I never grew up with the Nintendo 64 Mario Party's but I was still very interested in Mario Party Superstars because hey, new Mario Party means a new chance for my siblings and I to bond over wanting to destroy each other.
This game feels incredibly back to basics for Mario Party in a good way. It's just Mario Party again and frankly that's all it needs to be. No cars, no gimmicks, its just Mario Party with some classic boards returning and 100 of the fan favorite minigames from across the series. If you like Mario Party you'll probably like this game. I'm not quite sure what to say about this if I'm being honest, it's Mario Party you know what it is and if you'll like it. So I'm going to just talk about the boards I liked and share some funny stories of playing this with my siblings while I was visiting home for Thanksgiving.
After playing all five boards I have to say I had a lot of fun with most of them except for Yoshi's tropical island, which felt incredibly basic and kind of boring compared to the others. Horrorland is probably my favorite because it has a lot going on and has the most chances for things to suddenly change for a player, followed by space land because I have a special place in my heart over that board considering how much I made my family hate playing this game with me over it, and then Peach's Birthday Cake and Woody Woods both being just kinda average.
On our first game in Spaceland I accidentally got us all sent back incredibly far on the board multiple times using the thowmp car chase and the police shyguys multiple times in a row much to the anger of all of my siblings, to the point where they all tried to team up on me to make sure I lost after the third time everyone got moved back about 15 spaces because of me. It worked and I ended that game in last place with zero stars and around ten coins.
At one point when we were playing on Horrorland our Mother joined so one of my brothers and I took turns on one controller playing as Donkey Kong, and after the first half of the game where we had no stars and no money we somehow turned everything around in the last ten turns and ended the game with three stars more than everyone else thank to bonus stars and abusing the random warp item. We also would take turns playing the DK rap off our phones whenever the other was up doing a minigame much to everyone's annoyance.
Overall Mario Party Superstars is a fun game, it's Mario Party through and through and I can't really give it better praise than that.
While I enjoyed both games within this collection I do have to say its a bit weaker than the other Kingdom Hearts collections so far. Dream Drop Distance is a controversial game to say the least and 0.2 is about two hours long and I don't feel it justifies the original price too much, but at the same time I got this via the story so far so I don't really mind all that much. Definitely still enjoyed my time with it a lot and I feel like both games in this are underrated to a degree.
Original Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD review: https://www.backloggd.com/u/ResonanceJay/review/260857/
Original Kingdom hearts 0.2 Fragmentary Passage review: https://www.backloggd.com/u/ResonanceJay/review/260866/
As the final stop before Kingdom Hearts 3 on my playthrough of the series, I wasn't really sure what to expect from Kingdom Hearts 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage. I knew it was more or less just a tech demo for 3 but it was still billed as its own separate game so I wasn't sure how to feel and what to expect going into it. I ended up enjoying it a fair bit with a few caveats.
0.2 follows Aqua ten years after the events of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, where she has been wandering in the world of darkness for the past ten years. Eventually after seeing the remnants of worlds she remembers that had been swallowed by darkness and starting to lose herself to the darkness finally after all this time she encounters Mickey, who recruits her to help him seal the door to darkness as we see it in Kingdom Hearts 1. This is the gist of the entire story of the game since its a pretty short experience. I enjoyed it for what it is but I do feel like it is a bit too short for my liking. Though I guess that is to be expected given this was just a demo after all.
The gameplay systems they showed off here were really fun though in my opinion. I wasn't realizing how much I wanted a return to the mainline style of combat that Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 had until I got to this. It's not quite the same but it feels like it managed to streamline the system in a nice way, including how it lets you grab items directly from your bag instead of having to equip them all individually. The way they managed to implement styles from Kingdom hearts Birth By Sleep into Aqua's gameplay also really worked for me as well since it made them feel more natural and fluid while also giving you the option to not switch into them if you don't want to. It also doesn't force you out of your style once you fully charge a finisher which is another welcome addition since it lets you rack up more damage before using your finisher to get the most out of both your style and the finisher.
Movement in general felt nice, Aqua moves pretty quick and the new quick jump points the game adds at time were really neat I felt. I will say I did miss flowmotion a bit but I think that how they incorporated elements of it into base gameplay such as rail sliding was pretty nice and is close enough for me.
This game also had some interesting puzzles I felt, like how in the mirror dimension you had to use mirrors to decide when the best time to bring something you could only see in a mirror to your reality in order to advance. There weren't a lot of these because of the length of the game but what was there was neat I felt.
I will say that the one thing I had mixed feelings on were the bosses. Some of them like the giant heartless in the forest and the Aqua mirror matches were incredibly fun and interesting to me, but then any time the demon tower/tide showed up it was a pretty lackluster fight to me personally. I hope the bosses in Kingdom Hearts 3 are more like the first two I mentioned over these, because I can't imagine having too much fun with a game where all the bosses are kind mediocre.
Overall this was a fun experience but I wish it was longer and also had a few more/better bossfights. I would definitely recommend this to people though still because it does set up for Kingdom hearts 3 directly and also has some context for what Aqua has been up to; as well as getting me really excited for 3 personally because if the gameplay in this is anything to go by I'm going to have a lot of fun with Kingdom Hearts 3.
This review contains spoilers
Going into this game I fully expected to hate it considering how hated this game is within the circles I run in, but honestly I enjoyed thKingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance a lot. I can kind of see why people dislike this game but for me personally I just vibed with it a lot more than I expected too and I'd consider it as good, if not slightly a bit better than Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep.
To give a bit of context Dream Drop Distance, sometimes known as Kingdom Hearts 3D due to its title and also the fact that it was released originally on the 3ds, Follows the events of Kingdom Hearts 2 and ReCoded that sees Sora and Riku taking their Mark of Mastery exam to become keyblade masters. In order to achieve this they must travel to worlds that are stuck sleeping in their memories from before they were swallowed by the darkness and open their keyholes in order to restore the worlds to what they once were. Personally I don't have a problem with this set up and I think the execution and the direction the story goes in is pretty interesting, but before I get into that I do want to talk about how this game is to actually play first.
So the core gameplay of Dream Drop Distance is incredibly similar to Birth By Sleep's systems at first with several new additions to mix things up a bit. The game still has you use the command deck to cycle through abilities and spells like in Birth By Sleep but unlock new abilities this time around via the Dream Eaters, which function as the main type of enemy you'll face, your party members, and discount pokemon. You get the abilities by creating a link with the dream eaters in your party that give you points which you spend on their own unlock tree that gives different commands, abilities, and buffs in order to help Sora and Riku. A surprise bonus with this system this time around is that all dream eaters and ability unlocks are shared between Sora and Riku. This was a welcome change from how Birth By Sleep handled abilities where you would have to spend a good chunk of time regrinding for the same necessary abilities on each character such as once more or leaf bracer. That being said, I'm not the biggest fan of the method for unlocking these abilities this time around.
While I do like the Dream Eaters unlock system in theory it overall just feels a lot less fun than mixing commands to me personally. It is most likely because it takes a lot longer to grind out the ability points you need for each Dream Eater compared to grinding for command levels in Birth By Sleep, but it also makes getting new commands a bit less fun because instead of getting buffs and abilities such as once more as attachments to commands you have to unlock them separately which adds to the amount of grinding you need to do; and trust me when I say that late game you will need Leaf bracer, once more, and second chance or some bosses will just oblitarate you. It's not the worst thing in the world but it did arbitrarily add to the playtime it felt like to me personally. This feeling is amplified a bit by the fact that a lot of the Dream Eaters with the necessary abilities are locked behind finding hard to find dream pieces in order to form the Dream Eater, another thing you have to grind for just to get some abilities to help you play the game without dying.
One new addition that I thought was the best addition to the combat they've made since Kingdom hearts 2 is flowmotion. When it comes to movement in games I love going fast and being able to do cool things while moving fast, and flowmotion is just that but with an added combat flair to it. Flowmotion is a system where by pressing the square while next to certain objects you enter a sped up state and by pressing square again you can launch yourself around to other objects and just keep doing this in order to traverse the landscape as quick as possible. This ability can also be used for combat; if you press X instead of square after entering flowmotion you'll do a flowmotion attack on the nearest enemy. It's also possible to do flowmotion attacks on larger enemies by running up to them and trying to activate flowmotion. I really liked this ability because it just lets you bounce around super quickly when you need to get places as well as adding more options and choices of attack.
The game also returns the on rails shooter style of gameplay that was present in the gummi ship sections in 1 and 2, sort of, via the dive minigame. Every time you enter a world for the first time you have to dive into it, which is usually just Sora or Riku falling towards the world with some kind of objective to complete like beat the boss or collect 500 star points. They're not amazing but I had a surprising amount of fun with them, especially considering how little I care for the gummi ship sections of the mainline games.
As much as I enjoy this game it does have a bit of a weird relationship with bosses though I will say. It seems to frontload all of its pretty bad to not great bosses right up front but once you get out of the first three worlds after Traverse Town I think the boss quality picks up tremendously. I think the final gauntlet of Riku's story with the multitude of bosses he fights are legitimately incredibly fun and Sora's final boss is pretty great also I felt. They even brought back Churnabog from Kingdom Hearts 1 but made his fight one of my favorite in the game instead of just outright one of the worst bossfights I've ever played like in Kingdom Hearts 1. Neither reach the level of Kingdom Hearts 2 or BBS's final boss fights but I enjoyed them immensely either way.
The one gameplay thing in this game that I really can't say anything positive about though is the drop meter. The drop meter is essentially a timer that forces you to swap to whichever character you are not playing as when the meter hits zero. This is such an odd system to have for this game that really does not need to be there. It just forces you to stop what you're doing in the middle of a fight or traversal segment without really giving you a good reason as to why you need to switch other than that they want you to regularly switch between Sora and Riku. Which could have been achieved in a lot better feeling of a way if they just forced you to switch after each world or after key story points; something that already happens at key points of the story. That being said as annoying of a system as this is it is made a bit more manageable by the fact that there are extremely cheap items you can buy that just negate the drop meter entirely because it just refills it and changes the intensity of it back to normal so you don't lose the meter at a faster rate. I'm not sure why this system is in the game because it adds nothing to it, but at the same time you quickly learn how to work around it so its far from the worst thing this game could have done.
Now it's time to talk about the story, I will be spoiling a lot going forward so this is the warning if you have interest in playing the game but don't want to know what's going on story wise.
