36 Reviews liked by GodManAntilope

dmc3 lies in the center of a hinge point in action game design, wedding the linear structures and rigid scenarios of before to a novel, thrillingly expressive combat system. much in the way the original dmc opened the door for nuanced and free-flowing aggression divorced from the three-hit combos of the past, so too did dmc3 give birth to staggering flexibility in combo composition and approach. the buttery smooth interruptible frames on each attack, the instantaneous weapon switching mid-combo, and the subtle additions of so many cute pieces of kit (the crazy combos! riding enemies! swinging on the pole!) comprise just the basics for how rich dmc3's combat can get.
of the updates to the first two games, the most innovative is the style system, which undergirds much of that aforementioned flexibility. this mechanic lets the player select a set of contextual actions to bind to the circle button, where each set fundamentally upheaves dante's capabilities. while the early-game toolkit for each style is restrictive, the fully-upgraded variants of each of the core styles offers a wealth of fresh options to those willing to dig. of these the most interesting are swordmaster and royalguard, the former of which gives dante a full secondary button of attacks (including aerial raves, blessedly rescued from dmc2) while the latter imbues dante with a powerful parry and rage mechanic. what separates dante's parry from many modern implementations is the stricter timing for successful parries versus blocks with chip damage, as well as the ability to release all stored rage at once with strict timing in an extremely potent "just release." the trickster and gunslinger abilities are also equally interesting, although I personally did not invest a lot of time in gunslinger, while trickster mainly serves as additional evasion for those who want to supplant dante's built-in dodge roll and jumping i-frames (which is not to say I didn't use it! I used it plenty, and air trick is cool af).
however, dmc3 still resides within the classic character action structure of item puzzles, interconnected areas, and hidden secrets strewn throughout the demon tower central to the game's narrative. like I mentioned in last year's ninja gaiden black review, this structure still dominated the burgeoning character action genre up through the end of the ps2 era. this essential contradiction between stiff scenarios and loose gameplay systems both makes dmc3 a fascinating relic of its era as well as a harder sell for someone first exposed to the genre through metal gear rising revengeance or one of the bayonettas.
the first place this becomes apparent is in the enemy design. dmc3's main popcorn enemies (the hells) help buoy the game's reputation as a combo showcase while also being formidable foes in their own right, especially the lusts with their hectic pace and dashing slices as well as the teleporting, lumbering sloths. however, the remaining foes veer into requiring stricter strategies for their defeat. the blood-goyles, for instance, mandate that the player shoot their intangible forms repeatedly until calcifying into a hardened form that dante can damage. the soul eaters are another good example of this, where they exist in an gaseous mist until dante turns his back to them, allowing them to gel into a demonic squid and charge at dante from behind. these enemies change the combat from being very player-driven to rather enemy-driven when they appear. the encounters themselves also often avoid being pure combat arenas in favor of including specific objectives, such as fighting on the runaway temperance wagon while enigmas take potshots at you from a separate rail, or the late-game hourglass fight that reverses the flow of time if you fail to clear the room in time. these areas further predicate the player's success on their ability to adapt to a specific context rather than twist the pace of the fight to match their preferences.
this is not necessarily an appealing proposition to those hoping to spend the entire game freestyling to their heart's content, and I sympathize with this point of view. however, because dante is restricted to two guns, two weapons, and a single style, the ordering of fixed encounters with predictable enemy arrangements and locations creates an interesting dilemma for the player when selecting a loadout. the desire to use comfortable tools clashes with the need to select optimal arrangements to deal with these more puzzle-like enemies, but with the vast variety of options at dante's disposal, the choices rarely feel prescribed. the soul eaters may be quickly dispatched by the handguns' backwards shot in the gunslinger style, but the player could also find spots in the environment to trap them in order to combo off of (such as the balcony railing in the altar of evil room), or they can use a few of their devil trigger orbs for a powerful devil trigger explosion. exploiting the environment and synergizing a build to match whatever encounters you're struggling with adds a mindfulness to the otherwise-impulsive combat.
