249 Reviews liked by Lewisisphat
Back 4 Blood
ive only played the beta so i can't really say much on the complete game, maybe its actually really good
in no fucking world is this game worth 60 dollars + dlc, especially when the superior left 4 deads are a sixth of a price
for what is supposed to be a retro revival made by the classic l4d dev team, it misses all the little details that made those games so great
this game is feature bloated to the max, making every little step you take into this dull and drab universe needlessly confusing
asking 60 dollars for this game is a borderline scam
Note: Been playing Smash competitively since 2007, won't be covering the casual aspect of this game.
Since the very first day this game was announced, I felt sceptical about it. All the talk about the game was exclusively the implementation of rollback netcode, and movement options like air dashes and wavedash (and of course "funny spongebob does Melee techniques meme"), both of which were great for the marketing of the game, and the timing was perfect.
Smash players have been disillusioned with Ultimate for a while because of the incredibly poor online experience + the Covid-19 pandemic + Nintendo shutting down events, and NASB promised a fresh "Smash-like" ("Melee-like"?) experience that had good online, incredible potential for internet humor and the famous mechanic that Super Smash Bros has neglected for the past 3 games.
And I think NASB, as a product, really delivered. The game is exactly what they made it out to be. But mechanically it has no soul, the philosophy behind the design is flawed, and it ends up feeling like every other "smash clone" that has ever existed like Digimon Rumble Arena or Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion. The big difference being that now, most smash players know about the competitive scene.
The game is too technical for its own good. Mastering movement in NASB is very very important, and ergonomically awful, high level matches are just 2 characters flying around and doing a lot of "sick movement" while throwing out random hitboxes, until one of them gets hit and dies (or not) and then repeat until the match is over.
And why would you want that many movement options in the first place? All aerials have no endlag, short hopping and spamming aerials is a super strong strategy with very low risk, and some characters have moves so big that you can approach and anti air at the same time.
It's a super unnappealing gameplan for me, and the lack of defensive options make it even worse.
I criticize Rivals Of Aether for some of that as well, but every character has a specific mechanic/gameplan that makes them unique, they have to work towards a specific objective in the match, and taking all the matchups into consideration makes RoA a very rich game that stands out, where characters have their own way to deal with each other, and where movement really matters, even though it not being my cup of tea.
In NASB every characters has crazy ground and air movement by design, similar recoveries, very similar or identical kill confirms and combos, they all look for the same things in neutral, so the line between characters is blurred.
Balance is really silly too, but that's expected in a game like this. And I really couldn't care less about patches, they won't fix what really is wrong about the game (most people are complaining about the game not being polished, lack of voice acting, and even about the price, and I think they are completely missing the important stuff).
And I'm sure Nickelodeon pressured the devs a lot to release the game asap, so that sucks too.
In the end NASB is another game that tries to be Smash (with a twist) but doesn't get it. I don't want every platform fighter to be the same, and this is a nice little experiment, but there's so much more to the genre than wavedashing and getting 0 to deaths.
Kusoge material for sure. Feels like Smash 64 with UMVC3 movement and that just doesn't make any sense.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
unbelievably ahead of its time, the meta storytelling & unwaveringly ambitious presentation give this game an atmosphere and general vibe like nothing else - it feels like it belongs to the same band of hugely accomplished 5th gen games as silent hill and vagrant story but you can definitely feel its influence pop up in some v different gaming circles, the team ico vibes here are exactly as potent as you might expect
I didn't come out of it feeling like I had just experienced a total masterpiece or anything but I was still VERY into its sense of subtlety and restraint, the team's attempts to turn saga into a genuinely countercultural jrpg consistently shine through. the character design is strange and hard to parse, the cutscenes have a consistent sense of quiet tension and the gameplay often takes a backseat when it needs to, it's really great!
