Been thinking about this game lately, and I haven't done an informal bullet-point review in a minute so lemme ramble for a bit will you? :3
-By this point, the myth of "honest footsies" ever existing in isolation has been debunked wholesale across the genre, but CvS2, particularly at the mid-level (which I would (generously) say I occupy), is far and away the most tempered, neutral-focused 2D game I can think of (aside from SamSho IG but that's cheating!!). You can point towards roll cancels and A-groove combos all you want but the vast majority of what I do here are the things that people who earnestly believe "combos are the worst part of fighting games" dream of. Couple this with the notably low damage output and the longer-than-life-itself timer per round and this game might honestly be so straight-laced that the weak-willed in the audience will be frantically checking their pockets for keys to jingle, lol.
(why this game was played in like FT5s back in the day will forever elude me, who the FUCK made that decision)
-Between the timing windows and lack of input buffer, the gulf that separates easily predictable combo situations like jump-ins and the tougher stuff like maximizing damage via normal links (1-2F links Everywhere) is So Wide that in casual/semi-pro play you're much more likely to submit and rely on the fundamentalzz, keeping your relationship with the game in a semi-permanent "pretty good but still learning" stasis. Reminds me a lot of SFIV and newer FG fans' relationship to that game, but unlike that game there are far fewer archetypes here whose express purposes are to skip that part of the game and break it down into 50/50s or wakeup gambles. Which is good! I think!
-it's one of those things that's almost too obvious to speak to, but the fact that this game has 6 interchangeable game systems that communicate between each other and is somehow not fucked beyond repair in practice is an outrageous badge for an FG to be able to wear. There are clear lines between each one's applicability, but aside from mmmmaybe P-groove I wouldn't dissuade anyone from following their hearts if asked (and it's not even that P is bad necessarily, just much harder to excel with given that parrying, which is already hard, is correctly assumed by Capcom to be powerful enough to quarantine in its own groove).
-That said, groove choice is a substantial decision in this game with consequences, which is once again something that sounds too obvious to state but for whatever reason people are surprised that this game's meta is as messy as it is despite there being like 300 choices to make, nevermind team comp bringing this number up by several factors. I wouldn't say this game's team comp is quite as iconic and impressive as MvC, but between the groove and ratios you have a lot to chew on and IMO!! it's more enjoyable on its surface how you approach it here considering in Marvel it defines basically every choice you make going forward. FAR less strategically rewarding admittedly but being a Marvel player is a disease I have yet to contract in my lifetime so forgive me for the preference.
-CvS2 gets shit for the mismatched sprites and, yes, Morrigan's VSav look doesn't make a lick of sense here, but I think the SNK sprites that Capcom cooked up for this game and the one before it are underrated as hell. Everyone on that side of the roster looks fantastic, and the low-contrast coloring that Capcom's fighting games are known for fit SNK characters far better than the reverse seen in SvC Chaos (though I do like the look of that game in a perverse kinda way). The only aesthetic drawback this game has beyond the sprites is that the spontaneous and stylish stages from CvS1 have few equals here. But everything else clears, we love the yellow diamonds here at FM Towns Party.
-I find it hard to pin down a "favorite" fighting game, as the circumstances for liking them are so out of my hands. Like yeah, I love Tekken 3-5 dearly and always have, but unless Namco suddenly becomes very cool and implements (good) netcode into those games, I can't imagine I'm playing folks with any regularity soon. 3S is sort of a mirror reflection of that: while there are plenty things unique to 3S that grind against me as a long-form game to play, it's also trivially easy to play with people in comparison, and even in more casual settings it seems like many are enamored enough to at least take it for a spin. Outside of my newest fling SF6, which has been a miracle worker of sorts in these regards, CvS2 might be the game that threads all those needles the best.

I usually don't think about rewriting things on here, but my prior HC3 review is currently the most liked one on this page and, Unfortunately, one that I have a deep embarrassment towards. Not that I didn't speak my truth, but lots of time has passed since my first interaction with the game, and my words on it were much more of a riposte of the thought-cyclone the game left me with than anything, like, substantial. And frankly, the feeling I get when I receive a notif about it, that someone assumes I still ride with those thoughts is - boy, no wonder I gave this shit a 5 - enough to coax a second try out of me. After all, as I said in my old review, to confine it to one conclusion would do it a disservice (though now I mean that in a more direct way than I ever did before, lol).