exploring different loadouts for different scenarios becomes even more important when it comes to the game's many bosses. each of the bosses runs the gamut in terms of what skills they require from the player, and with that comes exploring the separate tools that work best with each. beowulf, for example, has a three-hit combo in his first phase that can easily be air parried to store up a massive just release, taking off an excessive amount of health (nearly a third on DMD difficulty!). alternatively, I found that beowulf's powerful phase 2 attacks frequently crushed my guarding, and thus found myself using trickster more often to evade the frequent wooden cages he brings crashing from the sky. cerberus at first glance seemed apt for switch canceling between the rifle and the handguns, but I also found merit in maximizing DPS with the swordmaster style, alternating rebellion and agni & rudra in the air to take out each head as quickly as possible. admittedly these are two of the more robust bosses; fights like nevan and vergil err more on the side of call-and-response, where the player can use basically any tactic as long as they can respond to the movesets of each, while the late-game doppleganger centers environmental interaction with lights on the field that are used to stun the boss. while these bosses rely less on loadout experimentation, they still require attention to detail by the player in order to maximize damage output, locate weak positions, and learn proper spacings.
dante must die, the penultimate difficulty mode, pushes the element of loadout creation and room routing to both its highest and lowest points. unquestionably DMD's balancing is far too skewed in favor of buffing up enemy health to pure sponge levels. when it comes to rooms primarily consisting of the hells, this gives the player some room to breathe in terms of constructing more elaborate combos, but at the same time the length of these encounters and the diminished stagger on enemies that have entered their devil trigger makes repeated jump-canceled moves a safer option. enemies such as the fallen go from tests of aerial mastery to slogging through the same repeated inputs in between waiting for their sword spin to finish. the tedium approaches agony in the latter half of the game, where a boss like geryon with an interesting multi-phase moveset and time-slow traps transforms into a claustrophic nightmare where the only reasonable way to approach it itemless is by stunlocking it in a loop. the chessboard scenario late in the game takes the awesome concept of fighting off a full set of chess pieces (including pawns that respawn as other units if you let them reach the board's end) to an obnoxiously long war of attrition repeatedly spamming killer bee on the king. dmd heightens the contradiction between rigid scenario and expressive gameplay to such an extent that I don't necessarily think it's worth pursuing for most people.
by comparison, very hard was incredibly enjoyable and allowed total flexibility in approach, and its status as the american hard mode and lack of enemy DT made decision-making and routing less of an issue. that's totally fine! the game bursts to its seams with combat features that getting to freestyle more often isn't a detriment in the slightest. however, it must be said that getting to fight for my life through dmd, balancing issues aside, did satisfy that unique sense of routing and pre-planning that few others in the genre can attest to. the sheer difficulty and bulky enemies led me to incorporate techniques I would otherwise ignored, from guard-canceling reverb shocks with nevan to experimenting with artemis' upgrades in the gunslinger style; I still have so much to learn in terms of experimenting with each aspect of dante's toolkit. managing devil trigger as a resource also becomes so much more essential on dmd given the massive power of the DTE and its usefulness both for quick health and as a shield of sorts when mitigating an unavoidable attack. reading and watching the sheer variety of strategies across the game has become a meta-feature of the game's depth that has enraptured me since I began delving more into the game myself over the last few months. even the chessboard has a reasonable quicksilver strat, though to say this makes the fight significantly more interesting may be overselling it. dmc3's status as the harbringer of player-driven combat expression while still remaining entrenched in enemy-driven scenario solutions gives it a unique mechanical blend that cements it as an iconic pillar of the genre.
I certainly wouldn't hold it over anyone if they wanted to try the switch port and how it allows the player to use their entire arsenal simultaneously; the mayhem you can get up to is astonishing. hell, if I play dmd again it might be on that port just to see how it fundamentally changes the experience (I've heard that it evens out much of the annoying shit, especially regarding bosses). there certainly is something worth investigating here in its original form though that hasn't been replicated since; newer titles like astral chain that lean into the adventure elements are doing so having absorbed over a decade of AAA tropes since dmc3's release, and fresh titles like bayonetta 3 compartmentalize their setpieces while dmc3 makes them part and parcel with the combat. although the contradictory nature of this particular flavor of 3D action has unsurprisingly gone out of style, I still feel affectionate to the way it ushered in our modern conception of stylish combat while paying tribute to the RE-derived scenario design all these games owe so much to.

