485 Reviews liked by Nowhere
Sonic the Hedgehog
I love ‘bad’ media. I love watching crappy movies, playing janky games, and embarrassing YouTube videos. I think there’s a bunch of people out there who feel the same way, I mean… my reviews usually get a few likes. Got me!
Usually when people say they love ‘bad’ media, the media tends to live in the popular ‘so bad it’s good’ realm, and by that I mean ‘so bad it’s funny and entertaining to experience’ not ‘so bad it’s aspirational’. I think art is subjective, and there’s an experiential aspect as well as those theoretical and critical, which all get thrown into the big soup of my reviews, star ratings, and opinions. My perception of a game’s quality and entertainment value both go into my star ratings and reviews.
This is probably why I don’t have a rating scale in my bio, because I figure you know what 1-5 rating scale is AND you can read. I don’t always write succinctly, but I’d hope that people don’t read my reviews, look at the star rating, and go “I wonder what he meant by that.”
So let’s get this out of the way: this game sucks. I actually had a great time playing it in the early hours (hence the non half-star), laughing at the performance issues, convoluted story, and bafflingly bland game design. It wore off. This game truly becomes a massive slog during Silver’s campaign, and the overall repetition of content makes the playthrough pretty arduous.
But! And I think this is important if you want a peek into my sick and twisted Shadow-esque world- I do not regret playing this. I have rarely regretted spending time with a bad piece of media. Experiencing any art, no matter how boring, bland, and mediocre that may be, is not something I see as a default negative. On a low level it serves as a way to appreciate the things I love by contrast, but it’s also an education, another thing to store in my mind, another thing to know. I’m not without some discretion, as I try to actively pick things I think will give me something to take away, but I’ve got a bit of a masochistic streak which has inadvertently led me to a greater appreciation of all art and of life in general.
So my big takeaways from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) are that A. I stand by my reviews of the Sonic Adventure games, and B. This is even worse than I remember it being. I’ve always had a weird soft spot for Sonic 06, and I still have one, it’s just smaller now.
Everything to do with Silver is terrible. The reliance on physics objects in his moveset, the story, and even the boss fights against him are low-points for the game and the franchise. It has nothing I want from a Sonic game, and here’s I guess another thing (a point C if you’re somehow following this) I got out of Sonic the Hedgehog: I mostly just want to play as Sonic or a Sonic-like character in these games. I’m okay with the occasional gimmick to spice things up, like cars or planes, but I want to move fast and I want to zip around collecting rings or spinning into enemies.
Sonic: what I want, still not that great though because this is the game it’s in.
Shadow: like Sonic but with a twist, refreshing to do as the final campaign.
Knuckles/Rouge: harmless but trivial.
Blaze: like Sonic/Shadow but slightly worse.
Tails: Not all that fun, but flying can be novel for a second.
Amy: sucks but the section is mercifully short
Omega: Almost forgot about it, needed a UI element for locking-on
Silver: Tedium incarnate. Borders on being torturous.
Shadow: like Sonic but with a twist, refreshing to do as the final campaign.
Knuckles/Rouge: harmless but trivial.
Blaze: like Sonic/Shadow but slightly worse.
Tails: Not all that fun, but flying can be novel for a second.
Amy: sucks but the section is mercifully short
Omega: Almost forgot about it, needed a UI element for locking-on
Silver: Tedium incarnate. Borders on being torturous.
Also this review is getting long in the tooth, but I have to mention Soleanna as it’s one of the emptiest and worst hub areas ever (I love hub areas so hey, this having a hub at all is a little bit of a positive), but it’s ALSO even worse when you’re playing as Silver. Soleanna is huge and he’s slow. It doesn’t even have a Chao garden! The nerve.
A human woman kisses Sonic in one of the game’s final fantasy cutscenes and it’s a highlight for sure. Worth playing just for that. Wait, I could’ve just watched a let’s play or rewatched the cutscenes online? You’re telling me this now? Just kidding I was always going to replay this.