As far as more formal things go (character depth, conciseness, visual splendor) it could be argued that etherane has outdone HellChar 3 a few times by now, but to be honest, the more I sit with it, the more I think the circumstance of Hello Charlotte as a series is a worthwhile feature more than any kind of problem. Playing HC1 and casting it off as a study of RPGMaker more than a developed game in and of itself feels almost necessary to eventually get to the part where HC3 throttles some purple and blue into your cheeks. To put it more directly: even if I didn't see myself in it (which I do), I still think it's incredibly worthwhile to see this rare glimpse into the game creator's artistic trajectory.
What makes this game part of that trajectory, let alone the extremum of it? Well, with all its internet-coded self-reflection, the nihilistic lashouts at just about every aspect of the game as an object/piece of entertainment, the audience as a collective entity (crucially, the audience of people who were there at the time of HC3's release, who played HC2 and asked, "please may I have some more"), and the ensuing story as the byproduct of an intellectually and emotionally laborious creative process. It works through that initial stage of self-awareness games this metafictionally occupied have and into a world of razor-thin separations between idea and story. And none of this is strictly contemptuous, but etherane does not mince words and speaks to certain things so directly that the aforementioned separation of fiction is liable to break down, if only for a moment. (I believe the less-nice way of saying this is "preachy", but stick with me)
Hello Charlotte always has been very artificial as a fiction, but here its worldstate is so rebellious that it's a wonder any coherency occurs. Though, I will say, the conceptualization of creator and creation here (remember who and where you are at all times in the story) is perhaps more vital and centers more than that explanation leads on, and there's a layer of, for lack of a better term, knowing bratiness that IS SO IMPORTANT TO INTERNALIZE by the end or else you'd just fuckin' hate this shit. But, even then, these things are likely to someone's distaste (understandably so) given how brash and just straight up trying it all can be at the best of moments.
BUT, that's the thing, and I'm gonna just come out and say it, HC3's rigor and vulnerability remain unmatched in the space of games, even in the rolling wake of personal games or w/e tag you'd ascribe to them. It has a pinpoint line of sight to the core of tumblr's now-ruinous identity and truth politics and proceeds to shred the Earth's mantle to get there. You could not make this up if you tried - etherane shoveled the trenches of that distinct blog-era mental-to-digital-to-mental anguish and isolation, and the dirt and clay, cracking in the fiery kiln, forms this completely unstable work that cannot be any less angry or confused than it is, lest it fail to... be itself. But it succeeds, and I am so fucking thankful that someone out there spoke to it with such bare intentions, because it's a cultural aftershock that affected me and continues to affect me on multiple levels - I reckon this is at least partially why the game gets such a strong response years after its initial release, because it's prodding the tender points of a life so common among its demographic but also one that's, from my own experience, hard to come to terms with. I've seen some people struggle to understand or even outright despise this game for this, but in my case, there's no way, man. This game got it.
ALSO sneak-attack Heaven's Gate review because I finally played it: so much more than the AU tag gives it credit for, at least in the sense that it doesn't feel at all out of step with anything else in the series. I mean, rigid fiction HellChar is not, so what's a couple of smudged details to stop you from feeling out Charles, Anri, and Vincent as a graduating class? It pretty much sledgehammers the layers of abstraction left in HC and becomes unfettered conversations with these ideologues that the True Realm characters have assumed the roles of. Despite that, though, it's maybe the most natural dialogue of the series and every conversation with these three ends up being just SO emotionally fulfilling and a great treat for those who already liked the sprite versions of them. I guess that is etherane's twisted idea of an AU? God, please miss, just once.

Incredible in many ways, and I mean that sincerely despite my rating. A bit fuckin' befuddling that a game released in '93 existed that was anywhere near this level of focused and austere (there's literally a single-digit list of games I can think of off the top of my head to call seniors of this). The cacophonous polyrhythms of the industrial soundtrack mixed with the mind-puttying repetition and paranoiac structure to be genuinely as sharp as things that'd arrive Years afterwards (I'm insufferable so Grasshopper's work came to mind. But there's other things, too!!)
