Second 'Like A Dragon' game I've played.
I feel, so far, these games aren't extremely polished on the gameplay side of things. If we're only discussing combat, that is. For context, I played this start to end on "Legend" difficulty, the highest feasible difficulty ('Ishin' mode explicitly states that it should only be attempted on new game plus). I did 90% of substories, all the dungeons, and did a looot of crafting. I didn't do much of the arena, why? Well, one fight had a foe shoot me with incidenary bullets that literally stunned-lock me to death. Sadly that wasn't the only time I loss more then half of my health from being trapped in a inescapable combo. I'm fine being punished for not dodging the initial hit of a combo, but the amount of total combined damage doesn't really feel fair with how quickly some of these enemies swing their swords. Am I saying this game is too hard on Legend mode? Not really. If anything, this game goes repeatedly back and forth with it being too punishing, and yourself being utterly unstoppable. You can craft and buy some seriously disgusting weapons, like a cannon that will literally infinite combo most foes and some bosses, or the Vortex pistol which shoots so fast that it shreds health pools in seconds. Then there's the trooper system that are special attacks, and if you have the tiger trooper (as in a literal tiger) then that's near-guranteed instakill on a single enemy. Did I mention that some troopers are real content creators (which are free DLC)? One of which is a Vtuber. No, I'm not going to spoil who.
Of course there's a lot to do beyond shoving swords up a ronin's ass. You got karaoke, dancing, fishing, gambling, farming, pet managing, cards, shogi, cooking, and the bane of my existence, chicken races. What's wrong with that last one? It's easily the best way to make money in the entire game, but its of course luck-based. And every attempt takes an agonizingly long time. And sometimes you get those ""fun"" moments where ten times in a row the chicken with the highest possible chances of winning just never wins. Literally gone for half an hour before winning once, but the payout is honestly worth it.
Substories are very frequent compared to 7, which my first Like A Dragon game. Wasn't a fan how a ton of them required coming and leaving so many times. You'd visit a friend, give them a item, walk away, then come back. This happens an absurd amount of times. They do provide a lot of cute, and funny side stories so they're at least worth it.
It's funny how many issues I have with this game, but it's hard to hate. It has some great set-pieces, a roller-coaster of a plot, excellent sound design with stellar choreography in cutscenes and combat, a ton of stuff to do beyond the main story, and honestly quite a lot of heart. You know you've done good when I've invested so much time in your RPG system to want to grind for rare materials, namely to see the great weapon designs. Not necessarily for stat ups. And while not my favorite, the music did its job very well across the board.
That aside, you can spin around like a madman with your katana and your rapid-fire pistol as you carve a path of death, then summon a bear for good measure. That should be enough to convince you one way or another.

Going to pick it back up once the final act drops. So far made it to 4-2. My hands hurt so much

If I made a game, and I say this with zero game dev experience, it'd probably be something like this. Not necessarily my "dream game", but this has so, SO much stuff I'd put into a game.
A class system with that allows for a lot of creative synergy? Check. A huge world that has tons of hidden bosses and secrets? Yep. Challenging turn based gameplay where even the non-boss encounter requires you to give it your all? Got that. A story that... actually the story really isn't there. If a normal RPG is about 45% story and 55% gameplay, Crystal Project is closer to... 2% story, 98% gameplay. For context, my final game time on Steam was just under 40 hours, and there were several optional areas and superbosses that I haven't seen yet, plus a chocobo-like breeding game.
If you want to know if you'll like this game, then you'll have to love turned-based battles and exploration.
Let me stress this point, exploration is a huge component. Nearly as important as the the battle system. It starts fairly simple, but then you start to get mounts that allow you to reach areas previously unreachable. Still sounds standard... until you realize the game's world is all interconnected. It's an entire open world game made by one dev. Its kinda crazy. Not one area takes place in some separate dimension, such as entering a world map in other RPGs. You can fall off a giant cliff and plummet all the way into the ocean. And if you can swim by that point in the game, you can seamlessly go underwater and find treasure and dangerous foes in the ocean's depths.
Speaking of foes, this game is fairly tough all things consider. While it is possible in some parts of the game, most of the time grinding levels isn't an immediate "I win" tactic for the more difficult encounters. It certainly helps, but if you do a lot of side content then you'll reach max level quickly, and will still be struggling if you made your party poorly. The game does have your back in many ways. Your stat-increases are dependent on the class your character was when they level up, but you can rollback and redistribute them if you aren't satisfy with your build. The game is very transparent about its mechanics, like the exact calculations it uses when calculating damage, what party member an enemy will attack next turn; even the exact damage values, crit chance & crit damage, and accuracy percentage for every attack you do is clear as day.
I played on my new Steam Deck and it was the one game that didn't drain my Deck in 30 minutes, which was nice to say the least. Have had some notable graphical hiccups, namely with the world taking a bit too long to load after fast traveling or moving at high speeds. I had no issues with this personally, but a lot of music and game assets are used from many royalty-free dev sites. I felt it was done well enough that I didn't notice during my playtime, plus it does rightfully credit where they came from so it by no means tries to hide it. Only big issue I had was that I would've like a little nudge towards some of the more interesting discoveries in this game. This game world is massive and it can be exciting but also very overwhelming. I had to look at a guide (which there are so few of) more then once to get at least a vague direction for points of interest, some of which are very easy to miss.
If world building and story is what you love about RPGs, then this is ain't for you sadly. Me though, this was just sweet dopamine in my brain the whole way through.
Did I mention this game also has an in-depth randomizer? Like random bosses, enemies, class locations, items, and more? This'll keep me busy that's for sure.

