66 Reviews liked by Lozicle

It may be easy to write off Pokemon Snap as yet another gimmicky spinoff of Nintendo's most lucrative franchise, but looking back, it’s honestly a very refreshing take on the arcade rail-shooter. HAL Laboratory managed to transform a gameplay vessel known for flashy, action-packed titles into one of the most relaxing and heartwarming diversions in the N64 library. Just consider how the mechanics were translated: the guns became your toolkit, in the form of your camera and your apples + Pester Balls to interact with the environment and local wildlife, and the “damage” became a photography scoring system as you carefully manipulate your surroundings and wait for the perfect moment to take your shot. The game has excellent replayability due to its depth of interactions packed within the span of a few hours, and becomes a fantastic exercise of discovery and optimization: it’s quite satisfying figuring out exactly how every Pokemon can be lured and baited into favorable positions to maximize your score while unlocking a few new courses along the way. Furthermore, experimentation never feels punishing because courses are already naturally short (within 5 min per run) and you’ll later unlock the Dash Engine to accelerate your cart if there are any particular sections you want to get to immediately. It’s a fantastic way to encourage finding as many unique interactions as possible while rewarding acute player awareness; my favorite examples include stringing together multiple far-away shots of Lapras across the beach stage to finally snag an up-close profile photograph at the end, or realizing that you can "feed" Grimer with enough Pester Balls to spawn Muk. Of course, this goes without saying that nothing quite hits the spot like taking pictures of happy, dancing creatures on a chill Pokemon safari.
What does hold Pokemon Snap back a bit is the scoring system. It unfortunately feels like a crapshoot trying to snag a perfect score, since Professor Oak’s requirements regarding size seem a bit nebulous besides the obvious guideline of “make the Pokemon as large as possible within the frame with the whole body included” and pose specifications feel even more arbitrary (given that the Pokemon is facing forward of course), with anything that’s not an aggressive or flashy Pokemon stance often meeting the fate of “it’s so-so,” whatever that means. Also, needing to be exactly pin-point accurate on the reticle in order to associate a score with a particular Pokemon species should work well in theory, but this concept doesn't quite hold up in scramble situations when multiple species are present in the frame and none of them are covered by the reticle. Case in point, Professor Oak was very sure that this was meant to be a picture of Haunter. Let’s just say that being at the forefront of Pokemon research with a PhD doesn’t necessarily make him the most qualified to judge photography. The flimsy scoring mechanics aren't a huge deal for most of the game, given that unlocking courses seems to be locked behind photographing a certain number of different species as opposed to sheer score accrual, but it does hurt the post-game appeal of trying to beat the challenge scores.
Regardless, Pokemon Snap remains a somewhat overlooked and innovative twist on a classic video game genre, popularizing photography games and spawning many spiritual indie successors that have begun sprouting in recent years. While a part of me does wonder what HAL Laboratory could have done with a bigger development budget, given that there are only six main courses and only 63 out of the original 151 Pokemon were included, I have to respect how so many different hidden secrets were packed into a game that can be easily completed in a single afternoon. It never fails to put a smile on my face, playing the Pokemon flute and watching Snorlax bob its chubby face to the rhythm, or luring a horde of Charmanders from over a hill with apples and snapping shots of them jumping joyously about. I’m very much looking forward to committing to a full run of the long-awaited sequel later this year to see how the franchise decided to expand from this snug and breezy little package.

Hey, how about that Nintendo Switch Online, am I right? Doesn't it SUCK ASS? Ok, no, it doesn't completely suck, as it does have a selection of various retro games that, while not being the best selection, does have a good amount of titles that I would have never seen or heard of otherwise. The service has at least that going for it, even though most of it does suck. Nevertheless, after scrolling through the lineup once again, I stumbled across Vice: Project Doom, which I had heard of and seen previously in videos, so I decided to finally give it a shot.
After playing through it, I can say that the game is actually pretty good, and what I would say is a bit of a hidden gem of the NES library. It does have problems, with some of them involving a lot of copy-pasting, but it was still a fun title to experience.
The story is pretty fleshed out and developed, which is aided by the cutscenes throughout the game, along with the most 80's-action-movie-like dialogue ever, the graphics are pretty good, the music is alright, but not too memorable, the control is solid all around, and the gameplay is familiar, yet still different and varied enough to where it is still fun to experience.