However, I didn't find myself engaged in the substance beyond that, unfortunately. There's a through-line of religious allusions, child apparitions, and increasingly bizarre spaces that don't really meld into anything coherently (or incoherently, for that matter) interesting. At the risk of sounding like a philistine, I'm not sure that I even think this game is really trying to be "about" anything in the traditional narrative sense? It's a clever adventure game inversion released in an era that lends it an UBER-evocativeness... sort of perfectly uncanny the whole way down. But, man, it's a bit too slight and unlasting to really be more than a virtual tchotchke. A very, very well crafted one - but one nonetheless.

Well, any game that delays a series playthrough for [checks watch] about 2 years or so can’t NOT be remarked upon, but therein lies one of my big problems. DMC2 isn’t a particularly interesting failure - I could rack my brain for new insights into the game, do some research into how it came to be so bizarre - but is it worth any of that? Its badness is loud, its badness is appalling, its badness is... somehow disappointing, even. On the other side of my very chronologically-fractured playthrough, even the memes about DMC2 feel misled. And it’s not like they’re wrong, this game genuinely might be one of the worst games released by a historically respected company (magnified only by the times in which it was) - but it’s not "midnight theater movie" bad, it’s "scooping out a heaping spoonful of shortening and eating it like Nutella" bad. Which is funny, in a way, because there are some very distinct bits of brightness jutting out of the flesh-prison this game’s spirit occupies. The soundtrack ain’t terrible! Some of the boss designs are kinda cool, I guess! And while Dante’s moveset is far less developed and far more awkward than it was in DMC1, it’s not like he’s agonizing to play as. I would even venture to say that, regrettably perhaps, I’ve played worse.
With all this in mind, you might be tempted to don the contrarian outfit and say some half-baked thing like, “WELL, if this wasn’t a DMC game, this would be the exact kind of game that would have a small fanbase of people on sites just like this! But because it’s a meme game, people watch a longplay, rate it .5 stars out of obligation and move on.” This might be the case, random person I made up to argue with, but we live in the present, and said present is where this is the followup to a, IMHO, pretty fuckin’ good action game that manages to get almost nothing about what was established in the now-series right. From the top of the pyramid to the bottom, this game does not secure a single win for itself. I mean, it’s the most obvious failure of them all, but I cannot stop thinking about how DMC2’s shift into gun-heavy gameplay completely ruins at least 5 separate aspects of the DMC formula. The style ranks? They don’t work now. The boss encounters? Trivialized in many cases. The game’s economy? Might as well not exist.
I feel like I’m wasting your precious bandwidth explaining it, as anyone with time in the game could glean these kinda things for themselves until it’s empirically obvious. And that’s why, more-or-less, this portion of my series playthrough took so long. The droves of DMC fans deep in their lifelong quest to never forgive Capcom successfully quarantined this game from the layperson. It’s pretty wack, as it turns out! And while I guess I could mold myself an excuse for having playing it, I really can’t imagine a why for other folks. So I don’t say it as, like, a ~product review~ or whatever, I say it as life advice. You don’t need this.
(p.s. the game crashed halfway through the final chapter. nice.)

I have a special place in my heart for survival horror games where you can hold down the run button to move your character forward. I'm hoping that in the sequels they reduce the deceleration on it because all I could think about while playing this was how much I wanted to drift Miku around the corners of the Himuro Mansion like a car.

I mean, what the hell was I expecting, right.
I had tried and failed to play through this game several times in my life, the first being as early as my grade school days. I should’ve seen that as a sign, but for whatever reason I just recently purchased this game (for the first time, mind you - said grade school copy was a friend’s that was borrowed and never returned. Sorry Brandon), which refueled my determination exactly enough to say I did it.
It was shocking, I guess, to see just how humble the beginnings of the series were. I don’t know jack shit about the increasingly incoherent tale of Sora and co., but the fact that this game ended and I went “huh, that was actually pretty straightforward,” is bonkers considering what I was expecting. I mean, that’s not necessarily a compliment considering how trite the dark/light concepts became by the end (I hear the rest of the series continues this trend...), but the story of Sora, Riku, and Kairi confronting their futures as individuals was a compelling FF-type of experience that, unfortunately, was geared for an audience that I’m not a part of. As a personal aside, I always find myself at odds with Square games because they require quite a bit of emotional vulnerability to be impactful, and sometimes that just ain’t me. I’ve made my peace with other games in this world like FFX, a game which is very earnest and tender should you be willing to let it move you. Here? Umm, oops, I think I waited too long to feel impacted by this coming-of-age story!
