58 Reviews liked by MitchellGSPR
One Piece Odyssey
What’s marketed as the celebration of the series as its approaching its final saga turns out to be the shallow encapsulation of the worst parts about the anime adaptation instead. They got Eiichiro Oda to write the story which I’m assuming means he wrote the basic outline of the plot and the new characters while the devs had to do the rest of the work which they failed in. The character models are just lifted from the Pirate Warriors games and fail to convey the expressive and dynamic art of Eiichiro Oda and instead look stiff and awkward. This was in development during Whole Cake Island so they couldn’t include any of the story material past that point so they resorted to circling back to previous arcs which for some reason was just 4. Granted, they’re the most acclaimed and fan-favorite arcs but this wouldn’t really be enough to provide the base content you have to sink through which is why they decided to pad them the fuck out with pointless backtracking, repetitive character banter, and uninteresting quests. There’s also no real difficulty that takes advantage of a mildly interesting yet ultimately shallow combat system that makes battle encounters too easy to just Unga Bunga your way through with spamming normal attacks. Except for the weird out of nowhere times they decided to ramp up difficulty to enemies having ridiculously bloated healthbars you have to chip your way down bit by bit. The only interesting thing about this is how it hints at larger connections to the lore of One Piece similarly to Film Red which Oda was also involved in so I guess that makes wiki surfing fun next time I do that.
Fire Emblem Engage
Ok, I think this game is very easy to critizise just by the stuff we saw in trailers and the first couple of hours, I understand it is definately not what most people were expecting and I don't think being disappointed by it is unfair, but in my experience I disagree with a couple of the complaints made to this point, and I have to comment on some.
But first, starting with positives, the gameplay is very fun and even tho I still don't know if there will be ways to abuse it or make it feel like a joke, is very fair and balanced. It is definately not what I was expecting, becuase seeing the rings and their effects in the showcases, me and almost everyone would've thought they were inmensly overpowered, but they fit nicely into the gameplay and the maps and enemy locations are prepared with the rings in mind.
It is very difficult to balance a fire emblem game, and sometimes it's even fun to play unbalanced fire emblem games, but this one is still highly enjoyable even on higher difficulties, I don't feel as many bullshit as with three houses and the maps for now are one of my favorites in the series and I haven't finished the game.
Talking about difficulties, "Hard" actually poses a challenge, as opposed to, again, Three Houses which was a joke except on the "maddening" difficulty, which often used same-turn reinforcements and bullshit mechanics to keep it hard (infamous Reunion at Dawn). I still haven't touched maddening in this game, but hard does impose a bit of challenge and I am hopeful it will be as sweet in the highest difficulty, will update my review based on that.
Now, addressing the art-style, it is really different from the rest of the games so far, and I agree that the fact that this series changes it's style frecuently wouldn't be an excuse for badly designed characters and environments. So yes, Alear is not a compelling design, and I found a couple that weren't too great either, but the rest of them aren't bad at all.
You could complain that that are too separated from each other and they don't look like they are from the same game sometimes, I don't agree but even if it was the case, I like having a diverse cast and they fit in their own kingdoms and follow a trend in each one as if they had a different culture. They are mostly nice designs and I like the fact that they made them distinctive according to their region of origin, which they didn't do in past FE games with some exceptions.
Now, the graphics on the other hand, look gorgeous, even if you think they are generic, the bright colors and textures are very nice to the eyes and I found myself really digging the art style thanks to the backgrounds in battle, I really don't understand people that call this ugly because I don't see it at all.
Also, this game has top tier animations, for the attacks and dodges, it's one of the first games where I don't see myself pressing the skip button or turning animations off becuase they take too long, at least since the GBA games. There is one where, if the character has a high level, instead of just dodging an arrow he will break it with his sword mid-air and it's unnecessary, but it's still there and it's hilarious, things like that give this game more charm than any of the pokémon games on switch.
Now, talking about characters and story, maybe the story isn't anything special, that's definately true, it's not like Fire Emblem has any game with an incredible story, far from it, but this one follows generic story beats of old games. It's not horrendous, there aren't any stupid decisions or questionable plot points as in other games, but it isn't great.
