736 Reviews liked by Angel_Arle
An interesting strategy RPG for the NES that's worth playing if you're a big fan of the genre
It suffers from some insane difficulty spikes in certain areas and turns that take FOREVER because you have to manage so many units at once while adhering to strange rules about movement but if you can get past that it's an oddity worth checking out
Not very good, honestly. Movement is really slow and the game is really long overall, with 1cc remaining over an hour long. There are shmups this long that manage to keep things engaging, like Super Aleste, but such is not the case. At least the music is quite nice, although some loops are much too short for where they're used.
I had similar trouble as Angel_Arle with a boss around two thirds in. It wouldn't die under any circumstances, but when I used a continue and tried killing it without using the option, it worked just fine. No idea what that was all about.
I declared that I will make September, my birthday month, a month playing important games on my backlog I've been dying to play. Video games I know I will rate highly and greatly enjoy. I was able to pull that off, to some extent, but what a shame this incredible month of mine had to end with a whimper. Sonic Frontiers was my game of the year for 2022. To say I am disappointed in this DLC is a massive understatement.
What the fuck happened at Sonic Team this past year that moved them to make this vile, frustrating content update that convinced me to think less of Sonic Frontiers as a whole. I appreciate the effort to make this last update a challenging experience for all players. I really do! I found most of the trial towers and cyberspace levels to be fun! The Cyberspace levels in particular has me excited for what's to come in Sonic Team's 3D level design. Branching paths and precise platforming to access shortcuts are what I expect a 3D Sonic level to feature. Rumors spread about a remake of Sonic Adventure, and I am confident that Sonic Team is able to pull that off. Sorta. Not really. Not at all actually. In fact, I am very, very worried!
The other 90% of the update fucking reeks. Bullshit trials given by the Kocos on top of Ubisoft towers where falling once just breaks the whole fucking climb where some mechanics restart to help you try again but some others straight up don't, requiring a full save reload so that you're not teetering on the edge of platforms where the slightest miss input can send Sonic flying down towards the ground. Remember that you can Drop Dash? No? Well, you fucking will when you accidentally hold the jump button for too long so when you carefully land on a platform, Sonic just boosts his dumbass straight off. Finally when you reach the top you're either greeted with the most frustrating challenge that'll make you tear the sticks off the controller or a braindead, easy parry trial that you wish appeared more often. Until the game takes away your normal parry and forces you to perfect parry through an entire boss rush with essentially a fucking timer. Perfect parries are garbage and I swear, do not work. Hit detection and animation problems already infested the base game, therefore introducing a perfect parry mechanic right at the end of a whole-ass game where parry timing didn't matter at all is insanity. Who even gives a shit about the other playable characters when you barely have any time with them at all? Hell, all three new characters are able to glide over puzzles making their whole gameplay a snooze-fest. Nothing much to say there. I wish they were playable more often in other Sonic games, that's all I guess. Final boss was pretty cool but still filled with awkward jank.
Highly do not recommend trying this out. Watch the cutscenes on YouTube instead. What a shitter. I'm going to bed.
Sonic Frontiers was a game I came away from in 2022 feeling pretty good on, all things considered. Maybe it was a combination of losing my job and being in the process of being massively let down by Bayonetta 3 within a short span of time before release that helped soften my viewpoint on it, but in spite of all its issues; from pop-in, a mediocre at best combat system and clumsy Cyberspace stages, I was overall feeling pretty optimistic about the series going forward; something I haven't felt since Sonic Generations, 11 years(!) prior.
So, the game getting a steady string of additional content, completely free of charge, was an incredibly nice surprise, with the final update promising new story, and playable characters. That's the one that caught everybody's eyes, marking the first time someone other than Sonic has been playable in a 3D title since Sonic 06, over 15 years ago. On top of that, it also meant the chance to fix the game's clearly rushed and limp conclusion, so this was only looking to be a net positive for the game on the whole. I was going in expecting that it'd be the push Sonic Frontiers needed to jump from a 7 to an 8.
If the already dry finale of the game was outright replaced by this, in a similar vein to the reworked Metal Sonic fight in Sonic Mania, I'd retroactively drop Sonic Frontiers' score to a 5, maybe even lower.
But let's start with the positives! We do, in fact, have Amy, Knuckles and Tails playable again in full 3D, and they're generally pretty fun! Being able to glide along massive swafts of the overworld as Knuckles is something I thought of from the day Frontiers launched, so seeing it become a reality is really nice, despite the second long delay on every single instance of activation. There's some fun movement options to be had with each cast member, they all have unique puzzles littered throughout the environment, and there's a fair bit to grab from each of their skill trees. The trio all play a bit similarly, but there's some fun to be had, especially with Tails' ability to get the Tornado Walker from SA2.
Honestly, my biggest issues come from the fact that the main campaign just doesn't give you nearly enough time with them. The game's constantly swapping you off of each of them after only a few story beats, forbidding you from swapping freely until the very tail end, and the game's upgrade system gets completely flipped around so levelling the cast up is way more of a slog. I was hoping that it'd just carry over the EXP you had as Sonic, but you're flat zero from the jump and have to find a specific Koco to earn your EXP in what feels like a pointless extra step. The map's also not full out at all by default, meaning that all three of the cast were sat on a whopping level 1 power and defence from beginning to end, because I had no idea where the fucking Koco to upgrade them was. Shame, but what's here is generally pretty alright, aside from the fact you need to unlock the Cyloop and basic melee attack option for every character for some insane reason. I also yearn to play the whole cast in the rest of the game's islands and the Cyberspace stages, because them being locked to the singular island provided feels so limiting, but it wouldn't be a Sonic game if I didn't have that "Maybe next time..." thought in my head.
And in the most bass-ackwards way possible, the Cyberspace stages ended up being a genuine highlight! Didn't wind up uncovering all of them, but from those I played, they're all original levels (design wise, aesthetically we're still on Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary and recoloured Speed Highway tile sets), and they're really fun challenges. Having the spin dash unlocked from the offset makes for a lot of fun speedrun skip opportunities, and while these aren't on the same level as a really good Unleashed, Colours, or Generations stage... these are good enough for now. Some weird level design, but they feel like the Unleashed DLC in terms of being designed to push players to the limits. They're also clearly designed more around using the spin dash, and one of them even gives you the traditional boost, allowing you to plow through enemies. That stage is probably the single best to come out of Cyberspace's entire catalogue, for my money.