As for the combat and stuff, it’s surprisingly(?) solid. The fundamentals of your attacks (long-startup, short-startup, final long windup, x100,000 times) don’t get old as much as they get squared against things which always feel like they could be more interesting in either a specifically-RPG or specifically-action context. But they do work, and given that they have to carry you through a 20-30 hour game, that ain’t too bad. However, the magic components here feel pretty weak, both in use and concept. I did go shield/wand at the very beginning, so I’m not sure how much that affected my experience, but especially late-game I found it a lot more effective to just stack physical abilities and equip Divine Rose to erase health bars that were peskily larger than I wanted to deal with. Oh, and graviga, of course. Busted-ass spell.
In the end, though, I think the thing that broke the spell was ultimately just realizing I was sort of playing it out of an obligation to finish. I enjoyed bits, of course: even with the unpleasant level design, it’s hard not to be charmed by these worlds which fit the criteria of their respective movies in a sort of Disney dark-ride way. And as expected, Yoko Shimomura was fucking COOKING here. But the stretches of mediocrity ran too long, and the corners were too tempting to cut when the things I enjoyed were beginning to drift away to leave behind Ansem. What a shithead.
I dunno, sorry I don’t have that many insightful things to say. I just practically shooed the kids out of the Mcdonald’s playplace and then complained that I got stuck in the tubes. I can’t say I regret finally toppling one of my all-time rivals, but I do kind of regret spending time here hoping something would change my mind when clearly this silly little game about a lil boy and his lil-but-slightly-bigger friend who has a crush on him was never going to be my thing, lol. Shoutouts to goofy and donald tho them boys my slime fr😤

broke: Pablo Sanchez is one of the best virtual athletes in a sports game
woke: if you put pink in your team logo and choose her first, Maria Luna gets a massive stat buff (6, 7, 3, 7, to 9, 9, 9, 10) and becomes easily the best player in the game

I'm not gonna talk too much about this because frankly I didn't spend the time in it to warrant, like, rating or reviewing it properly. But the few hours I did prod around were foreboding. My initial excitement towards the game stemmed partially from knowing about its weird structure - you solve a great deal of the puzzles with outside research. Like, there's literally a button in the UI that forces open your PC's default internet browser. And this seemed strange and exciting until the tutorial in which I searched a keyword for the first time and "How to solve [puzzle] Chinatown Detective Agency" was near the top of the results. It's such a strange problem for a game to have, blockades of uncurated (uncuratable? that a word?) information outright poisoning the experience, seemingly through no fault but... naivety? All at once it sorta dawned on me that having puzzles be externally sourced is, for more than one reason, a really fucking bad idea.
And, granted, you could just ignore it if you really wanted to, but considering the game has a built-in hint system that charges your playable character money, which is a resource that actually holds weight in this game, you are really not encouraged to engage honestly with the game by its own admission.
So, while I stuck around for a few more cases (one of which contained a very esoteric puzzle and made the aforementioned google-issue all the more tender), I uninstalled the moment I returned to the desktop - a mystery game with a gaping, shredded hole in its flowchart doesn't instill a lot of confidence and playing games on Game Pass means whatever leash they have on me in normal circumstances might as well be made of Fruit By the Foot here. This wasn't the only red flag either, for what it's worth, but it was the most fascinating easily.

Being on this website means I’m likely in proximity to the densest population of Silent Hill 4 fans per internet-mileage. It really cannot be overstated just how steep the dropoff in numbers is from the average SH fan to one that’s played, let alone likes SH4. And it’s not hard to see why, frankly. It’s a challenging experience even within its series’ context, which says a lot considering the comparison points. Honestly, outside of plot, previous experience with the series HARDLY prepares you - it’d be a lesson in frustration to approach this game with the same lens or expectations as SH1-3. Credit where it’s due though, that knotted, at times appalling temperament SH4 carries is attractive in its own way. While I’d hesitate to call it a wholly innocent victim of its reception, I still think it’s plenty deserving of this simmering enthusiasm which has cropped up on the outskirts of Silent Hill fandom.
Everyone who plays it can speak to the all-out bonkers audiovisuals - however, I do think that the malaise encircling this game like a cloud extends beyond its surface. Despite being the most standoffish of the games, it’s still just as interested in character work as the others. After showing up and then some with the characters in their previous two games, it’s clear they were after something different here. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but there’s a muted, uncanny veil over the game which hadn’t been there previously. And these things in tandem lead to some odd bits, like Henry’s VA’s brand of anti-charisma choking the life out of every sentence from his mouth (he doesn't even speak that much to begin with), or the brief, cursory nature of the to-be sacrament encounters.