When Peppino runs and cries,
And you're never out of tries,

That's amore~
This game is incredible. Straight from the oven of a person who thought "What if I made my own Wario Land 4 and made it just as insane?" If you're familiar at all with Wario Land 4, you'll immediately be able to draw comparisons, from the abstract level design and art style to the insanely well made soundtrack.
You play as Peppino, a pizza shop owner who must now climb the titular Pizza Tower so that Pizza Face, an evil Pizza, doesn't blow Peppino's pizza shop to smithereens. If the word "pizza" doesn't start sounding strange to you now, give it some time, I'm not done using it yet.
The gameplay loop for Pizza Tower is simple; go through stages in each zone, collect enough cash in each zone to unlock the boss door, fight the area boss, repeat. The real sauce of this game is how each stage has you frantically searching for ingredients that net you a total amount of cash on level completion. Peppino's moveset is oozing with flavor, having a sprint, bash, wall climb, ground pound, dive, and even a Metroid shine spark because, yes, every 2D game needs a Metroid shine spark. This doesn't even count some stages that have gimmick abilities like spicy breath, rockets you can fly on, bubbles, and so much more. These stage specific abilities help in giving each stage their own identity among the various zones, with some abilities being as absurd as a flying chicken companion based on an old 3D PS1 platformer, to an entirely contained mini golf course.
Peppino can't die from normal damage in regular stages, instead only losing points that go towards your total score at the end of any given stage. Your incentive to not get hit all comes from how well you want to be scored, the lowest rank being an undercooked D, and the highest being a well baked P. This way the game can draw in both types of motivated players; ones who want to improve on every playthrough and those who just want to play the game as is.
No matter what type of player you are, you'll probably end up blasting through each stage at breakneck speeds. Stages are built with this high speed of play in mind, including ramps to maintain your momentum and enemies being helpless to your fastest sprint speed. The speed you move at is key because, once you make it to the end of every stage, the game has you run all the way back through it to the entrance before the timer ticks down. At this point in the stage, new paths are opened that were originally walled off, incentivizing those who feel so bold to now explore more of the level before Pizza Face wakes up and kills the player for real.
So that's gameplay. And it's great, but the real special sauce to this pizza is the presentation. Pizza Tower is one of the most manic looking episodes of a game I've ever seen. So much time and love was put into every animation present throughout the entire game. Peppino has a wide range of expressions, from his timid idle animation to his deranged full sprint speed. The humor and expressiveness in this game feels like it's inspired from older cartoons like Ren & Stimpy or Rocko's Modern Life, with the anatomy of Peppino, his allies, and enemies all incredibly exaggerated for comedic affect, even down to the audio.
The music captures that Wario Land 4 feeling almost perfectly. There aren't as many slower tracks through out Pizza Tower, but the ones that go hard and fast are incredible. Many of the samples used throughout are the same used through out much of Wario Land 4, and the core theme, "It's Pizza Time", always delivers that rush of adrenaline when sprinting back to the entrance of a stage before time is up. I really can't praise the music enough. All stage themes fit their aesthetic perfectly, always lending to create that extra feeling that every stage was crafted with every key detail in mind.
Pizza Tower truly is a supreme example of the type of game that can be crafted through the inspiration of another. Since it's time, Wario Land 4 hasn't really been topped in how it shook up the 2D platforming genre. And while Pizza Tower takes much of the way Wario Land 4 is structured, it never stops being it's own game that derives a similar yet separate enjoyment all together. I'm so glad the developers could deliver such a flavorful deep dish of a game. This is one mom and pop's that I'll be coming back to several more times, even after finishing my first slice. Highly recommended!

For the first few years that The Beach Boys existed, they were little more than an average surf rock outfit with a couple great singles. But during the mid 60s they suddenly got wildly ambitious and took their music in a ton of new and strange directions. The 10 album long streak (or 11 if you count The Smile Sessions) from The Beach Boys Today! in 1965 all the way through Surf's Up in 1971 is a serious contender for the strongest and most diverse set of records in the history of pop music. At the core of a lot of that music is Brian Wilson. A relentless innovator, constantly toying with songwriting conventions and completely redefining the field of music production. The Beach Boys, and Brian Wilson especially, were progressive pop titans. But the world didn't really want to hear it. The further they drifted away from the sound of their early years, the less commercial success they found. It’s tragic. There’s an inescapable sadness which looms over Brian’s career. I think Patti Smith put it best when she said,

“Like the hero-dreamer of Slaughterhouse Five, we have yet another case where existence is elsewhere. For the hero it lies in the future. But for Brian Wilson the dream is trapped within the wholesome abstraction of a Jello ad. His desire is to escape into the real world.”
