9 Reviews liked by Emm

This review contains spoilers

My feelings on this game are complicated. My rating probably doesn't reflect that, but that's because I genuinely think this is impressive for a 1994 SNES JRPG in many ways, but also shows its age in a few others. People may raise their eyebrows upon finding out that I gave Octopath Traveler the same rating here, a game that apes this one nearly 25 years later, manages to say far less in 4x the time and in general plays it a lot safer. It's very formulaic, tells 8 very unnoteworthy stories, and half-heartedly ties them together at the end. But why couldn't I stop playing it? I put 80 hours into it in the week it came out. Live-A-Live, on the other hand, I felt a bit fatigued by in about 15 hours.
I don't want this review to be a full comparison of the two, but Octopath has had 25 more years of JRPG innovation to reflect on, and its gameplay systems reflect this. This simply isn't a fair comparison but I'm not some timeless entity, I'm just some gamer in 2021. Live-A-Live is a far more ambitious game, and accomplishes a lot more when you're not bogged down in battles (which unfortunately makes up a non-trivial fraction of the game). My favourite scenario was Cowboy, no doubt for its swift pace and sensible balance between story and gameplay. Ninja, on the other hand, was an absolute chore. Keep that emulator speed-up button nearby.
Combat isn't actually bad at first. Each character has a fun variety of moves, moving around on the grid is novel and plays a nice role in some fights, and certain things have been streamlined for the player's benefit. Three of the scenarios and the final stretch though, throw a LOT of encounters at you. Many of these are very easy to deal with, it just gets tiring fairly quickly. For every second you spend smiling at Live-A-Live's tributes to all these different genres, you will spend 5 more fumbling for the "run" option, or beating an enemy you have killed 50 times before. Many JRPGs circumvent this by keeping their encounters interesting, allowing the player to skip them in certain cases, or just making them incredibly quick to breeze through. This is by no means a unique criticism, and many games have it worse than Live-A-Live, but the added moves that come with the grid combat or many enemies doing nothing interesting, make it tiresome in this case.
I also don't think it holds up very well in challenging fights. Live-A-Live doesn't have many of these, but I had a notably easier time with the final boss after intentionally letting half of my party die, due to how enemies take turns in this game.
That's my main issue here, but I've also had a few too many moments aimlessly wandering about to trigger whatever event I need to carry on. Many games are worse than Live-A-Live at this though, this one's pretty reasonable.
Moving onto strengths:
Shimomura absolutely kills this soundtrack. All these great battle themes ("Difficult Fight" is one of my favourite JRPG battle themes ever at this point), she knocks it out of the park with these wildly different styles, it's genuinely hard to believe that these all come from the same game. You have, what, traditional Chinese, traditional Japanese, spaghetti western, rock, mecha anime opening, some cool atonal stuff, church organ shit? The last Shimomura-composed game I played was Radiant Historia where she got way too comfortable with her orchestral sounds and I can barely remember any of it honestly. There were moments in Live-A-Live where some songs were played a bit much, but overall this is a very strong showing sonically.
Narratively, this game feels like a response to the JRPG landscape of its time. "You guys like paying tribute to fantasy settings," it says, "why not try out any of these?" Live-A-Live doesn't try to tell the greatest stories ever told. These are stitched together "example" works of each represented genre, little appetisers — the Cowboy scenario isn't going to rival The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. It throws these tight packages at you, and bails once you start getting used to your surroundings. I can see this not appealing for some people, as playing mini-tributes to these different genres may seem pointless when compared to something more cohesive and focused. But from the different textbox stylings to all the little secrets hidden in each chapter, it just feels exciting sampling these 7 different games. You're training these martial artists to carry on your legacy. Now you're storming a stronghold as a ninja, deciding who lives and dies. Now you're hunting for food as a caveman. And once the actual story emerges to tie this all together, you really appreciate the scope of this game. The final scenarios actually tell a pretty great story (for a 1994 JRPG at least). But you're deep enough into this game by that point that you probably stopped caring about having an actual overarching plot.
