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I play the vidjo gaem
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GOTY '23

Participated in the 2023 Game of the Year Event

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GOTY '22

Participated in the 2022 Game of the Year Event

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Found the secret ogre page

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Participated in the 2021 Game of the Year Event

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Played 500+ games

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Played 250+ games

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Favorite Games

Ōkami
Ōkami
Rayman Legends
Rayman Legends
Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus
Return of the Obra Dinn
Return of the Obra Dinn
Gravity Rush 2
Gravity Rush 2

1831

Total Games Played

011

Played in 2024

3459

Games Backloggd


Recently Played See More

Pikmin
Pikmin

May 07

Panzer Dragoon
Panzer Dragoon

Apr 22

Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color
Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color

Apr 15

Pepper Grinder
Pepper Grinder

Apr 02

Boomeroad
Boomeroad

Mar 28

Recently Reviewed See More

The secret behind Pikmin’s success was not that it somehow outclassed classic real-time strategy franchises, but rather that it was never competing with them to begin with. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, he came up with the idea for Pikmin one day when he observed a group of ants carrying leaves together into their nest. Miyamoto then imagined a game focused on cooperation rather than competition; he asked, “Why can’t everyone just move together in the same direction, carrying things as a team?” Nintendo EAD’s design philosophy went along with this line of reasoning, melding design mechanics from different genres to create an entirely new yet familiar experience. As a result, instead of competing against other players in Pikmin akin to classic RTS games, Pikmin forces players to explore and compete with the very environment itself by introducing puzzle-exploration and survival mechanics. It made sense in the end; after all, real-time strategy is concerned with minimizing time spent to get a competitive edge over opponents, and what better way to translate this than to force players to master their understanding over the terrain itself, managing and optimizing the one resource which governs them all?

Perhaps Nintendo’s greatest challenge was figuring out how to translate a genre considered by many to be niche and technical to an intuitive yet layered game, and even more so, translating classic actions from a mouse and keyboard allowing for such complexity to a suite of simplified controls using a gamepad. Coming from the other side as someone who played Starcraft as a kid and didn’t get into Pikmin until recently however, I’m surprised at how well EAD’s tackled this endeavor. Classic RTS games focus upon base-building and resource gathering through the micromanagement of units. Pikmin’s take upon this is to introduce a dichotomy between the player character Captain Olimar, who is incapable of doing anything by himself but can issue commands to the units only he can create by plucking out of the soil, and the Pikmin, who are essentially brainless but represent the units that must do everything. The player as Olimar must be present to figure out exactly how to best traverse and exploit the environment around him (replacing the base-building with management/prioritization puzzles) while the Pikmin provide bodies to construct, move, and attack the world around them. However, the Pikmin’s AI is fairly limited and as a result, Pikmin will sit around helplessly once they finish their actions and often get distracted by nearby objects while moving around, which is where the micromanagement kicks in. Therefore, the player has to decide how to best build up their supply of Pikmin to allocate tasks to surmount bottlenecks while exploring and opening the world, all while working against the limited thirty-day timer throughout the game’s five areas.

A part of me expected to really struggle with the gamepad while playing Pikmin, but the available actions on offer allow for a surprising degree of control despite the simplification. For instance, consider Olimar’s whistle; as a substitute for dragging and clicking to select units on PC, the whistle on the GameCube lets Olimar quickly rally groups of clustered units. Holding down B for longer allows the player to increase the size of the whistle’s AOE, which allows the player to better control and target how many Pikmin to rally in any cluster (hence, the analog of clicking and dragging to select boxes of units on mouse and keyboard). The Swarm command is another interesting translation. The obvious use is to allow Olimar to quickly move nearby Pikmin by directing them with the C-stick versus needing to aim and throw them by positioning and rotating Olimar himself. However, because it can be used to shift the position of Pikmin with respect to Olimar, it can also be used to swap the Pikmin on-deck for throwing (since Olimar will always throw the Pikmin closest to him) without needing to dismiss and re-rally separated Pikmin colors, and most importantly, it allows you to directly control the group of Pikmin following Olimar while moving Olimar himself. This second application allows the player to kite the Pikmin around telegraphed enemy attacks, and properly funnel them so the Pikmin aren’t getting as easily stuck behind walls or falling off ledges/bridges into hazards. That said, noticeable control limitations do exist. Olimar cannot pivot to move the reticle without changing his position with respect to the Pikmin around him, which can make aiming in place annoying if the Pikmin types you need to throw aren’t close enough to be moved next to Olimar with Swarm. Additionally, there is no way for Olimar to simultaneously and directly control multiple separated groups of Pikmin, which does make allocating tasks a bit slower. However, given that the tasks themselves usually don’t necessitate more than one Pikmin type at a time, this limitation is understandable, especially since the sequels would tackle this challenge with more expansive controls and multiple playable characters on the field.