For the most part, the game is yet another action 2D platformer, where you travel from the beginning to the end of numerous stages, fighting enemies with a selection of weapons, including a whip, a gun, and grenades, taking on bosses, collecting items and ammo, and finding more out about the story along the way. It has all the beats of a standout title for the system, and it works really well, with the game providing enough challenge to not make it easy, while also giving the player enough versatility to have plenty of options for moving ahead, which is a plus in my book.
Aside from the platforming stages, there are also two other types of gameplay sections the game offers. First, there is the vehicle driving sections, where you drive on a highway, shooting down enemies and taking on bosses as well. Sure, it's not that complicated or in-depth, but it is a nice pace breaker in the mix of the regular platforming, even if it may be a little too easy for me.
The third and final gameplay sections are on-rail shooter segments similar to House of the Dead and Time Crisis, where you have to shoot a bunch of enemies that appear on your screen from a first-person-perspective, alternating between using either your gun or grenades to take them out. Just like with the driving segments, these are also pretty fun distractions from the main gameplay, and while they are also pretty easy, it is still a good time, and it's cool seeing this type of gameplay from the NES.
With all that in mind, the problems the game has would basically be a majority of the problems that Ninja Gaiden have, because it is basically just Ninja Gaiden except with aliens n junk. Alongside that, the game doesn't really leave too much of an impact. Sure, it does have different types of gameplay that make it unique among other games, but in terms of the plot, setting, and characters, it is pretty generic when compared to other games of the time, and as such, it doesn't really stand out as much as it needs to, which is probably why it went long overlooked ever since.
Overall, while it isn't the most noteworthy of games, and it is pretty much just Ninja Gaiden, except with aliens, it is a solid hidden gem of the NES library, and one I would definitely recommend for anyone to check out if they want to see what else the system has to offer.
Game #118



Guide for people who are new to Elite: https://pastebin.com/CgkRM05Q
A limited, but stunning space exploration game with completely fluid 3D play. You have an overworld and a huge universe to indulge in, but really your options and what to do are limited, when you mostly stick to trading things inbetween planets and shoot pirates who attack you. Buying additions makes life easier, but the primary objective of the game, reaching the Elite rank, is only attainable after you destroy about 6000 ships, which demands an impossible ammount of dedication for one person. More fascinating today as a tech demo, than as a skeleton of a gameplay that somehow wasn't even updated with Elite: Dangerous either.
On the original, BBC Micro version, the controls are nice and tight, and I recommend it. (3.5)
The ZX Spectrum version has nicer wireframe rendering(to be perfectly honest, any port after the BBC Micro hardware is an improvement), but the controls have suffered and for some reason are slippery. The steering never centers but almost as if it intentionally veers off into the sides. I don't know if the programmers tried to make the game more tricky by providing this element of instability to the controls, but it is not useful in the slightest, and makes flying and navigating the cosmic waters a lot more taxing than it already is. (1.5)

this game is the SHIT and everyone should FUCKING PLAY IT.
i've never been more immersed in an universe and wanted to know more about it, what a blast it was to play this gem.

one time i played a hack that extended the city trial timer to like ten minutes and it was fucked up

Not too long ago, I was asked by a friend to describe the appeal of Gravity Rush, and it took me a while to come up with an answer. Was it a twist on the classic open-world sandbox? A physics-defying superhero simulator? Both of these descriptions are reasonable to some extent, but neither felt like a perfect characterization of what kept me hooked to my favorite Sony series exclusive. Then a few days later, I stumbled upon this list, and BeachEpisode’s description caught my eye: a platformer where you “tumble through the world with an elegance of a Ghibli movie.”
Just like that, it clicked. In the same way that VVVVVV is a deconstruction of the traditional 2D platformer, Gravity Rush to me feels like the natural progression of deconstructing the open-level 3D platformer. There’s still jumping between floating platforms of course, but the jumping is deemphasized. Instead, since larger objects serving as buoys don’t have pulls towards the center of gravity, it’s up to you to shift the flow of gravity as necessary to prevent yourself from “falling off" and maintain control. Therefore, every surface becomes a possible platform, limited only by your access to said surface and your gravity energy gauge.