(I typed that entire paragraph not remembering what "vignettes" are called. I'll just leave that there.)
I really respect this game for its ambition, and it's definitely successful for the most part. Unfortunately, I think this is one of those where I'll have more fun reflecting on it rather than replaying it. But maybe the day will come when I'll want to kick Odie off the table again.

hellsinker: hello! welcome to hellsinker. would you like to learn how to play?
me: sure!
hellsinker: alright, so first things first, this is a bullet hell shoot'em'up with three unique playable characters: DEADLIAR, FOSSIL MAIDEN, and MINOGAME, plus one unlockable character. hellsinker has a unique emphasis on strategy and problem solving with a special scoring system and different routes.
me: cool!
hellsinker: you have a weapon, which can charge, a subweapon, and a special move. there's also a slowdown button. you can combine and time these to do different special attacks. when youre holding down fire you'll also have a SUPPRESSION RADIUS around you where some enemy bullets slow down and you can even delete some! if you get close to an enemy, you can SEAL them, which stops them from firing.
me: got it!
hellsinker: on the left side of the screen, you're gonna see a bunch of HUD info. let's break it down. first, you can see how many lives you have left. you can also earn more lives. pretty self explanatory
me: right. so if i lose them all it's game over?
hellsinker: yeah. well no, you'll get a chance to continue. but it's not like a normal continue, you only get one and it changes the game significantly, and you can lock yourself out of a continue. anyway let's get back to the bars. next from the top is SOL. SOL determines the strength of your main shot but is also your DISCHARGE gauge, so you have to balance that. LUNA just below it determines how fast you fire.
me: alright
hellsinker: okay so next up is STELLA. the more STELLA you have, the more bullets enemies will fire. your score will also scale with STELLA. you can increase and decrease STELLA with item pickups, or by aggressive/defensive play respectively, that kind of stuff. you can acquire APPEASEMENT that will help you decrease your STELLA if you graze the requisite number thus spawning two OLD RELICS
me: hm
hellsinker: finally, TERRA starts at 240. you lose TERRA if you die, but also if you avoid LIFE CHIPS and stuff like that. oh, also, it goes down if you finish a level. if it hits zero, as the next segment, you'll be sent to the Shrine of Farewell
me: what
hellsinker: on the other side of the screen, we have at the top your autobomb status, which can be set to ASPIRANT, SOLIDSTATE, or ADEPT. as a reminder, your DISCHARGE and Subweapon will behave differently based on whether you're holding the fire button down, the state of your gauges, etc. after that, you have the Spirit score, one of the three separate scoring systems in hellsinker. it's represented by three bars which represent the base 10 decimal digit values of your Spirit score. you can get a BREAKTHROUGH at 5200 Spirit, unless youve triggered the other BREAKTHROUGH in Kills, in which case it takes 6200.
me: wait
hellsinker: there's also a Kill score, which can also trigger a BREAKTHROUGH at 2500 or 5000 kills. BREAKTHROUGH will reset the threshold of LIFE CHIPS necessary to earn an IMMORTALITY EXTEND (80+40n pts) and sets said bonus to 200. Below that is Token score, which is like the other two but has no BREAK, and is earned by collecting LUNA DROPLETS (which have inverted gravity mind you), which also slightly increases your LUNA, and DROPLETS increase in value arithmetically.
me: uh
hellsinker: okay, so remember TERRA? so the Shrine of Farewell is a bonus stage boss rush but you get infinite lives. STELLA is constantly rising. there are four bosses, and one extra. your Spirit score drops to zero though. oh, also, BOOTLEG GHOST doesnt work while you're here.
me: bootleg ghost????