It breaks my heart. Probably some truth to it though. Brian's music is often defined by emotional turmoil, vague pangs of melancholy that you're trying so desperately to articulate just to see if someone else will understand. But no matter what happens the words just won't fit together. The most enduring Beach Boys record is of course Pet Sounds, which illustrates that uneasiness flawlessly. But my favorite of Brian's work is the wonderfully titled 1977 album The Beach Boys Love You. Written during a period of extreme mental instability and drug addiction, Love You marked the return of Brian as the primary creative force behind the band, after he had been absent for most of the 70s. And while his bandmates had clashed with him over the direction of their art in the years prior, this was the album where everyone caved and gave Brian complete control over songwriting, production and lyrics. The result is the most confusing album I’ve ever heard.
Towards the end of the 70s, there was a lot of commercial pressure for The Beach Boys to abandon the introspective path they had been traveling and return to their simple surf rock roots. Brian happily obliged his audience and so the first side of The Beach Boys Love You plays out like one of their early records: Songs of high school, teenage love, and cool cars. But it’s all wrong now. It wasn’t 1964 anymore. The band members were all in their 30s, and both Brian and his brother Dennis’ voices had been noticeably shot out by drug abuse. Innocence is dead. Time has ravaged their bodies and minds, and on The Beach Boys Love You, it sounds like they haven’t fully come to terms with that. There’s a clear desire to move on, but the attempts to break the mold weren’t as profitable. So here they were, doomed to play into baby boomer nostalgia for the rest of time, trying to recapture a past they held dear but were no longer suited to sing about.
What’s more, Brian’s lyricism appeared to have declined quite a bit. The truth is that he had never been a particularly gifted wordsmith, a good deal of the reason the group’s most acclaimed records, Pet Sounds and Smile, felt so poetic was because Brian had co-writers on those projects, Tony Asher and Van Dyke Parks respectively. On The Beach Boys Love You however, Brian was all on his own, and so his writing style defaulted to blunt and saccharine stream of conscious meditations on life. One of the songs literally ends with a cheerleader chant dedicated to Johnny Carson. The clash between subject matter and presentation on Love You is neck breaking, and would frequently come off as deeply uncomfortable were it not for the fact that the album is just so goofy. It’s like they didn’t even realize how fucking insane they sounded.
An even more immediately jarring aspect of it is its production. Brian employed heavy use of synthesizers throughout the record, something which was fairly forward thinking for pop music in ‘77. But these synths were not used how you’d expect them to be, where they dominate the mix and serve as lead melodies. Instead, the way that The Beach Boys Love You was constructed was by hollowing out the rhythm section, replacing the bass guitar with deep, growling synths and ludicrously sparse drum patterns. So while these songs lyrically and melodically feel like basic throwbacks to writing styles that were out of fashion even by the 70s, the rhythmic foundation is so incongruous to that style that it transforms the record into something irresistibly baffling. The track ‘Mona’ is one of my favorites. While on paper it’s a straightforward play on Phil Spector, the repetitive lyrics and inconclusive fade-out ending lend it a compelling sense of desperation and anxiety. Feelings only strengthened by those fuzzy electric tones, rumbling low like an earthquake advisory underneath the song’s Brill Building chord progression.
Understandably, Love You is massively polarizing. I’m a proud evangelist for it, but it’s certainly tempting to only focus on Brian’s more widely accepted masterpieces. One of these being the canceled album Smile, inarguably the height of the band’s ambitions during the mid 60s. The album was to be a comprehensive tour and celebration of American musical history, with each song being built out of similar motifs and ideas, recorded in a modular fashion. Creating this way highlights the common heritage between different genres of music, and unifies America and its people into one big beautiful tapestry. But of course that’s not exactly how things turned out. The Smile recording sessions collapsed, and a stripped-back version called Smiley Smile was released in its place, the ringing dejected comedown from a particularly bad acid trip. Most of the leftover highlights ended up spread out across various official albums and less official bootlegs.