Persona 3 FES
For many years I’ve held Persona 3 in high regard as one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. With the upcoming release of Persona 3 Reload on the horizon, I wanted to give this game one more run before the remake comes out and play it with a fresh perspective after having not played it in about eight years. Coming back to this game after so long, there’s still a lot about it that I really love and respect, and finishing it still left me in an emotional mess. Despite that, however, this playthrough reminded me of many aspects of the game that don’t really sit well with me today, things that I hope Reload is able to improve upon.
Persona 3’s biggest draw to me has always been its story. The game has one of my favorite casts out of any JRPG I’ve ever played. I love how all of the characters grow and develop throughout the entire game. They all have emotional and generally very well-handled character arcs. Though some characters like Akihiko and Ken finish their character arcs a lot sooner and end up being flat for a good chunk of the story, I still think that the game overall does an excellent job with all of its characters, especially in comparison to the Persona games that come after it. One of my biggest problems with Persona 4 and 5 is their general story structure, and how each character goes through their arc before becoming flat for the rest of the game after completing their corresponding dungeon, only getting minor additional character development through their Social Links. Persona 3 isn’t like that at all. Up until the very end of the game, the cast is met with very personal challenges that they are able to overcome and learn from, which is what makes this cast and story resonate with me so much. Then there’s the game’s ending, which to date has made this one of the only games where I’ve actually cried while playing. It’s beautiful, tragic, and wraps up everything extremely neatly.
Aside from the story, another aspect about the game that I admire is how all of its unique systems are linked with one another. The combat system, Persona system, and Social Link system are all intertwined with one another in a way that’s extremely cohesive. Social Links affect the strength and progression speed of your Personas, which affects how efficiently you’re able to perform in combat. It’s very difficult to talk about one system without talking about another, and while that makes writing this review a bit more challenging, I think it makes for a very satisfying gameplay loop, as it constantly feels like you’re improving upon something in some fashion with every action you take on an in-game day to day basis.
The combat system is pretty standard for most JRPGs, though I really like Persona’s spin on it as it leads to more interesting decision-making. While you’re typically trying to find out the enemy’s weakness and exploit it, doing so allows you to knock your opponent down, causing them to lose their turn as well as take another turn for yourself. Knocking down all enemies on screen allows you to do an All-Out Attack with your party, which deals massive damage to every enemy on screen. However, this aspect of the combat also applies to yourself and your party members as well (though enemies can’t perform an All-Out Attack), which is why you need to make sure that you have the right Persona and party members when fighting enemies and especially bosses.
While aiming to get an All-Out Attack and wipe out the enemy as fast as possible is the general strategy, that strategy doesn’t always work nor is it always applicable at all times. There may be times where the spell you cast to knock the enemy down with misses, which gives the enemy a chance to retaliate. You might just not have a Persona or party member on hand who can exploit the enemy’s weakness, or the enemy might not have any weaknesses at all (which is the case for most bosses). Instead, you’ll have to form a strategy around what physical/elemental attacks your Personas and party members are strong and weak against and engage in more of a back and forth turn-based confrontation.
One of the most criticized aspects of the game is how it handles party members in combat. You don’t directly control what your party members do. Instead, your party members are controlled by AI. You are able to issue them general orders via the Tactics menu, however. You can assign party members specific enemies to target, tell them to focus on exploiting the enemy’s weakness and knocking them down, have them concentrate on healing/supporting the party with buffs or debuffs, etc, but you can’t select a specific ability of theirs during their turn. Personally speaking, this doesn’t bother me very much. For the vast majority of my play time, party members generally behaved as one would expect them to and did the most logical action during their turn. There were a few key instances where I found the AI consistently making decisions that aggravated me, though.