hellsinker: because your Spirit score is reset (m=0) you're probably worried about your score, but don't worry, you get the chance to earn your Spirit back in the Shrine of Farewell by collecting Crystals. after this, TERRA is disabled for the rest of the run, so make sure to maximize your spirit-to-crystal ratio if you're chasing a Spirit based high-score route, but its also useful if you're going for survival. hard limit of segment 7
me: wait but
hellsinker: as i’m sure you inferred by now, along with executive fire, the primary engagement of HELLSINKER regardless of which GRAVEYARD EXECUTOR you’ve selected (and agnostic of MISTELTOE configuration) is one of: α) management of SOL (DISCHARGE when necessary), LUNA, and SUBWEAPON gauges by destruction, collection, and timing β) safely managing proximity between mutable projectiles while evading needletype and other immutables γ) proximity protocol beta applied to adversaries to reduce production of danger δ) judiciously balancing STELLA with RELICS and transubstantiation of mutables into STELLA, in order to synthesize needs for evasion and for Spirit/Kills ε) maximizing destruction (Kills), Spirit, and Token ζ) achieving IMMORTALITY EXTENDS through BREAKTHROUGH (5.2k(+1k)m || 2.5k(⋅2)d) and LIFE CHIP acquisition η) again, doing all this while evading and using the proper attack protocols contingent on your EXECUTOR and/or MISTELTOE θ) managing TERRA reducing actions in order to deploy the visit to the Shrine of Farewell strategically, such as to maximize Spirit (m) prior: 1 Crystal (i) = 0.5% m1, upper bound of n = 424i (disambiguation: non-summated) ergo maximal execution miΣ(n424) = 2.12 * pre-Shrine.
hellsinker: alright! that just about covers the basics. ready to start playing?
me: i'm still working on the left side of the screen

Dropping a TL;DR because I rambled way too much when the actual verdict on this game is pretty obvious. It's more Puyo. It's more Tetris. It's more story mode hijinks. Unless you're some uber Tetris tryhard who winces at the idea of slow DAS/ARR and is still @ing the official Puyo Twitter account asking for combo tables to be nerfed, you'll probably enjoy this game to some extent. If you don't know what any of that even means, then there's nothing to worry about. Full thoughts below.
Hmm. I had about 600+ hours in the first game across all platforms. I say "across all platforms" because I own 3 separate copies of it, and even had the 3DS version pirated to boot (it's Japan-only, okay?!).
It had some clear problems. Unfortunately for our IGN reviewer friend, "the Tetris player is at a slight disadvantage" spread as a meme in the community - one look at the leaderboards disproved that brutally. Many top Puyo players didn't enjoy the hyper-defensive, vertical play necessitated by the frenzied barrage of T-spins and Tetrises they'd encounter every game. There were no filters to matchmake you with only other Puyo players. By contrast, most good Tetris players didn't really care. They just continued playing the crack cocaine, DPS-fiend game of competitive guideline Tetris relatively unfazed.
That's like, stuff only 1% of the playerbase really cares about though. And they ended up getting Puyo Puyo Champions as a stopgap measure to play quick, easy, arcade Tsu-style online Puyo matches on modern consoles. I was good enough at Puyo Puyo Tetris that I enjoyed sinking many hours into it, grinding ranked (there's a good chance you saw my name if you ever checked the top 20 UK leaderboards on any platform). I was scrubby enough at it that the balance issues didn't piss me off like they did many others. It reignited my love for Tetris and it was the entry that forced me to finally get good at Puyo. Now I spam GTR like 90% of the players online because I'm too scared to actually think. But it looks big brain to onlookers. Hooray?
Anyway, onto the game I'm actually meant to be talking about here.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 didn't need to exist. I'd accepted this back when I was entertaining the idea of this game as a hypothetical way before it was ever announced. But like, you could make a strong argument for every post-Tsu entry not needing to exist. With that thought in mind, and knowing I'd probably just chill out and enjoy the singleplayer and quality-of-life improvements, I bought it day 1 like the whipped consoomer I am. I then proceeded to shelve the game for 10 months after playing half of the story mode. I was just too burned out from the first game, which realy drove home just how much this didn't need to exist. I also wasn't enjoying the changes made to Tetris in a feeble attempt to improve balance (let's make Tetris slower! What do you mean it feels worse to play?) (They also reverted this change in a recent patch, it's the same as PPT1 Tetris speeds now lol. I'll probably play it more just because of this).