This game's plot gets a lot of flack for being stupid and too confusing but honestly I kind of found it pretty straight forward outside of one aspect which was just me forgetting a detail of Kingdom Hearts 1 since its been two years since I played it; there are definitely dumb moments in the story though I won't deny that. That being said, I do feel the dumb stuff was not as bad as it was made out to be before I played the game. The most prominent example of something dumb for me was Xigbar's "I'm already half Xehanort" line which while it did make me roll my eyes I kind of got what it was going for? It felt like an in character way for Xigbar to quickly say "Xehanort's heart fragment is already inside of me but its not the controlling force" to Sora who has shown up to this point to not be the brightest. It's a dumb line regardless but I do think there's some sense to it following the series's logic and how these characters act.
Though most likely the main reason people complain about this game's story is most likely the time travel aspect, which frankly I do not mind because I really don't have as much of a problem with time travel media as other people do. Especially in this case since it seems like there's pretty clear cut rules on how time travel is handled in universe so it's not just an end all be all to problems like it could be used to be. Them establishing that time travel exists, people can't just travel back in time to whenever they want, and that even if you mess with things it can't just change fate all being set up in one scene was a lot of information to drop within a ten minute timeframe but I do appreciate it doing that because it cleanly answers a lot of the questions raised by the introduction of time travel.
I also really enjoyed Riku being the more prominent main character of the game. Not only does he get a lot of time to shine throughout the story but he has some of the best boss fights, and he gets to be the one to finish the story and fight the final boss as well as being recognized as a master of the keyblade. This last part is something that I find really cool because it sort of completely's Riku's arc from the first game to now where he fell to darkness and lost his chance to be the keyblade's chosen weidler because of it, and then after being pulled out of the darkness and struggling with it continuously he managed to pull himself out of it and free himself entirely before coming into his own destiny as a master of the keyblade. It's such a great end to this character arc for Riku and I can't wait to see what he does going forward as a master of the keyblade.
I also was actually pretty okay with how they brought back a lot of the organization members into this. While I feel like the explanation is a bit odd, the idea that once both the nobody and the heartless that were spawned from the same body die they return to form themselves again does work within the series's own internal logic and hey it gave us more Axel/Lea so I'm cool with it. It does make me wonder which other members of the organization are back and whether we'll see them as enemies or foes in Kingdom hearts 3. We already know Saix/Isa is back as well as Xigbar/Briar, but I'm interested to see who came back fully and what characters are important to the plot going forward.
Outside of the actual main plot I have to say that despite not being a big disney guy I feel like the world selection in this game was kinda great honestly. I'm not sure why but I just heavily vibed with them using The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron legacy, Pinnochio, The Three Musketeers, and Fantasia as their worlds this time around. Especially since the Dream Eaters played a roll in a number of the stories involving a good chunk of the worlds. Judge Frollo having a giant Dream Eater Dragon that he used to set fire to Paris was a really fun way to play on what I assume is something Frollo does in the movie, Fantasia being a chase through different shorts to get pages and then stop a Dream Eater from controlling Mickey, a giant T-Rex Dream Eater chasing the Princess's carriage in the Musketeers world, they all had really fun ways of integrating the Dream Eaters into the plot of each world instead of just directly making them repeats of the movie entirely like is something that happens in more than a few Kingdom Hearts worlds throughout the series. Also as someone who watched Fantasia for the first time only a day before getting to it in this game I have to say that was a lot of fun to get to play through the worlds of it in some sense.
As always with this series this game has some insanely good music. The Dread of Night, L'Emineza Oscura, the fantasia world music, The Eye of Darkness, and a few others are all great songs. As always, give the soundtrack a listen even if you don't play the game because it's great.
Overall Dream Drop Distance feels like a very underrated game to me, its far from perfect but I had a great time with it. The story has its dumb moments sure but I feel like overall the main idea/set up is cool; and at this point in Kingdom Hearts as a series dumb moments are kind of too be expected to some degree. Really good game that is definitely slept on too much in my opinion, definitely one to play instead of skipping if you're going through the series in my opinion.
This review contains spoilers
Continuing my playthrough of the Kingdom Hearts series I played through Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Now this game was remade as a movie that I could have watched in order to gleam the story from it, but I was told it was outright the worst way to experience the game's story and I didn't want to try tracking down the manga version of the game so I found myself a ds copy of it. I have to say, while it was worth it to experience the incredible story this game tells the gameplay is probably the worst feeling traditional style Kingdom hearts gameplay so far. That being said I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is an interquel game that takes place between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 that follows Roxas from the day he first is inducted into Organization 13 to the day that he leaves it and starts the events of Kingdom Hearts 2. Over the course of the game you get insight into what Roxas was up to during this time, what eventually lead to him leaving the Organization, and how deep his friendship runs with the characters Axel and Xion. I really enjoyed the story set up for this game (and the story in general, but we'll talk about that later) but that being said the story is just about the only part of the game that I would actually call completely good.
358/2 Days was a game made for the Nintendo DS and within the first few missions that is very apparent. They tried making an approximation of the general gameplay feel of Playstation 2 games on the DS, which already feels like a recipe for disaster considering the pure disparity between the hardware and the controls available for both. The keyblade combat is more or less a completely dumbed down version of Kingdom hearts 1's gameplay to where you just do the same combo every time with no variance other than sometimes being able to press Y for your third hit and doing a different move that you can't continue off of. It may just be because I played this immediately after Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth By Sleep, but this felt insanely mind numbing to play due to how repetitive and boring the core action felt. I imagine it was probably hard to add a lot of different kinds of combo paths and ways to chain things together because of the console 358/2 was designed around, but removing that really killed the experience for me personally. That being said, at least the core gameplay is more intact than the magic system is.
Magic is a weird thing in Kingdom Hearts games for me because I didn't use it much in the other games before the command deck just due to the general quickness of combat, but in this game I actively tried to use magic and it felt like I was punished for that decision. Due to how leveling up and ability allocation works in this game (which is really cool actually and is a highlight of the game that I'll talk about in a bit) you have limited magic charges per spell, and once those charges run out in a mission you're completely out of those spells until the next mission unless you equipped an ether. Think of them essentially as spell slots from Dungeons and Dragons if you have an familiarity with that game. I don't think that really works for a game like Kingdom hearts where you have a continuous series of battles throughout an area since this actively discourages the player from using spells out of fear of not having enough if a surprise boss or tough enemy shows up. It feels like a completely needless restriction that just holds the gameplay back in my opinion. Having a mana bar or or a cool down style system would have felt much nicer and made it so magic could have been a more useful and integral part of your combat kit instead of making it something you only bust out on rare occasions.
While on the topic of magic, I also am not a fan of how they handled designing improved versions of spells in this game. Using the healing spell "Cure" as an example, followed by its upgrades "Cura" and "Curaga", cure starts out functioning like the normal cure you would expect from the series where you jab your keyblade into the air and recovery a good chunk of health. Cura and curaga however, don't function like this. In the case of cura you slowly replenish small chunks of health over time instead of giving yourself a full bar and with curaga you create a small area of effect that you have to stand in in order to regain health. I take problems with both of these because it actively changes how healing via your already limited spell slots works and in both cases they function actively worse than if you had just made them heal as normal. With Cura since you don't get any health immediately and have to wait a second or two repeatedly to get any sort of substantial health back the player is essentially forced to keep running away from enemies without being able to do anything about it while you slowly wait for your health bar to refill from these small chunks of health you get every few seconds. Curaga has the other problem where you're almost forced to stand still in order to regain health; which is a problem in itself because you generally have to keep moving around the battlefield in order to not get hit, especially in boss fights. These changes are indicative of the main problem with magic in this game in my opinion, where it felt like they were trying to experiment with new styles of using old spells without understanding why those old spells worked.
Being a bit more positive here for a second, I did really enjoy the game's level up/ability selection system here. The game gives you a grid not unlike the Resident Evil 4 briefcase inventory that you slot blocks for level ups, spells, items, abilities, weapon upgrades, and armor onto. I really liked this system because it felt like a challenge in itself to see how much you could fit into the system and what you could shift around to make everything you wanted slot into each other without having to give up something. Another interesting aspect of this were doublers and amplifiers, which are blocks that have areas around them that you can slot certain blocks into to make them stronger. For example you get various level up nodes that double or triple the amount of levels you get from one level block, so you can vastly increase your level quickly if you already have the level blocks. Same games with magic, but for magic you also get the amplifier nodes that allow you to use stronger versions of whatever spell you slot in without using the next named upgrade of the spell (this was incredibly helpful in dealing with the problems with the cure line of spells). This is probably my favorite aspect of the gameplay from 358/2 Days, but at the same time I'm not surprised by this since fun inventory management is something I'm generally drawn too.
Something that sets 358/2 Days apart from other games in the series with this traditional gameplay style is how it handles worlds and going through each area. Instead of putting you down into a world and having you linearly go through its story here you are given missions that you accomplish in a world, leave, and then come back later for more missions. There were several types of missions possible to get which usually boiled down to defeat a ton of heartless, defeat a big heartless (usually a boss), investigate the area, or stealth through something. At first I really liked this system since they were all pretty quick get in get out types of missions so even the gameplay types I really detested like the investigation and stealth sections were at least over soon enough. Then, as the game went on the missions kept getting longer and longer. I don't inherently have an issue with a game that has clear levels having each level get longer as you go on and are more familiar with the game, far from it, but the short levels at first were a strength of this game I felt. Even when an activity wasn't the most enjoyable you would be done with it soon enough, or it wouldn't take too much time so if you're playing on the go due to the system you were playing on you could quickly play a mission, put it down, and then play another when you pick it up again. This becomes increasingly harder to do once you hit the halfway point of the game as each mission becomes around 20-30 minutes long as it tried to recapture the feel of the console Kingdom Hearts games. I feel like if they were going to introduce the mission system they should have stuck to it personally instead of trying to emulate the feel of the main games later in the game after already setting the precedent of the mission system.
One thing that I think would have really benefited this game is the command deck from Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, the two other traditionally styled Kingdom Hearts games for handhelds. The system was made specifically to make it easier to cycle through abilities make them more manageable on more restricted consoles and it feels really off that the handheld game with the most traditional gameplay, that is also on the weakest hardware of the games mentioned, is the only one to not use the system designed around mobile experiences. With all that being said about the gameplay, I do have to say this game is really saved in my mind by the story.
Just a forewarning I will be going partially into spoiler territory, especially regarding the ending, after this so if you have an interest in playing, watching, or reading the story of 358/2 Days I recommend skipping this next part.