I love the decision to keep the voice acting in japanese in all versions as well, I'd probably prefer a pseudo-language so that the untranslated version would have this too but the sense of mystery it gives the dialogue when you can't understand it is fantastic, it's a shame 'panzerese' generally sounds kinda goofy but something like NieR's chaos language would've been perfect. as it stands it seems very well acted to someone not versed in the language, I just can't be bothered to dig up any japanese discussion of the game to find out whether that's true lmao
anyway i'm going to steal azel's gender. thank u for reading
This review contains spoilers
what if we gave a 2009 kongregate dev excessive budget, polish, and access to actors for his next project. not really about anything at all, just another egotistical flex from annapurna looking to make the medium palatable to the disinterested, writing betrays that techbro lack of humanity inherent to some working in AAA. it's hard for the people out there in relationships with their half-sister who refuse to tell their partners about their blood relation.
by far the funniest thing about this game is if you get the ending where you confess to the cop, he immediately goes 'you killed your father and married your sister?' and instead of exacting revenge or becoming furious he just kind of acquiesces. 'this is too weird for me guys, im just gonna take my leave'
i feel so bad for willem dafoe dude
No More Heroes III
when you first encounter dr. naomi in NMH3, she's eking out a kind of solitary existence in travis's basement, resigned to her fate being entwined with a 'creepy-ass otaku' and promptly aiding him through all his savagery and debauchery. there's obviously still a lingering a mild undercurrent of disdain in their interactions, but dr. naomi is otherwise shown to be genial enough to continue to upgrade travis's gear. although it's not like she had much of a choice in the matter - her unexpected transformation into a cherry blossom firmly anchors her in the game's primary base of commerce, allowing her to fulfill her pre-established role as a fixed vendor from the convenience of travis's motel.
the question of how exactly dr. naomi became a disfigured and hardy tree given artificial life isn't necessarily central to NMH3's narrative, but i find it worth thinking about because it continues NMH3's perpetual tendency to allude to works of all kinds unceremoniously. in this case, the easiest analogue would be twin peaks: the return; in the 25 years between season 2 and the return, a character slowly and inexplicably evolves into a fleshy and gnarled tree pulsating with electric currents. this is nothing more than an incidental tribute - and not unexpected after something like 2018's the 25th ward references to twin peak's third outing - but an homage to the return will always make me reflect a bit because it is such an extraordinarily well-structured, thematically cogent, and thoroughly excising metatextual work that it still is every bit as arresting and affecting as the moments i first watched it some four years ago.
NMH3 poses as a ‘return’ of sorts as well; in reality, however, TSA, with its title literally referring to travis’s absence from the throne, is more likely to fit that bill. TSA was also a metatextual work – about travis and GHMs absence from the limelight, about what had changed over the course of close to a decade, about GHMs works, fears, and their future. in several respects, TSA may as well be NMH3, bringing a close to travis’s character arc and positioning itself as a vector for GHM’s next project.
these elements effectively make NMH3 a lot more like a big-budget reunion than a fully-formed closer to a trilogy, something comparable to a no more heroes: gaiden or no more heroes: the after years. i say this in large part because, in contrast to TSA and especially NMH1, NMH3 is markedly straightforward and almost juvenile in its affectations. i don’t envy anyone attempting to continue a series which defied continuity and explanation the way NMH1 so deftly did, but this is our third time returning to this nexus, so the hope would be that there’s an actual reason to be with these characters again, to inhabit this world. so to briefly sum up: to an extent, i think even NMH2 toyed around with the idea of franchise iconography and the role travis had foisted upon him in that world. TSA was, as was previously said, a game about absence, reflection on and mild interrogation of the indie space, about games themselves and the feuding ideals animating their development, about artistic love and loss.
