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Streets of Rogue
(previously had two separate entries on this game but neither really fully communicated what I wanted to say so I'm deleting them both and posting an updated one)
The gist of my previous review was essentially that as someone who wants to experience a game quickly and move on to the next one, if I hit a hundred hours with this (something I rarely did with any game) then it would probably be deserving of a five-star rating. Since that post, I've unlocked everything that can be unlocked, finished the game with all 26 characters and completed their Big Quests, and had my sleep schedule obliterated as I ended up clocking well over 200 hours on this little gem.
A common criticism leveled at Streets of Rogue is that it lacks depth; level designs within a district tend to be rather samey, there is almost no variety in mission types, and most mechanics from combat to stealth are rather shallow. I can't argue with that, but rather than going deep this game goes extremely wide, with a huge cast of characters and even bigger arsenal of items and feats. The zombie can infect other NPCs and quickly overrun a level with zombros but has to be extremely careful in later levels where its lack of range attacks is cruelly exposed. The gorilla is strong enough to rip its enemies limb from limb but can't speak to others and therefore can't buy from shops or recruit followers, meaning its money is best spent at vending machines or cloning stations to create a gorilla army. The doctor is elite at incapacitating enemies through chloroform and a slow-acting tranquilizer gun but wants to avoid large brawls at all costs. The investment banker starts with lots of money and a huge handicap: he's drug-addicted and constantly chasing a high, and will go into withdrawal if he spend too long without a status effect on him. So he needs to blow all his cash on medicine and alcohol while also blowing through levels as fast as he can - this speedrun-type character in a game that typically wants you to be slow and methodical makes him absolutely unique and one of my favorite characters despite how difficult he is to master.
Combined with the randomness of the items you can find over the course of a run and the feats you unlock on level-up, you get a roguelike where every run feels entirely unique. Finding items and traits that synergize with your character's playstyle feels fantastic - unlocking the trait that gives your doctor free ammo between levels (near-unlimited tranq darts!) or finding a universal translator as a gorilla (being able to buy food and items on top of being unfairly buff) just gave my lizard brain a huge dopamine hit.
And in the end, the core gameplay is just so darned fun. It's full of chaos, humor, and unexpected interactions that encourage out-of-the-box solutions to the stock objectives. And like Resi 4, FFV, and Streets of Rage Remake (3 other distinguished members of my 5-star club), this is a game that I have 100%ed and still want to keep playing.
Kid Chameleon is fucking stupid, and that's both what makes and breaks it. Most of the charm is found in how utterly goofy it all is, especially the powerups, while on the other hand it all comes crashing down because of the prominent absurdity, even cruelty, of the level design. This had to have been a heavy influence on those kaizo games and Mario Maker levels you see around nowadays.
And it's got no passwords or saves, either. A major selling point for this one was that it has over 100 levels in total, it's even on the front of the box. You probably won’t see all of them, as some are on alternate routes and such, and some routes get you through the game faster than others. Whatever the case, it's still really long for a 4th gen platformer, so what gives? It even has limited continues, so I have to wonder really if anyone actually beat this when it came out. Difficulty-wise it's just...such a different breed, even for the time.
I really wish I liked this one more, it definitely has a lot going for it, but the length and all around bullshit design just deal a massive blow to the overall quality. Despite being in a bunch of compilations, I sadly can't recommend it.
Paper Mario fanatics are kind of the worst, huh? They're like the most annoying attributes of Nintendo nerds amplified by ten; they constantly whine about how dead their series is, get into absurd fights over which game is the best, they shove their games down your throat without giving you room to breathe. I suppose it has died down a little since that recent installment for the Switch, but I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. It gets really tiring sometimes to hear the same things hailed as godsends, and instead of making me want to check them out it just drives me away out of annoyance. This can also be said for stuff like Outer Wilds and Hollow Knight, but I remember tracing this feeling in my head back to games like this.
All that being said, this game is damn near masterful in many aspects. The amount of heart and soul thrown in is just staggering. The story in particular is one of Nintendo's finest and most captivating. You probably couldn't count all the memorable characters here if you had four hands, and same goes for the songs featured throughout. It's also a really good RPG for beginners, seeing as the difficulty as a whole is very very low up until the final two chapters. There's a lot to love here. I do love this game, and ultimately I can indeed see how it reached its status.