Getting to explore who Roxas is and how they came to be the character we see by the time Kingdom Hearts 2 rolls around is great and it blew me away how much fun I had with the character interactions between Roxas, Axel, Xion, and the rest of the cast. Seeing the three of them slowly form bonds and become friends over the course of the 358 days that Roxas was in Organization 13 was great and made the ending stretch of the game where everything falls apart surprisingly heart wrenching in a way that I was not expecting from I game that I felt had really unimpressive gameplay. A stand out character for me that I wasn't expecting much from before playing this was Xion; who I only knew about vaguely from the cover of the game and from her briefly showing up in a cutscene in Birth By Sleep. Watching her come into her own, leave the organization, and actively try to be better than what the organization expects of her really resonated with me and it made her getting brainwashed and forced to fight her old friend before dying all the more impactful to me.
In a similar vein, seeing Roxas become more and more of his own person over the course of the game was something I really enjoyed. Something present throughout the series in regards to the Nobodies like Roxas, people who are the remnants of a strong person who has lost their heart to darkness, is that they retain their memories and personalities of who they were before they became a nobody. Since Roxas is Sora's nobody he would normally retain Sora's memories, but since Sora regained his heart through different means than normal in Kingdom Hearts 1 Roxas has no memories from Sora. This lets Roxas grow into his own person entirely based on trying to decide who he is and who he wants to be, and I think it works out really well personally into making him a deep and complex character for someone who shouldn't have emotions.
Small tangent before I wrap this up, but I am not a fan of prequel/Interquel stories because usually they don't line up incredibly well with what they're supposed to come before and due to this they usually lack any sort of importance to them for me personally. That's not the case here, since this story makes sense as both something that makes Roxas who he is by the time we meet him in Kingdom Hearts 2 as well as having a bearing on future events and not just being left alone based on Xion being shown in Birth By Sleep's ending cutscene. So I'm hopeful this means that the events of this game will be followed up on in a game that feels better to play.
Overall, despite how much I complained about the gameplay, I liked Kingdom Hearts 358/2. Not a lot, because man the gameplay drags it down astronomically, but I loved the story so much that it almost makes up for how much distaste I have for the gameplay. I wish this game would get remade with gameplay that more closely matches the other handheld games, but considering how they opted to just make it a movie instead I unfortunately do not see that happening anytime soon. I'd say this is definitely an interesting experience that you should check out if you really want to, but I would probably recommend checking out the manga if you can find it over this since that is reportedly the best way to experience the story outside of playing the game, which might be hard to tolerate for some.
This is probably one of the better collections out there if you're looking for great games to play honestly. It has Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix, one of the best games of all time, and then also Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Final Mix, another straight up great game, as well as a bonus movie for a ds game they couldn't figure out how to remake that has probably one of the most unintentionally funniest lines in the series. Definitely worth playing through if you're interested in Kingdom Hearts, though honestly you could probably pick up the all in one package or the story so far for more value overall. That being said, this collection as I played it is incredibly solid and has two unforgettable experiences in it. Completely worth it in my opinion
Original Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix Review: https://www.backloggd.com/u/ResonanceJay/review/242920/
Original Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Review: https://www.backloggd.com/u/ResonanceJay/review/257706/
This review contains spoilers
Continuing my playthrough of the Kingdom Hearts games I played Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, the game I never really heard much about beyond having one of the worst bosses in gaming history. I didn't have many expectations or idea of what to expect going into this game because I never really saw/sought out anyone talk about it till I started playing it but I have to say I was pretty impressed with what I played.
Birth By Sleep is a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series that takes place ten years before the first game and follows Terra, Ventus, and Aqua, three keyblade wielders as they get sent out from their homes on various quests in order to find each other and stop a great evil from destroying all the worlds.The game's story is split between three stories, one following each member of the trio. I found this approach really neat and it allowed you time to really get to know the characters and figure them out while also getting a handle on their gameplay, instead of switching back and forth between all of them constantly throughout the game like I kind of assumed would be the case when I did the prologue of this game. I was also genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed the story of this game getting into it, since I wasn't really expecting anything else in the series to reach Kingdom hearts 2's level of story considering the reputation of a lot of the other games.
So the way the story is told has you playing a character's journey from start to finish with certain points where the stories intersect during each campaign. I found this really interesting and while it did make it very clear what was going to happen at some points given the fact that I had already seen a few things twice by the last playthrough, I found the way they wove all these stories together and also added context to one story through the other stories really worked for me. I think it helped that all three members of the main cast were really strong characters in my opinion that I enjoyed my time with. Friendship and the unbreakable bonds of those you care about were a central theme of this game and you could really feel that through the brief moments of interaction with all of the main cast together. It also helped that the supporting cast such as Master Eraqus, Xehanort, and Mickey Mouse also help to round out the main cast and add a lot of great interactions to the game.
This giving context as to how Xehanort came to be who he is by the time the flashbacks in Kingdom Hearts 2 happened is really interesting and has a lot of implications for what happens in between this game and Kingdom Hearts one that lead to the main plot of the series kicking off the way that it did. I'm generally not a fan of prequel media but this game's story did a good job of convincing me that its not only justified but also adds a lot of really unique concepts of its own that I feel will probably be explored later on such as the keyblade war and Ventus's fate. Really solid story overall and I won't spoil more of it than I have already but I definitely think the tale being told here was pretty good and is underrated from what I've seen of this game being talked about. Though I think, like with Kingdom Hearts 2, the gameplay is where this game really shines in my opinion.
The game mostly follow Kingdom Hearts 2's gameplay style with one major change, that being the command deck. Instead of using ability points to set up different abilities, attacks, and movement options you can use almost everything is relegated to the command deck, which is a rotating deck of attacks you can swap between and use at will in order to attack. Once you use an attack the attack is then set on a recharge timer until you can do it again. I really enjoy this system for a few reasons. The first being that the system did make me actually use magic and more unique abilities than in previous games since it was easier to access than trying to navigate a menu mid fight like in Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. I experimented more and tried a lot of different aspects of magic and special attacks that I probably would not have had it been locked behind trying to navigate a lot of menus like in Kingdom Hearts 2. The second thing that I found really cool about this system was how it made you really think about what you have equipt and weigh the options of what commands you want to have in the deck instead of just equipping all the spells/commands at once. It's like a more streamlined version of Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2's AP system.
I also really enjoyed how you unlocked new commands, which was normally through either finding them or the melding system. After you hit a certain level on each command it would then become usable as a material to mix with another command and make an even stronger command from it. Sometimes while doing this your melded ability can also transform into a much stronger random ability. It is honestly really cool when this happens since you get a free really strong attack you weren't expecting. Another neat aspect of this game's melding system is that by adding gems to the commands when mixing them you can unlock unique abilities such as recharging commands faster, being able to do more combos, and more that stay with you if you get the command to max. It's a neat system in my opinion that I hope sticks around because I really enjoyed how it it gave you permanent buffs for experimenting with the system.
The other new aspect of the command deck system are the command styles. Command styles work as a meter above the command deck that builds up the more damage you do from commands and once you hit the max you enter a new style that changes your gameplay and builts to a command finisher that does massive damage. It's a really neat system that isn't used perfectly throughout the game, since some characters work better with it than others, but its a fun inclusion and something that I hope shows up in future games because I had a lot of fun with it personally. Being able to chain between command styles depending on what command you switch to while using another command feels incredible nice and lets you continue to build up massive damage against crowds and bosses once you fully get the hang of it.
Another new addition to the player's arsenal this time around are shotlocks, which effectively act as ultimate moves that you can use once one of your meters is fully filled. I felt like these were a nice addition to the core gameplay and felt really satisfying to use as a start to a combo. To use them you have to lock on to the target multiple times/the same target multiple times, so its not exactly possible to use it as an endcap to a combo unfortunately but leading into a combo by firing one off and then dashing in afterwards is just as effect and felt really effective and nice to pull off personally.
The final new mechanic they added are calle D-links, which are effectively supposed to be summon replacements but don't quite hit the mark in my opinion. You unlock and can use D links with characters you connect with throughout the game and gain access to sets of their moves and abilities when you go into these forms. They're a really interesting idea but I never actually really needed to use them much throughout the game besides for a quick heal every now and then. It's not a bad system and I'm sure I'd probably have gotten into it more if I started doing a lot of the side content and superbosses, but for me durin the main game this system was really negligible to me personally; which is a shame because I can see this kind of system being super cool if done differently to make them more meaningful.
One aspect of the game that I didn't really vibe with in any way however were the minigames. Though they were not around too much and some were very easily avoidable like the command board I did not enjoy them in the slightest. The biggest offender of this was in the Disney Town world, which on top of having the worst music in the game is basically all minigames that are mandatory to do and which all kind of suck in their own way. Terra's racing minigame is just bad Mario kart with no weight to the car, Ven's is an extremely barebones rhythm game, and Aqua is a one vs multiple others volleyball game that doesn't quite feel balanced around this idea. These are all really short sequences of the game but they all stuck out as kind of frustrating to do. Not a big issue just something that I thought was worth mentioning before getting into how each individual character played and controlled.
The first of the trio that I played was Terra, and I'm kind of glad I started off with him because his gameplay is easily the worst of the three, so I only was able to go up from here. Terra's gameplay is more about moving slower but hitting for bigger damage with normal attacks and physical commands. This type of playstyle is not something I particularly enjoy and it was pretty difficult to get a hang of right off the heels of how fast paced and frantic Kingdom Hearts 2's gameplay was. Not to mention that for some bizarre reason Terra has less invincibility frames on his dodge/roll than the other two for some reason. This made things a bit more difficult than I would have preferred, since I'd watch myself dodge something and still take damage at times which got frustrating later on in Terra's story. This was partially fixed by some commands such as thunder surge and the one that heals you on block but it still felt unnecessary and made things more frustrating at times than I felt like they should have been. Regardless I still had fun playing as Terra despite this but I can easily say that his slow speed and weird lack of invincibility frames easily makes him the least fun of the main trio.
Following Terra I played Ventus next, which felt more like what I was familiar with from the past few games gameplay wise. Ventus plays and moves a lot like how Sora does and it was a welcome return to form after playing Terra. Though that being said, due to how the game is structured Ventus does feel like a watered down version of Sora in a sense. Like without certain abilities that are locked to Terra and Aqua it just makes Ventus feel like midgame KH2 Sora by the end of his route. However, given the scope of the game and what its ultimately going for I can easily look past this, especially since Midgame KH2 Sora still felt strong and fun to use. I will say Ventus probably has my favorite shotlock of the bunch, doing a ton of damage and also working as a quick AoE in a pinch. Ventus also gets som really fun commands exclusive to him such as Tornado, which is such a funny command to watch because it can just pick up and throw around almost any enemy in the game minus a boss or two.