Though, the challenges genuinely gave me PTSD to the nightmare hellscape of platinuming Sonic Forces, with the inclusion of moon rings and numbered rings, and some of the stages have you racing a holographic Tails to serve as a glorified staff ghost. Kind of a weird shakeup from the original Cyberspace stages, and most of them feel at odds with the designs therein, but having a super tough staff ghost in a Sonic game is something I can jive with.
But then you get to the real trials and tribulations of the environmental puzzles. There's some annoying ones throughout the new cast members, with one particular section as Tails walling me off for an hour because I didn't have his weird cyloop projectile upgrade. The earliest one I ran into with Knuckles, involving laser grids mere inches apart, and bullets that send you meteoring down into a bottomless pit, requires his Cyloop punch upgrade, and I'm sure plenty of other players have had similar instances of trying to circumvent the challenge for minutes at a time to no avail.
But the absolute worst is when the game throws you back in control of Sonic, and asks you to repeat the Rhea Island tower climbing if it was designed to be babby's first kaizo Mario 64 rom hack. From this point on, Sonic Frontiers' difficulty spikes like the dev team were having a bad day and one guy took people criticising the game for being too easy way, way too close to heart. Some genuinely tense platforming that's absolutely undermined by horrible design. Ever wanted to Cyloop on a one square big platform while avoiding two boost pads that'll send you flying off? How about having to fling the camera around mid jump in order to see where you're going, or making incredibly tight jumps onto rails? No? Too bad! Activating easy mode adds a few bandaids over a shotgun wound, by sprinkling a few balloons throughout, but it's also worth noting that a few homing attack points don't respawn if you fall, so it sure is a matter of one step forward and another step back.
And then there's the challenges on the top of each tower, brief combat encounters where Sonic is set to Level 1 and you need to handle fights in specific ways. Half of them are just basic punch-ups with regular Guardians, and the others are incredibly annoying, especially the encounter with the game's ever frustrating shielded enemies. And THEN the game tells you to go fuck yourself, having you fight Giganto, Wyvern and Knight, one after another, from climbing sequence to climax, with Sonic's stats all at level 1, so you do chip damage and only hold 400 rings. Oh, and you get zero rings between fights, and the game decides to only just now change the parry to be a traditional parry, rather than the "Hold forever and win" that anyone who's played the game would've grown accustomed to. A huge middle finger to balancing, and I'd genuinely be shocked if it was playtested at all.
I know you're probably thinking something along the lines of, "Oh, so it sucks because it's hard, then?", and no, that's not what I'm saying at all. Plenty of my favourite games of all time provide a good challenge, but it's a matter of balancing a scaling difficulty. Sonic Frontiers' entire main campaign is a brisk jog; I don't doubt many people found it too easy, but I don't mind an easy time as long as the game is fun. The Final Horizon's an incredibly obnoxious difficulty spike in its current state. It's not a fun challenge that makes you satisfied upon completing it, it's a constant stream of unfun bullshit, and one that I almost feel like the devs are going to have to address ASAP if they want any attempt at salvaging this entire expansion.
The final boss isn't worth all the hassle, either, with an incredibly asinine series of conditions to be met mid-fight, lest you be locked into a constant loop of the bastard healing his entire health bar. I had to actively consult the internet partway through, because the game goes about blocking your progression in incredibly aggrivating ways. One of which involves hitting RB, a button entirely reserved for Sonic quickly moving to the right, to target a separate part of the boss's body, which the game makes zero attempt to inform you of in any capacity, in order to stop him infinitely healing. Combined with constant camera issues throughout plaguing the entire battle, it's almost depressing how badly the climax fails on a gameplay front. And it stinks, because there's some genuinely hype moments! I don't know if I got off lucky or not, but some of the music synced absolutely perfectly with some of the cutscenes, and the climax would've had me losing my shit with hype if it weren't for the depressingly flat gameplay that accompanied it absolutely draining my hype to the point I couldn't even muster a smile.
The worst thing I can say about Final Horizon is that it brings out the worst of Sonic Frontiers, so far out of the honeymoon phase at that. The combat and traversal are both at their absolute worst, and that's the exact opposite of how it should be. It absolutely sucks that this is the note Sonic Frontiers has to go out on, at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe they'll patch it up in a week to be less bullshit, and Kishimoto will make a public apology for everything, but for right now? This is one of the biggest letdowns of the whole year for me, and that's including losing a job I was just getting to enjoy after only 3 days of working there. But, would it really be a Sonic hype cycle without a smattering of disappointment somewhere? Sonic Superstars launches in just about 2 weeks. God, I hope it'll be a nice helping of mouthwash after this and Origins Plus.
Also shoutouts to Sega for conveniently killing off Hyenas, that weird ass hero shooter, and laying off a ton of their staff on the same day this released. Real classy, this is the kind of shit people joke about Nintendo doing all the time, but you don't see anyone kicking in Sega's door about it.
V.R. Virtua Racing
Nevermind that shit, here comes
Mongo Vee and they finally played a BL game of the week. It only took a game they own three times, and the week off from work for them to wake up and smell the coffee.
I've played all of the Fake Ass Racing ports, the Genesis one, the 32X port, the one in Sega Classics Collection which is a compilation of Sega Ages 2500 remakes, and the more recent Switch release that's basically perfect.
The one that I grew up with though, was this strange release on the Saturn developed by Time Warner Interactive that had to be fully built from the ground up without access to the source code. It's also officially known as "V.R. Virtua Racing", which means it's called Virtua Racing Virtua Racing, or perhaps Virtua Racing X2 if you want to go that route. Hilariously enough, they did make up team names for this release to represent the different color schemes you could give your vehicles, and one of them is called "Team X" and right next to it is the "Zero" team. A bunch of Capcom fans made this shit. ACME is also in this game, which means at any moment my disc could explode and turn me into a pile of ash along with a piano dropping on me to finish the job.