So Smile was now the greatest album that never was, with fans spending decades constructing guesses as to what it would’ve sounded like. Nowadays there are not one but two official projects purporting to be the final vision of Smile. The first was Brian Wilson Presents Smile in 2004, a newly recorded album with a brand new backing band and no other Beach Boy besides Brian. The second was 2011’s The Smile Sessions, a comprehensive archival release of the original studio material, with the opening tracks following Brian’s 2004 blueprint as closely as possible.
It’s obviously satisfying to hear the album in a finished state, but the truth is that both of these versions are still a kind of fanfiction. When Brian returned to the material in the early 2000s, it was restructured into a much more elaborate and lengthy concept then what had been considered in the 60s. We’ll never really know what Smile was going to sound like, that closure isn’t possible. But I don’t say this to undermine these newer releases. I think every version of Smile is incredible, official or otherwise. The truly special thing about the project is that because its recording process was so extensive and so modular, each song can be endlessly tinkered with and still flow together in a way that feels logical. The flavor and tone of the work can vary dramatically between bootlegs because everyone has their own idea of what Smile is. It’s not just one of the greatest pop albums ever written, it’s an infinite number of them. Smile belongs to everyone, and that’s more beautiful to me than whatever would’ve happened if the album was originally released on schedule.

There's an argument to be made that competitive Turn-Based games are a lesser alternative to their Real-Time counterparts. Making split-second decisions under pressure is more 'skillful' than sifting through menus, making FPS, RTS, and Fighting games the better choice for competitive gaming. You can force pressure in turn-based games by implementing a time limit on every turn, but that still doesn't account for execution and technical skill. Precise menuing will never be as impressive as landing perfect headshots, nailing difficult movement tech, or micromanaging 100s of units with rapid-fire button presses.
Even if we assume that Turn-Based games are just as competitive as Real-Time games, you have to consider if Pokemon represents the best the genre has to offer. The lack of positioning limits the game's skill ceiling and an overemphasis on RNG undermines strategy by arbitrarily robbing the player of their agency!
But these issues don't bother me too much. It's not the BEST ESPORT EVER, but I still think there's value to Pokemon's combat, even with the obvious design flaws. I really wish Pokemon had some level of positioning (even a grid would be cool!), but the mind games that go into swapping party members add a lot to the skill ceiling. And that's not even mentioning the layered decision making that goes into building a cohesive team. Even if you only pick from a small pool of ~30 'viable' pokemon, the ability to customize movesets, stat distribution, and equippable accessories give players a crazy amount of leeway to come up with their own strategies. If you're willing to think outside the box a little, you can even turn 'low-tier' mons into game winning carries!
While I struggle to accept the game's RNG, I believe inconsistencies resulting from accuracy/damage variation will naturally level out over time, ensuring that better players consistently come out on top.
My biggest concern is the potential for cheating. I'm not referring to manipulating the online client or even generating pokemon for offline events (that's not cheating lol). I'm referring to people making an ass of themselves by using outside influences to get a leg up on live, in-person events.
Game Freak has tried their best to curb any sort of cheating, but there are still obvious holes that anyone can take advantage of. When a person makes a crazy read, is that the result of proper conditioning and outplaying their opponent? What if their motorized butt plug is feeding them all the right moves? Is it hooked up to a super-computer that perfectly calculates the best decisions? Is a team of trained professionals feeding live data through morse vibrations? Maybe someone in the audience is just futzing with the remote?
This uncertainty taints the outcome of every match, undermining good sportsmanship with the presence of filthy cheaters. I still enjoy pokemon casually, but Game Freak will need to implement some sort of wireless signal jammer for me to respect competitive pokemon again

It's kinda baffling to me how this game can actually exist. I don't mean this in a sort of "my cup runneth with art degrees and snob" way that dismisses anyone that likes the game as consumers of the video game equivalent of fast food. There are reasons to like this game for sure. I moreso mean that there's so much that goes on in Tales of Arise where the developers thought, "yes this will make a statement" when all they really did was take a totally centrist approach to things that don't deserve more than a cursory glance and a second of consideration.