Does it fail itself in this regard? No, not necessarily, though the experience is undeniably colored by these things, and I’d be lying if I said it was batting .1000. It’s hard not to feel like this game’s pacing and presentation is a little more matted and coarse than the ones before it, and I’m sorry, but this pairs with the languid and sometimes even grating first half a little unpleasantly (and yes, I do acknowledge the irony of complaining about the first half of a game with a notoriously hellish second half, stick with me). I’ll put it this way: if there was ever an accomplice alongside the heavy emphasis on its half-baked combat that tanked this game’s reception, I’d point fingers in that direction. I’m trying to avoid outright comparisons to the previous games, but we are an ocean’s distance from Angela’s mirror scene or Heather’s gutting car ride speech as far as sauce goes.
And yet, it’s still not that easy to cast off, is it? I truly cannot stand the term “polish” (pah-lish, not poe-lish. I just rated The Witcher 3’s DLC highly, I’ll have you know) with regards to game quality, but in SH1-3’s case, I think you’d be hard-pressed to think of better examples for great parts being uninhibited for those experiencing them, and said clarity only helping the end result. SH4 is... simply a different beast.
There’s this omnipresent, dangerous intention fueling the game, infamously and most importantly with the apartment itself, that ends up making a hell of a case for the rest of it. Its entire being is one of pure malevolence, and you aren’t really expected to handle any of it well. SH4 is the video game equivalent of that brief physiological meltdown you have realizing you’re covered in skin that’s sensitive and prone to injury with one wrong move, timestreched to 7 or 8-ish hours depending on how many extras you collect. It ain’t pretty, but does it really need to be?
The second half, particularly the final quarter, is exhausting and confusing and straight up BRILLIANT. People have spoken plenty to the room hauntings and whatnot, but I think my favorite bit of this half is the sacrament ghosts returning and even PERSISTING should you fail to pin them down. And that’s just one little detail - in execution, there’s several more vital bits caving in on you while you descend to the finish line (which is also insane). I was honestly a little shocked to discover that not only did I think this halftime switch-up was effective, I thought it was great; then again, I have a perfect run of Dead Rising 1 under my belt (360 btw, no big deal), so perhaps I’m just built different.
(side note: speaking of Dead Rising, Eileen’s AI is actually pretty good? Sure, the pathfinding’s imperfect, but she’s capable offensively, so long as you unequip her weapon when you don’t want to fight (which, considering she’s otherwise completely uncontrollable by the player, is lowkey impressive). I can’t help but feel like the general parroted hatred of escort missions tainted the consensus of this part of the game, which is ridiculous to me. A core theme of this game is altruism and you’re complaining that she gets stuck sometimes? L. Simply put.)
I could talk about this game more, but this is getting long and I’m clearly rambling. But in a way, that’s kind of the best part about SH4? It’s more hushed reception and far weirder take on Silent Hill as a concept means there’s still quite a bit of cud to chew on here. I dissed him earlier a lil bit, but Henry’s distant protagonisms end up meaning that a lot of this game’s more complicated ideas are mere suggestions from the environment or memos. Considering how depressed I should be that after years of procrastinating, I’ve finally finished what might be the greatest quadrilogy of games ever developed, I have a feeling that there’s still something to be gained here. And, selfishly, as a fan of these games, I’m pretty fuckin’ pumped about that.

If there’s any genre that can immediately sound MORE appealing these days by coupling itself with an open world, it’s the puzzle game. Not only does a non-linear structure ensure some pressure relief on the brain valve when it comes to inevitably getting stuck, but there’s always a promise being made by open world puzzlers that what you’re doing is simply one branch of a larger tree, and that coalescence of everything is the ultimate reward for mastery of those seemingly disparate mechanics.
I try to avoid overtly structured reviews, but the design of Sensorium is practically begging for segmented thoughts. I’m sorry, but I decided to give into that part of my brain that always wants to make reviews worse but easier and more fun to write. Forgive me!