There's a bunch of exclusive cars and tracks to this title that other versions never got, which makes it easily the most content rich of every rendition. The new CD quality music is also super nice, even if it's still little 8-20 second samples that only go off whenever you hit a checkpoint. It's actually quite funny to hear the music shift genres faster than my own Spotify playlist when you use a fast car and zoom through the checkpoints so fast that the pleasant synth turns into a country style guitar/piano combo and vice-versa.
This black sheep release is actually kind of alright, I give props to them pulling this out when they basically had to literally analyze the game via video recording. I'd even say it's probably my favorite version, heresy I know. That's what happens when you never went to the arcade until the age of Primal Rage to care about the steering being a perfect copy of something you never played. Unfortunately, when it comes to Virtua Racing as a whole, while I respect it I'm not sure I find it as memorable as other 3D racers I played at the time. Which I could chalk up to it being bad timing during my childhood, Daytona USA came with my Saturn and that shit absolutely rocked my socks despite it being a really compromised port, and while Stunt Race FX runs at the speed of farts it was also just really adorable in it's own way.
Super Time Warner Interactive's Virtua Racing Virtua Racing HD Remix Plus Alpha Championship Edition 2012 The Fighting Featuring Dante From The Devil May Cry Series (New Funky Mode)
I always felt a weird connection to the PAC LAND stage in smash 4. since the game dropped i remember endlessly people complaining about how shit the stage was for nebulous "gameplay reasons" when i played on it over and over just cuz i loved the vibes of it. the strange 2d/3d perspective, the ms paint looking line quality, the flat colors and lack of detail on anything, the fairy that looked like she belonged in a different game. had them bumpin ass namco tunez too, smoked the fuck out of the music in the rest of the game (99% of smash songs that arent just original rips are bad dont @ me). i think its fair to say that pac land's prolly my favorite stage in smash history, nothing really spoke to me as much as it did. no idea how i went so long without playing it since i fucked with everything it had going on already but here we finally are.
game fucks. love everything the game has going on visually. pac man's hat and long nose! the ghosts riding around on pogo sticks! the door to heaven! the victory screen of pac man having a nice chill on his porch! hes got a fuckin pac table!!! it all feels so warm, so happy, so pleasant, and it comes with one of my favorite of the ol' namco tunes. gameplay takes a bit to get used to, namely the strange jumping mechanics but once you get the hang of it its real sweet weaving between obstacles making a mad dash to the exit. basically everything i could ask for in an early 80s arcade title. dunno if i like it as much as my beloved mappy but def up there as far as namco goldies
played the tg16 version because it lets you control pac with a d pad instead of having walking buttons(?) like the arcade does. port's basically arcade perfect with a very good enhancement so i dont think i really missed much.
In a seemingly never ending sea of shmups on the Genesis/MD it can be fairly difficult to stand out. You sometimes need to make the ships a bunch of bug creatures, star a duo of anime ladies, or have an intro that gets turned into an ancient meme that can be found in hieroglyphics in some Egyptian tombs.
Vapor Trail doesn't do a damn thing to make a case for it being the most unforgettable experience of the 16-bit era. Fictional jets and tanks, oh boy! It even commits egregious acts like having a whack difficulty curve, stages that last too long, and only having one stage theme in the entire game while somehow having more boss music. The last one is actually probably the most disappointing quality, because the stage theme itself is probably one of my favorite pieces of Genesis music. Imagine the other stages having their own unique themes with comparable quality, you could've had something here that could've potentially taken the fight to Thunder Force IV, Verytex, Undead Line, etc, but I guess they all gave up after they made that theme. "Pack it up boys, we ain't followin' that up". Cowards.
Regardless, your one stage theme is still a great showcase for the Genesis/MD not always sounding like a fax machine passing a kidney stone like some seem to think, even if I sometimes still like those kind of soundtracks ironically or not. Cheers.
Cold, sterile whirrs of the orchestra haunt the air as you gaze upon the two gender, three class selection yet again. Each string plucked, each horn blasted, every meticulous arrangement give way to the being’s charred mien, its toxic animosity plaguing the environment’s atmosphere. Yet, ironically, it’s from this upsetting disposition that merely makes it more alluring, as it bares its tale for dissection. This is the side of Star Wars very few have dared to venture towards, with fewer still having ever done so today.
As for the PC side, I appreciate Aspyr getting the go-ahead on re-releasing it on Steam and GOG alongside widescreen and even Mac OS & Linux support, with a downgrade path available for those who decide to dabble in such for one reason or another, but we can still embellish it with mods like before: JC’s Minor Fixes as well as their Supermodel and Feats Fix, Head Model Fix, Prestige Saving Throws Fix, and finally Widescreen UI Fix plus Improved Widescreen Experience are all the important stuff you’ll need for your descent into KOTOR2’s underbelly, and thankfully there’s no extra steps to get this all working on the Steam release. “But what abou-” save all questions until the end, thank you. I’m unsure of how the mobile and (relatively) recent Switch port are, but once again this is part of Xbox’s backwards compatibility if you’re more concerned with playing it out-the-box instead. This is gonna be a long spiel that could’ve probably been trimmed a bit, so the TL;DR is that it’s about as epic as Paranoia Agent.
To expand on what I meant by its bold venture, it should be important to reiterate the time period this was released in, and again I’ll run through this quickly since it’s old grounds. Bioware constructed the first game as a means to combine the meat of A New Hope’s space serial escapade feel with the aesthetical and newly encroaching ideas the Prequel films were, though in a polarizing fashion, establishing. Double this with the Extended Universe reaching as far as it ever has, and it resulted in a move that paid off immensely, quickly becoming the fastest-selling Xbox title at that time in just four days and critical acclaim from critics, newcomers, and fans of the IP. Bioware, however, didn’t pick up the offer to do a followup - though James Ohlen did reveal an idea as to what they could’ve done - and instead focused on other endeavors, these experiences and certain ideas being utilized in Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1, and Dragon Age Origins. Because of this, they suggested newly formed Obsidian Entertainment, mainly containing ex-Black Isles alumni many of whom were close to Bioware, to take up the reins for a successor. Drafting up its story before the the first game had finally hit the shelves, as well as founder and CEO Feargus Urquhart sharing that lead designer and writer Chris Avellone was currently combing through everything related to the IP besides the first game, the original KOTOR graphic novels, and the original movies. Of course, blood was spilt during the course of conception staining the package’s physique, but that’s for a later discussion. What resulted from the scour and cogitation is a narrative that slowly turns into a thesis analysis about the brand’s iconographies and writing facets.