what’s NMH3 about? we’ll get to it, kind of, but for our purposes it’s worth establishing a few things first, namely that this is a pretty significant departure from NMH1’s jodorowsky and seijun suzuki-influenced blend of inviting contradictions and abrasive lampooning (although it’s worth noting suda apparently has never seen branded to kill lol). if anything it’s kind of the opposite which makes it kind of wild that it released after TSA, NMH1 is very pointed about the intersection between stifling economics, dead end americana, and fan obsession with foreign work, whereas 3 is kind of like, ‘im travis and im 40 and kamen rider is still so fucking cool’ (not that hes wrong, just that that kind of adoration and those adolescent proclivities go totally unchecked here). still, it shares less in common with the kind of vulgarity-without-sincerity romp that NMH2 produced and honestly a lot more in common with suda’s short fiction, especially post 2010? im thinking very specifically about ranko tsukigime and kurayami dance, both works that are ‘closed-off’ or ‘shuttered-off’; they have a very definite beginning and end but everything that happens in between is a dense mix of dream logic, parodic undertones, perverse ironies, ‘i say it like it is’ genre statements – very much storytelling as irresolvable and inconclusive. shared between all three, there’s a strong narrative centering on non-sequiturs, an emphasis on artistic collaboration, and torrential floods of absurdity and surrealism fueling the game. hell, so many artists, such as animation teams like AC+bu, are common to both ranko and NMH3, even.
and i think for sure a lot of these constituent elements are present in other GHM/suda titles (that inability of narrative to resolve itself is a staple of NMH1), it’s just the explosiveness and the frequency with which you get barraged by these specific traits are at a fever pitch in those works. kamui shows up here in NMH3 and he basically does as kamui is wont to do, offering a bit of a skeleton key for understanding some of these works:
“[Things] had become quite the confusing mess. But somewhere inside that confusing mess hid the truth. What is real, what is not? … There is only one thing that is real. I am here in front of your very eyes.”
i think this is where my problems with NMH3 come into focus. i think NMH3’s invocation of that dizzying mess kamui alludes to is half-baked and barebones. unlike ranko tsukigime, NMH3 isn’t an absurd sidescroller that can be finished in 40 minutes. unlike kurayami dance, NMH3 isn’t a sub 30 chapter manga. NMH3 is a 12-20 hour adventure game. so while it shares much in common with these narratives, just the protracted nature of it results in maybe the last thing i expected a NMH title to be – just kind of boring? it’s a profound skeleton of a game in so many different ways, there’s not really a full-bodied texture so you’re left with a lot of entirely separate and only somewhat interrelated elements. how you feel about the game is left up to how you feel about any one of those constituent elements. for my purposes, i think a lot of this game has the seeds of something really special, but comes up pretty short.
when we catch up with travis touchdown again, he’s in the middle of doing something i think a fair amount of us do and are unwilling to admit – he’s looking up footage of a game he’s already finished, looking to vicariously (and perhaps voyeuristically) re-experience some of those same emotions, to temporally connect himself with a younger, more idealistic version of himself. i recommend watching it here, if only because in the same way NMH1’s intro frames the game, i think this is meant to be NMH3’s primary invocation of all its themes, running parallel to the game, and i like the remake angle the opener plays with because it feels like an implicit acknowledgement that so many sequels are really just remakes if you unpack them a bit.
in the proceeding cutscene we learn quickly about antagonists FU and damon’s origins, lovingly animating an ET-esque tale of nostalgic childhood tenderness gone somehow wrong. FU promising to return no matter what is a bit of cheeky writing, and the transition seamlessly shifting between aspect ratios as the scene shifts to the modern day is a great touch as well. damon (based on known shit-for-brains john riccitiello, a can of worms im not really interested in opening in this review), has apparently used FU’s powers to position himself in a place of executive power since the days of his mirthful childhood, and signals FU back to earth, where he pretty much immediately sets out on planetary conquest. in the original reveal trailer this is revealed as its own fakeout IP in the form of goddamn superhero, right before travis crashes the party. the kind of IP conflict this opener promises – between a resuscitated old franchise built on subjugation of nostalgia and clearly alluding to the MCU, in conflict with the brazen punk nature of NMH – is the kind of fertile ground NMH3 is built on, but fails to really capitalize on.