Slavery and oppression are the first things that come to mind here. As is typical with many jrpgs, the latter portion of the game spirals into a convoluted pile of jargon and plot devices, but fundamentally preaches safe and inoffensive platitudes and whatboutisms. That last part is a lie, though. I wish I could say that Arise takes the decisively bland but resolute answer to racism and oppression that many other stories do. In fact Arise did have some slightly interesting introspection into what it means to be a slave on a more philosophical level. It all goes wrong when it begins advocating for forgiving our oppressors; when it starts preaching that they are deserving of my sympathy.
The themes of Arise from this point on goes from shallow but acceptable to infuriatingly indecisive and laughable. To repeat myself again, i'm sure the writers of Arise believed they were making a point worth consideration here. In practice it leaves me wondering where the proof-readers during the QA sessions and war-room meetings.
Beyond fumbling the ball on slavery, there's also the issue of the mishandling of other themes like vengeance and co-existence, neither of which are as egregious. I think there is a statement to be made on how Arise attempts to handle isolation and loneliness. There are some dark implications on how this affected a certain character in the party and how developing the support network they needed led to more regret as they walk towards their inevitable demise. Once again, I lied. What I just said wasn't at all something you're shown, and something you're hardly even told through the story. This does not require reading between the lines, but filling between them with orange crayon and claiming it was there from the beginning. I bring this up because it is a bit insulting just how much characterization is conveyed through the characters' over-sensitivity or insufferable demeanor. There isn't re-contextualization, just a bunch of gotcha moments that portray awkward and vapid character interactions as foreshadowing.
I spent more time on the writing than this game probably deserved, and it's kind of laughable i'd give this much of a damn about a game I didn't enjoy. Pondering about and writing about this game might have been a waste of time, "it's just another mcdonald's ass jrpg" would have been a better review truthfully. I did try to enjoy this game though. Quite a few friends adore this game and I tried giving it multiple chances because of it.
One of those chances lies with the gameplay. Yet again though, Arise totally fumbles here. On the surface, Arise's mechanical depth is quite sound. It creates an inter-connectivity between the party and really sells the idea that everyone is contributing to make the team stronger. It does this through its boost mechanic, which is in your best interest to use to extend combos. These can also be used to one shot enemies before they've even reached half their healthbar. Using this mechanic ritually determines how often you can break an enemy's stance, opening them up to more combos. Once again, this is a lie. The issue with Tales of Arise combat lies in a completely static and awful enemy lineup.
Generic enemies tend to fall under 3 molds: dodgey and agile types like wolves and brutes, charge up and floaty enemies, and rolling sonic the hedgehog losers that hit just one second after you're ready to evade their attack. This enemy lineup, without exaggeration, ruins the combat of Arise. Once again, the game feels vapid and devoid of any sort of interesting combat moments because the situations you're put in are almost entirely the same for about 40 hours. The scaling challenge in this game's action combat comes from enemies that are higher level and will almost always body your AI party members no matter how well you plan in advance.
This issue is exacerbated with bosses. Suddenly, Arise stops being this game where challenge dissipates once you master the flowchart that is every combat encounter (a flowchart that never changes across its 40 hours). Now it turns into a realtime potion spamming dodge-rolling clown fiesta, except now you have a bunch of braindead party members that don't get the memo. Bosses aren't a test of skill but a test of how many consumables you've bought on your way to the boss. Let's not even get into all the havoc that the bloated HP bars and the near impossibility of breaking stance has on potentially skill based gameplay.
The inventory system and crafting system are insipidly pedantic and not worth an iota of genuine thought. The game tries to make these interesting by having every piece of equipment aspected to an element. In practice you're just mindlessly scaling up your equipment to go with what gives the biggest numbers. I'm not sure if I mentioned this yet, but number-crunching and stat-stacking ruins any kind of fun character action gameplay Arise is going for.
Sidequests are total filler but i'm not really sure if I should have expected anything less. What I can say though is that what goes on in sidequests are things you already do in the story on occasion. The story itself is peppered with grocery list tasks and obvious attempts to pad the runtime of the game. If Arise was condensed to only include interesting gameplay or story scenarios you'd be left with a pamphlet. This sort of padding applies to the character interactions themselves as so much of them are filled to the brim with useless conversations that don't add an ounce of insight to their personality or history. Though some of this lot can be fun, it never really shakes off the feeling that they are caricatures.