Finally, Aqua's gameplay felt pretty unique compared to the standard Kingdom Hearts style while managing to make her the most fun to play out of the trio. Aqua's whole combat style revolves around using magic to quickly build up the command gauge and quickly switch between styles based on these different types of magic. This style of gameplay almost instantly clicked with me and while it isn't quite Kingdom Hearts 2's level of great combat this is definitely up there as some of the most fun I've had with action combat in a game. Something about the magic (something I have generally ignored up to this point as I mentioned earlier) being directly tied to her gameplay and how quickly you can snowball into doing something absolutely busted by chaining spells and other commands together just feels right to me. The one criticism I have of Aqua's gameplay is that her shotlock feels a bit lack luster compared to the other two's, but ultimately that is a very minor criticism. Aqua's gameplay feels like the most fully realized of the trio and uses almost all the game's systems to their fullest in my opinion; which is really good in my opinion since she's the character you play as the longest if you go for the secret ending of the game.
Like Kingdom Hearts 2 this game's soundtrack is incredible. So many great songs in this game like Rage Awakened, Unbreakable Chains, Another Side, and dismiss. I'm not sure how this series manages to consistently have incredible songs, but I'm glad it does because man are these soundtracks just legitimately great pieces of music. Like I said with Kingdom Hearts 2, even if you don't end up playing this game listen to this soundtrack, a lot of really great songs can be found throughout it. Minus Disney Town's clown music of course.
Overall, I really like this game. It's not perfect but I think its a great prequel to the series that did a lot of really cool things both story and gameplay wise. I also have to say, that while I played the HD remaster of this game I'm kind of impressed that this was originally a PSP game, since it felt like any other Kingdom Hearts game that I've played up to this point. Ultimately I'd say give this game a shot, its not the peak of the series or anything but its a great time in my opinion.
This review contains spoilers
So I have a bit of a weird history with this game. The first time I tried playing through Kingdom hearts 2: Final Mix I was playing on Critical mode, the hardest difficulty, because the person who was walking me through the series told me it was the only way to play the game. This ultimately did not pan out and I put the game down for about a year where I then picked it up again and started a new file, still on critical mode because I was still being pushed in this direction. This scenario happened two more times until I kind of just, gave up and didn't really have a desire to play the game again. Then Sora in smash happened and I figured I might as well give the game another shot but on my terms (standard/normal mode), and oh my god I am so glad I did because this game is incredible.
To explain quickly, Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix is a game that mixes elements of Final Fantasy with classic Disney movies and then interconnects them with their own original plot. The plot of the series up to this point follows Sora, a boy from a place called the Destiny Islands, as he tries to find his friends Riku and Kairi after they all got separated and flung across the multiverse due to an invasion by the heartless, which are beings made of hearts corrupted by darkness that are trying to consume other hearts in order to make Kingdom Hearts; which is effectively the coalescence of hearts into an extremely powerful heart. After joining up with Donald and Goofy, Sora managed to stop the villain of the first game, Ansem, from creating Kingdom Hearts but unfortunately was not able to go back with his friends. Which lead to the events of Chain of memories where he got trapped in a castle and lost his memories prior to Kingdom hearts 2. From here on out I will be talking about spoilers for the general plot and one main plotline of Kingdom Hearts 2 so be warned if you care about any big plot spoilers.
The story of this game is something I was blown away by because despite how silly the game can be conceptually, it actually does a lot with its plot that I found really interesting and engaging. The game mostly follows Sora as he reawakens and has to set out with Donald and Goofy to find his friends, King Mickey, and stop a new group of bad guys knows as Organization 13 that are using new creatures called Nobodies (essentially the opposite of a heartless, where instead of being a corrupted heart it is a body without a heart that is created when someone who is strong of heart becomes a heartless) in order to defeat more and more Heartless in order to help their master, Xehanort/Xemnas create his own Kingdom Hearts. The game does a lot of things that I found really interesting with this premise and I enjoyed seeing how all these plans of the Organization members played out over the various Disney worlds plus the one Final Fantasy world. Though, nothing in the game stood out quite as much for me as the Roxas plotline did.
To explain, at the beginning of the game instead of jumping right in as Sora you play as Roxas, a young boy living in a place called Twilight town that is just trying to enjoy the rest of his summer vacation with his friends. Roxas later disappears as you awaken Sora, and throughout the game several members of the Organization refer to Sora as Roxas, which points towards an the idea of Roxas being Sora's nobody. This is of course later revealed to be the case. There are two really great scenes between Roxas and Sora that revolve around this plot; both before and after Sora learns of this and both of them are just downright incredible at portraying who Roxas is as their own person, even if they originally are just part of Sora. The moment that really solidified Roxas as an amazing character and the plot revolving around them as one of my favorite things about this game had to be the scene where Roxas and Axel talked atop the clocktower in Twilight Town. Not going to go into too much detail but this scene does such a great job of conveying who Roxas and Axel are as characters and how much their connection means to them even if they don't have hearts or emotions. It's such a well crafted scene that really lets the both of them shine and is way more emotional than I thought a game mixing Disney and Final Fantasy could be.
On that note, if there's one thing this game does shockingly well its its emotional beats. This is a bit of a personal thing but I am not usually one to get teary eyed over media. It has happened to me a few times but never more than once in most works. Somehow though this game got me to tear up four or five times which is surprising to me. If you had told me a month ago that I would have been emotionally messed up due to a scene of Winne the Pooh and Sora having a chat I wouldn't have believed you but here we are. Being a bit more serious though I do think this game does have a very good sense of how to do emotional scenes despite how silly the game itself is. For the most part anyway, the Goofy "death" scene was played weirdly straight for something that was very obviously not going to result in a death. That aside though moments such as the clocktower conversation between Axel and Roxas, Axel's death, and the entire ending sequence from the moment you hit the point of no return all just really hit me emotionally and I'm impressed with them for being able to pull off legitimately incredible emotional beats in a game where you watch Goofy get hit in the head with a rock and then "die" in a scene that's treated extremely seriously.
Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix is one of those rare games where Everything works in just the right way so that it makes a truly bizarre experience that doesn't feel like it should work become an insanely enjoyable experience. I've never been a big disney guy so a lot of that aspect of this crossover was lost on me, and I can't help thinking about how weird this entire thing is when I take a step back from it, but I think for me at least that does add a lot of the charm to this game. Like, having a realistic Captain Jack Sparrow next to some giant edgy heartless, a cartoony human Sora, and then just Donald and Goofy from the Mickey Mouse cartoons is so bizarre conceptually that I can't help but love it. However, besides the bizarreness of it I do think a large part of what makes me love this game is its combat system.
I feel like this game's combat is vastly improved over Kingdom Hearts 1's style of gameplay and basically refined what the first game did into something truly magical. Not only do actions and the abilities you unlock all around feel better to use and to chain into each other, but it all feels so much faster and more fluid in a way that made me really want to master combos and discover new ways to chain my moves together in order to get the highest amount of damage done to enemies in one combo. This mixed with a really nice chain of progression for unlocking and picking moves (which I will touch more on in a bit) makes a great basis for combat, that is also further improved by the things this game adds to spice it up.
One such thing is the reaction command system, which are effectively quick time event counters that give you really cool cutscenes as rewards for pulling them off. What I think really works about these are two main factors, those being the sheer number of them and also how balanced they feel in terms of how they function. On the first point I think the fact that almost every single boss, heartless, and nobody in the game has special reaction commands that are just for them and can only be done on them really adds to the experience because it makes each of them feel unique. It really makes it feel a lot more special to use than a standard "press square to counter" type situation and I really appreciate that. Now as for the second point, I think with almost all of the reaction commands they balanced the amount of cool cutscenes versus player having to get involved and press something just right as to where it keeps you waiting for the next chance to push the button but still gives you more than enough time to see something fun over just spamming buttons continuously the entire time. I'm kind of surprised this isn't something that caught on with other action games, since this seems like a perfect way to balance quick time events and make them feel enjoyable for the player in my opinion.
Part of this game's combat that also really shines through in my opinion is the drive form feature, which once you get enough points in your meter allows you to enter a form using either Donald, Goofy, or both in order to boost an aspect of your stats; or just all of them with some of the later forms. There are five selectable forms that you can get throughout the game, known as Valor, Wisdom, master, limit, and final forms. These really add a lot to combat to make the player feel strong while also allowing you to choose which stats to boost depending on the situation you're in. The thing that I find really cool about these is that while you do get better and better forms as the game goes on there is still a sense of balance to them that keeps them from being an instant win button. The most readily apparent part of this balance is the inclusion of Anti form, which unlike the other forms activates on a hidden meter depending on how much you use the other drive forms (minus final form) and will have a chance to activate instead of the form you select at higher parts of the anti meter. It adds a really cool risk and reward system to the drive forms for most of the game and keeps you from just abusing the drive ability to plow through every fight. That being said anti form isn't a push over either, since in that form you still do massive amounts of damage easily; you just have to be careful because you don't have access to party members, healing or reaction commands in that form.
The other neat way of balancing these movesets was how they function in terms of moveset. Each form has a different combat moveset for Sora to use that I found were more useful in some situations over others, such as Valor form being more useful for one on one fights over Master form which felt like it was much better suited for fighting groups of enemies. This balance is kept throughout the game between the four forms you get throughout the main story and I think it does a good job of incentivizing using the different forms in different situations. The only one that kind of breaks this is final form, which is pretty much just better master form and better than the rest of the forms at pretty much everything while also removing the anti form penalty entirely. However I don't hold that against the game since its something you have to go out of your way to unlock and isn't possible to unlock until right at the very end of the game, so at that point its more or less just a fun thing that you can use to bring some real carnage to the final area of the game.
Another really cool aspect of the drive forms is that you unlock better versions of movement abilities for normal Sora, which brings me to this game's level up system. So you have traditional level ups based on exp like in most rpg's but you also get a really cool feature where even when you unlock new abilities you have to manage which ones you can use based on how many ability points, or AP for short, that you have. The AP system feels really interesting to me because it really makes you weigh your options and choose the skills and abilities that would best fit your current situation or plan out how you're going to spend your limited points to build out Sora. It feels like a really unique way of doing a skill tree type unlock system but in a way that isn't just following branches down a path and more just letting you full pick and choose how you want Sora to feel and play with his moves as you gather more over the course of the story.
Speaking of the story again because I couldn't find a good place to put it otherwise, but this game included the plot of Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar which I find extremely funny because I never thought anything would reference the shitty direct to dvd sequels a lot of the disney animated movies got so this game is perfect for that alone.