after that, the two plotlines intersect. travis is interrupted and called to action before he can figure out who deathman is, sylvia immediately begins fulfilling her designated intermediary NMH role, some dire shit happens, and the game kicks off proper with revenge serving as the impetus for taking down FU. it’s here where we’re introduced to the systems of the game, harkening back to NMH1. we can explore an overworld on foot or on bike again, participate in side activities like gig work, and hunt for small collectables and trinkets. structurally, however, it’s difficult for me to say this was worth it. performance is taxed to a degree in the open world and it’s barren in a way that feels unacceptable, fragmented across different islands, some of which are inaccessible from beginning to end. but even on spicy difficulty where i played, you only need to check out some of the barebones gig work a couple of times just to see what’s there, and you’re more than comfortable to just engage with the designated matches to advance in the narrative. they’re there because they worked in NMH1 and people like it, but they don’t recognize how interwoven those elements are into NMH1’s thesis. perhaps there’s a read in which you can argue it’s fun work for work’s sake – it’s nice to see travis turn the act of lawnmowing into stylistic expression – but it just feels noncommittal and compartmentalized.
which is another problem imo…NMH3 doesn’t have levels, you travel to points in the map to engage in little designated battles that take 2-5 minutes to complete on average to deflect from the fact that there’s no substantive content and to give the combat system some meat and heft. and i do think the combat is kinaesthetically really appealing, in a way kind of the artistic statement of the year, it’s so garish, the way the voxel art and weird low fidelity environments and excessive blood and splatter effects all coalesce into conveying an off-kilter unreality, but it sucks that the combat is what’s on center stage and nothing more. even if the enemy designs are generally serviceable and the gamefeel is solid, i found myself wanting more than contextless skirmishes. midoris one of the better fights in the game purely because there’s actually a level here with good ideas and imagery relating to her character and background fueling the stage before travis’s competing subconscious infects the scene and they fight in a tokusatsu rock quarry.
NMH3 in that respect represents NMH at its most gratifying. it just feels good, despite it all. part of this is that your slot machine upgrades don’t grind gameplay to a halt to do some other weird mode of gameplay for a bit but they all naturally come together to form random bursts of unrelenting power expression. gold joe is probably my favourite fight in the game – soundtracks fuego, mechanics are simple, gimmicks unique, and the fight is very readable without compromising too much on difficulty, it fits the style of game NMH3 is trying to be the most. and that’s where that slot machine integration comes in because it’s entirely possible to stunlock these guys into oblivion when all is said and done, combining a smidge of luck with some of the very minor okizeme nuance present in the game – i basically one hit killed FUs first phase because i got luckily enough to trigger mustang twice through errant slashes and he got stuck in my cage of fishermans suplex torment. i still don’t really know what his moveset looks like in the later stages of the fight. that’s a gratifying thing in my books, perfectly in line with NMH’s ideals.
still, it’s a bit uninspired and tame otherwise in how it achieves that expression, and i wish there was a bit more meat on its bones. it’s technically the best NMH combat system, but it achieves this through:
- configuring dark step as witch time
- having enemy types
- boring death glove DPS mechanics
which is really kind of a shame because it’d be nice to have more in the way of formal experimentation, particularly after some of the crazier death glove abilities in TSA. this is basically killer is dead 2 for all that that’s worth, and it’s not particularly interested in tying any of these combat mechanics into a greater core. it’s just a Component in an, again, extremely compartmentalized game, unlike NMH1’s brand of, to this day, really unique bushido/lucha combat. it feels homogenous with action titles i’ve already played, yknow?