Once again, I could go on and list every single thing about this game. What I want you to picture however: think of every aspect that goes to making a narrative and a game's experience work. Plotting, theming, resonance, mechanics, bosses, combat scenarios, progression, exploration, the works. Now imagine if every single one of those aspects had the consideration that goes into marking off a box in a mindless day-job that pays pocket change. It's filled with grease but nothing of substance. These are the feelings i've had with Tales of Arise. Calling it a fastfood game is giving it too much credit. At least fast-food's convenience is handy when i'm on a crunch. With Arise, all I felt was that my time was neither respected nor given something useful to consider.
I dropped this game at least three times over the last year, but picked it back up hoping that I could be surprised. As I said, I've had many friends whose opinion I hold in high regard recommend and back this game's corner. Likewise I always had no idea what exactly my problem was with this game until I started writing for it.
What I think I had to realize was that Tales of Arise is emblematic of all my problems with many jrpgs. Between the flowcharty combat, the pointless inventory and character progression, the unrealistic and comedically unsatisfying characterization, nonsense plots that overuse jargon as a substitute for interesting narrative devices, and taking the centrist approach to blatantly awful aspects of humanity.
To go back to the slavery topic, Babylon 5, a story I quite enjoy, has a quote that was all Arise needed to say on the topic. If this quote was the only examination the entire narrative had on oppression, I would still find it preferable to what I got. "I can never forgive your people, for what they did to me. My people can never forgive your people for what they did to us. But I can forgive you." Now, was that so difficult?

Y'all thought it was sooooo funny when Wheatley and Glados kept incessantly spouting punchlines from your gun in Portal 2, yeah?
Well look at the consequences of your actions.

Y'know, having now replayed this like, 3 times, one time on hard, doing several entire levels without taking damage I think I can unequivocally say the gameplay in this game is ass outside of the bosses.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance lives and dies on its hype factor, and y'know what, I am completely fine with that. It is a game that is balls to the walls in your face, firing off all cylinders to give you that sweet, addictive dopamine while the funny Darwinian Senator says not to fuck with him, and asking if you want to play hide and seek you little bitch.
Outside of that, a lot of what this game says about the nature of violence and accepting the past I find is pretty relevant, even if the game doesn't go too deep with it like Kojima's works, and of course the spreading of meme culture discussion this game brings up has only made this game remain viral to this day as compilation after compilation of MGR characters cockblocking you have continued to pervade every inch of Youtube and the rest of the internet.
However, this game is very much a pump and dump kind of game. The gameplay just isn't mechanically deep enough to keep players coming back, myself an exception because I WANTED TO PLAY AS SOMBRERO RAIDEN AND GREY FOX, OK, I WANTED MY PEAK FAN FICTION FANTASIES.
If you do decide to replay MGR, I suggest getting the Fox Blade and buying its Special Ability because it trivializes most encounters by basically being an instant kill. That or just refight the bosses, they're easily the best part of the game (minus Monsoon, that fucker can eat my ass).
This review is pretty negative but yeah, the game gets 4 stars from hype alone so I think it's fair for me to be negative about it. The DLC is also pretty good, Sam is fun to use and Blade Wolf has better stealth mechanics than Raiden so it all works out.

A profoundly misunderstood classic that manages to impresses when stacked up against other games of the time, and effortlessly clears most modern attempts at being a satisfying action game. Even beyond the innovation on display (nobody was doing it like Capcom back in the late 90's/early 2000's) I'm consistently swept off my feet at how enjoyable this game is, even after around 8 personal playthroughs and 21(!) years of further innovation and inspiration in the medium. Dante may be a tad heftier than your modern action protag, but it has the side-effect of forcing you to constantly stay glued to encounters in a way I haven't really seen before. You must consider every step you take and every action you make, it's electrifying. I don't have any ill will towards Itsuno for reinventing the series like he did --who wouldn't after being tasked with scraping together the scattered remains of the last title and still having it come out like crap-- but there's still something here that later entries still have yet to recapture for me. It may not have the glitz and glamor of it's many sequels, but what you get instead is one of the most well considered, tightly paced, and highly rewarding gaming experiences out there.

This review contains spoilers

>me: this game is pretty bloated, the bosses suck, and it just answers questions that don't need to be answered"

TWEWY is a game I've always heard about, but never played because I didn't have it and I had other RPGs to play. A friend was talking to me about it, and loaned me her copy, so obviously I had to play it, you can't just be loaned a game and not play it, right? Anyway, it took me about a year to even boot the game because I had other RPGs to play.