One other thing I did want to point out that I thought was really well done was the aesthetics of each world. Something that I think is nice about the game's format of traveling between several Disney worlds is that you get so many different aesthetics and designs for areas and I think its really cool how the game ties them all together. A subset of this that is super cool to me is when Sora and the rest of the gang get specific designs that coincide with the world. Like them getting halloween and christmas outfits in Halloween town and Christmas town, or their animal forms in the Lion King world. Another aspect of this that I really enjoy is the keyblade design. Since each world has its own keyblade that you can acquire through finishing stages of the quests there you get world specific keyblades along with a few other story specific ones. I got to say I do really appreciate them making Keyblades that are based entirely within the aesthetic of that world while also making them still look like keys somehow. Not really much more to say on this aspect I just find it neat.
A final note before wrapping things up, this game's soundtrack is killer. So many incredible songs play throughout the game like Sanctuary, the 13th Reflection, Sacred Moon, Rage Awakened, The Other Promise, Fate of the Unknown, Darkness of the Unknown, and so many more are just absolute bangers. This is one of those games where even if you don't end up playing it at least check out the soundtrack, it has some amazing music.
Ultimately I'd say this game feels like a passion project. There is so much love poured into every aspect of this game that I was not expecting to find in here. I also wasn't expecting to like this anywhere near as much as I did after my initial repeated struggles with the game but I'm glad I came back to this and gave it a fair shot. Who knows, maybe I'll even go back and try it on critical mode now that I understand how the game works and have played it fully. This game definitely lives up to the hype and acclaim its built up over the years and I can't wait to check out the rest of the franchise at some point now that I'm done with this. Seriously, go play this game. Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. Hope you got all this memorized.
Monkey Ball was a series that I have been casually wanting to return for awhile now. I've never been a mega die hard fan of the games but I had a lot of fun with them as a kid and I've felt like it would be nice to replay them every so often or to get new ones that follow the design philosophy of the original trio of games. That essentially is what Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania sets out to do; and for the most part it manages to succeed in a way that I'm pretty happy with.
So going into this I had a bit of a different expectation as to what Banana Mania was compared to what it actually was. The only trailers I saw for this game was the E3 announcement trailer as well as all the character reveal trailers that they did, but based on the initial announcement and how they made it a point to show that everything was coming from Monkey Ball 1, Monkey Ball 2, and Monkey Ball Deluxe I had assumed that this was a remake of the trilogy entirely as is in a similar style to how the Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy was remade and not what we ended up getting, which was a remix of the three games into one game that uses levels and elements of each game. Personally I would have preferred what I assumed we were getting, but that is ultimately on me and not the game so I can't really hold it against the game. I did think it was important to note though due to how reviews will inherently be biased and what I thought would be nice versus what we got will definitely color this a bit.
That being said there are quite a few really nice changes that this being a remix of the first three games instead of straight up one to one remakes of them. One of them is the aforementioned characters that have been added, which while not adding any inherent gameplay changes does just work as a nice cosmetic thing. Seeing a little chibi Kiryu Kazuma rolling around in a ball collecting tauriner bottles or seeing Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog collecting rings in a ball is fun and adds a level of fun to it at the absurdity of these characters getting rolled around in balls. Also the rate at which you are given the currency used to unlock these characters as well as new modes is really quick and makes it feel like you're constantly gaining something and moving up even when you fail, which is a really nice feeling in my opinion.
The other main thing that I thought was nice is how despite this game being an amalgam of the other games they still left each game's challenge mode as its own thing so you could play through a collection of challenge levels from each game if you wanted too. It's nice that even if its all one game now they still left options to keep the contents from the different games in order for people who wanted to replay levels from a specific game if they choose too. It's a neat thing that I do kind of wish was how the main mode was handled as well but at the same time I do understand why they didn't do this for the main game as well.
This one is more of a complaint from someone who put way too much time into Monkey Ball deluxe as a kid, but the physics in this game are noticeably off compared to how they were in the originals and I am not really a fan of it. I'm not sure how best to describe this so the best I can really do is to give an example. There is a level you will see in deluxe's challenge mode that has you stuck in what is essentially a bowl inside of a much bigger bowl. You are supposed to keep going around the edges of the small bowl until through hitting the corners you gain enough momentum to go over the top into the larger bowl, where you do the same thing again but needing less speed to reach the goal. This is made significantly harder in this game since you do not gain or maintain as much height from bumping into the edges of the bowl and can get stuck in the small bowl much easier than in deluxe. I pulled out the original game and set up my original Xbox to test it and it is noticeably less functional due to how the game registers and calculates its physics in the Banana Mania version. This is also noticeable in the minigames that make a return from previous games, in that a number of them do not work correctly due to this change as well. Which is unfortunate but I was never big into the minigames anyway so it doesn't impact me too much.
Another thing that I'm not sure how I feel about with this is how it balances its level curve. The main mode of the game is a mix of the main modes from one, two, and deluxe which is nice since we still get all the levels from those games even if its not in the original format, but the way they're ordered in this game leads to having really random and unnecessary feeling difficulty spikes in each world. The original games definitely had difficulty spikes and tough levels, but those were at least ramped up at a more even pace whereas here you can have one of the easiest levels in the game back to back with one of the hardest here in Banana Mania. It isn't the most egregious thing since I would have had to do these levels eventually, but it did kind of break up the pace of the game in a really odd way that I didn't really enjoy.
Despite everything I've said up to this point though, its still Monkey ball at its core almost exactly how you might remember it. The gameplay might take a bit to adjust to if you are intimately familiar with the original trilogy of games, but for newcomers to the series this would most likely not be noticeable as most stages will still function fundamentally the same. The game is still incredibly fun but challenging and makes you really try to master its gameplay to finish its puzzlebox style levels. Sure I would have overall prefered we got full remakes/remasters of the first three games but I do think there is merit to remixing the games into something entirely new like this and I do appreciate the wave of nostalgia I got from seeing a ton of the old levels from the first few games that I remember so fondly.
Ultimately, I do still really like Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. It's goofy, its creative, it's frustrating as hell, but it's classic monkey ball. I'm glad this remix of the first several games exists and I hope that the monkey ball team getting this opportunity to recreate the original games means that an original monkey ball based on the first three is in the works coming up. This game has a really strong basis going forward for the series with it using the best of the original games as well as adding a lot of cool new features like multiple unlockable characters from other sega properties. I had fun with this game and I hope you do too if you decide to pick it up.
I'm not really sure where to begin with this game. If anything I'm more just amazed it exists in the first place. I remember learning about Dread back in 2008 when I was first getting into the series due to the the masterpieces demo of Super Metroid back in Smash Bros Brawl and then subsequently trying to find out everything I could about the series online. I thought this game was never going to exist and would just be a rumored game that would never come out; which was then strengthened by the fact that the series as a whole was more or less dead from 2010 to 2017 when Samus Returns came out. Seeing this announced at E3 was probably one of the biggest, most hype announcements for a game to me personally and I was so excited to finally see my favorite series return after all these years. I was a bit apprehensive however. This would be the first completely new 2d Metroid since 2002, and the first new Metroid game in general since Other M and after Samus Returns (which is a game I liked but have a few flaws with) I was unsure on if Metroid Dread could live up to the hype and expectations I had for the grand return of Metroid. Luckily, this game is everything I wanted and more.
I won't be talking about story spoilers outside what is shown in trailers because I do think that this is best experienced as the endcap to the main Metroid Saga and not explained over a text review like this, but know that if you've been a fan of the series for a long time the story does not disappoint and works great as the end to the story of the original run of 2d games while also being a great starting point for adventures yet to come. The story didn't go the way I expected after Fusion but I do think it works really well and achieves what it sets out to do. Not to mention it has some of the best characterization we've seen for Samus in a long time, basically acting as a counter to everything wrong with how she was written in Other M. However, while I do like the game's story a lot that's not the main focus of this game or where it really shines, that would be in its absolutely incredible gameplay.
This game is by far the best Metroid has ever felt to play, no contest. From the moment you gain control of Samus everything just feels right. You move at the perfect pace, not too fast to miss things or to make it hard to deal with enemies but not too slow either as to where you feel like you're moving through molasses. This is enhanced as you go on by the sheer amount of abilities that help with movement that you manage to get throughout the game. It gets to a point with controlling the game and the abilities you unlock that movement feels effortless and incredibly smooth. I think the best word I have for how it feels to move around in this game is natural. Everything you do in this game movement wise just feels right in a way I can't really describe more than it feeling like you're remembering how to ride a bike once you do it again. This may just be my years of latent Metroid playing coming back doing part of this, but I fully stand by this game just feeling absolutely amazing to control; it just makes it so fun to traverse and explore the massive world that this game provides.
A core part of this movement and general exploration gameplay working as well as it did is it's absolutely incredible level design. The different areas of this game are designed in such ways that they feel so incredible to explore. There's so much hidden behind every corner, whether it's secret passages or another upgrade for your energy or missiles the game manages to constantly reward you in some way for being curious and trying something off the beaten path, and ultimately I think that's at the core of how a Metroidvania game should design its world. In that same vein, I actually did get lost repeatedly both in the main game and going for 100% which is an awesome feeling for a Metroidvania to achieve I think. The map is so sprawling and so incredibly large that it can feel daunting and can easily lead to you getting lost and turned around as you try to find your way forward, but when you finally do oh man does it make you feel like a genius for finding the way forward or finding that power up you've been searching for to open that one door back in the starting area.
Another aspect of the map that I found really cool in this game is how the world changes and shifts with what you do throughout the game. For example very early on in the first area you will come across a wall you need to blow up in order to advance and move on to the next room, but doing so blocks off the way you came and makes you try to find a new way to get back to where you were before. This sort of thing mixed with general map changes as you go through the story and cause different things to happen in the world are really cool also, like when certain areas of the map freeze over so the main villain can try to impede your progress. These sort of things help to make the world feel alive and changing as you go through it and impact it in your way and I think that that's a great thing for a game that is all about exploring a map to its fullest.
While I normally don't care about graphics too much for games I just need to talk about how insanely good the world looks in this game. So much detail and care was put into designing each area and a lot of rooms have insanely detailed backgrounds that I feel like was so much effort for something that most people wouldn't pay much attention too, but man do they look great and show just how much love and care was put into this game.