that retreading, homogenous feeling, is what’s most disappointing about NMH3s conveyance of narrative. everything in the opening establishes some ideas and themes that lose a lot of their momentum as you engage with the game, throwing in NMH1’s subversions of boss battle identity and coyly alluding to it at times as an unsatisfactory way to shake things up. i think where NMH1 and TSA are pretty unpredictable, NMH3 is firmly predictable and monotonous - there aren’t as many hooks to engage with, not as many quiet moments to reflect on…i imagine there will be some sects of the internet who think NMH2 deserves a reassessment after this and my answer to that is a hearty no, that game’s just absolutely miserable to play, but even that title has something like the captain vlad fight which i really liked! and a fair amount of my positive feelings on NMH3s battles mostly stem from whether or not they were fun to engage with on a more tactile level rather than leaving me with some narrative or aesthetic thread to deliberate on. the multimedia, ‘binge streaming’ format the narrative is conveyed by feels holistically appropriate in this sense, because it really is No More Heroes as unchallenging content, No More Heroes as brand ip, No More Heroes as obligation…in a world where games more than ever unironically resemble NMH1’s implicit criticism of the open world city format, what could or should NMH3 be bringing to the table? because it’s just more of the same here.
if travis feels at odds with it, subsumed by it – i think that’s the fairest way i can read this game, even if it doesn’t feel like something the game is perhaps entirely committed to. sylvia is travis’s partner but you wouldn’t guess it in this game, she’s resigned to her designated role as matchmaker and manager, pitting travis against battle after battle to keep his bloodlust sharp and flowing (which maybe in some perverse sense means someone like her is inadvertently the ideal partner for travis), but that elides that she absconds every time travis attempts to talk to her more meaningfully. and i think maybe what the game attempts to stab at is that complete and total death of meaning in the macro sense as we prefer to engage with things in the micro sense. im pretty sure this is why it ends in the dizzying manner that it does, even if its post-credits scene is something a great many of sudas works already do (ranko, SOTD, etc). travis’s life is now battle for battle’s sake; the game doesn’t think to ask how he feels about that because it’s clearly still duty to him at this point in time, but one of the only other meaningful connections he’s fostered is someone like bishop who he can just sit back and crack open a cold one with, sitting through miike film after miike film having these podcast-esque discussions as this weird place of respite. sylvia even thanks bishop for taking care of travis, so it's clear she's aware to some extent of what he's being put through. still, his inability to connect with sylvia does frustrate him but there’s not a lot he can do about that given she’s been shuttered off into the role his life demands of her. hell, so cyclical is the absurdity in travs's life that characters from separate narrative continuities like kamui and midori (with kamuis malleable and impermanent physical appearance fittingly shaped to appear as a younger otaku in this title) explicitly allude to glamour camping in this universe, because, well, it seems like there’s a vaguely interesting show going on here – why not change the channel for a bit? in that sense i do think some of the spirit of KTP is in this title, but not in a particularly substantive way. i should also probably point out that i didn’t expect any of those narrative threads to be in this game, because that’s insane, and i specifically wanted for NMH3 to be another expression of NMH, however that might manifest. but if these are ideas NMH3 wanted to chase, i don’t think it needed to explicate them necessarily so much as it needed clarity and focus; after all, much of NMH1’s thematic strength is expressed in the margins. i kind of liked ranko, and i greatly enjoyed kurayami, both of which are similarly works defiant of continuity that still feel complete and total, whereas this is just distended for much of its runtime.
maybe the other fair thing to point out is that my favourite narrative content in the game is usually in the smaller moments, particularly the optional bad girl arc players can choose to engage with wherein travis attempts to console her by making anime recommendations. classic stuff there. but otherwise things just kind of happen with hardly any sense of importance or dramatic rhythm, and while it’s unrelated, you can sense that the most in the game’s pared back soundtrack – a surprising wealth of these tracks are lacking in pulse or energy, particularly the battle tracks which are composed by nobuaki kaneko. he later went on to form the band red orca – their debut album features so many of the tracks listed in this game that have all been given extensive and lavish production, whereas in NMH3 they’re all significantly pared back cascades of white noise. not as relevant to the discussion here, but feels like an apt metaphor.