The first and more minor instance is that whenever you’re fighting a boss and you haven’t had the chance to analyze its weakness yet, Ken and Koromaru will almost always waste a turn trying to cast an instant-kill Hama or Mudo skill that will never ever work because bosses are always immune to them. There are also times where characters that don’t have a dedicated healing spell will give someone low on health a healing item. On paper, this isn’t a big deal, but in practice, wasting a turn to give someone an item that only heals a small amount of HP can be very frustrating, especially if they could’ve spent that turn knocking an enemy down, or you or someone else in the party is capable of healing people for more HP the very next turn. The biggest outlier however is one character in particular: Mitsuru. When Mitsuru is in your party, you need to be especially vigilant when it comes to assigning tactics to her, otherwise she will almost always waste a turn and magic casting either Marin Karin (a charm spell) that doesn’t work 90% of the time, or later in the game, she’ll cast Mind Charge instead, which can be more helpful since it boosts the damage of magic attacks, but isn’t really necessary since it’s generally more efficient to just knock the enemy down and do an All-Out Attack as fast as possible.
Still, despite the occasional frustration, I do think that a lot of people’s criticisms towards not being able to directly control your party members is fairly overblown. I actually like this system a lot, it makes the characters feel a bit more real. I understand that it’s not super popular, since the ability to directly control your party members was re-introduced in subsequent Persona games. Even though AI party members is still an option in those titles, the security of being able to directly pick which skill of my party members to use in any given situation is just too tempting to pass up on, and I fully admit that I likely wouldn’t ever use AI party members unless it was the only option I had.
The Persona system is both simultaneously easy to understand as well as very esoteric. If you’re just trying to play through the game normally, and you’re not trying to create a specific Persona, it’s fairly simple to just test and see what the results are of specific combinations of Personas. As long as it makes a Persona with a specific skill you’re looking for and is of an Arcana whose corresponding Social Link you’ve made a lot of progress in, then you’re generally good to go. However, if you’re trying to create a specific Persona for something like Elizabeth’s Requests or if you’re looking for one to help with a particularly difficult sub-boss in Tartarus, I do not see how you are supposed to reasonably be able to do so without some sort of guide. There are just far too many combinations and no real in-game way to tell what makes what. As long as you’re just sticking to the main game and not doing anything optional, you don’t really need a specific Persona for anything though. You’re generally able to make do with what you have as long as you’re consistently fusing Personas that are near your current in-game level.
The Social Link system is very conflicting, for a multitude of reasons. While the system itself I think is great and is an excellent way to tie-in gameplay elements with the thematic elements of the narrative, coming back to this game I initially thought that the narrative quality of the Social Links was generally very poor. In order to progress certain Social Links in the fastest and most efficient way possible, you’ll be required to constantly reinforce the beliefs and choices of the character whose Social Link you’re currently working on, even if they’re very poor, like Kenji or Hidetoshi. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was kind of the point. As opposed to my original playthrough I decided to use a guide to see how best to progress through the Social Links, and I found the dialogue choices that would progress them the fastest are the ones where you have to kiss up to them at all times. This resulted in some Social Links being incredibly boring, with little to no conflict to them. I think this is the game’s way of saying that no friendship or relationship is ever perfect, most relationships have conflicts to them, and what’s most important is being able to overcome those conflicts and emerge from them with a stronger bond. Now, that could just be me reading too deep into the Social Links on a thematic level, admittedly. However, the Social Links do still have serious problems, some of which have already been addressed in future Persona titles, and some that I hope the remake rectifies.
The most obvious problem with them is that you can’t fully complete a female character’s Social Link without dating them. You have no option to just be friends with them. Thankfully, this was something that has already been handled in future Persona games, and I have no doubt that will carry over to the remake as well, but this was a very baffling oversight that wasn’t even addressed here in FES, the second version of Persona 3. An even bigger issue is that there are various Social Links that either involve or allude to romances with extremely uncomfortable age gaps. Kenji is a sixteen-year-old high school student whose entire Social Link is about his oblivious pursuit of his completely one-sided romance with his teacher. Maiko is a nine-year-old girl dealing with parents who are going through a divorce, and at the end of her Social Link, she falls in love with the high school age Protagonist, and you don’t have the option to directly say “no” to the idea of the two of you becoming “a mom and dad together”. One of the most problematic ones is “Maya”, the MMO player who is revealed to be an adult in the Protagonist's life with a crush on him. I really do hope that the remake rewrites these, “Maya”’s especially, because these are just not acceptable, especially in this day and age.