Since you aren’t necessarily jumping between platforms, it may be easier to characterize movement in Gravity Rush between two modes: grounded running/sliding, and soaring through the air between grounded movement. With the gravity slide, the protagonist Kat can make tight turns while also easily sliding up surfaces to maintain momentum without needing to jump and re-shift. Meanwhile, aerial movement can be thought more simply as “falling with style” (which explains why Kat’s float is less of a dive without boosting with X and closer to a derpy freefall), but is surprisingly tight; with the ability to slightly adjust your falling orientation with the left joystick, and the ability to either slowly rotate the camera with controller gyro controls or more quickly with the right joystick, the seemingly simple “flying” provides a fairly strong degree of character control. It never feels too disorienting either, because Kat’s hair will always point towards the directed flow of gravity when floating in place, and the camera will naturally rotate back towards “right-side up” from tapping R1 to stop/shift gravity (or you can tap R3 at any time to immediately snap to that perspective). As such, the real challenge is optimizing movement by juggling the two different modes to maintain momentum while never completely depleting the energy gauge. Since gravity sliding uses less energy and spending enough time not shifting gravity (including simple grounded running/waiting or natural freefall) will refresh the gauge, figuring out exactly when to insert these moments in-between gravity shifting traversal alongside collecting blue gravity tokens becomes key to efficiently getting from point A to point B. It’s a deceptively simple yet realized set of controls that can feel overwhelming at first but becomes this thing of beauty once mastered; some might call it less cool since you’re really just flail-falling about, but as an old teacher of mine once asked, isn’t flying really just missing the ground over and over again?
It's for this reason that it becomes quite frustrating that Gravity Rush 2 seems almost afraid to utilize its greatest strength during certain grounded side-missions and a few segments of main story missions. The most obvious culprits here are the forced stealth segments that will immediately catch you upon floating upwards and getting spotted by guards. It unfortunately feels rather counter-intuitive that a game emphasizing freedom of control has a few segments here and there that artificially limit your movement options. There are also quite a few grounded missions that require you to mash the square button to repeatedly talk to NPCs in hopes that they’ll point you to the right direction; definitely not great, but they’re at least over quickly enough and do end up facilitating movement around the city once you’ve got your necessary info to proceed. The absolute worst mission in my opinion however, has to be “Behind the Scenes I,” which has you running through the city on foot while dodging enthusiastic fans; NPC spawns are randomly generated, which means there’s a degree of luck getting a clear enough path and not too many NPCs to where they can’t be easily avoided or jumped over/around. I respect Team Gravity’s ambition in trying to diversify their missions and definitely appreciate the comedy behind the concept, but even I thought this one stuck out like a sore thumb.
While we’re on the topic of complaints, the other glaring complaint I often hear regarding Gravity Rush 2 is that the game feels a bit more grindy than the original title. You’re not likely to pick up many precious gems during most story missions and side missions, so most of your stock is going to come from getting gold medals in challenges and thoroughly exploring the hub areas to snag all the collectibles. Even then, you most likely won’t have enough to thoroughly upgrade all of the combat systems, which is where mining missions come in. Once unlocked, Kat can take a boat to a gravity storm mine and destroy green ore for precious gems. This process can take a while considering that environments are fairly spacious and empty, and it’s not particularly interesting repeating the same mines over and over for those final purchases. To be fair, mining missions do at least provide gravity storms that will occasionally spawn in different bosses for Kat to fight, and can also snag you talismans to augment your abilities and boost certain aspects of combat and movement. As a side note, if you really care about the trophy and don’t care much about the above, it is possible to replay old missions instead to at least get this grind out of the way.
Now, having gotten my major reservations out of the way… I actually like this way more than Gravity Rush Remastered.
The first main reason that comes to mind is that combat definitely has a lot more meat on the bone. In the original Gravity Rush, the flying kick was king; just aim and fire until everything in your path was gone, and if you miss, just keep readjusting and firing until you win anyways. Meanwhile, the sequel significantly buffs your other attack options to where combat no longer feels linearized through abusing the flying kick. Gravity sliding is much easier to implement during combat, not only due to the tighter controls but also due to the addition of a sliding dodge. Stasis Field (telekinesis to grab and throw objects) has also been buffed with a larger range than before, can be used without any temporary immobilization, and allows you to pick up enemies outright to chuck at other foes. You can also hold down the circle button when throwing to produce a piercing projectile at the expense of some of the SP gauge. Finally, Stasis Field can also be used defensively to block physical and energy-based projectiles with the proper upgrades. To tie this all together, the unlockable/farmable talismans really do make a difference in providing that extra kick to your basic abilities (ex: by dealing more damage with attacks, increasing the lock-on range of the gravity kick, decreasing the amount of gravity energy used, etc), and can later be recycled or merged for even more potent combinations of boosts.