The most “familiar” set of puzzles, essentially sliding blocks like every 6th Generation action-adventure game had, albeit with the game’s logic gate system topping each like a garnish. The final puzzle in this one is a bit of a bastard, and I think the gnarly difficulty spike is partially to blame (still a good puzzle tho!). Generally though, intuitive and straightforward, and the late-game remix of these puzzles are mostly great (minus one, which I guess is the curse of touch). IN SUMMATION: 3.5 DEKU STICKS OUT OF 5
Sight’s premise is simple: there is a grid of buttons, figure out which ones are to be pressed. This area’s best ideas are really good, utilizing almost entirely visual cues, which is always impressive to me. Despite a few easy stinkers, I think of this one more fondly than touch due to its peaks being higher. IN SUMMATION: 4 BLUE SQUARES OUT OF 5
Listen. I think I like this area simply because I got to flex my semi-trained ear and grace through it by partially using my relative pitch. I reckon it might be more challenging and/or tedious for people who don’t practice music.
This area DEFINITELY hearkens back to the infamous jungle segment of The Witness, though I’d say this one is more reasonable in its execution. I suppose now is a good time to point out that this game, in contrast to, say, The Witness, is pretty short and a vastly more casual experience. Admittedly, this area is a victim of that, it being somewhat shallow and containing a mechanic that gets better use in the late-game. IN SUMMATION: 3 PEE BOTTLES OUT OF 5
Oh man... I don’t envy the creator of this game for having the task of gamifying taste of all things, but the infantile onramp of this mechanic and the very weak finale puzzle should’ve made them realize that their swing was a little /too/ ridiculous for the final product. The puzzles themselves make enough sense, and it eventually gets some utility, but it is handily the weakest open-world segment as both a concept and design.
There’s an unlockable dev museum in the game, and Tad Cordle is pleasantly generous with BTS anecdotes of the game’s development there. They mentioned in the taste area that the original idea was to outright dodge any need to implement a taste mechanic by having a dead NPC having done most of it for you, and as strange as that might sound, reading about it immediately had me wondering how interesting something of that nature would’ve been to see. This, however, was dead in the water almost immediately. IN SUMMATION: 2 GOAT BALLS OUT OF 5
It’s funny, taste is such a foreign sensation to acquiesce into something like logic puzzles, but at least there’s some avenues that’d make sense: recipes, nutrition, flavor profiles, just to name a few that came to mind. Smell, in comparison, is almost laughably abstract. However, using smell’s tie to memory and a few ballsy design choices, this one ends up being the cleverest area of the bunch... it’s so clever, in fact, that I’m going to avoid talking more about it. Just know that it’s my favorite despite also being the shortest at a whopping 1 whole puzzle. IN SUMMATION: 4.5 ZAZA EXPERTS OUT OF 5
My (JOKE) tally might sound harsh, but it doesn’t factor in the finale, which is 10 larger-scale puzzles that remix and combine each sense’s main mechanic, mostly to great effect. On top of that, there’s a post-game which leads to that dev museum I brought up earlier, and while those puzzles are arguably inessential and relatively esoteric, they’re at least interestingly so. It’s games like this that make me seriously regret having a restrictive rating system, let alone a rating system at all. I’m not about to develop some stalwart defense of this game compared to The Witness, its only real contemporary as far as I’m aware and a MUCH more involved and messy game to tackle. This is one that I want to praise specifically because of the more utilitarian aspects of my time with it - it’s short, I paid 5 bucks on sale for it, but it’s far from insubstantial. It’s a puzzle game, for god sake.
I developed a real Sokoban Fatigue from an app store’s influx of cheap, uninspiring puzzle games that all stem from the same principles, so I find it genuinely amusing that there’s a small-scale open world puzzle game, one that benefits from that smaller scale, manages to still be playfully varietal, and, in this combination, finds comfort in just... being. You know what, this game isn’t even getting a rating. Is it kino? I don’t fucking know, are advent calendars kino? Is a visit from your grandpa kino? Get a grip.

Some cute moments here and there, albeit deeply insubstantial despite the ever-looming setup. But an alright time taken at face value. Personally, I found the puzzles to be almost universally easy save for one which took like 15 minutes. Sorry! I guess I'm just enlightened like that [wakes up with a catheter inside of me and I begin seeing circles everywhere] oh fuck oh no

I played some DJMAX for the first time today. It brought me an unexpected amount of happiness to start a rhythm game in 2022 and be greeted by expressive UI and a setlist of songs I didn't first download off of some Google Drive account. Don't get me wrong, the post-copyright rhythm game landscape we live in where games like osu!, Clone Hero and, if we're really getting unambiguous, PPDXXX and TJAPlayer3 practically hand the keys to the already-invested audience is hard to argue against, especially from the perspective of said enthusiasts who couldn't possibly squeeze anything more out of the original property.
