1148 Reviews liked by DJSCheddar

I primarily fell in love with role-playing games because I love storytelling. Since I was a wee child, I would always write stories. Even in early elementary school I found myself penning fanfiction for “Peep and the Big, Wide World.” It’s always been my calling, and while, now in my late twenties, I am getting more okay with the fact that it may not be my career, storytelling will always my thing. Dragon Warrior IV really caused me to be enamored with it very quickly, and it 100% has to do with how this game not only tells its story in a non-traditional way, Dragon Quest-wise, but also video-game-wise.
The way the scenario is split up in its titular chapters is perfect. Beginning with Ragnar, and telling a simple story of a normal soldier doing his job and protecting citizens and then having the main plot creep up until Ragnar is the first chosen to be called to a higher destiny. Having the protagonist and chief antagonist completely hidden from the player as they control a cast of supporting characters that one would normally encounter as the protagonist just is perfect. It shifts the player from controlling a singular role; this installment is simulating something a little more omnipotent. In the first four chapters, you find yourself piloting four different characters and setting them onto a path that would have them eventually meet with the Hero they’ve been told, by fate, that they are to soon accompany.
You aren’t just playing as these characters, the player is almost acting as fate, as one of the goddess’ upper servants, leading and commanding the chosen ones so that they will be able to cross paths with the Hero. It still plays like any other classic JRPG, but it shifts the perspective just a smidge to contort the role the player is in, and it just makes it that much more interesting to me. And, besides how it can be used to examine the relationship between player and game, it’s also just really cool to spend extra time alone with supporting characters so that when the Hero meets them, the player gets a little more excited than how one normally might be when gaining a party member. Having a larger cast of characters along for the ride just gives it a more fleshed out fantasy story feel. Along with the episodic format, it feels like I’m reading a series of novels, or watching a show, with a larger cast of characters than the 1-4 that this series has stuck to up to this point. Which, by the way, through the last half of Chapter 5 I was mostly using the Hero, Ragnar, Cristo, and Mara as my main quartet.
I wanted to play the NES version instead of the NDS version of this game just because I didn’t want every single Dragon Quest playthrough of mine to be played on either iOS or NDS, and this one seemed like a fun venture. The classical feel was just really nice. The emulator I was using (fceux) had some really nice video settings that allowed me to give this a CRT look that just made me lose myself in the charm of NES aesthetics, which I don’t usually do! This is, of course, a late NES title, which helps it a lot, but this is easily one of the best looking 8-bit games I’ve ever laid eyes on. The party members’ sprites are so nice, monster sprites look great (EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE), it’s just a real treat. The most interesting part of this playthrough was experiencing the localization differences between modern Dragon Quest, which I grew up with, and the elder Dragon Warrior script. There are tiny differences, of course, but it made it really funny deciphering online guides because every FAQ and Wiki is up to date with script from the Nintendo DS version, which might as well be the only one that exists in the west.
It was also kind of a blast playing an old RPG. This might actually be my first RPG where the version I’m playing actually pre-dates my life. I’m so used to playing older games through newer collections with standard UI and mechanics. The command screen, at first, made it feel archaic, but that kind of thing also helps in these old school RPGs because you’re basically given a list of options on how to progress. Did I talk to everyone? Search everywhere? Try every door? Town citizens give you plenty of information, and there’s a lot of good instincts that the game gives the player that helps out.
For instance, in chapter five, you find a seaside village named, well, Seaside Village. Villagers speak of how the tide gets high at night, and that there is a special item that the town used to have in its possession. At night, the tide rolls in and covers every tile of beach except for one tile. Obviously, the next morning you search that tile and, lo and behold, there’s a little village heirloom that’ll help you access another area. Though, a problem I encountered here that is definitely just a part of this series’ overall design choice, is that once you get access to a ship, the scenario becomes insanely less linear and I did have some moments where I encountered things out of order and it caused a lot of confusion. The country of Gartenburgh is surrounded by mountains, I travel around and find a place speaking of a flying vessel! Ah! That will get me there, surely. However, the person who makes said vessels needs a Gas Canister to build it. Right, right… Travel around with no luck and decide just to look it up. Oh, okay it’s in the mine I once traveled to in another chapter. Though, when I last went there in this chapter, nothing had changed? I look up maps and something should’ve changed. Turns out you hear how it changes in… a place I’ve never been? Apparently that place is accessible once you get the master key! Wait that’s in Femiscyra, that’s why… wait… Oh, turns out an item I got already was the key to get to Gartenburgh, and I just didn’t talk to the guy in Burland who tells the player that. Fuck. Oh, and the spot where you use this item was this little nook in the mountain range that I noticed while exploring and just knew was important.
So, yeah, besides those few hang-ups, this game flows really well for an old RPG without modern-day game design’s more player-friendly trends. Dragon Quest has always charmed me like crazy, it’s easily in my top favorite series now after replaying some of my childhood games and playing other installments for the first time. It’s always been tough for me to get through Final Fantasy, I even shelved a playthrough of ‘FFIV’, the Final Fantasy game that I’ve been most intrigued in, just because I got a hankering to play this instead. I’m a DQ-head through and through, and this installment is definitely a new favorite, although I’ve yet to play the game in this series that completely enraptures me to the point that I would call it an all-time favorite. Though, I did play this in anticipation for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince, which is my most anticipated new game of the rest of the year, and was excited to realize how much more of that game is connected to this installment than I initially realized just after that announcement trailer. Safe to say this is probably my favorite storyline in the series so far, and considering I grew up with the ‘Monsters’ spin-offs much more than the main series, I think ‘Dark Prince’ is gonna be a great time for me.