Not much I can add that hasn't already been said before.
It's so strange, in the best way, playing a game that is extremely detailed with its characters and environments, yet you're moving the player-character around like a PS2 game. I miss normal human-looking characters being able to leap 20 feet in the air. Speaking of air, keeping enemies in the air felt much easier then it was in DMC III, but I really didn't mind. I was able to play V in a way where I was truly expressing myself with my own playstyle during combat, while in DMC III I was never able to create my own style of combat with how much stiffer and more demanding it is as a game. I know with time I could've play DMC III on... half the level as those insane combo-skill videos, but V got me to that level as soon as the tenth mission. As a result, I've already had the urge to go back to DMC V to try Vergil and the Bloody Palace, which I honestly did not feel the same pull in DMC III when I first finished it.
I do think the harder difficulty unlocked from finishing the game should've been unlocked from the start. Not to say the base difficulty was a complete cake walk, but I would've like a more engaging challenge sooner, even if it wouldn't have been balanced that great for a fresh save file. Though it can get absolutely brutal, DMC III really does push you to your limits that V doesn't on the first playthrough.
I do like how nearly every mission has a boss fight. There are a few repeats, but with how deep the combat depth is, I never minded the opportunity to try different tactics on the bosses I've fought before. Even then, the repeats will often have you facing them as a different character; with addition to the amount of unique bosses across the entire game, this never bothered me.
Should I add more? This has been regarded as one of the best action games by many. I agree. That should be enough to play it. And hey, at least the difficulty won't a turnoff for most.
Cavaliere is best weapon

I spent three hours playing Mario Kart to get a ladle for my chef.
There's many questionable design decisions in this game. The game expects you to grind more then once since there weren't enough required battles to be competently strong enough for the next story sequence. If you're not ready, you'll need to grind a hefty amount of money to progress. Enemies in combat get caught on terrain and aren't the brightest at moving around it. Same with your party. Many times have I had my characters running into a wall for 10 seconds, only for the game to just teleport them right next to the enemy anyway. You get so many job skills that are very quickly outclassed. The UI doesn't tell you enough information, such as how many hits does each skill do, the percentage of status ailments going off, the precise range an AoE is effective at, how much approximately does a healing skill recover, and so on. This is also a long, long game. I was seriously expecting it to end 10 hours sooner.
Honestly there's a lot more grievances I have, but the four stars at the top are telling me to get on with it already. Fine, the ending made me cry and Ichiban is a top-tier protagonist. He's not a protagonist whose likeable all the time, he's very stubborn a lot of the times. He does do stuff that makes you frustrated, but it's almost never out of character. He's a guy who lost sight of his life's goal and had no clue where to go after being in this world for over 40 years. Of course he's going to be irrational. Yet he's so passionate and kind, he does so much for others and is grateful for those who do right to him. And the moments when his perception of the his world is shattered are such a painful thing to sit through.
To go back to the gameplay, I will give props to many of the skills being incredibly satisfying to use. Likely comes from this being a series that was originally an action game, but boy are some these attacks extra crunchy. Sound design and animation can go a long way to making even the more basic RPG battle-systems still feel fun to play. I wish female characters had more jobs, but otherwise the job systems is a easy shortcut for me to grind in your game for an unnecessarily long time. Even if there's absolutely no need to.
The story does quite a lot of heavy lifting to make up for all this game's shortcomings, but I'm going leave it there. I don't like discussing stories in my reviews and firmly believe they should be experienced by playing it yourself.
All that said, this will be the only time I'll be this lenient of the messy battle system. Really hoping Yakuza 8 makes substantial improvements, otherwise they'll need to have a story with an even bigger gut punch then this one.