A big thing about the ridiculous levels of hype, though, is that it makes the lower points sting that much more. This game is absolutely not free of those, I can tell you that much. Most notably, the backtracking can be pretty exhausting. In particular, Chapter 4's ridiculous amounts of wandering back and forth reduce it to a tedious nightmare, even despite the introduction of Vivian, whom everybody loves and everybody should love.
Less significant, but still worth noting is that the battle system started to wear on my nerves after a while, though I guess this is usually an RPG problem as a whole. I guess it's pretty hard to get that right, admittedly. But things like the Twilight Town/Creepy Steeple fiasco, or Chapter 7's asinine fetch quest...they really just make me wonder, what was the point? Was there not a better way to pad those chapters out? I don't know, man.
And the thing is, I probably wouldn't be as worked up about moments like this if its fans didn't tout it around as a flawless masterwork. It feels like the cracks are bigger than they really are, since everything good has been already said and then some. Sometimes when things reach this status it's just easier to talk about the negatives, even if it really is a wonderful time as a whole.
So for the most part it looks like the aforementioned loud, annoying fans were right. But really, in the end I still don't think a return to form for this series is necessary. It's part of what makes those early ones special, how one of a kind they are. Every series eventually declines with time, and it's not really a big deal how early or late it happens.
It's also just that like, projects like Bug Fables? That has "oh, this is for the REAL fans" energy all over it. That shit is annoying. Not touching it with a ten foot pole. Gootbye.
Anyway, uh, it's like 2 AM. This is a very scatterbrained and ranty review, if you can't tell already. I tried to bum rush through the last three chapters of the game today and I am totally out of energy. It's also deliberately my 500th game logged, though, so I wanted to write something longer despite being tired. Ultimately I'm glad I caved in and gave this a go. I think it was worth it.
Konami's shmups are always this kinda odd brand of extreme scope and gravitas parsed against violently cruel design. III's the worst of this and Cold Comfort already gave the Grade-A thesis on it, so I ain't gonna re-tread ground.
How's the SNES version? For my money, really good. Slowdown be damned, these games need this shit to ease the omnidirectional onslaught. Even thematically, the slowdown is kinda 'bullettime-y' and adds to the tension.
I was also surprised how solid the SNES soundtrack is - they brought over the series' echo-laden synths and celestial keys really well to a sample-based format, not to mention being a LAUNCH WINDOW game at that.
First half is pretty generous on difficulty, but the second half is where things get asinine even with the SNES-version modifications. Just constant barrages of unpatterned bullets, tight walls, shifting terrain, bosses with aggravating behaviors while narrow tubes guard their hitboxes, etc. And all of this is still with Konami's patented 'fuck up once and give up' Gradius Syndrome. It's all just too overkill for my tastes.
Admittingly I wasn't vibing with Condemned: Criminal Origins during the first couple of hours, because I kept subconsciously making comparisons to the other Monolith Productions game I played earlier this year, F.E.A.R.. That said, once I got over my initial misgivings and let the game speak for itself, I started to really appreciate a lot more of the game's strengths. In a way, they're both brilliantly done to where you know it's Monolith behind the wheel; yet at the same time, it's interesting how the two games are almost antitheses in other regards.
Let's start with the similarities. Both games are incredible at creating these dismal and unsettling atmospheres thanks to how the game constantly manages to keep you on guard. It throws every trick in the book to show that something's up through swinging lights, film grain, fog, quick bursts of enemy movement in the corner of your vision, looming shadows, creaky doors, and so on so forth, painting terror in the environment without any cheap jumpscares. In particular, Condemned's often monotone and washed out condensed hallways and rooms are littered with few sources of light and plenty of signs of urban decay, giving credence to the backstory of the forsaken parts of the city that have since become shelter to those left behind by society, now vindictive and hungry to exact revenge upon anything that moves. The most impressive thing is that not one of these tactics are overused, and in fact the shifting environment when backtracking in certain locations due to altered lighting or displaced barriers further emphasizes the raw danger. The sound design is incredible too, as thanks to the rather intentionally poor lighting throughout the game, I often had to rely on echoing objects crashing to the floor or footsteps behind me to prep myself for incoming combat. To top it all off, Condemned slowly introduces more and more supernatural elements, starting subtly with the central mystery but unveiling more and more as you delve deeper into the rabbit hole, with certain paranormal elements unfolding before your eyes as a honestly pretty effective attempt to instill Thomas as an unreliable narrator and observer; as much as Thomas would love to rely on his lab evidence to pick out the perpetrator, he finds out that he was chosen for a reason, and this internal struggle slowly tears him apart from the inside until you as Thomas begin to question your own judgement. I think this is best represented by the sudden black and white flashbacks interspersed between the investigative elements and combat, putting you in a 3rd person perspective viewing the killer's past actions and leaving Thomas visibly panting as he struggles to make sense of why he's the one burdened with these starkly terrifying visions.