The real crux behind the deeper combat, however, is due to the presence of additional Gravity Styles which drastically alter Kat’s abilities. For instance, Lunar Style sacrifices power in exchange for more manueverability. The wormhole kick in particular lets you zoom in on enemies (which tackles the issue I had in the original, of faster flying enemies slightly moving out of the way and causing my kick to miss entirely) and can be used to teleport across the stage. Additionally, Projectiles fired with Lunar Style create lingering hitboxes once they hit their target, which can stun-lock individual enemies and knock off armor. Jupiter Style, on the other hand, slows down Kat’s standard grounded movement but in return, adds a lot more weight to Kat’s grounded combo attacks and allows you to charge up a kick that not only deals more damage, but can also create a shockwave upon impact that can eviscerate nearby foes for better crowd control. Similarly, you can charge and fire larger projectiles in Jupiter Style to instantly wipe out bulkier enemies. These two styles also affect Kat’s traversal options. Lunar will give you access to a quick long and low rocket Jump and a charged spring Jump for height, both of which can be chained off walls to maintain momentum. Meanwhile, Jupiter Style buffs Kat’s gravity slide, by not only increasing the base speed, but also granting Kat superarmor with the relevant final upgrade while allowing Kat to quickly slide-tackle enemies. As such, switching between the different styles (including the basic Normal style) grants Gravity Rush 2’s combat a bevy of different approaches to better handle varied mobs while also adding additional depth to Kat’s movement in-between.
The next improvement surprised me; believe it or not, despite my earlier complaints towards some of the missions, I actually do think that missions on the whole have also been improved. I’ve been a bit harsh so far regarding the missions that I don’t like, but the truth is that most of these feel relatively inoffensive or at the very least, not very intrusive. Stealth missions are quickly bypassed by running past enemies, taking them out one by one, or walking on walls outside of enemy vision. Mining missions, as brought up earlier, can be mostly ignored if you’re willing to grind the aforementioned old story missions for upgrades instead (and in fact, if you don’t care about the trophy or maxing out every single stat, you’ll get enough gems and talismans for the crucial abilities from other side/main missions anyways with little detriment towards movement/combat). It also helps that upgrades to the gravity gauge and health bar have been decoupled from the gems system altogether, and will naturally be augmented from completing story and side missions (as opposed to the original, which only increased the upgrade capacity cap for completing missions), thus providing a stronger incentive to tackle all the game’s sprawling content while lessening the need to gem grind. Granted, I still can’t defend Behind the Scenes I given how many times I had to restart due to bad RNG, but it’s more of an anomaly amongst better arcadey challenges that are otherwise great at testing your combat and movement optimization.
Having said that, there are some great side missions in Gravity Rush 2 that more than make up for the duller moments. One fan-favorite is the [cake delivery mission]( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c5Io9tyES8), where Kat has to deliver fragile packages with Lunar Style using plenty of spring and rocket jumps to maneuver around skyscrapers, all the while dealing with recipients begging her for “the good stuff” and dodging attacks from your voracious best friend Raven. My absolute favorite though, has to be the first movie star mission, where a non-powered Kat must play the role of Battle Nurse through the filming of various scenes; the irony of a super-powered protagonist acting as a stunt double for a superhero film without her gravity powers definitely does not escape me. Not every side mission hits of course, but the vast majority of them grant you interesting avenues to exploit Kat’s various movement and combat abilities in a different fashion, and it’s still absolutely heartwarming and adorable to see Kat stumble and bumble her way through all these absurd scenarios while helping so many others along the way; in that sense, Gravity Rush’s side missions actually remind me a ton of my recent playthrough of Yakuza 0 and all the wild sub-stories that it had to offer.
Perhaps that’s the best way to explain my love of this franchise, as I could honestly nitpick the game all day. Gravity Rush 2 suffers from a similar issue to its predecessor in that the FOV feels a bit too constrained at times, which becomes particularly noticeable when you crash into a wall and the camera gets uncomfortably close during areas with tight corridors. Special moves are a strange combination of busted and janky; the Spiraling Claw does tons of damage between enemy clusters but often gets you stuck on walls, the Gravity Typhoon is just a quickfire projectile chuck that is often detrimental in the long-run since it strips the environment of possible projectiles for Stasis Field, and both are essentially rendered obsolete by the Micro Black Hole, which will outright destroy any enemies in Kat’s vicinity. Finally, I have some problems with the pacing here and there, particularly in how the beginning is rather sluggish (without many opportunities to really abuse your gravity shifting powers) while the endgame is quite rapid-fire and blows through multiple story chapters in the course of a couple hours.