I've brought up abilities a few times so far but I want to specifically talk about a handful of them because the game both adds a number of great new items while also improving on older ones in interesting ways that help benefit with the exploration and backtracking that the game is built around. First things first there's a few changes to existing abilities that I think really benefit the game design and allow them to have a more staggered expanding of the world in a sense. For example, the series staple Varia suit returns in Dread but instead of being an all temperature suit like in past games this time around it only allows you to traverse through extremely hot areas instead of both extremely hot and extremely cold areas. Instead you unlock the ability to survive cold once you get the Gravity suit, another returning suit that has now been given this temperature resistance. I like this change since it effectively gives you stages in which the world opens up to you and keeps exploration feeling fresh and varied as you're given new areas later into the game that you can now explore using the Gravity suit instead of unlocking effectively all of the restricted area of the map due to taking damage from them at once with one upgrade.
On top of that several other returning staples got changes that I feel were good changes all around, such as the grapple beam being made useable. This is the only Metroid game where I'd say it feels good to actually use the grapple beam, which is astonishing to me because I thought this ability was just destined to not be fun to use. However due to the fact that unlike every other 2d Metroid before this Dread has the advantage of being on a full modern controller with enough buttons to accommodate everything, which makes using and selecting the grapple beam flow a lot better and not feel annoying to use like it has in previous games. Another neat change is the introduction of the cross bombs, which are effectively an easier to pull of version of the 5 bomb drops from Super Metroid. It's incredible nice that they made this more of an active item since its easier to pull off for new players, and is a lot more convenient than having to charge up a charge shot and then doing a bomb instead of just being able to hold the missile button and activate a better version of the bomb. I also really love how they changed the pulse scanner from Samus Returns, which is an item I really didn't like because it effectively just showed you where all the hidden rooms were and didn't make you look for them. Meanwhile the new version of it shows you where hidden blocks are and makes you figure out whats behind them and where to go from there, which I vastly prefer personally. Essentially what I'm trying to say with this section is that the changes to old items feel like overall improvements across the board from older games and really added to how great the game felt to play for me.
As for new items, this game adds a few really unique items that I think mesh incredibly well with the rest of Samus's established moveset. Abilities such as the flash shift, which is basically just a nice dash you can use to quickly zoom around or to dodge during bosses, feels right at home in Samus's kit and helps make boss fights feel incredibly fun since it adds a new option to avoid attacks that feels great in my opinion. One of the other new abilities, the phantom cloak, also made dealing with the game's cover enemies, The EMMI (who we'll talk about in a bit), a lot more manageable as well as allowing for another neat way of allowing the world to open up after getting it in the form of stealth doors. The last of the new abilities I want to talk about is the storm missiles, which while they come from the only kinda bad boss in the game in my opinion are a really fun upgrade on the missiles that make dealing with multiple enemies in an area a lot easier on top of also allowing for new types of puzzles involving these kinds of missiles. There is probably only one new item that felt kind of useless in the game and that was the spin boost, since it was effectively just one extra jump it didn't feel like much of an improvement. Especially when you get the space jump, which is just a better version of it all around, a few minutes later. Ultimately the way this game handles upgrades is really well done and almost all of them feel great to use in normal gameplay.
Speaking of normal gameplay there is a mechanic from Samus Returns that was brought back for this game that I wanted to talk about, since this game does it so much better than how Samus Returns used it. That move would be the melee counter/parry. In Samus Returns this parry kind of just stopped gameplay and made it a waiting game of "wait for enemy to flash so I can actually do some actual damage" but that thankfully isn't the case in Dread. You can do considerable amounts of damage without needing to parry and its basically just there as an option instead of the only way to deal with enemies. There are still some enemies that need to be countered to be dealt with, but they're few and far between and act more as ways to make you stop and think your encounter through instead of being that way with every single enemy in the game. The parry especially nice with how it now factors into boss fights and EMMI encounters.
The EMMI's are an absolutely incredible gameplay mechanic in my opinion. I love having these effectively puzzle bosses that have the one single goal of hunting you down and making your life hell. It adds so much tension to the game in a similar way to how the SA-X in fusion operated and how Mr. X functions in the Resident Evil 2 Remake and I love how it feels to have them chase after you; and especially how great it feels to actually finally be able to turn the tables and destroy them after you get the omega cannon, your only way of dealing with them, up and running. The way they upgraded the EMMI's you faced as you went on by giving them variations of abilities you can get from them makes them work really well as a real tangible threat to you even by the end of the game where you have most of the upgrades by that point. I don't know if these enemies would work well outside of the context of Dread, but goddamn do they work incredibly well in this game and function as fun recurring boss fights.
On the topic of boss fights, I think this has hands down the best boss fights of the series and my all time favorite final boss of any game. I think it says a lot that even the worst boss in the game is just kind of frustrating. Otherwise though, every boss was an absolute delight to fight. All of them were designed in such ways that made their patterns easy to see but something you still had to adapt too. They were really challenging but in a way where right off the bat you knew you could learn how to conquer them if you took the time to learn. Every boss fight was just a constant adrenaline rush that was made even better by how well the devs worked really cool cinematic counters into the fights without making them the only way to do damage to these bosses. As I mentioned before, the final boss of this game is absolutely incredible. It's a tough fight and I died more times against him than I think every other boss fight in the game, but it felt like a real test of everything you've learned over the course of the game and finally defeating it and everything ensuing from that was the most hype moment of the game for me. I really hope we get an update or a dlc that allows for a boss rush mode later on because I would play that as much as possible if it existed.
One thing I want to touch on before wrapping this up is 100%ing the game, which is normally not something I do in games but I made an exception in this case. 100%ing this game is hard as hell. This is specifically because the devs went out of their way to design a ton of shinespark puzzles that make the one in Metroid Zero mission look like it was designed for babies, and personally I loved this but also can totally see why this is frustrating. It felt incredible to finally be able to figure out the insane shinespark tricks I needed to pull off to get this next item towards completion and it really made you learn the game's movement and mechanics in order to get everything. That being said, I totally get this being frustrating and fault no one for not being a fan of it.
Overall, I think Metroid Dread is not only my favorite Metroid game, but my favorite game of all time. I've already spent this entire review listing why that is, but I want to restate how incredible this game is. Everything in it works in a way that clicks with me in just the right way and I cannot believe how good this game is after it being cancelled and rebooted tons of times since Metroid Fusion came out according to the series director. This game is quite literally a dream come true for me and I think everyone needs to play this game, because it's something special that I can already tell is going to be considered a modern classic. I'm glad Samus is back, and I'm hoping she's here to stay. See you next mission everyone.
This review contains spoilers
I put off replaying this game a lot longer than I did replaying the rest of the series because I knew I wasn't ready for this ride to end yet. Despite some of my problems with the middle seasons I do truly love this series, and I knew that this last season was gonna hurt just as much as it did the first time. Which surprise, it did. Honestly this season feels like a great send off to the series. I will be talking about spoilers here so be prepared for that.
The Final Season takes place about four years after the end of season three and once again follows Clementine, who has AJ with her again as the two of them try to find food and survive on their own in this post apocalyptic hellscape. After an accident they're saved by a group of kids from a nearby boarding school that got abandoned early into the end of the world. Clem and AJ befriend this group and then have to defend it from outside forces trying to kidnap the students to use them as soldiers in their war with another community. The story is all around really solid and has some incredible set piece moments and scenes, but personally I think where the game excels is in its characters.
This game had a pretty big cast of main characters, with there being effectively five of them (Clementine, AJ, Louis, Violet, and Tenn) who were present for most of the story. I think all of them are handled really well and are all great characters in their own right personally. Though of course the main focus is entirely on Clem and AJ. Seeing Clem and AJ at this stage of their lives is really interesting since the last time we saw either of them was four years ago when AJ was still effectively a toddler and Clem was just barely a teenager. A lot has changed between then and the beginning of this season, especially for Clem. She's been through a lot in the eight years since the outbreak started, and it seems like the time between season three and now have hit her even harder. Though despite this she's still the same Clem, hardened and more cynical but still a person just trying to make the best of the worst possible state of the world. This Clem really feels like the culmination of the Clem we saw in season one, it might be that the writing is generally tighter than season two's or way more focused on her than in season three but this is the Clem that feels the most like she was the same Clem that we helped teach back in the first season as Lee. It's really cool getting to see the end of this character's arc and everything that entails.
AJ meanwhile feels like the perfect encapsulation of the exact opposite of how Clem was back in season one. AJ has been taught all his life how to kill and fighter walkers in order to stay alive, but he has to learn the empathy and human elements of being alive that Clem already had down. It creates an interesting dynamic where you shape the kind of person AJ will become over the course of the game. It's a really interesting way of handling his character that I think plays to the way telltale handles choices, where instead of it effecting the end of a story it changes the journey. You can play this game twice and have a completely different AJ by the end depending on what choices you make throughout. You'll still end with the same ending for AJ as the story dictates, but who AJ will be and how these events changed him will be different and he'll have had different experiences and guidance from you that shapes how he is. I love how these telltale games handle this sort of thing and the fact that it was such a focal point of one of the two main lead characters of the season was incredibly cool to me.
As for the other three main characters, Louis, Violet, and Tenn, they are all newly introduced into these season and I personally enjoyed the dynamics they brought to the game a lot. They helped round out the group of people who were regularly at the forefront of situations and all of them were likeable in their own ways that I really enjoyed. My favorite was probably Louis though since I found him the most relatable. Their dynamics and actions in regards to Clem and AJ are also really interesting to me, where each of them have a completely different connection to the main two. Tenn being AJ's first real friend was a really sweet dynamic that was nice to watch play out despite how it ends, and I really enjoyed the moments those two got together. Inversely Louis and Violet acting as Clem's two most trusted friends at the school work really well in my opinion and both have strengths and weaknesses as characters that make them feel like believable people. A really strong secondary main cast was missing from season two and from half of season three so it was really refreshing in this season to have a really strongly written core group to have around across the entire story.
This season also had a pretty strong showing of villains I thought. The three main ones we see throughout the season are Lily, the woman from the first season that either stole your RV or that you left to die on the side of the road, Abel, Lily's right hand and a bit of a bastard, and Minnie, Tenn's sister who was kidnapped and initiated into Lily's group before this season starts. All three of them play different roles in how the story plays out and all of them have their own strengths as villains I felt. Abel worked effectively as an evil bastard who shows up and instantly starts causing problems, which in turn leads to Lily and Minnie being villains since Abel got everything started off on the wrong foot. Lily works great as a big bad of the season, pushing things that Abel started further and generally just being a much worse human being than she was when we left her back in season one. She's way past the point of being too far gone and is more or less just out for herself and herself alone, which is shown by her surviving in my ending and going out on her own and leaving all of her comrades behind. Minnie meanwhile is extremely tragic and is shown to basically have been completely corrupted by lily's group to the point where she has basically become a brutal killing machine who wants her and her brother to die just so they can be together again. All three of these characters have very different outlooks and ways of acting as antagonists, but in my opinion all of them work extremely well in this role.