On the other hand, I find myself also liking most of the characters in the game, maybe they aren't as focused and three dimensional as in three houses, but almost all of them have something interesting and the supports rarely feel annoying.
Alear is a step up for the avatar character, not as great as Shez I think, but it improves upon Byleth, feels more similar to something like Robin. Of course he isn't complex or anything, and I don't personally like avatars and would be happier if they stopped using them, but he is decent enough. Only thing I do have to mention is that the characters are jerking him off most of the time, and that is something that wasn't present with Byleth (that much) and does bother me, but it isn't a problem with Alear himself.
So, to keep things simple, Engage is a game that improves in gameplay significantly sacrificing a bit of the story significance that was in the previous entry, but that doesn't make it worse, just a very different experience that is focused on another group of people which are here for the strategy and want to have a good time with it. I think It succeeds in that regard and I couldn't be happier with how fun I'm having with the maps until now, even with the average story, I am still picking characters depending on how much I like them, and I am enjoying building them more than in the most recent entries at least.
Complaining about the tropes and art style is definately fair, but some of the critiques miss the point completely and makes it seem like Fire Emblem wasn't always about a game where you have to build your own army and strategic resource management. Three Houses is to blame for setting expectations to new players into other directions, (not that I'm mad with 3H or anything, I also adore that game, but the reasons are completely different, and I don't expect to find myself enjoying the same aspects, becuase shaking things up once in a while is what makes the series feel fresh with every new entry).
My last point, is a bit more of rant, and it's not from my experience of the game, but a response to some complaints I have heard that make little to no sense to me, I'll try to not extend myself too much.
First, the fact that this game is the 30th anniversary celebration title is false, people said it becuase of the leaks that came out which turned out to be true, but blindly trusting leaks isn't a good source of information, as a couple other things, like the fact that Gust was involved with the game, turned out to be false. Expecting it to be a celebration and being disappointed becuase of the ring mechanics, doesn't justify the fact that it is still a normal mainline Fire Emblem game, and it doesn't need to prove itself worthy or more special than any other title. Maybe it doesn't have to be the best in every department and it's focused on being a different experience and attracting different people (that's why it is so different to Three Houses despite coming on the same console).
If you are worried about the direction of the series and don't like this game, don't whine online about how this is "ruining" the series, the next entry will be completely different again, and maybe it will take a while but a new game may fit you taste as time passes, if not, you have more than 17 old games with infinite replayability that may please you.
This game is not going to damage the series and turn it into anything that it isn't just becuase you don't like the artstyle and story, it is still an excellent Fire Emblem game at its core, and many people such as me are enjoying it and will enjoy the next entries as much as this one becuase I simply can't find myself hating a game that looks and plays great (at least it's how I feel) as I'm sure the next games will too.
Not mad at people who don't like the game, but some came with the expectation of hating it just for the first trailer and ended up doing it becuase that's obviously what's going to happen if you have that attitude. Sad that a great part of the fanbase aren't enjoying it as much as I am tho, but again, you don't have to light up all the alarms, it is not a big deal.
Luckily a Genealogy Remake is coming next, hope that game satysfies the fans that enjoy FR stories becuase that is easily the best one of the bunch, very hyped for that game too.
One Piece Odyssey
Despite what people say about turn based style or difficulty, this is a very solid One Piece game and a decent JRPG.
Do not be put off by the first chapter. The first chapter is essentially a tutorial, all of the enemies are extremely easy and you level up quite fast to introduce you to the combat, bonus EXP mechanics and the like. In similar JRPG fashion, the game gets a lot more difficult after Chapter 1, and beyond chapter 2 the combat and character building starts to get a lot more lush with the introduction of the crafting system.
The party member rotation mechanic mixed with the Rock-Paper-Scissors weakness and field quadrant systems makes combat smooth and fun. Each character has their niches and uses without any Straw Hat being lackluster.