fun, janky FPS combat paired with some of the most embarrassing writing ever seen in a video game. two women follow you around who are both SO desperate for your boring actionman fantasyguy dick and never shut up about how cool and sexy you are the entire time. like they're not even characters outside of how badly they want to fuck, it's so overbearing that it's funny. it's on that anime mobile phone horny gacha advertisement shit. i don't think i've ever cared less about the story in a video game, it's the lamest kind of tabletop nerd fantasy, but i don't think anyone who's played this cares about it either. the game's encounter design and the way you, inevitably, end up using the arena's to score environmental kick kills is the core appeal. and it's fun!!!! i like kicking nerds into: pits, oceans, spikes, fire, and more! most of it feels pretty rough, though. movement and regular combat are very clunky and awkward, stairs are a nightmare, and it has some questionable collision at times - but the time you'll spend with your foot up a dude's rear end is good.

You can tell how much they loved this stuff. So much work went into this cinematic and gorgeous game.

Yoshimitsu: Looking like the coolest cyberpunk samurai you’ve ever seen
My custom Siegfried: Wearing massive spiked greaves, no shirt, tribal tattoos, and a diaper belt.

This horror FPS has good ideas but poor design makes it a boring experience. If Trilobyte decided to make a FPS instead of the 7th Guest, it would be like this, a shooter with puzzles in a fairly open world with lots of FMV. The FMV scenes are integrated with the world, meaning you walk up to nodes and the FMV of ghosts starts playing without it going into a cutscene. Weirdly enough, when they decided to bring it to PC and Mac, instead of just porting the 3DO version, they remade the game so the levels are better designed, and added a couple new weapons too. Unfortunately the FMV is lower quality and they made the enemies bullet spongy so neither version is ideal.