I'll admit it took me a bit to get used to the combat. F.E.A.R.'s combat is flashy and sporadic, just the way that I'd imagine chaotic firefights to be. However, Condemned focuses far less on firefights, and more on improvisational close quarters combat in tightly cramped and dimly lit rooms and corridors with melee weapons. In a way, it's actually more terrifying than F.E.A.R.; F.E.A.R. constantly gives you moments where you feel like a monster, as you can get the jump on enemies and tear them apart with bullet spray in slow-mo while your foes go "He's too fast!". Condemned, on the other hand, is raw and visceral street brawling with whatever weapons you've got on hand; you're constantly in the face of enemies just barely dodging and blocking their attacks while chipping away at them with kicks and swings of your own, and fighting multiple enemies in a horde is extremely difficult, so you're almost always constantly losing ground to even try and survive. If you try and play this like a traditional fighting game and simply wait for them to approach and block, that often doesn't work either, because the AI is a bit smarter than that; they'll often feint or mix up attacks and timing to catch you off guard. As a result, enemies in Condemned feel very real and alive; there's no cheeky quips or over the top weaponry to be found, just snarling and grunting twisted beings doing whatever they can to tear you down so they can survive another day.
I think in this sense, Condemned is great at shocking the player by constantly ripping away any semblance of safety and control. Scattered through the environments are a variety of clues that have to be analyzed and sent to Rosa to further unravel the mystery. But you're not immune to danger while doing so; you often have to be ready for enemy attacks and intrusions while using your tools so you can quickly switch back to weapons to defend yourself, and even if you try and take it upon yourself to clear out enemies before beginning detective work, you can never be too sure that an enemy hasn't already caught on and could be lurking around the corner if you stray too far from the path. Furthermore, the game introduces two elements as a sort of "balance" to help you out with more difficult parts of combat. You can occasionally pick up firearms from exploring or from defeating some enemies to more quickly dispatch foes, and you're also given a taser that can temporarily stun a single enemy and recharges over time. These absolutely have their limitations though; firearms have a limited amount of ammo and cannot be reloaded, turning into what is more or less an inferior blunt object with limited durability once emptied, and tasers can only stun one enemy at a time and may not even provide enough of a gap to effectively finish off the foe. So in a way, combat is this never-ending frenzy of scrambling to find new weapons and keeping a close eye on the taser's energy gauge, further accentuated by the need to pick up certain weapons that can clear overworld obstacles such as a fire axe to break down wooden doors, or a shovel to destroy powered locks. As a final wrinkle to all of this, the last chapter of the game takes away both your flashlight and taser for a truly terrifying conclusion; you must now suddenly adapt to making your way through the dark with your only main source of light a burning 4x4, and any weapons picked up to fend off enemies will rob you of your torch and must be sufficient enough to get past foes without your tried and true stun.
