to release with 3D visuals, or that the soundtrack was phenomenal. More than twenty years on from its debut, the game remains a standout entry in the series, and an enjoyable RPG in general. Continue reading Final Fantasy VII [Switch] – Review→
Released for the Nintendo DS in September 2008, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is one of the most unique games in the iconic series. Unlike almost every other entry in the franchise, it eschews fast-paced platforming in favor of turn-based battles. This is unsurprising considering BioWare, the Edmonton, Alberta-based developer responsible for it, is best known for their various role-playing games. It features a few trademarks associated with their gameography but plays more like their spin on the Japanese RPG. Continue reading Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood [Nintendo DS] – Review→
Up until playing it, I’ve only ever had two associations when thinking about Shadow Hearts. One related to the game’s Judgment Ring, an appealing mechanic that added an element of action to otherwise typical turn-based battles. The other, more prominent association was the proximity of its release to Final Fantasy X, one of the most anticipated games at the time. At first blush, this seems like unfortunate timing, but in actuality it was opportunistic: a hope that those awaiting Final Fantasy X would purchase Shadow Hearts to bide their time with a similar role-playing game, albeit one with a much smaller development budget. With this in mind, I long ago established modest expectations. Now that I’ve completed it, I’ve found that these expectations were spot-on, which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy playing Shadow Hearts, but it was somewhat unimpressive. Continue reading Shadow Hearts [PlayStation 2] – Review→
My memories of the experience are faint, but I can still recall renting Evolution Worlds from the local Blockbuster in the final months of junior high. Although I spent hours dungeon crawling, I never managed to complete the game. Even after purchasing a copy and replaying it a few years later, I failed to reach the finale. Since these playthroughs, I’ve viewed the game through a nostalgic lens, joyously recalling days gone by, and looking forward to that point in the indeterminate future when I set aside time to play it again. Well, last year was supposed to be the year I replayed it, as I was cherry-picking those games I always wanted to play or return to. I wound up not getting around to it then, but it was top of my list this year. After fifteen years, I’ve finally beaten Evolution Worlds! Continue reading Evolution Worlds [GameCube] – Review→
Anticipation and apathy; for me, that was the prerelease cycle for the newest entries in the Pokémon series. As a lifelong fan, I couldn’t help getting excited with the reveal of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!, especially since they would hold such a unique place in the franchise. The developers, Game Freak, intended to bridge the gap between the long-running “core” series and Pokémon Go, the still popular mobile game that was a worldwide craze when it launched in July 2016. As information was disseminated however, my anticipation turned to apathy, doubtful about adjustments being made to accommodate features of the mobile game. Then, on the day of its release it hit me: there would be a new Pokémon game waiting for me when I got home! I was excited again, and that excitement remained all the way through my nostalgic journey of Kanto. Continue reading Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! [Switch] – Review→