My main complaints with the game are minor to me, but could be major to some. I wasn't a fan of the needless backtracking in the main story and lack of fulfilling sidequests and NPC interactions. The movement speed for sprint is also far too slow for a game with maps this large.
Side quests themselves are typically fetch quests, bounty hunts, or backtracking related, and rewards aren't incredible. Admittedly I skipped most of them after the beginning so they likely get better, at least in the reward department.
NPC dialogue is usually pretty bland but there are a few references and easter eggs super fans will like. The main story itself is really good, akin to the quality of a One Piece Movie in my opinion. Seeing how the crew interacts in situations theyve never been in (like the entire crew being with Luffy for Marineford and the half of the crew that was absent being present for Dressrosa, Etc), and getting to relive each arc with twists and alterations to canon is interesting. It's a nice deviation from the standard formula of just making the manga/anime's story into a game directly.
Overall a 7/10 game, coming from a major One Piece fan. The game is worth playing to dip your toes into the One Piece universe and to get loosely acquainted with a few of its main story beats, and great for super fans like myself to have a nice 40 hour experience within the series.
The Touhou Project series is an incredibly vast rabbit hole I jumped into recently with no regret in the slightest. Touhou is not only a franchise about weird female characters wearing weird headgears and great music, this series also contains some of the most engaging and motivating games I’ve played in a long time and introduced me to the incredibly fascinating bullet hell genre.
In this review I especially want to talk about Touhou 6 – Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, because after playing trough most the titles, I consider it not only the best game of the series but also the best starting point for beginners.
Once you hit start you explicitly choose Normal Difficulty, because having gamer pride will inevitably just cause frustration before you have even learned the gist of the game and that’s dumb. After that, you can either choose shrine maiden Reimu or magician Marisa. I recommend starting with Reimu because of her lower speed and therefore easier to control movement. Then choose the shot type of your interest, all of them varying in range and strength, contributing to either more evasive or aggressive strategies.
The control scheme is fairly simple: The player can move in 8 different directions (vertical, horizontal and diagonal) and switch between an unfocused and focused mode. While unfocused your bullets have a wider range making it therefore easier to hit more enemies. While focused (by holding the designated button pressed) the bullets form more or less a straight line, concentrating on one spot. The player is also slower, making it easier to dodge slow bullet patterns. Switching between these two modes during the right circumstances is the key to success.
The game gives you some time to get comfortable with the controls and take in the information on the right side of the screen (High Score, Player Lifes, Bombs, Power level, …) Even the first few enemy waves are having no attack behavior attached to them to make things easier.
The Power Level of a shot type increases with each red enemy drop collected and the player loses some of that power after losing a life. The lost power can still be recollected on screen except for three points which makes sense: The moment the power reaches max, the current enemy bullets on screen get deleted. In a no-hit playthrough this happens only once. But for each life you lose and with just a slight decrease in power the player can purposefully decide during what moment they want to collect the remaining power again.
A limited amount of bombs, also referred to as spell cards, are last resort items to delete enemy bullets, deal damage and make the player invincible for a short amount of time. Bombs also allows the player to save themselves if used within a few frames after getting hit. This is in many situations enough incentive to risk not using a bomb instead of chickening out. The bombs also reset to an amount of three each time the player loses a life even if you have more than three of them available. This is what makes losing them more frustrating, because the player decided to save them for later purposes.
Touhous’ main appeal gameplaywise, as simple as it sounds, is dodging. It’s not only the barrages of thousands of bullets and beautifully designed patterns the player need to correctly interpret and survive each playthrough. Every aspect in Touhou 6 seems committed to make dodging and repositioning as interesting as possible.
The riskier the player dodges the higher the score at the end. The graze mechanic detects when the player barley dodges a bullet and rewards them with bonus points for doing so. The blue collectibles dropped by enemies also raise your score but the more they fall down on the screen, the less points they are worth. Also, if the power level reached the maximum, the player can immediately collect all items on screen whenever they cross the item get borger line, which covers around 1/4th of the top screen. Thus, due to the fact that most enemies spawn on top of the screen, getting a lot of points gets very risky. Beating boss phases within a time limit and without using spell cards also grants you score bonuses.