The first game popularized (and perhaps introduced, but it bears repeating that side stories were bountiful during this era) the idea of a Gray Jedi, one that isn’t wholly siding with either the Jedi or the Sith’s teachings. Nowadays multiple people have simplified the term into the defacing statement “Force-Wielding Centrists”, and understandably so considering the rampant and crass fixation this has garnered during this span. Though in fairness there is more to the ideology than that; Jolee, the progenitor painted in a Neutral alignment, still had his heart set on the belief of the Light, mentoring the MC via his life story and anecdotes meant to teach and guide their fate and affecting actions in accordance to a number of events including The Twist, as well as what comes after. Though he has his disagreements with the Jedi Council, such as his own thoughts about what love can do to a person, his major dissatisfaction from the Council comes from his trial treatment of doing/contributing to A Lot Of Dumb Shit being given a pardon, with the justification being a “hard lesson of wisdom” and “mitigating the circumstances” after the wartime, even being offered a chance of becoming a full Jedi. In his own words, that was when the Jedi had failed him. If you’ve played both games, you can see where I’m going with this: Kreia, while utilizing the same mentorship, is the inverse of Jolee in almost every way: instead of once beholding to Light, she has unburdened herself from it and the Dark entirely; instead of divulging his past as a way to teach the pupil, she surrounds herself in a wall of deceit, rarely letting herself be open for any reason whatsoever; instead of a kooky grandpa confiding and nurturing you in his own special way, it instead feels like a snide grandma is looming over you, cautiously creating a barrier mostly enclosed to not let its secret eek away, yet containing a crack little enough to allow and lure in personal dialog exchanges. Neither of them deal in absolutes, they’re beholden to their goals under the roots of what was once something they confided in, and it's from their experiences and turmoils that shape their ostentatious pupils during the course of each game’s adventure. This is also where the best part of the game is unleashed.
Since Chris Avellone was the main writer for a majority of the events within this game, it should be relayed that a lot of his penning focuses on three aspects: relics of those old and forgotten, the bruised and demoralized psyche of man, and
goth chicks manifested chains that shackle someone or something down. Kreia, largely and rather blatantly attributed as Chris Avellone’s spokesperson, prattles and challenges the nature of Star Wars’ good v. evil mantra, as well as how it uses the Force as a predetermined, all-powerful, metaphysical entity. It’s pretty plain to see, really, especially since he was open about it in a blog post over on the Obsidian forum page, going as far as to detail other influences such as Ravel Puzzlewell from his prior work Planescape Torment, the ending of Chinatown, and illuminating on one draft for the game’s story that got scrapped save for a few ideas. The details are those not many have ever divulged unto: if the Force, an entity that engenders itself onto places, subjects, and even basic commodities is a constant metaphysical practice, what happens if one is just… excised from its grasp? Severed from the cord, be it willingly or from immense destruction? Echo is used in curious intent, whether it’s by caustic trauma or corroded history, the past is ever-present to all that you meet in your venture. This idea manifests in two forms, the first being that the endeavors you witness are all tied to a scar buried deep within the planet’s core: Telos, a shambling pulse for the Republic’s longshot war rebuild project that can be further driven by either the Ithorian’s Ecologism beliefs or Czerka Corp’s Economistic desires; Nar Shaddaa, borning a refugee and bounty hunting hotspot of those plagued by recent battles from the Mandalorians and the Jedi Civil War, who’s inhabitants can either be mended with charity or drove further into pain unto a bygone end, all under the watchful eye of The Exchange; Dantooine and Korriban can be revisited, and in their bombed runoff lie either a discordant community of settlers and mercs trying to breathe anew in the aftermath or a pile of corpses intoxicating and fuming the air with decrepit energy and influenced thralls from their agony; Onderon, though very much well off compared to the last planets, suffers from an internal power struggle between those that rely and compel upon a strong reliant ally, or keep their independence and sought to fend for themselves amongst political trickery and faking deals, while its old jungle moon Dxun seeps with wartime feeling, as the creatures of this land occupies much of the old battlegrounds and encampments while Mandalorians keep to themselves in training for their triumphant return. All touched by war, all feeling the wake it has left behind, an abundant amount of denizens terminating the distinction between what makes a Jedi and what makes a Sith, all serving as a practice for yourself to endure and learn from, where the reactions grow into a potent substance further in.
The other sense is one of ethnomethodology, centering its experiment around your crew and the main pieces of the story. Largely brought about by a common goal, the party this time around is of a dichotomous feeling, rarely ever trusting each other on a deeper level aside from yourself. G0-T0 and returning T3-M4, though harboring secrets, has one taken to the side of approaching means that receive the most benefit and anyway while the other keeps to himself to honor the wishes and promises of his old comrades among his new ones, hoping to one day meet them again. Bao-Dur and Mandalore - who’s not so subtly exposed as the returning Canderous - have been marred by the experiences of the Mandalorian War, yet while one seems to have deep regret for his actions despite them being necessary due to breeding and expounding hatred, the other seems to seek a return of their glory days in a front to keep themselves from fading from existence, as well as to prove useful to one they used to call a friend. Handmaiden and Visas are two trainees under a Jedi/Sith, marginalized from either being the offspring of an infidelity affair or enslaved after the vanquishing of her kind, both either reaffirmed or further drowned under the tutelage of the Male Exile, whereupon females cannot be able to recruit the Handmaiden at all. HK-47, though not having a difference within the crew, aims to figure out the newfound creations of droids under his module, belaboring his rusted assassination skills against the fresh machines that stalk everyone. Mira and Hanharr, though bounty hunters with forceful upbringings, has one seated with pervasive beneficiaries so that no one else has to face a loss of companions, or march towards brutality to fuel their revenge against those that had broke his spirit physically and mentally, a narrative that’s mechanically felt as you can only get one or the other through Light or Dark methods. The Disciple and Atton Rand are both people that seemed to have a personal history with the old Jedi order and certain clusters of them, but while one carries their memory on through historical foundings and musing, the other wants nothing to do with that anymore, seemingly harboring a deep-rooted trauma while continuously feigning acknowledgement of it. This is also where the Female Exile can vie for one or the other and in turn fuel jealous remarks, with Disciple getting the boot if you’re playing as a Male. Through this disharmony sings life that the old Ebon Hawk crew couldn’t achieve before, something that bellows stronger as it possibly can with the newly introduced Influence mechanic allowing gain of (dis)trust depending on what you do/respond to someone/something. Some have criticized this for being something that requires hyperspecific setup and rollouts to get the most out of everyone, and while true in some regard, I find that the approach that this falls under bolsters the concept of the thread being told here.