i really think it’s admirable that a game like this can swing for the stars, but not every chance at bat will be a home run. i expect that this will become something of an MGSV-type debacle in a few months time, since it’s clear that covid production, budget issues, and technical problems took a butcher’s knife to this game, with it being confirmed that there’s over an hour of cutscenes missing from the game and probably even more content missing as well judging from suda’s own description of what’s absent, such as boss fights and fully developed areas. but, all the same, im really not sure it’s a game that can find life in its wounds like MGSV can be said to accomplish…but it’s all the more frustrating that it’s impossible to say, as well. maybe there’ll be a director’s cut, but it seems highly unlikely given that this is travis’s last hurrah and marvelous has the rights to the IP. it ends up offering an interest contrast to killer7, a game salvaged in a similar edit that brought everything into comparable focus. with NMH3, the dominant sense is that everything is disparate and disconnected. i can say that trying to make any semblance of cohesive statement on this game is hell, which explains my overly-wrought nature this time i suppose, but then, NMH3 is like that too. meditation on weaponized nostalgia? ouroboric game about audience’s inability to let the past die? a work about the futility of mechanics-oriented design? impossible to say, but i could have appreciated its resistance to any easily read interpretation (in part because i think treating works purely in terms of the message they purport can be a reductive lens) if its parcels of content were more meaningfully engaging, but they unfortunately arent. by the end of all these competing conceptions of media, it's only fitting that they all meet at their 'final destination'. it is what it is. see ya in the next one
So Hylics is definitely a game that follows the style over substance approach, however, Hylics also raises the question about why this is generally seen as a bad thing. Sure, at its core the game is a very simple RPGmaker turn based RPG that has such little coherent story that the majority of the dialogue is randomly generated, but seriously, look at that presentation. I find this game really interesting for the way that it essentially proves that going down the route of purely focusing on gameplay is far from the only possibility when it comes to making a satisfying experience, since this clearly has a much greater focus on the aesthetic side of things.
What makes this so cool is the fact that every facet of the way this game is designed feeds into its surreal atmosphere and vibes, there's nothing this has that goes even slightly against that core vision of what the game is trying to achieve. The most prominent of these elements is definitely the art, not only having basically every element of any given scene being abstract shapes that only vaguely resemble anything in reality, but with the art itself essentially being digitally rendered claymation models. This gives everything a slightly uncanny feel to their animations, with their movements feeling far closer to reality than they should by all rights, yet also having the tendency to completely decompose into a pile of squishy plasticine. The music also adds a lot to the imagery with its profound vagueness, often feeling extremely hard to define or pin down, with it being hard to even say whether or not one could find it atmospheric or simply just strange. You get hints of something more conventional underneath it all however, whether it's the spacey guitar that's a staple of some of the more expansive overworld areas, or the unpleasant yet catchy synth melodies of the shop theme, the music of Hylics straddles the line between fun and bizarre perfectly.
The gameplay itself is pretty simple and very easy once you get the hang of things, but this wasn't really a negative at all due to the fact that it feels clear that the game is more interested in having the player explore this surreal world and experiencing all the pure creativity put into each location. I mean, one of the first lines of description for this game is "A recreational program with light JRPG elements", so if that doesn't imply that the combat and gameplay itself was used as a vessel to further express and elevate these ideas and atmosphere, then I don't know what does. Highly recommend checking this out if you're a fan of totally surreal (and incredibly creative), genuinely nonsensical content and can get behind some pretty simple JRPG gameplay. It's only a couple of hours long as well, so it's a very concise, digestible experience that you could easily finish in a sitting.
I don't think I will ever play another game in my lifetime that is so stubborn and insistent on defying convention every time it gets a chance. When an opportunity to abide by convention presents itself, Killer7 simply says "no", turns in the opposite direction, and walks away.
This game is the essence of Suda's entire "punk" attitude towards game directing and for me, his masterpiece. Everything down to how it's stylized, the control scheme, the general esoteric nature of the game is handcrafted to the tee.
Also, this is by far the most quotable video game ever made, like it's not even close. Sorry Metal Gear Rising.
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