Pikmin’s base model as a result is a fantastic translation of an abstract design philosophy, but I can’t help but wonder if the original could have been pushed further. Don’t misunderstand me: I absolutely take pride in mastering a game by learning all about its inner workings and pushing its mechanics to the limits simply by following a few intuitive genre principles. As such, I wish that the game was a bit harder in order to really force me to squeeze every bit of time from the game’s solid premise. For example, combat is often optional in Pikmin given how many full-grown Bulborbs are found sleeping, but given that most enemies don’t respawn within the next day after killing them and I can bring their carcasses back to base to more than replenish my Pikmin supply, combat is almost always in my favor, especially since certain enemies will spawn more mobs if they aren’t defeated. If circumstances existed where it would be unfavorable to engage (such as losing a significant number of Pikmin every time, or having so little time left that engaging would waste time), then I feel that this would add an additional layer of decision-making of deciding when to sneak past sleeping Bulborbs rather than just wiping out as many foes as I could as soon as possible. In a similar sense, I felt that certain design elements such as the Candypop Buds for switching Pikmin colors were a bit underutilized; outside of one environmental puzzle, I never had to use the Candypop Buds, mainly because I had so many remaining Pikmin and time to never justify their usage. I’ll concede here that Pikmin’s one-day Challenge Mode does at least provide a score attack sandbox where I’m forced to take my Pikmin stock and remaining time into higher consideration, but it’s missing the connectivity of the main story mode where my earlier actions would greatly affect how I planned later days in a run, particularly in making judgement calls on which days to spend at each site and which days I dedicate towards building up my Pikmin numbers versus hauling in ship parts. Regardless, I found myself completing the main game with all parts in just twenty days on my first run with minimal resets, and I’d love to try a harder difficulty mode with a stricter time limit and tougher Pikmin margins to really force me to better conserve my working force and dedicate more time to restocking my supply.

Gripes aside, I’m glad that my friends finally convinced me to try out Pikmin, not just to better appreciate RTS games as a whole but to also gain an appreciation of how different genre mechanics can work in tandem to intuitively convey concepts without spelling everything out to the player. It’s classic Nintendo at their core, and while I had my reservations coming in as a fan of older RTS franchises, they’ve managed to convince me once again that the best hook is not simply offering something that’s visibly better, but rather offering something that’s visibly different. I still think that there’s improvement to be had, but given how much I’ve enjoyed the first game, I can’t wait to see what they have to offer from iterating upon their memorable beginnings.

The first few minutes of Panzer Dragoon when your blue dragon majestically soars above the rippling water to the tune of Flight define a classic video game introduction that I doubt I will ever forget. A part of me expected the experience to be steadily downhill from there given the common complaints that I’ve heard, but to the game’s credit, it quickly established its defining hook and never let go. Panzer Dragoon was one of the first games to take total advantage of its 3D space, and it does so through its ability to rotate the player’s aim in 360 degrees. The catch is that while you can’t aim sideways/behind the dragon when looking forward, there’s a trade-off in that you can’t steer the dragon and change its mid-air position while in first-person aiming around the sides of/behind its body. As a result, there’s a precise science to swapping between these two camera modes. The macro never gets complex (shoot everything in sight while dodging and shooting down enemy attacks), but the micro is just involved enough to where there’s little downtime as you constantly peruse your surroundings and systematically pick off your foes. This is a game that wants the player to be aware of everything around them, and Team Andromeda was more than happy to let them soak in the sights given that the minimalist UI (simply consisting of a radar for spotting enemies and a player health bar) never really gets in the way. Even today, I find Panzer Dragoon to be an absolutely gorgeous game, and I can only imagine how people in 1995 felt playing this for the first time.

I’ve been warned that Panzer Dragoon’s difficulty can be a significant roadblock, but after a few playthroughs, I think it’s definitely conquerable. Besides mastering control of the player reticle/camera, players need to recognize when to utilize the homing laser lock-on (holding down the fire button) versus mashing to quickly fire the player’s handgun. The homing laser is great for getting rid of enemy swarms and easily targeting moving foes, while the handgun is a godsend for melting beefy mobs and bosses while sniping faraway targets that can’t be locked onto. In particular, Episode 3’s jumping ship boss is a notable chump check if you refuse to lock-on, while Episode 5’s airships will overwhelm you if you don’t mash. Additionally, I’ve also heard that Panzer Dragoon can feel very unforgiving since the player is allowed only one game-over before they have to restart a run, and the game only regenerates half of the player's health upon completing a level. However, given that the player can earn an extra credit per stage if they manage to shoot down more than 85% of the enemies in a single episode, I'd say there’s enough leeway given if the player takes the time to master its controls and meticulously defeat enough enemies instead of simply playing entirely defensive.