I knew very little about this game other than it's generally well liked, and I can see why. This is probably one of the most cohesive games in terms of artistic direction, music, mechanics, and story.
I won’t do a plot review in this review, but it’s good enough. It makes room for all the main cast to shine, which works real well because the characters are all really engaging and well written. The story is not subtle whatsoever, but it isn't trying to be. It is trying to portray a very clear message: go out and meet people and get to know them, go make friends, because they make your life better, and you make their life better. The main character, Neku, I feel is reflective of a certain type of teenager -- a teenager I once was, and frankly the story left me wondering how I might have turned out if I had played this game when I was 14. He’s definitely a bit of a loner-trope RPG protagonist, but the writers use this to establish why he’s receiving ESP powers and being forced to work with people, something he’d never do alone.
My favorite characters are definitely Shiki and Beat. I mean, everyone who's played this game loves Beat, and it isn't hard to see why. He’s a chill-as-fuck tough guy who’s just a little dumb and is just so goddamn funny. I love the bits in week three where people will make fun of him and he’ll just be like “Yeah!”, and the classic “Bwaahahaaaa!?” sound clip that plays when he’s shocked. His backstory is a real heartbreaker, too. Shiki’s story in particular resonated with me, Shiki’s envious of her best friend because she is what Shiki is not, or at least what Shiki doesn’t believe she is. I dealt with similar feelings in high school, and that’s why I really think more teenagers should play this game. This game touches on a lot of complex feelings most of us could probably draw parallels to at that age.
The combat is super cool, but I hold the stylus like a fucked-up T-rex so I was ready to be done when the final boss came around. I liked the Reaper fights in particular, where they would switch between light and dark on you and your partner’s screen, so you could spend some time fighting as Neku then some time fighting as your partner. The different partner styles is also cool, but some are a bit easier than others. In terms of ease of getting Fusions from easiest to hardest, I would rank them: Joshua > Shiki > Beat. I pretty much always let them go on auto, but occasionally I would button mash right or left to help out in a particularly tough battle. I’m not good enough at this game to focus on both screens, so I like that this game gives me the option to not focus on it.
In addition to that, this game has a lot of accessibility options. You can play any of the difficulties you want once you unlock them, you can change how long it takes for your partner to go auto again, you don’t even have to win at this game’s minigame, tin-pin slammer, and I know this because I SUCK ASS at tin-pin slammer. Like, Dyson V11 Torque Drive right on the booty cheeks kinda suck ass at tin-pin slammer. I didn’t win a single match. But the game never stopped me for being bad at it’s otherwise optional minigame. I mean, it made fun of me for being bad at it, but I expect that. Maybe next time I play through this game I’ll “git gud”.
There’s some mechanics I barely messed with, like the fashion mechanics. Fashion is your armor in this game, and I messed with that, though I find on Normal you could probably pass on armor beyond that one objective where you have to wear all Mus Rattus gear. You can also totally drip out your characters. The different fashion brands also influence the power your pins have in battle, so you have to keep up with the fashion trends. You can also influence the trends by completing a bunch of battles in the area. But again, I didn’t really mess with this much.
The soundtrack has a lot of earworms. It’s real funky, and in a similar vein to JSR and JSRF tracks, and I feel that’s a product of both games focusing so much on self-expression thematically and being from a time when skaters were the peak aesthetic. In particular, I find myself listening to Calling and Game Over a lot. But I don’t think there’s a song I dislike on the soundtrack. This game’s aesthetic is so sick. I love the punk style to this game, I want to dress like every character in this game, even Shiki, but I think I might be arrested for public indecency if I wore that short of a skirt, so I’ll have to workshop it. I like the part of the Shiki’s week where Neku, a character designed by Tetsuya Nomura, wishes he had more zippers. Did he know all the way back then we’d be clowning on him for his overzealous use of zippers and belts?
Overall, this game is great. It’s definitely worth your time if you’re looking for a game that’s not really like anything else out there in terms of combat and mechanics, or something with a really neat story with very well written characters. Also, Shiki’s save menu portrait is how I look a bacon egg and cheese hashbrown bowl from Waffle House at 3AM.

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