I originally bought the Bioshock collection solely for the first game. It was just the most convenient way for me to play it at the time. I was honestly just not interested in either Bioshock 2 or Infinite from what I've seen from them. So I played 1, enjoyed it enough, then moved on. Only recently have I heard talks that Bioshock 2, while flawed in its own right, has been criminally overhated. After taking a small look of some more footage online, I decided to give it a shot. And what do you know, I ended up liking it more then the first game.
It just feels nicer to play across the board. The simplification of the tedious hacking minigame from the first, dual wielding plasmids and guns at the same time so you can shock foes while you're reloading, you tend to get special ammunition and plasmids at a much brisker pace, and no location feels like it overstays its welcome. Was worried about having to defend the Little Sisters in this game, but honestly they were never an issue. Bioshock 2, like the first one, provides a lot of traps that help even out the swarms of crazed splicers out for you daughter. Not to mention, I feel Bioshock combat shines when you're pre-planning for either a Big Daddy encounter or one of the previously mentioned daughter defending missions. Really satisfying when you're patiently hacking security bots and laying tornado or spike traps, and then absolutely thrashing the opposition as they ragdoll into the air as your turrets shoot them midair.
The story was better then I was led to believe. I am in the mind that 1 has the stronger narrative, but if I'm honest I felt more attached to the characters of 2. Especially when factoring Minerva's Den, a very solid 2-3 hour DLC with a strong emotional ending.
I think what speaks volumes about my experience was that I had this game crash while saving... and it erased my data. Thankfully there was an autosave, but it only saves at the beginning of the level. As I found out later, I was right at the end of that level before losing my file. It did demoralize the hell out of me, but replaying the whole level wasn't really exhausting at all. In fact I built my character in a slightly different way, so it wasn't like I repeated everything I did exactly.
I'm not sure if this is one of my favorite FPSs, I need to think on it more, but I'm really glad to have given it a shot.
(...Sorry, but Infinite is not happening. It literally got rid of everything I liked about the first two. I definitely wouldn't enjoy my time with it)

I wonder as a kid "Why do these people sound so weird?" I never knew what being British meant.
So my siblings would scare me by intentionally triggering a scripted jump scare, so I always hated this game. Nowadays I have no clue if this any good or not. I'd be lying if I said I still didn't have bad feelings towards this game, seriously screw that jump scare.
Anyway, if you're interested in a horror adventure game, then go right ahead, and let me know if you come across that jump scare.

"If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything"
...Alright. This is a game I played as a kid, and I thought it was