It's fine. The story mode starts a bit slow but has its funny moments. And its Schezo moments. A lot of the same assets are reused. And the original was already heavily reusing 20th Anniversary assets. Skill Battles return from Chronicle. They sure are a thing. Oh hey, they added filters to matchmaking so now you can specify if you want to play against Puyo or Tetris! But Puyo Puyo Champions and Tetris Effect already kinda exist by now, and most serious players already left to play those.
Okay, I need to bring up one of the funniest patches I've seen in a game. So somehow, launch PPT2 had a song that just straight up goes horribly off-key. A fixed version was patched in. Hobbyist mashup makers can feel vindicated knowing that actual pros fucked up this badly.
The rest of the music is thankfully not off-key. It's also nothing special really.
The fact this game isn't getting horribly slammed proves just how genius the core Puyo and Tetris gameplay designs are. You can serve them on the same paper plates you served them on 4 years ago and people will eat it up. Seriously, the package itself reeks of phoned-in cash-in. You could've just patched Puyo Tetris 1 to have those filters people have been begging for instead of releasing 2 more asset flips (counting Champions here). There's nothing substantial this offers that the first game doesn't other than those filters and some new characters (thank you for FINALLY ditching that stupid 24 slot tradition). A lot of people probably skipped this and I don't blame them.
But fuck all that I'm still giving this a good rating because you can play as SONIC. That's right. He's supposedly the fastest hedgehog around.

If Bowser's Fury was the initial hint that Nintendo have struggled to keep their production line on-track during the panny d, Super Rush is the outright confirmation. Uniquely fascinating in the sense that it's probably the most unpolished, uncharming and unfinished game Nintendo have ever put their seal of approval on; the UI would looks like it came from a McDonalds self-service kiosk and the characters in the story mode keep referring to game mechanics that don't exist, like sleeping to restore stamina and eating to get buffs. With Birdo repeatedly forcing you to go to bed in the middle of the day for no apparent reason, the Golf Adventure mode makes for a surreal experience - it's almost as if one of those dodgy mobile game developers who make Pokemon knockoffs somehow managed to get their hands on the real Super Mario IP and are now sharing their Early Access build with Kickstarters.
So how in the heck is this a 3-star game, I hear you ask?? Well, the golfing is still absolutely rock solid. Aside from committing the cardinal sin of removing the third tap from the holy three-tap trinity, there's nothing here I'd really change when it comes to good old-fashioned arcade golfing gameplay - it's all mechanically on par with Everybody's Golf at this point, if not better in some cases. The addition of the range/elevation finder is a neat little feature for golf math nerds, and ironically it feels a whole lot more important and worthwhile to the experience than the Super Rush gameplay gimmick they chose to slap on the game's title.
Super Rushing isn't outright terrible (Yoshi turns into an egg! Toad bounces on his head!!), but it does often feel like you're punctuating your shots with those moments from Breath of the Wild where you had to make Link jog-sprint-jog across an open field for 10 minutes while mindlessly balancing a stamina wheel. That you can't combine rushing and jumping feels like a ridiculously constrictive oversight, and I'm surprised that a free-roaming golf game with Super Mario in the title doesn't encourage players to do some fun platforming. Being able to track, analyse and anticipate your shot in-flight is pretty fundamental to a golf game, too - so it's a little disappointing that the main mode pushes you to just forget about all that and book it to the fairway instead.