Despite all of that, I absolutely adore this game. I have to admit that I don’t really mind that most of the missions are just some combination of flying around and beating up enemies, because Team Gravity does a much better job disguising all this by slightly varying your specific tasks during missions to better facilitate the satisfying bread-and-butter movement + combat without levels feeling too rote. It helps that the core game-feel is greatly accentuated with the little touches like how the wind rumbles around you while boosting, or how falling and landing from great distances creates an earth-shattering boom that stuns you temporarily unless you land and roll with R2. So much of the world feels like it was constructed with such love and care to the point where I’m willing to overlook much of the jank and many of the dips. The environmental storytelling of all the various locales, the little bits of chaos that ensue as casualties of Kat’s gravity powers (from accidentally launching NPCs about to destroying parts of the environment from shifting and landing all over the place), the little responses here and there from other civilians when Kat makes gestures at them… there’s so many details that ultimately bring everything together. I especially appreciate being able to revisit Hekseville again from the original Gravity Rush; it was quite nostalgic catching up with all the familiar locations and characters while understanding how new events played a role into shaping subtle differences. Sure, the story takes so many twists and turns that at times you wonder if anything’s ever played straight in the first place, but there’s this undercurrent of sincerity that keeps you invested throughout the game’s entirety. The final chapter after the fake credits was the perfect way to tie this all up, resolving a lot of the resounding questions left after the ending of the original Gravity Rush while giving Kat & friends the opportunity they needed to go out with an emotional climax.
At the end of the day, there is simply nothing like the Gravity Rush series. No game before or after has ever felt this exhilarating to me, zooming around these anachronistic floating isles and kicking major ass against these shadowy creatures while having fun with friends made along the way. Even despite the missing online functionality, the core solo experience feels just that memorable to me. It’s rare that a game fills me with the same sheer sense of wonder and discovery since the first time I ever completed Okami, nonetheless while considering all the various imperfections involved. Perhaps this game is the perfect encapsulation of a Japan Studio title: an innovative spin on a classic genre that pushed its concepts to their very limits while effortlessly exuding charm. In spite of all the lack of polish here and there, Gravity Rush 2 manages to stay true to itself, and most importantly, never forgets what makes games so much fun in the first place. I’ll forever be saddened at the loss of my favorite Sony developer, because this game deserved so much more. Nevertheless, as long as red apples keep falling from the sky, the seed of hope will find a way to keep hitting us somehow.

One of the more insane games I've played recently. Vampire Survivors is not exactly a well made game, it looks like it could be made in MSPaint and its "secrets", as in secret levels, characters etc. make no fucking sense whatsoever. Not just in how you attain them but in like, their literal content. Why is there a secret character in this game called "Peppino" as in, Peppino the protagonist from Pizza Tower...And he's just a fucking tree? It's literally a tree?? Why can you play as three identical ghosts of different colours called "Esdeath", "Toasty" and "Smithy"? What is the purpose of the Il Molise stage? Or the Moongolow stage? Why is it called "Moongolow"? Why is that O there? What's the deal with all of the (pun intended) batshit insane unlock methods for random shit that makes no sense? What's different about the "challenge" stages like Bat Country and Tiny Bridge that seem to be both easier and quicker to complete (and therefore less challenging) than the regular stages? Could the game please stop to explain literally anything about itself at any point? No? Goofy arcade-ass game.
Oh, yeah. The gameplay.