But there is something to be said of music games as a celebration of music first and foremost, which is something that I can't help but think enthusiasts lose sight of. The one I'm most familiar with is this very one - I've been an on/off member of the GH community since GH1, and it's obvious that Clone Hero is second only to the money-spewing titan GH3 in maintaining the lifespan of that game, and for good reason! It's what you could only hope in your wildest dreams would pop up if the computer-illiterate you from 15 years ago typed "guitar hero pc free" into a search bar. It comes with... like 3 songs to start, but with some resources which are SHOCKINGLY easy to find and use, you can fill this bad boy up quick with free, high-quality, community-handled charts. As a former child who begged my parents for money to buy 1-3 DLC songs at a time, it fucking rules. It feels like having all of your birthdays at the same time.
I... I don't know how to explain this next part quickly, but I'll try my best. At some point a few years ago, it was discovered that the GH guitars made for the Wii, coupled with an adapter which made them wired, were unmistakably superior as far as latency and poll rate went. This was seen as a great thing for Clone Hero considering how easy it was to find them at Goodwill for like, $20 or w/e. However, a slow but inevitable discovery crept over the horizon, which is that CH at 2ms lag and 1000hz poll rates is trivially easy at times and absolutely exploitable! You see, the game has a relatively large hit window for the notes and unlike, say, Rock Band, there's no punishment for players who press incorrect frets between notes. This, without you knowing it, has likely saved your ass several times while playing the game casually, as charts which would've been difficult in the console games are inherently easier due to these things in tandem making note inputs more lenient than ever.
I would love for the game to take some inspiration from the older games and tighten that hit window down to only the strikeline (and in their defense, there's an optional modifier that alleviates this a bit). As it is right now, it's an issue, I think. But it is only an extension of the true issue.
Put some vaseline on your fingers (note: some don't and literally injure their skin! AAAH!) and get ready to TAP BABY! We've all mashed the buttons in a rhythm game, trying to maintain a combo only for the game to likely spit out negative feedback instead for trying to one-up it. Well, Clone Hero is one of a scant few games which sees this and goes, "Woah! You're really good!"
This has obvious effects in the short-term. Section FCs of dense tapping patterns are no longer that impressive by themselves in a world where anyone with a wool glove can mash that shit out. And mash it they do, as some of the more recent community accomplishments in the game have been done while utilizing these techniques. High-level players left scorned by these exploits have to place trust in the discerning audience to understand that them playing "clean" is impressive for its own sake. But for me, as an observer and player, the true bumps have only been felt long-term.
When I watch someone play a song at 250% speed and the accompanying webcam SFX is just a blitz of plastic meeting skin, it induces an existential episode within me where I'm not even sure why this game is being played to begin with. Like, if rhythm games are on one side of the spectrum then, I dunno, Go is on the other. One asks you to press buttons precisely and in a strict order and the other is played in a partnership, within an unknowable context, as to know it would be to understand human consciousness on a person-to-person basis.
This comparison isn't to disparage rhythm games at a foundational level, but rather it's to highlight how deep tremors like this can be felt. What is the message that a rhythm game this exploitable is sending out to the universe? I'm not a Go expert, but I do understand it to be a pretty rigid strategy game that has withstood ONE HELL of a timespan. Frankly, where CH is at in its small life, I wouldn't be surprised if a problem of this scale means the heights of the game have already passed us by. Imagine if Go had to reckon with something like that. It probably wouldn't have left the damn Zhou dynasty.
When I played DJMAX today, I'll admit I found it pretty easy to play even the hardest stuff because I have experience in the genre. And hell, it might also be in the same boat as CH as far as engine-born problems go. I have no idea. But at least providing the warmth of curated, varietal multimedia has wooed me for a bit, and I'll likely be keeping it around for a while as a result.
P.S.: Clone Hero also has drum support and all the issues from above do not exist there. I love playing drums on CH and I do it often!

I have close to no affinity for the turtles, Konami's arcade beat-em-ups, or Scott Pilgrim's game adaptation, so the fact that I can say "I like it kinda!" is honestly a larger W for Tribute and DotEmu than it may seem.