To finish up my recent string of nostalgic DOS games, here’s Duke Nukem II. It holds up pretty well although enemies and other threats popping into view and immediately attacking and hurting Duke got old quick. The camera is zoomed in closely in Duke Nukem II giving the game-view a very narrow scope that is made worse with how close to the edge of the camera Duke can get when he’s moving forward.
Despite that hefty flaw, the action and gamefeel in general felt pretty good. This game still utilizes very segmented (tile-based) movement like a lot of other DOS platformers but that never was a detriment while playing. It’s strengths are in its snappy, arcadey action and level design.
Now the first episode (which I played a lot as a kid on its shareware release, so nostalgia might be clouding my judgment) has very tight and exciting level designs. Episode 2 going forward; many levels are not as imaginative. A lot of the first episode levels have more complexity whereas the later parts of the game: the levels are more monotonous. Not necessarily bad, but not great either.
The last three episodes introduce new things. Some are cool, like the little ship that Duke gets in episode 2. Some are bad, like the instant death traps (especially the breakable air locks in episode 4). There isn’t a lot of new music past episode 1 and the stuff that’s introduced isn’t great but luckily the soundtrack from episode 1 gets sprinkled around and I gotta say this might be Prince’s best AdLib music. The sounds are all great, too. Duke’s scream when he dies startled me as a kid and even now I find it pretty unnerving.
I think the camera problems and less-than-stellar level designs of its later parts prevents Duke Nukem II from being a PC platformer classic, but it’s fairly solid.

This game is surprisingly jank. The movement is very weird with how you run pretty fast on ground but start flying and you lose all momentum and your horizontal speed in air never matches what you can do on foot. The collision detection is really bad with Harry pushing into walls inconsistently and the rules of what he can and cannot fit through change depending on if he’s flying and other obscure factors.
There are these monitors that you pass that seem like they are supposed to behave like checkpoints but they never did anything checkpointy. Did I not know how to use them properly? Sometimes the amount of hostages saved would carry over between me dying but only rarely.
My motivation to revisit this one was nostalgia. This is another game from my childhood shareware memories. The image of Halloween Harry and some Debbie Harry type on the front of CD jewel case is graffitied on the wall in the alleyways of my mind. I remember enjoying it and maybe appreciating the game’s weird qualities. The loop of slaying enemies for coins and then buying weapons was a neat quirk that holds up on replay. While there are health pickups, nothing heals you quite like rescuing hostages and tying survival to completing one’s main objective of saving hostages was a good choice.
Weird, though: the shareware episode ended up being episode 3 in the final product, and it’s easily the best one in the game even if standards are low. The actual first episode Sewers is frustrating with poor level design and a brutal difficulty curve. I got so annoyed with 1-4 that I skipped ahead and skipped past a majority of the game’s final leg too.
Ultimately, even if parts of the game didn’t come off as rushed or unfinished, I don’t see the hypothetical polished product being that good. Levels are labyrinths lacking in personality and you see a lot of what the game has to offer within fifteen minutes.

This is probably the worst offender of the Shareware curse. The first episode is dense with great levels with intricate design. Episodes 2 and 3 drop the ball. There's a few of very brief levels and a few of them where the layouts are "first draft".
That said, this is one of the better Apogee platformers. The movement feels very good and the trajectory of Johnny's slingshot has a lot of depth. The inclusion of some problem-solving elements like using blocks to reach new heights and stuff like hitting the knobs on stoves to turn them off make the environments more reactive in a way that was unfound in other contemporary platformers like Duke Nukem and Commander Keen.
The audio is great with both catchy Halloween music and delightful sound effects. I don't like the EGA colour scheme but the graphics are pretty good. I think that blue-haired zombie is a simple but excellent design.
I don't think it's a crime that this game is mostly forgotten but I think at least the first episode is a solid platforming experience.

This HD update is pretty strong. I always felt the EGA colour palette was kind of gross so updating Monster Bash's graphics makes the visuals very definitive. The audio is left alone, which is good since the music and SFX were always pretty good.
This HD remake changes up how you approach the game's campaigns. Instead of going through each episode in a string, taking with you the amount of lives you have from one level to the next, you instead select the level from the menu and lives are infinite. I miss the lives system and the stakes of having to survive a whole episode. Plus, the removal of a lives system renders the Johnny pickups as more points to collect in a game with already a lot of collectibles. The switch up, though, was probably the right idea.
The inclusion of the level editor and Steam workshop support is pretty neat. It has a lot of features too although I haven't dabbled too deeply into it.