I wanted to see what hard mode was like, bearing in mind that this is my first playthrough of this game. I went up to a goblin and got one-hit killed. I thought to myself "Oh no..." Then I manage to kill a few goblins and one of them dropped 10,000 gold pieces. I then thought to myself "OH NO...!" Since that meant I would not revert to normal mode ever. I continue to bash my head against this wall for 60 hours, all the while a perfectly functioning door is right next to me, but damnit there's double experience points on hard mode and I'm not missing that.
I then continue to play this game "wrong" by going the Bitterblack Isle, the DLC area added with "Dark Arisen", as soon as I was able to, and slowly but surely began chipping away at it. A weakness I have in games is that, if there's a high level area in a game I shouldn't go to yet, but I could go there, then I will. I like seeing what I can get away with, finding loot and items way before I should normally have them, or maybe gain, like, ten levels from killing a high level enemy. This got to the point that I manage to clear the DLC when I was not even halfway through the main game.
I liked the action gameplay overall, throwing goblins off a cliff was never not amusing. Climbing large monsters to precisely target weak points is really ambitious and cool; but the camera going ballistic for the more extravagant monsters, and the fact that I've had many times where I had no clue what direction to move the analog stick to move where I wanted to, while on the wildly flailing chimera with a snake tail, made it more of a pain then I wanted. Speaking of chimeras, it was really cool and fun when I saved in the middle of the forest, not realizing there was a chimera right next to me. I then suffered close to twenty deaths as this beast would just one hit kill me with the slightest touch, plus it was my first time fighting one and I kept either trying to run or pray I had enough strength charms to out damage it, plus it was nighttime and sometimes I couldn't even see the godforsaken thing. After many failed attempts I finally slayed it... then three minutes later I got caught by a second chimera. The whole time I thought "God I wish there was a fast travel option", not knowing that I was one main quest away from that feature.
And then there's the vocation system. Any game with a class/job system is an immediate hook. I always love mixing and matching party compositions, doubly so if its one of those games that allows you to carry over abilities and skills to your other jobs, like this one (what a coincidence!). It is strange though that your pawns, which to put it extremely basically are your party members, only have access to 6 out of 9 vocations, which I honestly don't get. I don't see a reason to limit them. Regardless I found the vocations to be decently varied, even if I feel this game really favors vocations with range capabilities. I mean, Warrior hits like a dump truck but it wasn't fun trying to reach certain bosses and enemies that took their sweet time in the air. I stuck to Assassin personally, highest strength growth plus a bow. Fit my play style well.
Lastly I wanted give kudos to having a character creator that actually allows you to adjust your weight and height to a pretty significant degree. I know the argument for why this doesn't happen more often in games is the worry of it adjusting your hurtbox, but at least the tradeoff in this game is that the heavier character can carry more in their inventory. It's just something you see so rarely even today (in a action game that is).
That's all well and good, but here's the thing: By the end of my playthrough the thing I thought about the most was "Man, Dragon's Dogma II could be absolutely incredible". And I was thinking about that a lot since... going to be honest I had plenty of instances where I thought to myself "I want to be done with this". I'm not one to stop playing a game till I finished it, but there were a lot of moments of boredom and annoyances. It didn't get "frustrating", but things piled up.