Many hardcore enthusiasts proclaim this theological exercise is about Avellone himself “hating” Star Wars, but that is fundamentally untrue. He fell in love with KOTOR1, saying that he wouldn’t have changed much of anything in it from that blog post at all, and it’s a feeling that has remained consistent since. It’s a nagging topic that I loathe discussing in relation to this game, the duology, and the brand as a whole, this position as a “deconstruction” or “subversion” of Star Wars quite simply isn’t the case. Inspect the insignias, unravel the metaphors and allegories buried beneath, and what unfolds is an extension of ideas that had come before and even after. If we pertain this to just the movies, most of them follow a character, usually our MC, being tasked with a herculean objective that confronts their predisposed ideas and mannerisms, and the falling action and aftermath that follows after. This had happened with Luke and Vader in the Originals, this had happened to Obi-Wan and Anakin when the Prequels were coming out, and it had even happened in The Last Jedi with Rey and Kylo, where the exploits challenge their faith and companionship of the people and themselves, self-identification against an armada of fascistic forces hoping to weaponize the past for arrogant pragmatisms. It had also happened with the last game’s protagonist, laying upon the meaning of the Jedi’s actions amongst their harsh yet rare punishments and stubborn ideologies, and it continues again with the form of the Exile, a being drastically altered after participating in the Mandalorian War on the side of Revan’s army. From witnessing a grand hero(ine)/villain(ess)’s rise to action and the archetypical storytelling that follows against Darth Malak’s iron fist, here you witness the consumption of power and might the Force delivers upon those who overly rely on it through the thematic bridges of Darth Sion’s intense pain and hatred being the ironic fuel of his livelihood, Darth Nihilus tossing their humanity aside to become a husk in an all-consuming quest to feed off Force energy for dominance, Atris’ feverish upholding and fixated search of Jedi and Sith teachings soon clouding her mind and inner emotion thereby dooming anyone near her, and the old Jedi Council walking away from it all and harboring their own set of opinions as to what the trail ever actually meant to them, most carry out in the background as you face each planet’s own set of dilemmas that as well tie back into the idea. This, all of this, is the embodiment of two sides of a principle that George Lucas himself was familiar with, serving as drive of not just the first movie, but the bone to Star Wars’ foundation as a whole. They serve to complement each other, not to upstage another.
With a number of analytic nerd bullshit said, I don’t want to barter this as a “you play this RPG for the story” deal, cause the inner mechanics are still quite interesting and robust to go over. The combat function of this will be quick because er… to be real, little has changed positively or negatively. You can largely copy the paragraph I wrote in my KOTOR1 review and paste it here with little deviation. Well, I suppose that wouldn’t be true? Even on Peragus Mining Facility combat has seen some small yet well needed tweaks. We have stances now, finally, making the friendly AI easier to be relied upon by giving them what you’re setting them up as and leaving them to it even if they can still be just as dumb and “awkwardly standing doing nothing” as ever. Dice rolls, modifiers, and other little influences are tuned up and/or overhauled to help alleviate fights, making it much more worthwhile to use stuff like stims, grenades, and even mines and stealth which I almost never used in the previous game across all my runs. There’s been some added Force Powers with a select few now having a utility effect for certain hazards such as Stun Droid for mines, as well as new feats making it much more fulfilling to craft different builds to slot different niches onto a member. That last aspect is less so an outright improvement of KOTOR1 and more so righting a wrong made; in 1, there weren’t that many scenarios where it felt like you could use one partner over another for a particular obstacle, be it because the skills are all simplified that it made the diversity lesser or because it just wasn’t necessary altogether. Because of all the changes being made, this has thus been ameliorated so that you do have reasons to create different strike teams, like having Atton on mine/stealth duty while Handmaiden/Mandalore take up the soldier aspect, or Visas doubling up damage and support, or Mira blasting foes away alongside her explosive wrist rockets and poisonous darts, and more. Party composition feels more alive than ever, especially now that you’re able to convert more people into Force-wielders to help give them just a bit more of an edge, even in its most fringe cases.
Stat management itself has been vastly augmented, fully embracing its RPG heritage that was dabbled with before. While you can blow through the preceding title with a meager pile of skills, all of them are now integral for one build or another, especially in regards to the newly revamped lab station and workbenches where you can craft new materials, ingredients, even some armaments to help bolster your entourage’s prowess, which also means that some PMs can be the builder of these items so long as they have met the required stats. The three Jedi classes from before - Guardian, Sentinel, and Consular - are now changed in a way so that each one isn’t necessarily stronger or weaker than the other unless you’re super specific on metagaming, on top of three new prestige classes for the Jedi/Sith side allowing even more opportunities to craft an idea that’s unique for your playthrough. If you wish, you can also choose to not wield a lightsaber at all, never hindered or besmirched for this and giving higher meaning in a roleplaying, challenging, or “fuck it we ball” sense. I opted for a Monk-style build, mainly dealing with unarmed attacks with a dash of supportive Force powers and Shock, which was pretty damn amusing. With changes to perk pickups now allowing for cross-classing, or using the Dex attribute as the leading hit chance, and regenerative health/Force capabilities comes more wriggle room to branch out from designated roles, as well as skill checks being introduced to help give your character more of an edge in information or decision making, even if some understandably prefer the more truncated and easy-to-understand mold Bioware had shared before. There’s still a smidge too much combat, and the DnD calculations are just as numb-inducing as ever, but coinciding with how this title is just as easy to break as ever, most of them at least try to be more grand in scale and evocation, such as the Two-Front Siege in Onderon, Nar Shaddaa’s companion swaps befitting a heist, Dantooine almost getting there with the Settler/Mercenary conflict, the entirety of Korriban, and others that would make this review much longer than it already is. Helping matters is that the morality aspect is less cheese-inducing, the prose for the dialog option being more sensible, acutely worded options and the aforementioned skill checks helping to instill a better sense of involved conversations. So long as you aren’t being outwardly hostile or abiding the virtuous code, you can be as sassy/sarcastic/downright goofy as you want to people, which is a godsend when going through the two titles back to back. Heck being evil’s pretty cool now since it’s at least entertaining, like getting one or both guys to kill themselves a la jumping into Shaddaa’s center hole, forging a dead salvager’s will to claim all of their possessions, being able to manipulate people’s actions into your own gain, the works. I don’t think there will ever be an RPG that will truly get the mechanical side of moralism just right, but in this case, it isn’t suffering from overzealous ambition or foolish pride… mostly.
