Unsure of what to play next after completing Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, my friend and I knew one thing: we didn’t want to play another eighty hour video game! Scanning the shelves of games in front of us, mulling our options, he pointed out The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. I had recently bought that game’s limited edition, despite the fact that its predecessor, The Silver Case, had been in my collection for more than a year, still unopened. I purchased both in part because they were inexpensive, but primarily due to my appreciation for their idiosyncratic writer/director, Goichi Suda, aka Suda51. Following research affirming the game’s length, and brief discussion on playing a visual novel, a genre neither of us had much history with, from a creator my friend had little experience with, we decided to start The Silver Case. Continue reading The Silver Case [PlayStation 4] – Review→
Silicon Knights has come to be known for many things, mostly negative. One of the reasons they became so notorious though, was due to their former success. Without question, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was one of the studio’s highest highs. A survival horror game, published by Nintendo for the GameCube, the game met high praises upon its release in 2002, and is still fondly recalled. I recently played through the game, and while enjoyable, I didn’t become a rabid fan. For all of its uniqueness, the game feels pretty dated twelve years after its release.
The game’s primary protagonist is Alex Roivas. Her grandfather was just murdered and she’s now the last of the family. Edward dealt heavily in the occult and as Alex searches for answers to his murder, she becomes embroiled in a struggle between good and evil that dates back at least two-thousand years. Center to her quest is the Tome of Eternal Darkness. As Alex discovers pages to the Tome, scattered about Edward’s mansion, she is taken back in time and relives the struggles of her ancestors as they work to prevent the revival of evil ancients. This facilitates an interesting storytelling mechanic and a wide cast of characters.
I don’t care who you are, time travel is always interesting. Personally, I think of it in context of futuristic science-fiction, so its usage in the game was something different. Alex’s reading of the Tome was translated into individual sections of the game, where I controlled characters as diverse as a Roman centurion, a Cambodian slave, and a World War I soldier. Those characters, as well as many more filled out the game. The environments were as varied as the characters themselves. This is an astonishing fact as there were only a handful of settings. The locales were revisited through the ages, and while they were mostly identical, they remained fresh by virtue of the aging process and the period pieces I’d obtain and use in them; unlike say, Devil May Cry 4.
As the game dealt with many time periods and characters, the items and weapons I’d come across naturally fit the setting. Generally, each character gained access to multiple weapons, with the majority of them being swords. These highlighted the inventive combat system well. I had the ability to target different portions of an enemy’s body – head, torso, or upper appendages. I almost always went for the head as it was the quickest way to deal with an enemy or cope with a crowd, although striking appendages was helpful in many circumstances too. Besides swords, I came across many guns and long range weapons. In my experience with the game, these were useful against only one enemy and one boss. Don’t get me wrong, I could use them on anything, I just didn’t find them effective. Ammunition wasn’t an issue, unlike other survival horror games of this period.
Another aspect that differentiated this game from its peers was its distinct lack of tank controls. No matter the character, I was able to freely move them about. Coupling this with what I perceive as an enhanced focus on combat because of the targeting system and lack of inventory/ammo management, and this game skews more towards the action spectrum of action-adventure. However, like games of this ilk, there are plenty of items to find and puzzles to solve. Or…, association puzzles, as I’ll call them. These are what I found in the Mansiongames and Juggernaut. Through exploration, I’d stumble across something I could interact with, generally nonworking; for instance, a telescope missing a handle. Eventually, I’d find the handle, and putting them together, I’d be able to advance the story.
These types of “puzzles” were never too difficult, although this game stumped me more than once. Or, it stumped my friend and me, as we played cooperatively. Yes, more than once we flat out got stuck and had to source GameFAQs. In these few instances, the solutions were obvious, but for whatever reason, we didn’t crack the game’s logic. An example: playing an archaeologist in Cambodia circa the 1980s, we roamed the entirety of an ancient ruin not knowing what to do. We had examined a handful of spider webs earlier, which spurred the archaeologist to think they might be obscuring something, but we believed that a nonstarter. We thought this because it was clear there was nothing behind them when they were examined. WRONG. In his inventory, he had a brush that we used earlier to clear away dirt. When used on the spider webs, an important item was discovered, allowing us to progress. There were a few other instances of this, and it was extremely demoralizing.
My time with Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem started strong. An impressive narrative wrapped around an inventive storytelling mechanic and large cast of characters served well to draw me in. The unique combat system and strong playability were nothing to scoff at, especially considering its peers. However, the weak puzzles and sometimes confusing internal logic required to progress grew tepid. AND, there are sanity effects that I didn’t even mention! Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by them because I always kept my sanity meter high. By the end of it, I was more jazzed than ever to see how the story culminated, but I was ready to finish playing the game. It’s still a very impressive game. But, it was more impressive twelve years ago, just like Silicon Knights.