Now this game is not without its faults, many of which become more and more flagrant as the game progresses. There is a lot of classic 2000s jank to be found, as quite a few enemies walked through walls and windows to attack me or suddenly had very strange yardstick disjointed hitboxes, and there's the occasional break-dancing corpse falling through the floors or clipping into barriers that can break the otherwise solid and haunting immersion. There were also a few instances where enemies weren't affected by my bullets immediately after being stunned by the taser despite being shot point-blank by a shotgun, which led to some moments of frustration of my ammo being wasted and taking excess damage when the enemy retaliated. I will also admit that I have some gripes regarding the movement, particularly in how Thomas moves significantly more slowly on any incline or any set of stairs (and holding down sprint does nothing); while I get this is most likely an intentional artistic choice to make combat more deliberate and force players to take more time to soak in the surroundings, I think limiting the movement speed to this degree on every single set of stairs is a bit much and extremely noticeable in slowing the pace of the game down. And finally, I do think that the block active frames window is a bit too small, and lengthening the block window would help combat from feeling like I always had to go on the offensive to proc reactions from enemies. It's fortunately not as much of an issue against standard enemies, where you can often bait and punish, but it does become quite a challenge against the final boss, which provides far less room for error.
I think Condemned nails the grittier crime thriller tone of a harrowing supernatural murder mystery while feeling constantly oppressive in nature thanks to the prevalent sense of danger lurking around every corner and looming premonitions that there's something far bigger at stake and you're just a small piece of the puzzle with no control or grasp on anything. I think it's a tougher sell compared to its flashier and just as batshit crazy cousin F.E.A.R., but if you're willing to put in the time and the toil, it's one genuinely terrifying experience that you'll never forget.
Upon revisiting this after playing more shmups, I'm a bit surprised I didn't find myself raising or lowering the score.
It's got some things that really make me want to put it higher, but also some things that make me want to lower it.
It's got some things that really make me want to put it higher, but also some things that make me want to lower it.
R-Type III has this cinematic flair to it that really makes it shine, especially in the final level. I really like the final boss in this one. Its final phase is notably super intense, although on my first playthrough it felt impossible because I didn't realize you have to throw away your pod to end it. I guess you could argue it's unintuitive, but it definitely fits the scene as this last ditch effort type of thing.
As I said the first time, this game is also insanely fucking hard. The series is notable for being much more heavy on level memorization than its contemporaries, but there are still some areas where I think it's a bit overboard? Level 4 has this part with these huge lasers that you have to navigate around in some sort of maze, then you fight a boss, and then you go back through the maze backwards. It's super overkill, and definitely the game at its least enjoyable. Not helping is that the R-Type series is also generally checkpoint based, so if you eat shit in that laser maze (or a similarly irritating segment shortly before the penultimate boss) you are getting sent back a little and you have to do it over again. I really don't like checkpoint shmups, man. It's a good thing this game has so much going for it in every other regard.
The music is worth mentioning as well, at least I think so. The compositions are great, but the soundfont is silly as hell. I think it has some charm to it that honestly makes it better, but I can see how it would be off putting. That being said, it really helps elevate some moments, notably in the bosses and the aforementioned final sequence.
I would definitely give this one a look, but honestly? Not without savestates, at least on your first time. I almost always play older games with them anyways, but this is one of those where I would genuinely suggest them early on and it's just not me being talentless lmao. If it was a little more reasonable in level design it would probably be one of my favorite shmups ever made, and I don't think that problem alone should lead you to discard it.
"It's good, for an NES game."
I see stuff like this a bunch, and to be honest it kinda sucks. I know as someone whose first system was the NES it may be hard to take my opinion seriously on such matters, as often this horrible thing called "nostalgia" clouds our vision of the true quality of games from our childhood. There's however a massive problem with this potential accusation towards me and Castlevania. I didn't grow up with it. My dad never owned it, and none of my friends had it for their consoles. Hell, I don't think I even knew what a "Castlevania" was until I read an issue of GamePRO with Castlevania 64 news in it.
There is no demented ghost voice or evil rabbit on my shoulder to go "oooOOOOOooo, tell them the game is good tho!" to everyone like with Crash Bandicoot 1 or something, even when they list valid and fair criticism as opposed to some hack using completely fake dribble like "Crash's cry of "WOAH" upon death disrupts my Netflix viewing experience" or some shit. That just simply doesn't exist for me here, because I didn't play this until I got emulation going on my PSP. As a matter of fact, may I perhaps offer a hot take? It's a take so hot that if you have central air in your home it'll probably kick on as soon you read it.
Belmont movement fucking rules.
Loose movement is neat, but the feel of me playing as someone who seems to be made of concrete and falls like they're under the effect of ten times normal Earth gravity does nothing but satisfy me as I land from a jump like a ton of bricks. Methodical platforming is my crack, to hell with that fast bullshit, I want to slowly strut my stuff and have to deal with the consequences of my actions if I don't think five seconds ahead.