Tartarus is where that previously mentioned intertwining of systems is on full display. It’s a single 264 floor dungeon that you spend the entire game climbing. It’s here where you build up you and your party’s levels so that you’re strong enough to face the boss that appears at the end of each in-game month. Tartarus has always had a very mixed reception, and my most recent playthrough really opened my eyes to its problems. I think it’s biggest issue is that it’s not clear how much time you should be spending in Tartarus before you face the boss at the end of the month. The game does suggest you try and make it to the top of a block of floors before each fight, specifically via Elizabeth’s Requests, but even if you do make it to the top of a block, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you fought enough enemies and that you’re strong enough to fight the end-of-the-month boss. Persona 4 and 5 solved this problem by letting you fight the monthly bosses at any point within a certain period of time, giving you a deadline to defeat the boss as opposed to only allowing you to challenge and defeat a boss on one specific day. Given the narrative concept of Persona 3, you can’t really do that here, but hopefully Reload will give you some idea of what level you should be at to face those end-of-the-month bosses.
In addition to that, the sheer length of Tartarus and the unchanging layouts of its floors can grow rather tiresome and repetitive over the course of the game. The longer you play, the more of a grind it is, as more party members get added, which means you need to level more party members up, which means you need to spend more and more time in Tartarus. I do like the decision making that Tartarus forces, as you have to consider whether or not it’s worth challenging every Shadow on a floor, or if it’s better to try and continue the climb so that you make it to the next checkpoint without having to redo a section of floors again. It can be fun and an interesting challenge, but by the time you reach the end of the game and you make it to the top, you’re likely sick to death of it.
After all of that has been said and done, at the end of the day, I still greatly admire and appreciate Persona 3 despite its flaws. It doesn’t excel in every single regard, but if you stick with it, I think that it’s a game that can ultimately feel very rewarding, with a story that remains deeply impactful to me. There’s a lot this game does right, and even a bit it does better than the games that come after it. I hope that Persona 3 Reload is able to patch up the areas where it’s lacking, because I think that with a modern touch, Persona 3 could end up being not just the best game in the series on a thematic and narrative level, but on a gameplay one as well.
Lies of P
No More Heroes III
This review contains spoilers
I don't really know where to begin. It's hard to think of a bigger letdown for me in recent memory. Almost every aspect of this game feels underbaked, undeveloped, and unfinished. None of it congeals together. It's a trainwreck of the likes I haven't seen since - well, since the kind of games Grasshopper Manufacture were making in the early 2010s. The more things change.
So, let's tackle these in order.
RANK #10: DIABOLICAL PITCH
The combat's fine. It's alright. I know there are people who super dig it. It's probably the most fun combat that's ever been in a NMH game, but I find that it pales in comparison to a lot of the fantastic action games on the market today. Even compared to indie efforts like Assault Spy, Travis' limited moveset sticks out like a sore thumb, and means that despite there being some genuinely creative and cool enemy designs in the bunch, I still found myself tackling encounters almost the exact same way every single time.
RANK 9: DESPERATE STRUGGLE
Now, I said most fun combat in a NMH game. I didn't say best. Because for me, NMH1 still has that crown. Yes, it's grindy and repetitive. Yes, it feels like a chore. But in a game about stripping away the romanticisation of the life of a video game hero and revealing it to be labour-intensive contract work performed by someone's who's adolescent fantasies are exploited for profit, that works. It enhances the experience tremendously. What does the combat here do? What does it say? Nothing, really. It's just quite fun. But why should I turn this game on just for quite fun combat when I have DMC5 also on my shelf, a game who's combat I enjoy much more? The combat fails to be interesting or thematically resonant, and fails to compete as a surface-level thrillride. Just like the rest of the game!