Alright time to drop the mystic nasal-voiced YouTuber BS and talk about what I don’t like, and even find to be strict downgrades. KOTOR1’s pacing is akin to A New Hope, and 2’s with Empire Strikes Back; one’s quick and seamless transitions help goad you into following the action more succinctly, while the other’s more focused on the introspective journey and highlighting the turmoil of what has happened to the world since, even if it results in a disjointed and plodding shift. For a specific example, I love the Peragus Mining Facility introduction. It’s such a great setter for the type of mood and tone this establishes, and is also one of my favorite tutorial prologues - er… one that’s after the actual tutorial prologue anyway… - ever in a game. Aping System Shock’s scenario to tell the tale of an out of the way facility, one that’s necessary for another planet’s hope of survival and Republic’s war efforts, to the decrepit ship that is the Harbinger where Sion makes his brooding, shocking entrance that continues to play up the player’s backstory and integral slot of what has and will happen, all the meanwhile teaching the player the different tools and trades the sequel either keeps the same or changes from before, alongside a clear improvement of texture and graphical quality and even cutscene direction, is a fascinating route to take that pays off immensely. It’s such a great opening that I even spent more time here than I reasonably should have across my numerous starts, I love it that much. Telos, however, drags it down poorly. Like, the Citadel Station stuff is fine. The abundance of loading zones and the small sidequest platter makes exploration rather meek, but the overall layout is compact enough that it doesn’t get super tedious, plus we got more chances of setup within the narrative, party banter, and worldbuilding/atmosphere. However, it just doesn’t stop there, now we have to head down to the surface because we need to pick up Bao-Dur, and you get thrown into so many combat encounters with minefields and stupid AI shenanigans that it gets exhausting - and that’s before you enter a station where even MORE enemies and trap-ridden spots! What the hell happened?! How did we go from such breakneck pacing in the first game and ESPECIALLY in the opening hours of this one, to drudging through this muck of muted/heightened greens, yellows, and grays? I can’t believe Atris’ facility is one of the first instances I’ve had where I thank God that I’m being blasted by pure white in something, it’s such a refreshing scene that also includes one of the best (and initial) dialogue sequences in the entire game, just you and Atris in an endless battle of back-talks and inquisitive setup that then kickstarts the second act.
Telos isn’t the only place where the pacing is shot, but it is very much the most egregious spot. Since we’re still under Bioware’s McGuffin Structure, you’re prioritizing planets in any which way, although this time it’s more obvious as to which speck is more or less fulfilling in their breadth of content. I (and from the looks of it, most) follow the order of Nar Shaddaa -> Dxun/Onderon -> Dantooine -> Masters Of The Palace -> Korriban, which meant I had to saddle up on more exposition, more queries on key figures, and having to come to grips with party builds since that’s what NS is centered around. I do think it’s a rad place, as well as how it ties into the game’s mechanical and thematic revelations, but doing that after Telos’ slogful third adds a bit of salt to the wound, especially since this also has its last third be centered on combat. Dantooine feels utterly lacking in meat even despite the unfinished nature, being credulously absolute about its faction storyline when almost every other beat either obsequiously or holistically illuminates the inner turmoil boiling within everyone. Dxun and Korriban are… actually pretty well paced, given their stories, so no major ire there. The overall art direction and compartmentalized layout soils it as well, gone is the classification of a planet's distinct color and texture, they now typically share the same greens, greys, and yellows, mainly surrounded by hard materials and boxy structures that’re even more copy-pasted than KOTOR1’s rooms, gnawing into repetition a fair bit. There's also the difficulty, but let's be real here, if you're accustomed to CRPGs, neither of them are gonna test your mettle much, so arguing about which game is "more busted and pitifully easy" is incredibly moot - if you’re a newcomer entirely, well, prepare for some spikes early on. I have a couple of other reservations, but they’re either wholly subjective (I’m not as into Mark Griskey’s compositions as Soule’s, but it’s still pretty damn good ambiance with its own set of grand slams), comparatively minor and/or the same issue as before (still able to exhaust companion’s arcs within a few rounds of exchanges, and I find any attempt to idolize Revan’s past stratagems to be really annoying), or is tied into the absolute biggest issue and the thing this game’s known for, being unfinished.
Of all the post-Black Isle “broken” titles I’ve played, this one is the most immediate. Alpha Protocol manages to skate by freely despite its blunders, Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines and New Vegas’ seams hold on for about two-thirds, and though little playtime was made I hear Arcanum and Temple Of Elemental Evil are on the same boat. KOTOR2, meanwhile, has its essence feel mangled right about the time you exit the first act, which in turn either lessens or worsens. While the people at Obsidian admitted their overambition bellied up the workload, LucasArts rushing it out to meet a Christmas deadline had ultimately doomed it, and with it came many attempts to stitch, alter, and overall duct-tape it all into one package. Ideas and executions cut short due to this, and it makes what could’ve been very intriguing and bombastic setpieces and events feel skewered and stilted by comparison, with the only truly whole places being in its first act, Korriban, and Dxun/Onderon. Because of this, it also means the exploration of the two umbrella thoughts - selflessness and pragmatism - are undercut due to some leaning much more to one side than another, something that likely would’ve been avoided if given a proper format pass. This all comes to a head with Malachor V, the planet where the belligerent bonds and war-torn disillusions have been born form, being so routinely mocked for being so utterly lacking in content, so disjointed in its attempts to finalize each arc for the 11-party entourage, so vapidly dull in what its attempting to tell in battle, that the ending quite literally jumpcuts to the credit crawl after the climactic battle has come to a close, several threads abruptly aborted before they could ever have a chance to show themselves. One of the more known cut pieces, M4-78, can be restored thanks to the Enhancement Project mod, but there’s a reason for a consensus of saving it for a future run; it’s boring as hell and contributes little to the grand scheme outside of a conversation with a Jedi Master who was supposed to be there, and considering most of what it showcases have been repurposed or reorganized into other areas as expressed by designer Kevin Saunders in an old forum post as well as dabbling into this in GDM’s Post-Mortem section of their April 2005 issue, this again adds to the tale of its fractured state.