A: Juggernaut is a first-person adventure game where the primary mechanic is solving puzzles. A great shorthand reference would be the popular game Myst, a less ideal one would be either Mansion of Hidden Souls or The Mansion of Hidden Souls, two similar games that I wrote about earlier in the year. Juggernaut was released on the Playstation in 1999, many years after any of these games.
Q: What is Juggernaut about?
A: The protagonist’s girlfriend has become possessed by an evil spirit (presumably the devil) and a priest has notified the protagonist that the exorcism he performed was ineffective. Telling the protagonist that his love for her is the greatest chance of removing the evil, he sends him into her body to rid her of the evil.
Q: Wait, what!?
A: Yes, that’s only the beginning to the surreal adventure that plays out in Juggernaut. Inside the girlfriend’s body my friend and I did not find organs and blood but instead a mansion; perhaps a nod to the Mansion games?
Q: Okay, but why a mansion?
A: Well I suppose it could be a metaphor for something. Maybe it symbolizes her soul with the rooms inside representing specific chapters of her life, maybe not though. Functionally it provides a great backdrop for a single environment that requires a lot of exploration and houses many puzzles.
Q: You’ve mentioned puzzles, but what’s gameplay like besides them, what do you do?
A: My friend and I controlled the protagonist and explored the mansion and other environments. We’d explore until we couldn’t progress any farther, usually because of puzzles, although I use that term lightly. Most puzzles seemed to revolve around finding an item and making the connection as to what it’s used for. There were puzzles that required my friend and me to get scratch paper out and think something through, but for the most part making connections was the name of the game.
Q: So it’s a puzzle game and the puzzles aren’t that great, why should I even care about Juggernaut?
A: That’s a great point actually. My friend and I felt the same way until we encountered an evil microcosm, what we were attempting to rid the girlfriend’s body of. The evil microcosms were one-off stories that featured unique plots, characters, and environments. The stories and dialogue in the microcosms were absurd! Definitely some of the weirdest stuff I’ve encountered in a video game.
There were eight microcosms in all. Two of them took place in the future, entirely on the internet via virtual reality. Two of them took place in an isolated prison. One of these featured a spy who yelled out karate moves before he attacked people, like “karate correspondence manual page 12, flying kangaroo”. It ended in a goofy/creepy five minute conversation with another character that had my friend and me laughing, and confused. Two took place on tropical islands and they also resulted in confusion. The last two took place in woods and they dealt with a ghost shaman from Africa and a killer who slashed out eyes. I’m only scratching the surface of what makes these storylines strange by the way, just know the plots develop strangely and the dialogue is detailed
Q: After everything you did was the ending satisfying?
A: Yes, actually. What was more satisfying was the epilogue though. It added another puzzle and a lot of exposition from the girlfriend’s perspective, plus, a twist.
Q: Who made Juggernaut?
A: I’m unclear on that. There are two Japanese companies attached to Juggernaut, Will and TonkinHouse. From what I’ve gathered Will developed it and Tonkin House published it in Japan. Jaleco published it in America. Remember, it came out on the PlayStation in 1999.
Q: So should I play it?
A: Nah. The gameplay was slow and it takes a long place to get somewhere. There was an interesting mechanic in the mansion of having to switch bodies to access specific rooms but this was time consuming. Juggernaut is a pretty ugly game even considering how old it is but I liked the soundtrack, it wasn’t overbearing, it was moody, and set the tone well. It was fun solving puzzles and experiencing the oddities with a friend and the microcosms were surreal, but you can probably YouTube that stuff.
Set twenty years after the events of Mansion of Hidden Souls, The Mansion of Hidden Souls sees a return to the ominous mansion that houses humans turned into butterflies. As I did with the Sega CD game, I played through The Mansion of Hidden Souls with a friend.
Released in 1995 for the Sega Saturn, The Mansion of Hidden Souls was developed by System Sacom and published by Sega. While Mansion of Hidden Souls on the Sega CD was published by a different company (Vic Tokai) I can’t believe Sega basically chose the same name for the sequel. Because of this, there is a lot of misinformation about the two games on the internet. While this pains me, perhaps my two reviews can provide a clearer image for anyone who wants to know about the games.
Rather than stumbling upon the mansion with his sister as the player’s character did in the Sega CD game, I gathered that the character my friend and I took control of, Jun, lived in the mansion, along with his mystery solving buddy, Mike. After a sweeping intro showcasing the mansion, my friend and I were introduced to the elder, who told Jun and Mike of his worries over the red color of the moon. He believes it is a bad omen and asked us to do some investigating.