RANK 8: HEROES' PARADISE
This affliction of total purposeless afflicts the open world as well. No More Heroes 1 caught a lot of flack for its buggy and barren open world, and while I won't defend the performance issues, I will defend its inclusion. In a game about labour and work, the commute is an important part of contextualising that. What does the open world of No More Heroes III serve? What point does it make? What does it say? Nothing really. There are suggestions, things you could read into what they might have said if the game was interested in actually exploring its world, but that's all it is, a veneer of purpose papered over an empty world that exists only because fans wanted it to exist.
RANK 7: SERIOUS MOONLIGHT
Every element of this game has the same feel: shallow, insubstantial, underused, underdeveloped. You can feel the shadow of "this was developed during COVID" looming over the entire world of this game, but even setting that aside, no idea, motif, or theme this game haphazardly throws out has any nuance whatsoever. GHM have finally made a game that truly feels true to the ancient criticism of them: they have made a game that genuinely feels like they threw a million things at a wall and none of them stick. Superheroes? Streaming? Retro gaming? Call of Duty? Fortnite? Mad Max? Rocky? All of it is thrown out there, and none of it amounts to anything. That's why when I say this game feels unfinished, I don't mean that's buggy or missing content or anything like that: I mean that every single element of this game feels like a first draft that goes nowhere (including combat, what other explanation can there be for the game making you use SCREW CRUSHER DEATH KICK exclusively for multiple hours only to unceremoniously throw you every single other death skill at you at once?), a digital version of a planning whiteboard full of everyone's vague ideas.
RANK 6: STRIKES AGAIN
There's a faint air of desperation about it all, leaping from scene to scene hoping that at least some of it will sink in and resonate. And, fair dos: I thought the Midori Midorikawa bit was cute and Death Chair Girl's section, involving murdering a sobbing alien mourning its friend while it quoted the end Rocky over and over while Travis says "I'm finally a hero!", was genuinely gnarly in an interesting way and was the only time I felt the spirit of NMH1 shine through. But as the game goes on it only gets more and more desperate to be liked, culminating in a last couple hours that are genuinely embarrassing and cringeworthy to behold, from simply recycling the ending of TSA with zero of the original impact, to begging Takashi Miike to make a No More Heroes movie after the entire game has been spent singing his praises (admittedly these scenes are fun in isolation but my god do they grate repeated ad nauseam) before the train finally meets its wreck as the game ends in what can only be described as a digital adolescent temper tantrum, as Grasshopper copes hard about not getting Travis in Smash Bros. while Suda once again makes a simulacrum of John Riccitello to make fun of and digitally take his revenge on for not getting to make Kurayami the way he wanted. I cannot describe how utterly embarrassing and pathetic this spectacle is: I think Riccitello is a shitbag too (for other reasons than Kurayami, admittedly) but all of you are way too old to be engaging in "oh yeah!!! i'll show u!!! i'll make you into my game and have you be a big ugly loser who gets killed by my OC while piloting an advertisement for another game!!!!" petulant childish nonsense.
RANK 5: LOLLIPOP CHAINSAW
This isn't the thing I found most upsetting about the game, though. That would be the way in which this game continues an upsetting trend from No More Heroes 2: that of extremely upsetting purposeless psychosexual hyperviolence against women for no good reason. Shinobu is brutally fridged at the start of the game and ends up doing basically fuck-all for the whole experience, whatever wrinkles TSA introduced to Bad Girl's character that made her return an intriguing prospect are completely dropped here, but most upsetting of all is the return of Kimmy from NMH2, already a pretty suspect idea in that game, which is turned up to eleven when she is murdered in a flagrantly pornographic way that is deeply uncomfortable, but not in any way that feels purposeful in any way shape or form. I'm not gonna describe the scene other than saying it's the most violently sexual thing I've seen in a game in some time and seems to be played largely for titillation because there's zero discussion on anything that occurs here. Whatever nuance that has to be entered into a scene to have it be more than a straightforwardly exploitative misogynistic scene is absent here.