There’s also the famous Restored Content Mod, some insistently declaring it’s a required install for not only its namesake, but also the numerous bugfixes it contains. And, listen, those bugfixes are indeed valuable, but the reason I held off on mentioning it til now is because the “reinserted cuts” only pertains to about 10-15% which, by the way, only majorly bandaids that last stretch, meaning you might not even get to see much if you abandon early on! Outside of that, the rest falls victim to hyperfixation, in that anything not in it must’ve clearly been from unavailable time, not from change of plans/ideas mid-development. Additional fights in a game already filled with them, awkward cuts to dialog/cutscenes that do nothing but fill up time on info you infer or already know about, rubberbanding lost scenarios half-cooked like HK-47’s assault on a Telos factory or shoving in unneeded standoffs Atton and Bao partake in during Nar Shaddaa’s rescue arc, and even a few sidequest changes such as those found with Dantooine’s Kaevee and Saedhe’s original head model. By adhering to the author's intent so strictly and rigidly, they circled back onto the same overambition that befall those before. I’m not saying the leaders behind this project are all awful, clearly they’re passionate about their goal and love, earning them all kudos from both Obsidian’s staff and Aspyr’s, but I don’t doubt that there was a reason Aspyr couldn’t be able to put this on the Switch after all. If you still want to play TSLRCM despite it all, then heed my advice: after making that your first install, go after the Tweak Pack and Community Patch to mitigate and enhance the overall flow, then install the mods from the beginning. I also recommend the Darth Sion & Male Exile mod to give him more depth than he would’ve otherwise if you weren’t playing as a female.
But well, that’s sort of the thing regarding this title, isn’t it? There’s poetic irony in a game about husks and cataclysmic trauma bearing weight for the process of healing via (dis)compassionate bonds, reinvigoration of self and faith, and confrontation about selfish desires and fallen ideals be so warped by the mandated whims of a publisher looking for big bags during the holiday, amongst the sea of mainly old blood looking to develop their own studio after their last one was seeing signs of burning down from within and above. There’s a looming, harrowing presence that follows the two studios that nurtured its being following suit, themselves having experienced cycles of discarded ideas, woeful collapse, and revitalized spirit. There’s a heartwarming sensation pulsating through the community resuscitating life into this and its predecessor in their own ways, when most everyone have either moved on or is keeping newfound exposure in limbo. There’s vindicated conceit in knowing that something I had been pouring my time onto since I was merely five, something that had already affected my mentality long before I knew about the confounding and everchanging nature of moralism, seemed to have clutched unto others and taught them much of the world as well.
At last, I now see what I’ve been looking for amongst the dead.
If anyone know me, they'd know that I am Studio Quintet's strongest soldier and as such one of my favorite game of all time is a little game known as Actraiser.
While not necessary an unknown gem of the Super Nintendo, Actraiser is a game that still manages to this day to be an interesting piece of gaming history thanks to its unique concept of mashing action-platforming Castlevania-type sequences with an effective (albeit pretty surface level) town simulator.
Since then other titles have iterated on the Actraiser formula (The Dark Cloud duology comes to mind which are also 2 of my favorite games of all time) but as time went on, the original Actraiser stayed on the Super Nintendo, seeing very little re-releases and letting itself age with time.
Actraiser being an early Super Nintendo game, There is no doubt to any people here that it's a game that aged in several areas and thus when Square announced and shadowdropped a remake of Actraiser out of the blue I was quite ecstatic not only because its been decades at this point since anything from the old-school Quintet Lineup has been acknowledged in the modern age but also because giving access to Actraiser to a new generation in a revamped and modernized format could make the tough and rough old-school pill easier to swallow.
So I booted up the game and I was ready to experience this reimagining of this old-time classic
The end result was probably the most insulting tacked on job Square has ever done on a remake yet and they don't really have the best track record with those already (I could go in length about similar attempt like the terrible Secret of Mana remake or any of their goddawful "PC" ports of old classic).
On the paper Actraiser Renaissance should be the superior game to the original, the action sequences gives you more control over your characters as well as several additional moves to make combat more fleshed out, the city building aspect is now an actual city builder and not just a limited simulacrum of SimCity, the game has additional action sequences as well as an entire new tower-defense phase and most of all Actraiser now boast a collection of proper actual characters whereas the original only had you the player and the people below worshipping you.
But Actraiser is a formula which could break under the weight of so much ambition, what made Actraiser so effective was its relative simplicity which made the game's pacing quite excellent or a Super Nintendo game
Clearing the first town of Filmore in the original Super Nintendo version take upwards of maybe 2 to 3h assuming you're not too bad at the action segment, the first town in renaissance took me up to 7 hours to complete because of all of the added bloat the remake put on top of it.
Actraiser has 6 fucking Towns meaning that the game goes from a decent 15H to double that length for no particular reasons and without really adding anything of value to the original experience.
Everything in this game shows a complete lack of understanding for Actraiser's design philosophy and message which makes the game shallower than its original counterpart in many ways.
The Battle sections have been revamped and while the actual level designed has been left intact, the readability of these segments have been completely muddled by this game goddawful art direction (which I will talk about in a separate segment) but also rendered a complete joke by the game new movement and combat option. This is the issue when you reproduce the level design and enemy design of a Super Nintendo game but give the main character the moveset equivalent to moving with a loaded infinite ammo shotgun.