The only real gripe that I’d have is that enemy attacks sometimes blend into the background (ex: black cannonballs on top of dark environments) and can be tough to spot, especially when obscured by smoke effects from already defeated airships. I can still dodge most of these attacks with enough experience, having learning the enemy spawn positions, though it takes time to master given that players need to adapt to the game’s weightiness and natural response time. After all, you’re controlling a rider controlling a dragon rather than controlling the dragon itself, so it takes a bit more time to shift the model away from incoming barrages. As is, I’d still prefer if all enemy attacks were distinctly colored to stand out from both my own projectiles and the surroundings. Regardless, Panzer Dragoon was a breath of fresh air and I don’t mind its relative simplicity or brevity when it manages to succinctly capture an enthralling rail-shooting experience that I’ll gladly replay just to see myself visibly improve with every new run. All I can say is that this was certainly no flight of fancy; if the base model was this good, then I can’t wait to see what Team Andromeda/Smilebit have to offer with Zwei and Orta.

I will be upfront here and admit that my initial impression of Magic Pengel was underwhelming. The first couple of hours felt extremely plodding, thanks to the opening glut of story cutscenes with awkward voice acting, the lack of part variety to attach to your Doodles (your drawable monsters for battle), and the initial grind for more colors necessary to both draw and further develop your Doodles. This initial grind can be a nightmare because a lot of the fightable villagers will easily outclass you in terms of sheer stats and stall you out by using Charge every other turn to heal off more damage than you can inflict, so you’ll end up wasting your arena time if you happen to challenge a super tough villager since there’s also no way to forfeit a match. It also doesn’t help that there’s a half minute loading screen every time you need to move to a new area in the overworld, so you’ll end up sitting through over a minute of loading screens moving between the two main arenas alone since there’s no fast travel and you’ll have to pass through the market every time. Not a great start for a seemingly great premise!

Get past this initial roadblock by winning a few arena matches and gaining enough resources to thoroughly flesh out your Doodles with better stats, however, and the game starts to find its footing. Combat is almost entirely turn-based rock-paper-scissors (magic trumps attack, attack trumps block, block trumps magic) with some degree of mind games. This fortunately does get a bit more complex later on; landing magic spells can inflict status effects such as paralysis and sleep upon foes, as well as temporarily lock or punish types of attacks depending on the spell used. This essentially adds another layer to the mind games, aside from the aforementioned Charge for healing/powering-up the next attack/resetting neutral; thus, combat isn't just mindlessly following the advantage triangle specified above. In addition, the colors and parts used (i.e. adding limbs, wings, a held weapon, etc) drastically change both your stat and skill distribution (explained in more detail here and here ), and since your drawing capabilities and max capacity are increased with each arena win, you’ll likely be redrawing your Doodles all the time anyways to keep up with the tougher fights while tinkering with new and expanded loadouts. Simultaneously, it becomes a lot easier to farm resources since your Doodles will finally have enough attack power to deal more damage than opponents can heal off with Charge, and you’ll earn significantly more of each color (a few thousand as opposed to a few hundred in the early game) upon victories. While Magic Pengel’s combat never reaches the depth of similar monster battling systems such as Pokemon, I nevertheless found it easy enough to get into the rhythm of the progression loop once I got past the opening grind, and it served as a solid podcast game that vaguely reminded me of my days laddering on Pokemon Showdown.

A word of warning though: as much fun as it is sketching crude creatures with your Pengel and watching your crayon abominations destroy developer-drawn Doodles with much more effort put into sketching, that is unfortunately just about all that this game has to offer. Magic Pengel’s narrative touches upon some interesting lore and story beats concerning both the world of color and the supporting cast (such as your friend Zoe’s connection with her missing foster father, a renowned Doodler that once worked for the king), but the game never goes into too much detail with its sparse storytelling, and it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger as your friends decide to set off on another adventure. While you can sell spare colors for gold gems, there’s not much to purchase from shopkeepers; you can buy a few brushes to further adjust your line thickness, but the only other items on offer are Doodles, and there’s no point in buying those when you’ll get far more utility out of drawing your own (especially because you can’t delete any part of a Doodle drawn by an NPC). Finally, the game is a bit lacking in post-game content. The only unlocked features are a new arena where you can engage in 1 v 3 or 2 v 3 fights for higher rewards, as well as a hidden boss that can be fought if you somehow grind one million gold gems. As such, I have to concede that a lot of the Magic Pengel’s surrounding elements could have used some more time in the oven.

Ultimately, I prefer the game’s spiritual successor Graffiti Kingdom for its more succinct runtime and expanded drawing utensils. Even so, I mostly enjoyed my time with Magic Pengel (the quaint charm and artstyle admittingly a big reason why), and I’d say it’s worth checking out if you want a taste of one of more creative monster collecting/creating games out there. I think Taito had something really special on their hands with this formula, and it’s a shame we’ll never see a game in this vein from them again.