RANK 4: REPORT FROM HELL
In this way, the shape of this scene is the shape of the game itself: there's no nuance anywhere, nothing substantive to justify any of this. In the early hours of my playthrough, I latched onto the one cohesive element of the game: the fact that every single element feels hollow, undeveloped, like a total facade, was surely deliberate, surely leading to something. But as time passed, as image after unremarked upon image is vaguely gestured at by the game only to be dropped with zero development or nuance, that reading became more and more strained. I could galaxy brain this, I could say that Santa Destroy is a wasteland full of no real people purposefully, I could say that every single fight taking place in the same warehouse with different set-dressing is deliberately drawing attention to the hollowness of it all, but at what point do I have to admit that the game isn't engaging with any of this in a meaningful way? At what point is this game not commenting on facile, undeveloped, perfunctory sequels, and is it just...one of those?
RANK 3: KILLER IS DEAD
I have no doubt that there are people for whom this resonates. I recognise that I'm coming in with quite a strong take: not for nothing is the game sitting pretty with a very high average score on this website. But I have to be honest with myself and say that any attempts to be generous with my reading of this game are based solely in the pedigree of those behind it, and that I have been harsher to better games in the past. I could be extremely generous, I suppose. But it would just be because I want to be, not because I think the game actually deserves it. At some point, I simply have to admit that this cloying, overly-referential, late-era punk band album desperately screaming about how much it wants to be liked...is just kinda sad.
RANK 1: LET IT DIE
No one can like a band forever. Sometimes you grow apart. And at this point, there are talented creators I would have a much better time exploring, rather than chasing the shadow of games that came out around 15 years ago.
I guess that's me killing my past.
As much as I love mecha, I've never really sat down and given any of the Armored Core games a fair shot. My experience with them has been pretty limited, mostly amounting to screwing around with the AC customization in Armored Core 2 on a friend's save nearly 20 years ago. I probably put a good ten to twenty minutes into the actual gameplay against three to four hours of meticulously dialing in the parts on my AC.
Gunpla Armored Core is freedom, truly.
So Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon has presented me with an opportunity to finally dive into one of these games and (hopefully) develop a greater appreciation for what they're going for. The good news is that Armored Core VI is pretty welcoming to new players. I had no problem sinking right in, and the rate at which new weaponry, parts, and features are dolled out felt steady and deliberate... At least for a while. The way your AC glides about as it effortlessly takes out cannon-fodder feels great, and for the first few hours I basically ran with a build that tried to mimic the Kampher from Mobile Suit Gundam: War in the Pocket (an excellent Christmas OVA that pairs very well with hamburger.) The early game is very comfortable and when I did finally start hitting a wall it felt less like I was missing something fundamental so much as the game was trying urging me to graduate to more advanced techniques or engage with mechanics more seriously. I'm talking about Balteus. Balteus would like it if you changed your loadout, maybe stop using ballistics for a bit.
An important lesson that Balteus taught me was that bosses, enemy ACs, and even whole missions are more suited to certain loadouts, and that diversity is the key to success in Armored Core VI... And then Dual Zimmerman shotguns and Songbird missile pods taught me that previous lesson is a load of crap.
For as deep as customization can get in Armored Core VI, the quality of parts and the amount of variety in the shop drops off precipitously. As soon as they become available (around mission 14), double Zimmermans in concert with Songbird missiles trivializes the game and remains a viable build until credits roll. Any attempt to swap them out for something different came with such a noticeable drop-off in damage output as to feel uncomfortable, and the same was true for AC components like generators; the Ming-Teng really is the best bang for your COAM, and once you settle on short, medium, or long range there's really no reason to swap out computer boards. There are two sets of spider-legs you can buy and about as many arms with halfway decent shot tracking.