There was an active cabinet for The Simpsons in my local mall, nestled in the back of a Slackers (local used game/movie/music store). Inevitably I'd pass by and pony up some pocket change to it, play the first stage or two, and leave whenever someone in my group wanted to or whenever I ran out of lives. Years later, when I eventually emulated the game, infinity quarters in hand, I realized after a full run, “Oh. This isn’t great.”
The Simpsons arcade game has undoubtedly MAJOR strengths: for one, it is one of if not the best rendition of the yellow family in a game, ever. 3D never does them any favors, early spritework was inevitably uncanny and budgeted (I mean this figuratively, but also probably literally) compared to the real deal, but arcade’s stronger power and Konami’s visual artists strike a perfect line between vivid and simplistic (especially for a pre-SNES ‘91, goddamn). It’s also just inherently funny that The Simpsons have a beat-em-up? The era of the 2D Simpsons games is notoriously gonzo conceptually, but the main four cast members beating the shit outta people just goes to show how strong genre conventions could make your random IP a fondly-remembered classic.
Anyway, apply everything I just said to TMNT and its games, and we have arrived at My Point™. We are dealing with a genre that exists in a dichotomous state of steely genre-worship and volatile relevancy, playing in a shibboleth minefield of its own making. When one of these is transcendent, it hits hard, yet I square up against send-ups constantly, many sold on the premise that it’s A Revival of The Genre. Many of them fail this, some... well, at least one succeeded. And wouldn’t you know it, DotEmu also published that.
I’ll cut to the chase: though this doesn’t do enough to make me feel convinced that I now love this type of beat-em-up, I admire it regardless. I’ll take the slow, technical pace of Ninja Warriors or AvP (queen vs. queen, but lord knows April ain’t no Lt. Kurosawa, no sir...) anyday, especially if it means I don’t have to deal with Konami beat-em-up bosses. But this is somewhere above the average, with a slightly higher threshold for mindful play, even if it does manifest in quick n’ dirty solutions like a dodge and RPG progression. And while I do prefer my action games to be studious and long-form, getting wall-to-wall bonkers shit right is an art of its own. And being well past the era of piggy bank sacrifices only makes this harder for Tribute, yet here we are.
I mean hey, the game allows for 6-player simultaneous co-op. I feel like that’s giving the secret away from the jump.

Hey there! I’ll be honest, I don’t have a great deal of interest in talking about Elden Ring in any formal capacity. If someone wants to pay me to do it, I might, but no-one likely does. :/
Anyway, instead of a write-up, I’m just gonna list my 10 favorite proper nouns in the game.
10. Vulgar Militiamen (keepsies on this one for my future hardcore punk band)
9. Shabriri Grape
8. Ancient Death Rancor
7. Morgott, The Omen King
6. Flame, Fall Upon Them (the choice to make spell names full sentences is always sick, regardless of property)
5. Fingercreeper
4. Land Squirt
3. Albinauric Bloodclot (I would ride around on Torrent just mouthing “albinauric bloodclot” a lot)
2. [Bastard’s Stars]('s+Stars)
and finally, 1. Godskin Stitcher
Alright, bye!!

The name says it all for this one. At first I assumed it was an ironic deployment on some 20 Jazz Funk Greats shit, like “haha, postcards! Those cheesy little idealized frames for your gaudy-ass vacation where you went to someone’s home like it was a carnival.” And I guess that’s a read you could take if you were being incredibly uncharitable, but then you’d have to explain the weight which lifted every time I plugged through the chaos of thecatamite’s thorny satirical comedy and into a large, unobstructed picture of a human’s written accounts of... Experience?
That’s what this whole game’s about, right? We talk about texture a lot in games, often in the utilitarian sense, but here it’s being employed to such an extreme extent. This collage type of game has been made many times, yet it’s this one which elides barriers and nearly all traditional forms of interaction games have to show just how MUCH we are responsible for, good or bad. It certainly helps that thecatamites has a truly deft pen and easel game. There's some really striking zine-like moments often tied up with genuinely funny byte-sized characters in here.
I hate to speak in such general terms for a game which has some HIGHLY specific pathos coursing through it, but I guess that’s inevitable. It’s hard to convey this decathlon of synapse roadways that loop into and through and above and below and around each other with words alone.