From beginning to end, from Simon walking up to the front gates in that little intro cutscene and fighting the giant bat that reminds me of Golbat, to the very end when I send Dracula's head straight to Saturn and get rewarded with the shitpost credits brightening my day with "James Banana" and "Green Stranger" it never fails to entertain and I never tire of it. To say I could replay this X amount of times and never have second thoughts on doing so is as rare as the Jackalope for me, there are plenty of games in the same high end of my "enjoyment" spectrum that I can't say that about.
"Spyro on PS1? Sorry my friend, perhaps another time."
"Pokemon randomizer nuzlocke? Not feeling it."
"Shitty fighting games? Maybe next weekend."
"...Castlevania? Sure, I got thirty minutes to kill."
"Pokemon randomizer nuzlocke? Not feeling it."
"Shitty fighting games? Maybe next weekend."
"...Castlevania? Sure, I got thirty minutes to kill."
It's actually slightly difficult to resist the temptation of another playthrough upon viewing my list of completely-legal-and-dumped-myself NES games on my everdrive. Is a game that is infinitely replayable and only more enjoyable as you master it not the perfect game? Maybe if it came with cup holders and a winning lottery ticket it could be "perfect", but as it stands Castlevania to me gets as close as it gets. As some people say "good things come in small packages" or something, I guess they still say that.
Sorry for my random ramble, it was just something I was thinking on as I was replaying this for the 700th time as I was doing my laundry. NES games rule.
not a huge fan of walking simulators in general so this is already an accomplishment for the game to achieve a 7/10 (which is good fans dont kill me please pleek pleek)
i actually think that the way the story is told with the whole words in the air whatever thing actually managed to make me focused on what was happening because ADHD is a thing that could be eating me alive and the restricted interactivity of the game gets the point across for me
story wise its pretty cool and exploring the familys overarching traumas that passed the test of time is incredibly interesting and even though i thought it wouldve gotten real boring real quick the different "gameplay" and storytelling of each one of these bite sized epitaphs piqued my interest in a way i didnt think this game could be able to and going for a stroll through finch manors (i dont know if its called like this but thats the name i used to refer to the house in my mind) impossible geometry architecture and verticality using secret passages (that tbh kinda fueled my claustrophobia but lets ignore that) is great
i feel like the manor is kind of a metaphor for the familys odd nature (tough shit probably 99+ youtubers already made a video about this analogy and im acting like discovering america) and oof theres some stories here that really take the cake in the disturbing or distressing factor
clearly my fav tales were the cat one and the fish factory one and also the baby bath one kind of i think this is where the narrative abilities of the devs (and also their usage of the medium) really shine through and i hate them for putting the cat one as the first story because i still feel kind of nauseous about it i think the "fish stuff" has become a meme im not aware of because while playing the game a friend came up to me on discord and said "oh shit the fish scene game omg i finished the game feeling kind of hollow but i didnt cry" and so i told him im 100% sure it wouldnt make me cry more than famous furry gay vn adastra did and proceeded to send him the guy fucking a fish meme whatever
lewis was a fucking blast because the "epitaph part" makes you do 2 things at a time with the 2 analogs trying to convey the methodical nature of this guys day to day life in contrast to his daydreaming wonders and also its the one that possibly hit me the most as a not so mentally sane person myself
and also lewis in the little sketch is kinda cute i want him as a bf i can fix him
wow this review doesnt make sense and also i dont know english ok umh nice fish game cute experience for a less than 2 hours runtime and a testament that walking simulators can be good
i didnt cry in the end which is pretty weird for me since i actually cry for every fucking piece of media ever created but maybe the dreamlike feel of it all made the events distant and hard to relate for me at least (says the person who cried for 4 hours straight during a furry vn where a gay sexy space wolf abducts and courts you)
biggest twist was that the girl was pregnant i audibly gasped like you know your family tree has a curse deal going on and you dont use condoms ? sweetie we need to talk
also this game is so weird like "i want to know the truth behind my family members mysterious deaths" proceeds to win the golden medal in trekking and climbing
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