I kept checking the shop every time it updated hoping to find something that was better, but it never came. When all the best options are available so early, it's hard not to feel like you're boxed in, and AC6 simply does not do or provide enough in the mid-to-late game to keep mech customization engaging. The only other game in recent memory that has a faster "time until the game's broke" moment is Shin Megami Tensei V and boy is it close.
Despite this, the mission-to-mission gameplay in AC6 is still pretty damn good, and side content like the arena is pretty enjoyable. Fights against NPC AC pilots are a lot of fun and I really love the little lore dumps you get on each one. The unmanned C-weapons that serve as the game's true boss encounters, however, are not nearly as good and at times feel like a weird carry-over from the Souls series (Ice Worm really is yet another Storm Ruler boss.) My general weariness for stagger meters no doubt left me predisposed to disliking these encounters, but I don't think AC6's implementation of the mechanic is a particularly strong one. Bosses and ACs only stagger for two or three seconds before getting up and continuing their attack patterns, so it really only serves as a sort of health bar for shielding that must be plucked away at in order to do Real Damage. Stagger meters largely exist to pad out boss fights, but in most games, actually breaking the enemy's guard comes with some oomph that makes the system feel satisfying. Armored Core VI doesn't have that, so it just feels like it's there to waste my time. Now we know what "C" stands for... Carelessly designed.
The characters who you take on jobs for and who act as your mission support are all pretty great, and the story itself takes some interesting twists turns, even if the impersonal nature of how it's told at times left me a bit confused, though not so much so that I wasn't able to get my bearings. By the time I reached the last chapter and was confronted with a crucial end-game decision, I actually found it a bit hard to betray a particular character and avoid an unquestionably bad ending because I just liked them that much. Handler Waltuh is well written and affable to the point that my girlfriend's (you haven't met her, she lives in my head) occasional discontent and jealousy over him became a fun dynamic where it otherwise could've strictly sown doubt about who to trust. Shoutouts to Snail's smug ass and Gun 6's over-the-top cowboy/space marine persona. The corporations war over coral - a precious resource on a dying planet that they each want to drain for their own gain - and the Rubicon Liberation Front's efforts to push them out of the system would not be nearly as captivating were it not for the quality of Armored Core VI's cast of characters.
At its best, Armored Core VI let me play out my fantasies of piloting a powerful murder mech, taking out grunts and going toe-to-toe with other ace pilots. It's unfortunate that some poor balancing and lackluster boss fights got in the way of this being a truly great experience, but I still had fun with it overall. About as good as Sonic Drift 2 but not quite as good as McDonald's Treasure Island Adventure. Just a solid 3.5/5.
Kaze no Notam
I want everyone to actually sit down and find it in themselves to meet this game on its own terms, which should be pretty easy to do with its stellar soundtrack holding you aloft better than any balloon or weed gummy ever could (the latter might help tho)
Kaze no Notam is beautiful, even if the "game" part of it is nonsensical; in a way I'm glad it gives zero heed to the players needs or wants at any moment. More and more I find games having complete indifference towards the player to be more and more attractive, and I don't just mean that they're brutally unfair execution tests but rather that they just continue to operate. I think Rain World embodies this the best, but this is way up there too in that field alone. I feel that my rating is a bit high but I don't really care, most I may do retroactively is make it an 8/10.
It's with this game that I must finally admit, the og PlayStation was absolutely the star of the 5th gen consoles. I don't know how I can argue otherwise anymore even with the handful of party games the Nintendo 64 had under its belt. Where Nintendo raised an Ocarina of Time to combat the Final Fantasy, they bring nothing when the likes of Kaze no Notam and Moon show up.
Shoutouts to Detchibe for bringing up this game thrice in the Backloggd Discord's Game Of The Week events to finally get it in the spotlight.