Firstly, I didn't like exploring the huge open world. Well, it isn't quite an "open world", but it certainly is big. It got irritating having to manage my stamina when I'm traveling to my destination, since the usage and recovery of it is dependent on how much you carry in your inventory. I honestly don't care for this, at best a penalty should only apply when over-encumbered. And even with a light inventory, I found that stamina recovery was way too slow for my liking. What they could do for the sequel is what they did with Monster Hunter: World and Elden Ring, where you have infinite stamina unless you're in combat. Doesn't help that your regular walking speed is painfully sluggish as you wait for your stamina to recover. Regardless, anytime I had to travel a great distance, it always took way longer then it needed.
I know its a 7th gen game, but the environments and humans look really rough. Another factor to why exploring was really boring to me is that I wasn't that impressed by what I was looking at, even when I tried to have a lower standard for playing a ten year old game. Though the big monsters still looked really good admittedly.
But even then, some fights weren't that fun. Mostly relegated to the higher level monsters found in the DLC and the end game. How about goblins that will knock you onto the ground and stomped you to death, as they're also stomping your other party members to death and thus can't save you. Or monsters with ridiculous levels of defense that take forever to kill. Or any monster that inflicts petrification since your party members aren't that great at avoiding those attacks and can't be revived if they turn to stone and crumble. Or giant wolves that keep running outside the camera, and there's no lock on so you're constantly adjusting the camera with your right thumb (which is annoying, but really only bad under pretty specific circumstances). Or any enemy with a grab that forces you to spin the left stick like crazy, bearing in mind that I'm on the Switch and rather not want to buy another joy-con. There's a lot more, but this is more then enough.
Some of these grievances are probably because I played it on hard mode... including the stamina usage with sprinting now that I think about it, but then that means hard mode wasn't balanced well. Hard mode has the unfortunate thing where the beginning is more difficult then the end game, for the most part. Again, goblins were one hit killing me, but they were far from the only enemies. But by the end game I could actually take, like, five or more hits before dying and had more then enough revives and healing potions. Because of this poor balancing, I'm pretty sure half my deaths were from one-hit kills; and it starts to really wear on you when your chipping away at this mob of enemies but then "oh look a arrow flew from off screen and now I'm dead". Yes, I was too stubborn to turn the difficulty down, but I knew if I stuck with it then I wouldn't need to grind as much later in the game with how much money I've accumulated.
Then the story, it wasn't doing anything for me... at first. Sadly I was most engaged only when I reached the end game. I know it's a ten year old game, but I'd rather not spoil why. Despite that, the lore and setting just were not capturing my attention and I really didn't care for the characters, which is usually a death sentence, personally. I'm someone who can tolerate a bad story if I love the characters and their interactions with one another, regardless if what they're actually doing is confusing or boring. The Dark Arisen DLC was at least a little more interesting, but I don't know, I was tempted to skip the dialogue and cutscenes at many points. Glad I didn't by the end, but it was yet another thing that drained me of this game.
I was not expecting this game to be one of my longer reviews, but that's what happens when a game has a lot of stuff I really love and has equally as much stuff that I'd rather not deal with. I didn't even get to how much going into the inventory to use items really hampered the combat flow so much for me, but now this is starting to get too bloated for my liking. A thing I tried my best to do was to not compare this game to other games, especially to games created after it. It's not fair to it at all, even if I honestly feel many of its best features have been done better by so many other games. Not all of it mind you, and Dragon's Dogma still has quite a vibrant identity to this day, despite the drab environments... ok, that last one was uncalled for.
This is why I'm excited for Dragon's Dogma II. A first game in any franchise is going to have some hard-to-ignore blemishes, and I can see a game here that would be one of my all-time favorites. It has so much for me, now here's hoping the next one can deliver something immaculate