The action segment of the original have definitely aged but I don't think this was the way to fix it, if they wanted to change how the game plays, they should've have rethought everything alongside it to make them more interesting instead of worse and it's not like the control ain't as stiff if not more than the original (which as a reminder only allowed you to jump, crouch and swing your sword with maybe the option to cast a spell if you happened to find one earlier in the level)
The city building segment have been severely revamped, now its complete with ressource and economy management making this a true city-building simulator, they probably had to compensate with this part of the game after making what was the main meat of the original so shallow but in doing so they made these section drag for an unbelievably long amount of time.
On top of this now each town has their own little storyline featuring the local hero of the town which are characters that adds nothing to the story or the narration of the original and actually make the point of the original worst especially since these are also the catalyst for this game new Tower Defense phase which are fucking awful, I hate Tower Defense game already so it wasn't this game who was going to reconciliate myself with one of the shallower genre of videogame out there but there its especially awful and completely unnecessary and only help bloat the game time with more pointless bullshit.
Actraiser Renaissance sucks ass because it's trying to overcompensate the "weakness" of the original but in doing so, they made a game that is far removed from the cult classic its trying to reimagine.
Quintet are storytellers, they make their games in a way to make you feel a certain feeling of accomplishment mixed with somber melancholy once you reach the game climax.
In the original Actraiser, you play as a fallen god who need to regain the trust of its followers by pushing away the darkness and help humanity rebuild society from the ground up and the game was amazing at making you feel like a god that sometimes has to make tough decisions such as destroying building to push society forward.
The people of Earth are waiting for your guidance and the more you help them, the more they can manage things on their own, the less they need your help and can thrive as a civilization without the need of godly intervention, in the original whenever a monster nest was open it's the people who sealed the holes, in Renaissance you have to physically go inside and do a pointless 30 min long arena segment to deal with it yourself which is completely pointless and removes agency and growth of your followers as a character.
Because that's what the people of Earth are. The faceless crowd representing your followers are in it of itself a character with motivations, dreams and hopes for the future and at the end of the day, they grow to be independent like a child leaving the nest of its parents.
The ending of Actraiser is a beautifully sad but poetic end to this war of gods vs demons, the people you so graciously helps are now thriving, the churches which used to be filled with people begging for your blessing are now silent and empty but the game portrays this as a good thing because that means that all is good and it's time to let humanity grow by themselves and take a backseat to that development as you raise one last time into the sky to take a peaceful rest.
Actraiser Renaissance blurs the meaning of that ending through a ton of gameplay additions that are not relevant to the original game's point and as such make the story that the game wanted to tell weaker as a result.
A point which is also ruined by the addition of a post-game quest where suddenly everyone comes back to church because another god has shown up and want to fistfight you, now while this boss is the best boss of the game since its entirely original, this addition yet again muddles the original point of the game much like the addition of the heroes
The different "heroes" of each town being characters with unique design and unique motivations are a superfluous addition because not only are they shallow as characters (too busy sucking your dick and waiting for your orders) but they also lessen the importance of the people of earth which also has portraits on top of that which is just ugh...
The final nail in the coffin of this game and likely the first thing that will throw anyone of playing it for the first time is the general art direction, being an early Super Nintendo game, the original Actraiser wasn't a power-house of graphical prowess on the system but it was nonetheless a pretty game to look at and even served as a tech demo for the capabilities of the console in many magazine and promotional material so the game was far from being ugly.
But this game is putrid, it's like the mutant child of a cheap Korean mobile game and a Sega Saturn game (and that's insulting the Sega Saturn to say this), the portraits are generic looking and feel like they're from a random gacha that will close in a year after its launch and the actual in-game graphics makes my eyes bleed and my pupil vomit, just take a quick comparison between the original game and the remake to see what I mean.
Also the effective sobriety of the game original UI's has been completely ruined by a bunch of additional information on screen and so much handholding and notifications that it completely ruin the serene atmosphere the city building segment are supposed to have.
Lastly the music, while the general composition are still excellent since they're based of Yuzo Koshiro's masterful original score, I was pretty disappointed at how subpar and unimaginative this reimagining of the ost was despite being played with modern instruments, thankfully the game lets you play with the original tracks which is probably the only thing this remake has going for it.
In the end, Actraiser Renaissance is a game unfit to be called a cult classic let alone a good way to experience Actraiser and the fact that nobody who worked on the original game are credited since Quintet's member have long since disappeared from the radar's should tell you about how this project was gonna turn out and the fact they just shadow dropped it out of the blue is pretty telling at how much this was a rushed hack job.
The original Actraiser is far from perfect and has plenty of room for improvement, QoL and other type of zany modernization but when you want to iterate on a beloved classic, one that you didn't work on originally, you need to do it embracing the same passion, thoughts and care as the original and improving it without loosing on its original meaning heck, try to enhance the point of the original.
Or else you end up with a cynical cash grab like this game rather than a sincere piece of work
Let's just say that I hope to god they don't give the rest of the Quintet lineup the same treatment (if they would even consider doing so since this game was a commercial failure)
Kind of exactly what you'd expect from a modern Spongebob platformer: Nice 8th Gen spick span and flow, but sorely toothless in the sauce. Just does everything generally worse than BfBB because it's so scared of being even slightly challenging. The shift away from collectathon structure also makes most of the levels extremely repetitive and forgettable. The PS2 movie game still made linear work by way of Goober Tokens and the objectives tied to them. But like, once you beat the main path of each level, there's basically nothing else to do, and said paths are usually hour-long hikes with the same enemies and platform gimmicks.
Wish the humor was up to par, too, 90% of spongebob's dialouge is him making puns out of random shit and patrick obsfucating that wordplay into some dumb lolrandom dredge. Nick still has the same O.G. voice crew working on this, and I respect it, but I think a lot of these guys are ready to retire from this shindig. You can feel Tom Kenny getting seized by coughing fits from straining his voice so high.
And look man, I wouldn't say BfBB has a 'listenable' soundtrack, but it being VG music in the style of Spongebob's stock music fit like a glove. This mobile game orchestral sludge is ass, and throwing in a Sweet Victory or Jellyfish Jam here and there doesn't fix it.
There was basically nothing for me here but I guess it has a nice comfort food flow to it?
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