In a word: Luxuriate.
abide with rubicon
the allure of armored core for me was always in its peculiarities: the dungeon crawling and resource management, the lumbering control scheme ripped straight out of king's field, the diegetic ui that could come in any tropical colour or flavour, and the nihilistic Future Prole Deathwish vibes. customizing a metal abomination is cool, and having four shotguns at once is about all any good game needs, but I was more devoted to the precise execution of its ideas than the ideas themselves so this one took some adjusting
between the prominence of big hulking multi-phase boss fights, the drip fed customization and arena battles, and missions that felt frictionless due to lack of attrition and generous checkpoints I spent the opening hours a little bit underwhelmed. but while I maintain that some of this stuff is a step in the wrong direction, once the game hit its stride and I was able to realign my expectations I came away really pleased with what fromsoft pulled off here
first thing's first: controlling your mech is an absolute dream; fluid and graceful, every aspect of the mechanical interaction here is nothing short of delightful. whether you're hovering around on spider legs, dancing bipedal, or lurching forward like a juggernaut on tank treads, the feel of the game is impeccable. dodging, boosting, and soaring thru the air to stagger and chunk an enemy AC is as good as action games get, and the arsenal provided gives you (almost) every option you could ask for in developing an approach to each scenario. the balance is completely scuffed, as expected, but who gives a shit; I'm zooming around with a shield, lance, and napalm launcher and every gameplay clip looks like it's ripped out of an anime. my robot looks disgusting, behaves accordingly, and that rules
missions improve drastically as the game progresses, offering more and more oddball objectives, AC duels, elaborate setpieces, and genuine challenges to the levels themselves rather than just the bosses that conclude them. the run from chapter 3 onward in particular is close to perfect, with CH4 being exactly the kind of thing I had been missing up until that point, and the additional NG+ and NG++ missions carry that stride even further. I think it tends to skew too easy, especially if you stumble into a stronger build, but the S-rank requirements have enough bite to make up for it
story isn't much, and I think I prefer the more mundane approach of the older games cos it felt more sinister, but it leverages itself well in the later chapters and makes for some surprisingly compelling mid-mission storytelling. CH5 had me smiling like an idiot from the first minute to the very last, and I don't think they could've possibly nailed the landing(s) better. there are even Actual Characters... and I even liked a bunch if you can believe it
if there's one sore spot I didn't really warm up to ever it's the arena. it's very, very undertuned, and I managed to blitz through most missions in under 30 seconds without any real struggle or tactical adjustments. the PVP alternative kind of makes up for it, and when I was able to get into a match I had a blast, but as someone who loved climbing the ranks in the previous games I can't help but feel they missed the mark on this one
after burning out completely on modern fromsoft's narrow focus on Dark Souls and Dark Souls Accessories I couldn't be happier to see them put out a game like this. it's not exactly what I had in mind, but it's a fabulous reinterpretation of the series that more than makes up for what shortcomings it has and proves fromsoft can (and should) set aside the iframes and bonfires and take more chances like they used to
also, the soundtrack is really good you fucking novices???
Virtua Fighter 2
A stunningly gorgeous, intricate fighting game experience. I’ve long been impressed with its smooth gameplay and animations, at least on every platform that’s not the Sega Genesis; it’s a game I can always count on to jump into for at least a few rounds. People clown on this game a bit, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t slightly suspect its inclusion in the Yakuza games to have warped this game’s legacy for some.
But as with all Yu Suzuki games, Virtua Fighter is somewhat unconventional, with a weird three button control scheme (with one of the buttons being block). The AI absolutely cheats past a certain point, like in every arcade game, but I think it’s way more doable than MK2 Arcade. The characters seem hella grounded when compared to basically any other fighting game franchise, and I think it adds to the classic Kung Fu movie vibe it has. I beat the game as the apparently bottom-tier drunken master Shun Di, so hey, maybe you can beat it too.
I might pump the brakes on these fighting game reviews, or I might play them until I get totally burnt out. We’ll see what the Conmental Health decides. 😎
35 Lists liked by Nowhere