Shooting is as simple as it possible can get to allow more difficult enemy bullet patterns. During stages the only time you might remove the thumb from the shoot button is during dialogues to skip them. Even as a newcomer in this genre, I’ve already played other shmups with more interesting mechanics in that regard (for example Sol Cresta or Deathsmiles). Touhou gets, if at all, just slightly more interesting shot types in later entries but mechanically shooting never amounts to more than holding your thumb down 90 % of the time.
Even the bosses and enemies are nothing more than just one moving hitbox after another with the only distinguishing feature that they spawn different variations of bullet patterns increasing in complexity with game progress. Bosses only tend to move to force the player to reposition. If I directly compare this with Ikaruga’s boss design, which includes different hit boxes or weak points, Touhou looks completely flat in that regard.
The most important aspect however is the for bullet hell games typically very small player hitbox. Its the reason that leads to many different kind of strategies to deal with bullet patterns, to last second dodges through fast thinking what makes nearly every predicament still survivable, to one essential decision one after another... It’s also what makes this game insanely fair because most of the time there’s still a possibility to manage the situation in your favor.
Which leads us to the interesting aspect of Touhou shmups: The bullet patterns themselves.
Each stage in the whole series is physically the same. There are never physical obstacles or other non-moveable hindrances that are located during certain parts of stages. The only difference in each stage are the enemies used, their movement behavior and the bullets they shoot. The bullet behavior is either fixed, randomized or depends on the player position. They also differentiate in their speed and size, which leads to all kinds of combinations, which are seemingly infinite. I am still astonished how fresh each new installment of the series feels because of that.
All of these factors are leading to different kinds of strategies in how to avoid certain bullet patterns. Stage 4 for example features lasers that ultimately limits the space the player can dodge. In Stage 5 a barrage creates a grid-like pattern that is easier to avoid if the player just moves tiny steps at a time to safely reach the blind spots of the grid. The players’ success always depends on how they read this situations and on their ability to think ahead and correctly predict blind spots. There are many ways to manipulate bullet patterns in your favor.
Most of the boss bullet patterns are so uniquely designed that it is possible to identify some characters based on the compositions of bullets alone. Rumia has more fixed and simpler patterns, Cirno includes some random aspects in her phases and Meiling always uses a combination of fixed and random bullets. Patchouli, the 4th stage boss, is where most players definitely kick the bucket the first time around. Not only does she use new elements like lasers and way bigger bullets, she also incorporates random patterns in her phases kinda like Meiling the stage before.
And Patchouli is also the first boss where I had to appreciate how aesthetically pleasing Touhou’s bullet patterns and color schemes are. The unique designs are a huge influence in my enjoyment and engagement with these games, sometimes reminding me of Mandala art. Touhou games are unironically one of the most visually pleasing experiences I had with games particularly because how much you deal with it gameplaywise which makes a lot more fun to avoid all that stuff on the screen. It makes dodging look so much more graceful somehow. This is also a reason why memorizing those patterns becomes easier, which makes later playthroughs a lot more encouraging.
Before I started my Touhou journey, I’ve always thought of it more like a game series of memorizing fixed patterns and as incredibly punishing. Whereas it is more a series about making one quick decision and reaction after the next, thinking ahead and reading the situations correctly and adapt to them. Touhou 6 is also one of the most fair games I’ve ever played even on harder difficulties while also providing a huge challenge to master. I can count the situations on one hand where I didn’t know exactly which bullet hit me or what mistake I made and had to blame the game instead. The way the Power level and Bombs are working contributes to that fairness, giving the player a helping hand each time they lose a life. I never really felt punished while playing this game. There are so many ingenious factors which makes 1CC-ing those game so much fun. Not at least the short amount of playtime each playthrough takes what makes Touhou 6 so easy to pick up again.
Touhou 6 quickly became one of my favorite games ever and opened the door to a lot of interesting bullet hell games I can’t wait to play. And if those are even remotely as good or even better I am going to have a blast for sure.