I will say that compared to other seasons this one really felt like you didn't get enough time with a number of the introduced characters, namely a fourth of the kids at the boarding school. Granted half of them were gone for pretty much the entirety of episodes three and four thanks to them getting kidnapped and then Clem, AJ, and Tenn getting separated from everyone else, but it still felt weird how we got through most of the series without ever really getting much to Omar, Aasim, or Willy. We get a few interesting things here and there but they felt weirdly underutilized compared to other side characters from the school such as Ruby or James, who were pretty involved in the plot without directly being a main character. With a cast of this size its inevitable that not everyone is going to have their moments, but it feels off to me that these three were effectively sidelined for most of the story despite how much everyone else in the boarding school group got to do. Part of me thinks this is due to there not being five episodes in this run like there normally are in The Walking Dead seasons, so they had less time to let everyone have their moments, but there is no way of knowing for sure how accurate that is. One aspect that didn't suffer though was the gameplay sections that happen between most story sections.
This season of The Walking Dead Game makes a huge leap forward in terms of how it handles gameplay this time around, which has never exactly been what Telltale is known for. It's mostly just glorified quick time events like in past games but the sections they have built in order to give a sense of combat and fighting off hordes of walkers are well done with making you think about your positioning and using your ability to knock over the zombified people which is pretty fun and feels like an interesting way to attempt a mini horde mode every so often in a game without extensive combat mechanics. These sections would most likely get tiresome if given enough time but thankfully the game seems to use these sections just sparsely enough to feel like a nice break from the normal movie style story that the episodes tend to be otherwise. There's also other sections that are essentially just emulating older rail shooters like the other games in this franchise. These sections felt remotely unchanged from the older games in that you basically just focus your crosshairs on the big "shoot here" prompt and then shoot. It works fine as just the filler action gameplay between bursts of story that most of these games function on, but that's really all there is to it.
One thing that really stuck out to me about this season was how throughout the season the creative team really dipped into more subtle aspects of horror with the Zombie apocalypse in a way that the series hasn't since season one. Season three had one moment of this at the very beginning but outside of that the series was much more focused on the drama and tension between people in seasons two and three that I hadn't even noticed until I played through all of season four. Scenes like Clem's nightmares, getting pulled back into the darkness by Zombie Brody in episode one, the person pleading for death as his body is melted from the burning metal he was stuck under, all a lot more subtle and kind of horrifying in ways that feel extremely reminiscent of season one's approach to trying to have more horror beyond the walking dead that surrounds them. It's hard for me to ignore this now that I've made this connection, but I honestly do prefer this style of approach especially this late into the series's life. It's hard to get any fear out of the zombies this late into the series; the fear and horror these things once instilled throughout the first season more or less disappeared by the time seasons two and three rolled around, not to mention that they took a major backseat to the human drama aspects of the series. This isn't necessarily bad but I feel like more of a blend like what seasons one and four have works better for me overall.
So I wanted to dedicate a section of this specifically to the ending of the final episode, since I felt it was probably the strongest part of the whole season. In Trying to escape a horde with AJ Clem has been bitten on the leg, leaving her and AJ to seek shelter in an old barn they found earlier in the story when with James. AJ desperately tries to block off the barn as Clem provides cover fire with a pistol until the two of them have a moment where the walkers can't get in. After a tearful goodbye and pleading with AJ to either kill your or leave you depending on your choice, AJ agrees to do as you say at first, until he turns around and supposedly hits you with an axe. The whole scene is incredibly emotional and really feels like a send off to a character we've watched grow over several seasons.
The issue though, is that anyone who has spent even a small amount of time with The Walking Dead will most likely be questioning why they don't just cut off her leg since the bite just happened a few minutes ago. Thankfully this quick cut works as a great misdirection, since that's what AJ did. In the after credits/real ending of the story you play as AJ and come back home to the boarding school to see Clem on crutches with everyone else as everyone who survived the events of the game are there, happy and safe. Seeing AJ go from this baby who we could barely keep alive in season 2 to someone resourceful and smart enough to save his family on his own is really cool to see and effectively ties together what this season is ultimately about, that being ending the cycle of loss that has been perpetrated since the start of the outbreak. AJ doesn't let Clem die like Clem had to let Lee die, he makes sure she survives and everyone who survives gets to end up happy and safe for the first time in a long, long time. All things must die has effectively been the mantra of the series since season one, but the final season effectively adds an asterisk to that. Saying that while all things will go eventually, we can still fight to make sure that that time is as far off as possible. It's a nice, resounding message of hope in a series that has always leaned far more onto the bleak side.
And with that, Telltale's The Walking Dead is over. It was truly an unforgettable ride and I'm glad I got to experience Clementine's story. Her having a happy ending after everything that she has been through is well deserved in my opinion, and fits really well narratively and tonally in a way I wasn't expecting since the series doesn't always have the most tonally consistent or well thought out endings (looking at you season two) and considering all the development issues this season went through due to Telltale shutting down I wasn't expecting to be as satisfied with the ending as I was; but I'm more than happy to report that they stuck the landing. Definitely recommend this season if you enjoyed season one or any of the others, it feels like the perfect place to end Clementine's story.
This review contains spoilers
After playing this I can 100% see why this is commonly referred to as one of the best horror games, and one of the best games, of all time. Silent Hill 2 absolutely blew me away with how it basically took every aspect of the first game and improved it tremendously in a way that felt beyond how much improvements sequels normally make. There is just so much put into this game it's insane and I definitely see why it's withstood the test of time to be considered one of the all time greats. Going to be going into massive spoilers with this so here's your warning on that. On a similar note this does get into heavier topics towards the end so be warned if you're not in a good mindset for that sort of thing.
Silent Hill 2 is a game about James Sunderland as he travels to the town of Silent Hill to answer a letter that was sent to him by his ex wife, who has been dead for 3 years by the time he reaches the small Maine town. He then proceeds to fight his way through hordes of horrific monsters as he attempts to find his wife. He also comes in contact with a variety of different people all with their own troubles and problems as they also traverse the town around James.
Something that I want to talk about first that the first game also had going for it is it's atmosphere. Playing this game is the most unnerved and tense I've felt in a horror game in a long time and I'm more than a little surprised by that since generally this kind of thing doesn't get to me. Even Silent Hill 1, which I praised extensively for it's incredible atmosphere, doesn't hold a candle to Silent Hill 2's attempts at reminding you it's a horror game. Whether its the oppressive fog that hangs over the town, the messages that will randomly appear in some places reminding James that something knows what he did, or the constant whining of the radio as an enemy approaches this game excels in making the player feel scared. Which honestly is one of the highest praises I can give a horror game since as I mentioned earlier I don't exactly get scared by games. I think a big part of what went towards this atmosphere working as well as it did was the gameplay.
Silent Hill 2's gameplay is basically an upgraded and refined version of 1's combat that still manages to maintain the general slowness and clunkiness that helps to make a horror game feel like a horror game without making it feel unfun. The game has a kind of refined clunkiness to it where the gameplay isn't fluid but it doesn't feel out of place with how the tone of the game is. I know these controls might still be a problem for some but personally I love how they add to the experience of the game. The general combat feels a bit slower at the start due to your starting weapon being a bit weak but this feeling quickly goes away with how quickly you get access to a gun and a stronger melee weapon. Just like the first game ammo for your guns are abundant but it doesn’t bug me as much this time around (we’ll discuss why later) and the general act of shooting and using the weapons you’ve been given feel a lot better to control and use that the first game.
One neat thing the game does is it makes the enemies react to you in ways that you wouldn't expect from this type of game. My favorite example is what happens if you get your hands on Pyramid Head's weapon. If you go the right way at a certain point you can gain Pyramid head’s cleaver to use as a weapon. It's the most powerful weapon in the game, which unlike the emergency axe from Silent Hill 1 actually has a balancing factor to this in that it's really slow to use and drags along the ground behind you. However the best aspect of this weapon is how enemies react to it if you turn off your flashlight. If you turn off your light and just walk around with it the sound of it scraping against the ground terrifies the non Pyramid Head enemies and makes them flee you, thinking you're Pyramid Head. It's a really cool small thing that just makes me love how much care and detail went into planning and making this game.
Speaking of enemies, while the enemy variety is lesser in this game since most enemies are humanoid in nature minus the bosses and monsters based off the bosses I didn't really mind this much honestly. First of all it meant no more flying enemies which I was very thankful about not having around since I didn't realize how annoying those were in Silent Hill one with them constantly appearing out of the fog and attacking you randomly until they weren't there doing that. As for with everything else them being mostly humanoid works a lot better thematically with the game than if we had a lot of dog based enemies or giant bat things so I didn't mind them all being variations of humans personally.
One gameplay aspect (technically) that I thought was pretty interesting was them deciding to separate the puzzles and the actual gameplay when it came to difficulty settings for this game. Allowing players who want to focus more on the puzzles while putting gameplay in the trunk have that option and vice versa. I'm a really big fan of this change because dear god some of the puzzles in Silent Hill 1 were impossible to parse and allowing players to choose the difficulty of how tough these puzzles is this game was a relief because it allowed me to not have to put up with something like the final puzzle of Silent Hill 1 again. Speaking of puzzles I definitely enjoyed them a lot more this time around, none of them overstayed their welcome and all felt possible to get on your own without outsider info, which is nice since stuff like the piano puzzle from the first game really dragged down Silent Hill 1 for me.
Something that really stuck out to me about Silent Hill 2 was its sound design. A lot of the sound effects and general ambient noise really added to the oppressive and unsettling atmosphere that I mentioned earlier. This is probably one of the strongest parts of the game in that every sound effect and bit of music just really helps to sell this tension that the game is trying to create. Which makes it even funnier when its contrasted by the voice acting. Now don't get me wrong, I love the voice acting in this game; but its not great. A lot of line deliveries feel stilted or have a very clear feeling of the actor just simply reading words off a page over acting. That being said, I am more than okay with this. I love cheesy kinda bad voice acting like what's in this game and even if it wasn't the best it did sell the characters for me to a degree and I enjoyed it regardless of any measure of quality the line deliveries had. The layer of cheese this voice acting adds to the game is a welcome one, and makes the game's story have brief moments of amusement in what is generally a very bleak narrative.