See this other review, only replace the fish with a purple car that, honestly, kind of scared me as a kid with its wide, wide grin and humongous (HA!) eyes. I don't know, anyone else find Putt-Putt off-putting?

Was thinking of game genres that I like and dislike, and I thought to myself "I don't think I'd like point-and-click games, but I never played one before, so..." Then suddenly an ancient memory from my childhood unlocked. It was in preschool, I remembered playing some kind of game that involved cartoon fishes looking solemnly at a red sea creature in a cage with sad eyes. I never could play it for long, there was only one computer for everyone in the class. We took turns, but instead of starting the game over when it was someone else's turn, you'd just pickup from where the last person left off. As a result, I had no clue what this game was even called. Only years and years later was I watching a retrospective on Humongus Entertainment, and one look at that yellow fish sent me back to my childhood.
Am I ever going to play these games again? Nah, not really. These kinds of games aren't for me nowadays. Nevertheless, if I ever had kids these could be great introductory games, even nowadays.
One things for certain, these games are timeless.

Happy New Year to all.
What, this game? Yeah this is just a game I recently found on my shelf and thought "oh wait, I forgot to log this one" and now here we are. I didn't watch the movie and I only read the first book after finding out there were, like, twelve more books afterwards so I didn't pursue the series any further. The game itself wasn't that great, not that's any surprise really. It involves collecting items to create inventions to move on to the next point of the game, and it takes about three hours but somehow felt way too long. If you played any licensed game made in the mid-2000s before then you know what to expect. I wouldn't say it's bad in a interesting way, more aggressively boring and not worth a look, unless of course you love to experience budgeted gaming. That ain't an insult, some people genuinely love playing the games made on a shoe string budget under a tight deadline back in the days when you could conceivably make a 3D game that portrays real people with a small-to-medium sized team. Not my thing; but hey, you can probably emulate this easily if you're that curious. Perhaps this is a series you're particularly nostalgic for even, not like it's getting any recognition nowadays (wait, there was a Netflix series back in 2017 with three seasons? Well... crap)
... Going to vent a bit, if you are not interested in that then stop reading and drink some hot chocolate or something. Treat yourself, these are hard times for many.
This year was tough in a lot of ways. Felt as if I made too little progress in what I needed to do. Mental roadblocks I thought I had a good handle on came back worse then ever. Literal days would slip by, time ticking too fast for me to keep up. And it didn't really hit how much time passed till I looked back on how much I lost this year. Even games I love weren't giving me the same comfy escapism that they always gave me. Real life kept dragging me away, sometimes for the better, mostly for the worse. I kept making promises to myself to do "this", and "that" for my own sake, but backed out at the last second as the irrational fears injected anxiety into my brain. They keep pulling me away from taking the steps I needed, and everytime it frustrates me when looking in hindsight. I've been doing it less, but often I would not treat myself well for failures like these. Not in the extreme ways mind you, more associating my failures as a characteristic of me as a human being. The unfortunate events of this year shows how ill-prepapred I still am in this part of my life. And now what I thought were steps to get on the right track are not bearing the fruit I was hoping for. I'm in a maze and it feels like I keep guessing wrong, and everytime I have to retrace my steps I get slower and slower.
It feels like I'm suffocating.
I know I'm being intentionally vague, not comfortable getting any more specific then what I've already said. Especially since this is frankly an inappropriate place to vent like this. It's hard for me to look forward to much in the upcoming year, I'm worried of being overly enthusiastic about what'll happen and be let down by myself and other cruel jokes by some obscure god that I must've pissed off unintentionally (cause how eles do you explain everything else that went wrong?)
And yet despite all that, Happy New Year. Have a fuckin wonderful time. May your joys be many, and your sorrows be few and manageable. As for me, I'm going to try again. And if I fail again, then I'll probably make myself a hot cocoa and do something else. 2022 really was A Series of Unfortunate Events, but at least every story has an ending one way or another.
Now time to move on...

Did you know the same director of the original Ghost 'n Goblins returned to direct this game? Did you also know he founded Whoopee Camp, the same company responsible for the Tomba duology? Crazy, right?
Absolutely brutal, but it does its best not to be discouraging. The easier difficulties don't berate you for picking them, and the occasional boss hints will inform you on how close you were to beating them with some nice blurbs added like "I know you can succeed". Doesn't change the fact that this game will nail your feet to the floor and ask you to run a marathon before your bomb collar blows up. The higher the difficulty, the less hits you can take and the highest one removes these extra checkpoints; so as the game puts it "pick your poison".
A huge factor to this games difficulty, and partially its enjoyment, is the use of RNG. Enemies will not always spawn the same way everytime, thus every run is different enough that you have to be on your toes at all times. And this game absolutely swarms you with enemies; but for the most part they will be in a non-harmful state when they initially spawn thus you have a brief moment to adjust to the new obstacle. And it's not like every section is completely random, but you have to be prepared for some on-the-fly decision making.
Another neat feature is that exiting out of a level will allow you to enter it later from your last checkpoint, that way you can take a break if the going gets too tough. You also keep any Umbral Bees, which are used for the... skill tree. The skill tree contains spells ranging from creating a doppelganger to copy your movements, drastically speeding you up, turning all enemies into frogs or stone, turning into a boulder that kills on contact and provides defense, and finding hidden treasure chests. It also provides the ability to store an extra weapon or two, which is a godsend, or a random chance to immediately return to life which I'm honestly pretty iffy about. In fact, I've seen people being iffy about the skill tree in general. I could be mistaken, but these might be people expecting a strictly arcade experience only. Which is fair, but from what I've seen these upgrades are never mandatory. If anything, you can treat them as an additional difficulty setting. You can disable each individual ability, so perhaps you don't want any spells but still want to carry more then one weapon. I personally made very liberal use of this skill tree, but I'm well aware that people have, frankly, gotten sick of this trend.
I wouldn't say this game is 100% fair either. While I personally think games don't always need to perfectly fair on a first playthrough if it means the replay is way more thrilling, if your game is as hard as this one then the "Think fast" moments can really deflate your motivation to try again. Respawning is at least quick and there isn't a live system, in addition to not needing to recollect any umbral bees, so it at least isn't the worst it could be.
Aside from the bosses being a mixed bag, this is otherwise a solid recommendation for those who enjoy pain.

My physical copy's battery was dead, meaning everytime someone wanted to play I would need to unlock the four unlockable characters all over again. And because of that, my siblings would complain that I was too good at the game when fighting each other... So anyway, wouldn't it be funny if this was added to Nintendo online, making Melee the only Smash game with no (official) online?