It's fun! Damn this shit's fun as hell. Vampire Survivors IS a well designed game. What a trip. I love the bit where I'm all like "whooosh, whooosh, PEW PEW PEW bam! bam! POOOOOOOOOOOOW"
"I am become death, the bullets of hell" -J. Robert Oppenheimer
I played this game for free on Game Pass and it gave me more hours of enjoyment than some somber slice-of-life indie about managing my emotions could ever have! Not bad for some piece of shit shovelware cooked up in Flash that takes half its identity from Castlevania! All of the bestiary entries are actually pretty funny and well-written! You didn't feel like just stopping and telling me what the fuck Eudaimonia M is supposed to be? What it's supposed to mean? How I even unlocked it? Ah, fuck it, I like blowing shit up too much

While going through Warioware: Touched! last year, I had my fair share of criticisms, mainly that the game felt somewhat trivial since every microgame was some form of poke + drag (or in the case of the mic games, just yelling til I won). On a surface level, it would appear that the other major Nintendo minigame collection series, Rhythm Heaven, falls into the same trap, since every game appears to be tap and flick, but I don't find that to be true. Quite the opposite in fact, as Rhythm Heaven DS is extremely challenging, yet super satisfying and fair.
Rhythm Heaven succeeds where I think Warioware: Touched! falls flat, because the former is much more subtle about mixing up devices to introduce an organic difficulty curve than the latter. Every minigame's gimmick is conveyed via some combination of call & response, memorizing rhythmic motifs, and recognizing appropriate audio & visual cues. This difficulty then gets ramped up, both within minigames and throughout the game's progression, by introducing new or different elements that alter how the mechanics are presented and utilized in some fashion, but ultimately retaining the core fundamentals. For instance, you might have to play "in the dark" for certain sections of minigames and rely heavily upon audio cues, or have to deal with sudden (yet firmly telegraphed) tempo shifts with tougher rhythmic variations, or even shift the backing melody or player actions to the off-beat to keep the player honest and in-tune with the minigame's workings. This, combined with the simple yet realized controls of tap, hold, and flick (lending itself naturally to syncopation from tap/hold + flick alongside quick note playing from tapping) allows for a much more robust toolkit and strengthened intricate designs for a broadly diversified minigame ecosystem. Even if all these different rhythm games revolve around the same theme (i.e. finding the natural flow and beat in simple and often mundane tasks), they all manage to stand out from one another despite seemingly simple controls because the rhythms at which they are executed from one another can be so drastically varied and iterated upon.
The attention to detail is especially evident within the remix microgames at the end of each five game minigame chain. These finales add a fresh coat of paint to the previous four microgames (and once you get past the initial 30, sometimes even more than just four) and putting players' execution and knowledge banks to the test while ferrying them between the different concepts with ease. There's an overlying melody to the whole affair, just played with a different filter for each specific minigame type, and moreover, they're linked in a way where the players can recognize the carried-over beat and be in specific positions where they're ready to quickly adapt to the new control scheme. For instance, consider Remix 8: the ping-pong into vegetable slice looks intimidating at first, but once you realize that swiping the paddle in the former has the exact same rhythm as swiping to slice vegetables in the latter, then it's merely a case of recognizing the visual/audio disguise and maintaining your composure. Another example that comes to mind is within Remix 10, where there's a section transitioning from the snowboarding minigame to the choir kids' Glee Club. Normally, you'd think that there would be some issues immediately flashing into Glee Club, since you can't possibly know what's coming up without prior experience and not holding your stylus on the screen will result in your Choir Kid automatically singing as per the control scheme of hold and release to play notes. However, this is accounted for with the lead-in snowboard minigame, because the last few frames of that section telegraph a jump, which requires the player to hold down the stylus on the screen and then flick and release. Since the jump hasn't occurred yet, the player should still be holding down, and this transitions naturally into the Glee Club's neutral state, where they can then release the stylus to the telegraphed beat and proceed onwards. It's little moments like these that make all the different jumps between previous minigames feel seamless, and transform the remixes into challenging, yet extremely fulfilling victory laps.
My only outstanding complaint is that certain minigames require considerably more accuracy and precision to master than others, and are often far more finicky about their timing requirements without obvious visual/audible feedback regarding slight misses, which can make repeated plays for that Superb/Perfect ranking a bit obnoxious. Glee Club and Moai Doo-Wop 2 are two of the more infamous culprits, to where some users have even created strategy guides. I can certainly relate, as it took me over 8 tries on Glee Club to snag a superb before I realized that the tight timing during the quick notes in the middle of the track was the section that was stumping me, since being off by just a hair there doesn't result in the other Choir Kids giving you the stink-eye. As a related aside, I did have a bit of difficulty with Rockers 2, since this minigame introduces the use of the L/R button as a whammy bar and feels a bit out of place, being the only minigame that doesn't exclusively use the touchscreen and forcing me to bend my left hand around to access the button. That said, I'll choose to chalk that one up to a skill issue since the unlockable Technical Guitar Course afterwards gives you plenty more opportunities to get used to this mechanic. Regardless, I find Rhythm Heaven to be a very honest and approachable set of minigames despite the level of mastery often required, and I can easily see myself coming back to this one to spend more time honing my skills. It's a complete and realized package that's truly the epitome of doing a lot with very little, and I eagerly look forward to testing my mettle with the remaining games in the series.