On the whole, this isn't really worth the ridiculous £50 price tag that's been slapped on it - Everybody's Golf was a budget title for the PS4, and I feel like it had a ton more content, polish and character. That Nintendo feel comfortable putting out a kneecapped title like this at full price just goes to show how hard they're now dominating the marketplace, perhaps even at the expense at their own reputation for quality. Like with Monster Hunter Rise, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the development team are going to use DLC to bring the game up to version 1.0. A real sad thing to have to type.

there is no game that better encapsulates the feeling of being physically held together by duct tape, glue, ambition, and cheese than sonic adventure 1. and here's the interesting thing about it: it's actually pretty good, despite. the ambition is there--it shows in the gorgeous graphics on display (usually), the insane attention to detail in window refractions and reflective surfaces, the mixing of various characters' stories as they intersect and collide with one another... and it all really does truly feel like an adventure, this handful of interesting locales to explore all interconnected to one another that creates a world felt lived in (more on this further down). the cheese is there--the story and dialogue is near absolutely miserable, standing in two different puddles: the left foot resides in so-bad-it's-good (and occasionally, occasionally, absolutely occasionally: so-good-it's-good) while the right foot rests in holy-shit-everyone's-talking-so-slow-i've-seen-this-cutscene-from-five-different-angles-please-move-it-along. and the duct tape and glue is there--sonic adventure feels like it's falling apart at the seams, a myriad of bugs working tirelessly to destroy (or enhance) your experience via collision errors, graphical glitches, camera angles sucked through vortexes and spit out through the fabric of reality...
but i said it's good, right? yeah, surprisingly, i'd say so.
while you start the game with sonic (it's his adventure, right?), you eventually go on to unlock several more, and they all have their own adventures, too (though shipping the game as E-102 Gamma Adventure probably would've resulted in fewer sales...). sonic, surprisingly, plays the dullest. his levels are an endless series of set pieces and gimmicks that essentially play themselves, almost to the point where you can just set your controller down and take a super sonic speed piss and come back to find the level successfully completed. it's the other characters who shine harder: tails gives the player a broken but hilarious recontextualization of sonic's campaign, amy pits you against genuine platforming, gamma is a (surprisingly fun) race against the clock (with guns), and knuckles is exploration dialed up. oh, there's also this rat named big who is coupled with horrific, teeth grating gameplay in which you play a worse version of sega bass pro fishing.
despite how aggravating it is to be locked into watching similar cutscenes repeatedly set to a story barely above acceptable for a children's animated tv show, it is admittedly really cool to see how the various characters play off of each others' actions, consequences, and choices as you yourself slowly put the pieces together in time for the finale. again, it makes sonic adventure feel like a very living, breathing place, and that goes double for the hub world and its npcs. bizarre, by the way. absolutely, ridiculously bizarre writing litters sonic's city that's localized in such a warped way i can't actually tell if it's good or bad. let me try my best to explain: npcs will sometimes have the flattest ass waste-of-seven-sentences to give you, or they'll drop a mind numbingly funny observation of their absurd diet, implying that all anyone can eat is burgers because... there's a burger shop and that's it. one thing certainly intentional is that each npc grows along the story's path, each realizing little arcs of their own. again--it makes it all feel so real and comfortable.
boss fights are probably the worst aspect of the game. they're either really uninteresting, or really uninteresting AND long. cutscenes are rough, as mentioned--they go on, and on, and on, and everyone but eggman sounds like they're acting with the very first take from the studio--tails in particular sounds like sega team kidnapped a genuine child. facial animations are destroyed beyond repair given they lip sync relatively well with japanese--english outta sonic makes him look like a psychopath. something bugs me for sure. and speaking of sonic, again, his levels aren't interesting gameplay wise. sure, the spectacles are interesting, but it's probably a bad sign when the most fun you can have with that blue rat is attempting to break the game with his bugged mechanics.
all that said, it is intoxicatingly charming, and i certainly wouldn't have bothered to finish the game if i didn't like it. it's not the absolute great game it could've been but, for what sonic adventure is, i appreciate a lot.

literally everyone had a copy of this and not a single person liked it at all