My friend and I left the elder’s room and set foot in the foyer of the mansion, ready to begin reacquainting ourselves with the mansion and meeting its residents. This was an easy task however as the mansion had retained a similar, if not identical floor plan as it had in the Sega CD game. Even after playing the Sega CD game a week or two earlier, I still got a feeling of nostalgia. So, already familiar with mansion, we began meeting with its residents.
All of the mansion’s residents are butterflies. They all were human at one point, but decided to be turned into butterflies to escape the woe associated with being human. One of the residents, a young girl, explained to Jun and Mike of the arguments that her divorced parents used to have, that they hated each other so, and presumably, she ran away to get away from it. Every resident told us why they were here, through dream-like sequences. Each sequence implemented a unique art style and after I knew they were different, I anticipated watching them.
Around the time we met everyone, Mike’s room was burgled and an important book was stolen. It belonged to the elder and had everything to do with the ominous moon. My friend and I began considering suspects, but easily settled on one. Left behind in Mike’s room was a lighter with a “D” engraved on it. Surely this belonged to Danny, an older resident who had an interest in firearms. Mike was quick to accuse Danny, as was everyone else we talked to, but the elder was wary to point a finger so easily. My friend and I decided to confront Danny anyways and when he asked, we told him we thought he did it, something we couldn’t have done in the Sega CD game.
New to The Manson of Hidden Souls was the ability for my friend and me to answer yes or no questions. While they weren’t that frequent and the story eventually turned out to be quite linear, we both enjoyed having a little more control. Once we accused Danny of the crime, my friend and I received a bad ending and chose to restart from an earlier save. This gave me an interesting idea, what if the game resembled the movie Clue? The game could have multiple scenarios where the culprit was someone different each time and the story played out slightly differently. Unfortunately, this was not the case. There was a culprit, and only one.
Instead of relying on objects for puzzles, The Mansion of Hidden Souls’ puzzles were based around conversations more than anything else. Rather than finding objects and using them in certain situations, finding out who to talk to progress our adventure was our goal. There wasn’t a magical painting that showcased what to do next however and we spent a lot of time checking in every room before finding who we needed to talk to.
After more puzzle solving, or should I say conversations, my friend and I cracked the case and were treated to a lengthy, and very weird, ending cinematic. Whereas the story in the Sega CD game was the personal story of a boy rescuing his sister, the story in The Mansion of Hidden Souls, especially at the end, seemed more metaphorical. My interpretation of the final cutscene is this. Living a life with no hardships may be easy, but there is no meaning to the life. Exploring the world, aging, and going through trials and tribulations makes joyous occasions joyous; without struggles, there is nothing to celebrate.
While they had a lot in common, The Mansion of Hidden Souls was an improvement over Mansion of Hidden Souls. As it was released for a more advanced console, The Mansion of Hidden Souls looked much better compared to the Sega CD game, and I bet many other Sega Saturn games, it looked very nice for sure. I’m torn on the voice acting improvements though. There are no longer grossly stereotypical accents, but the voice acting in general is not wonderful either. I suppose its better overall but the cheeky voice acting from the Sega CD game was quite comedic.
Excluding the decreased emphasis on using objects for puzzle solving and the ability to answer yes or no questions, the two games play identically. Playing from the first-person perspective made me feel as though it was me in Jun’s shoes, but I probably could’ve done without the locked routes I could walk. That seems like a custom for the genre that they didn’t buck. My last thought? I enjoyed the narrative in The Mansion of Hidden Souls more than the Sega CD’s game. I liked that it delved into philosophical territory, even if the ending was very odd. The Mansion of Hidden Souls was a decent adventure game that was better than the first, and a good buy for a Sega Saturn owner, but not necessarily that interesting to many others.
Surprisingly enough I was able to crank out a review for Star Soldier last week. After enough attempts playing the game and making no progression I decided to focus my attention on other games. I would like to keep playing Star Soldier and maybe get a little farther or attain a higher score, but who knows?
The game I’m focusing on now is Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, also for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I have completed the first palace (I believe there’s six) but the mapmaking process is time consuming. I’d guess it’ll take me a week or two to complete the game.
Lastly, a friend and I played through The Mansion of Hidden Souls for the Sega Saturn on Sunday. I know what you’re thinking, and no I haven’t played this game yet. You’re thinking of Mansion of Hidden Souls for the Sega CD. The Mansion of Hidden Souls is the sequel to the game. It was equally, if not more, weird than it’s predecessor. I should have a review of that up sometime this week. I’m not sure if I’ll post anything beyond that this week.