Sonic Team's biggest weakness as a developer, by far, is the way they obfuscate the fun latent in their own experiences. We're too deep into the 'kinda amusing but far too bloated and unpolished for their own good' era of 3D Sonic to say that NiGHTS is their worst example of this, but it comes to mind when I think about what the most SONIC TEAM sonic team game is.
NiGHTS is often talked about more like it's an experiential title. It's themes, narrative, and music can make it feel like that, but it's actually a pretty tightly woven arcade game too. I'd argue that's where most of the substance lies and that the trippy visuals are a sort of window dressing.
According to interviews, the game came about after an extensive, experimental developmental period where the developers were emboldened to experiment with 3D technology. After 3-5 Sonic games in a row, depending on who you ask, everyone wanted to make something new. An extensive plan for a large scale platformer based on dreams was developed, but after extensive prototyping, the flying mechanic that they had intended for the end of the game as a big, climactic moment proved to be the only one that was any good. Whoops.
I think this shows a bit in the final version. Awkwardly shoehorned in platforming and an extremely frontloaded story that might disincentivize further replays by mistake are the big offenders here, but these flaws are turned into double edged swords by excellent decision making on the part of the leadership. The awkward 3D controls are relegated strictly to a punishment for poor control of NiGHTS and the story, while brief and light, has enough thematic heft to stick with you. Maybe it'll stick so well that you'll try the game again even after a rough first playthrough.
The flying is pure, freeform fun once you get the hang of it, but it's like nothing else released before it or since, so it's a very confusing concept to try to come to grips with in a short amount of time.
This is going to sound like I'm bullshitting you, but I really do think NiGHTS's un-evenness doubles as a strength. It feels truly like a fragmented stream of consciousness that succeeds at feeling as surreal mechanically as it is aesthetically. There are a lot of games about dreams, but they're usually a visual element supplementing bog standard gameplay. Despite NiGHTS's display of what makes a satisfying arcade game, it can't be nailed down to many existing genres or gameplay loops, especially now. It FEELS like the type of out of body experience you'd have in a dream, and the way it shies away from explaining it's core concepts and lore work to instill this feeling too.
It also helps that there's a pretty kickass arcade game under the hood if you're willing to take that rank system seriously. Let me give you a tip: Instead of turning those orbs on your first go around through the level, pass the goal and go back around again. See how many orbs and chains you can squeeze out of a single loop. All of a sudden, the game design clicks into place and you're playing an exhilarating action game with a tight arcade loop in line with the best Sonic entries.
NiGHTS is definitely an acquired taste, but lean into it's absurdity and you'll be entranced. It's a genuinely great game with an uplifting meta-narrative, top notch visuals, and the best soundtrack out of Sonic Team's legendary discography.
Some dreams feel like they're over in a few minutes, and others can feel like a lifetime. I encourage you to take advantage of the fact that this one only ends when you let it.

sonic team should've stuck to their strengths and sold their games as arcade experiences through and through. nights is a masterpiece on all fronts; an experimental title at an experimental time in sega's life that fits somewhere between the worlds of sonics cd and adventure as far as presentation and game theory.
as said elsewhere its jungian roots and elaborate visuals are ultimately window dressing, but you bet your ass they sell me; i find myself regularly transfixed by the endless dreamscapes of nights' world and the perfect, and i mean PERFECT soundtrack composed by the minds behind several of my favorite sega scores - namely sonic cd and adventure. that's hardly to speak poorly of the gameplay though. i think 'getting' nights is a steep process but that session the game finally clicks for you, and you truly get to experience the feeling of flight and acrobatics in synchronicity with the analog stack, it's a high few other games can offer you. truly one of the most magical experiences i've ever had with a game. and no questions asked, christmas nights is a perfect bow on the present, uber-charming and sweet as it comes.
it's funny - this isn't one i spent time on as a kid, but it was a later discovery for me, and now i think i could probably call this my favorite thing sega's ever put out. that's about as high praise as i can offer.