The story of of Silent Hill 2 is honestly up there now as one of my favorites in gaming I think. Seeing James traverse this horrific town while slowly remembering how things went in his past, dealing with the other people who have been brought to this town to atone for their sins, all of it just really hits me in just the right way and I love it. The town basically creating Maria as a version of his wife Mary for him to just lose again and again because of the fact that, as we learn at the end of the game, he killed her and repressed that memory is really interesting to me and really explores the mental guilt James feels over his actions without quite remembering his actions. The game basically functions as a big character study of James and I love media that takes this approach.
Personally I also think I enjoy this take on the concept of the town more than I do of the concept of the town in Silent Hill 1. Silent Hill 2 presents us with the idea that the town exists to make people confront their sins and atone for the evil they committed. I like this approach of the town as an entity that draws people in and forces them to face themselves more than it just happening to be a random weird town with a cult that the main character kinda just stumbled upon. Don't get me wrong I still loved Silent Hill 1's approach and story, but man do I just really vibe with the concept that this game sets up and I hope its carried on into the next few games. One of my favorite things that happens with this concept is how we see it handled with the other three actually alive characters that we find in the town. For example, there's a character named Laura who is a little girl that came to the town in search of Mary since they both knew each other in the hospital. Laura however, hasn't done anything to warrant needing atonement so to her Silent Hill is just an abandoned town. She doesn't see anything created by the town for others, no monsters, no Maria, nothing. Once you figure this out it kind of starts to put things into place how James isn't exactly innocent and starts to hint towards the twist, that being that James killed his wife as I mentioned earlier.
I think ultimately what it comes down to is that Silent Hill 2 feels like it has something to say. It's a story of self reflection and choosing your path in how you atone for the terrible things you have done. The way these themes are portrayed throughout the game with the constant symbolism just really elevates the whole story with how many minor elements allude to future events or character's thought processes, such as the fact that numerous dead bodies in the game's overworld are all wearing James's clothing which alludes to his thoughts of wishing he were dead/thinking he should be dead after killing Mary which is known from one of the various endings you can possibly get. I just think the use of motifs and symbolism to drive themes is a really cool think in fiction and I haven't seen a horror game do it on the same level that Silent Hill 2 does. Hell it even made one of my biggest complaints about the game, just the sheer amount of ammo you get so killing things isn't really a tough choice or a challenge, not a problem for me anymore once I realized that the ease at killing things and the rate at which you find the tools to do it is because killing is already easy for James since he did it once before. So killing all of the monsters that come after him is an easy thing for him. It's really impressive how much this game managed to pull off and I wish I could go into all of it without needlessly doubling the length of this review.
Going into Silent Hill 2 I was ready to be underwhelmed after how hard people push this as one of the best games of all time, since usually when people always talk something up to me like they do with this game I end up going in with my expectations set a bit too high. This however lives up to the hype and goes well beyond what I was expecting. If you're looking for an incredible horror game, look no further than this. The game is the absolute peak of the genre for me and I recommend it to anyone who's looking for the best the medium has to offer in terms of horror.
This review contains spoilers
I’m majorly impressed by Toby Fox and the Deltarune team’s ability to consistently keep one upping themselves. They've pulled out all the stops for Deltarune Chapter 2 and it really shows how much passion and love they all poured into every aspect of this game. This is probably hands down one of the best releases of the year and probably one of my favorite games of all time when combined with chapter 1. If you have even the slightest interest in this game I strongly recommend going and playing both chapters before reading this, especially since combined they have about six hours of playtime total, because I’m going to be talking about a lot of spoilers. If you don't care about spoilers or already played though then hey, keep reading.
For a quick recap up to this point, Deltarune Chapter 1 is a turnbased RPG that follows Kris, a high school student who gets sucked into a magical world known as the Dark world with the school bully, Susie. The two of them end up having to work together with a citizen of the dark world, Ralsei, to seal a dark fountain and stop an evil king from using the power of the fountain for his own gain. Through several misadventures dealing with the King’s son and Susie switching sides, the trio eventually fight and defeat the evil king. Which frees the dark world and returns it to how it was before. The chapter then ends on a startling scene of Kris ripping out their own heart and throwing it into a cage before walking to somewhere off screen with a knife. This sets the stage for chapter 2, which picks up right where the first chapter leaves off.
Chapter 2’s story really intrigues me both because of what it confirms and what possibilities it opens up for the future of the game. Chapter 2's plot is essentially the same as the first, you and Susie find another dark world, you go in to fix the fountain, this time you're also trying to save your friend and classmate that got sucked into the dark world, then you trek through an exciting new world very unlike the real world as you meet new friends, enemies, and see how your new friends react to this new world while trying to stop the Evil Robot Queen from getting your one friend, Noelle, to use her power on the fountain and cause even more damage with it. While the way I described this does sound pretty generic, I can say without a doubt this chapter's story still manages to be really well written and an enjoyable to with this plot premise; however I feel what really makes this chapter is how it uses the characters.
What really makes this game's story shine in my opinion is how it handles its characters. All of the ones that are given focus this chapter have great moments that really elevated the story just because of how these characters reacted to events that took place in ways that distinctly felt like them. These characters all have strong voices and personalities and it blows me away how distinct they all feel.
Susie and Ralsei both had really solid interactions with Kris and the other characters in general this chapter and it was really nice to see more of them again. Susie showing more and more of her soft side while still trying to convince everyone that she's tough and scary makes for some good jokes but also shows how despite being with people she considers friends she still feels like she has to keep up the act she keeps up around everyone else. This is explored a bit with Noelle, a girl from their school who has a crush on Susie, who just isn't afraid of Susie at all. Susie just isn't sure how to respond to this at all and comically misses the point each time and it makes a lot of cute scenes with the character that also helps to further her character arc that was started in the first chapter. Susie also gets a scene at the end of the chapter with Kris's mom, Toriel, that feels like it's pushing this arc further where she is taught how to make a pie just like Kris was taught to as a kid, and because of some unforeseen events is forced to stay the night at Kris's house where they have a fun little sleepover. Susie's guard is more or less completely down this entire time and its really interesting to see how she's becoming more and more comfortable around people thanks to her becoming friends with Kris and Ralsei.
Speaking of Ralsei, I was extremely intrigued this chapter because while they still continue to be the loveable, naive healer of the party they also showed some bits of having more knowledge than they let on that makes me intrigued as to how much this character is hiding from us. Their knowledge of how the dark fountains work that they withheld from us in the first chapter, their in depth knowledge of how the dark worlds effect creatures from different dark worlds and how they appear in the real world, and their ability to be the only dark world being to be able to exist freely in another dark world opens up a lot of questions that I absolutely cannot wait to see the answers too. On top of these there's also a few really good scenes of Ralsei just being Ralsei, like when Susie tried to teach him sarcasm or when he and Kris are travelling by swan boat to reach the Queen's castle and they have a really touching moment together. Love this cute little guy, probably one of my favorite characters for just how innocent he appears while clearly still hiding stuff. Cannot wait to see what happens down the line with him.
Noelle is a character I wasn't expecting to like that much but the way she was handled in this chapter blew me away. Between her budding romance with Susie (which is adorable and one of the highlights of this chapter) and her personal character arc of learning to stop running away and hiding from her problems and to face them head on, which personally resonated with me, she's become one of my favorite characters and I really hope we get to see more of her in the main adventure sections of the next few chapters. The moment where she finally stands up to the Queen and cements herself as not letting people decide what she wants for her was great and probably one of the best in this chapter. Also I just really enjoy how she visits her dad every day after school and hangs out with him in the hospital, its just a cute little touch that I found really sweet.
When it comes to this game's two main villains, namely the Evil Queen who is determined to make the world a utopia based in the internet using the power of the dark fountain and Berdly who is a highschooler that has a crush on two girls in his class, they both are absolute delights in their own right. The Queen is just outright hilarious in almost all of her interactions while still managing to be an intimidating villain through how her mere presence terrifies Noelle. She's probably my favorite character in both chapters and I really hope we get to see more of her in the next few chapters (though I doubt it considering how sidelined Lancer was this chapter). Berdly is an interesting case of character development in my opinion because I went from wanting to punt him at the start of this chapter to wanting to punt him in a friendly way by the end of the chapter. He's an overcompensating, annoying, show off but his heart's in the right place and he just doesn't really know how to express how he cares about others well and honestly I can't really bring myself to dislike him by the end because seeing him grow and realize he doesn't have to try to act smart to get people to like him and can just be himself is a really sweet character arc that made me appreciate him a lot more. Still want to punt him at least thirty yards though.
Also I just want to say that the comedy in this game is incredibly well done. Any words I have cannot do just how funny the Deltarune team's writing is justice. I think the best I can do is something I saw a friend of mine say, which is that the game's humor is consistently funnier and just all around better than any meme made about the game. Honestly the fact that all of the characters are extremely funny and just enjoyable to have around in game is probably a solid part of why this game's characters are so good in my opinion. The Deltarune team also knows when to not have a joke, allowing serious moments to be serious long enough to have impact on the player. And then throwing in a joke right when the moment has lasted just long enough.
This chapter keeps the same gameplay style as chapter 1, aka turn based combat with a focus on being able to spare enemies and keep them alive instead of just brutally cutting them down (though that's also an option if you really want to). There are a few minor tweaks this time around like Ralsei and Susie being able to use the ACT commands that Kris got in chapter 1, meaning that now everyone can contribute towards making it possible to spare enemies without needing to pick back off Kris. It's a welcome change in my opinion since while it did make Kris unique in chapter 1 they keep that uniqueness by them being the only one who can use combo ACTS while Susie and Ralsei can now act on their own; and now that everyone can use it that means if you do a two person combo the last character isn't stuck just having to defend in order to not do damage and can actually help with sparing an enemy instead of being idol for a turn.
As with how Undertale and Deltarune's combat has been so far when you're doing a number of ACT commands or dodging all enemy attacks you're thrown into a little minigame to avoid damage or to make an ACT go through. Just like Undertale and Deltarune, these are still really well done in my opinion. Each enemies unique minigame set feels fresh and tests your reflexes in a fun bullet hell esque way that adds a fun little skill element to the turn based combat without overstaying its welcome. This is such a nice system that feels like it only really works in these games because the general overall game length is pretty short. I can see this overstaying its welcome pretty easily if it went on too long but the game length and general encounter rate manages to keep this system growing old before you reach the end.
One gameplay system exclusive to Chapter 2 (so far) that I wanted to mention is how the first and final boss battles of the chapter are handled, which is through a Punch Out clone. This isn't a problem at all though, I adore Punch Out and getting to do a couple fights via that system in a turn based game were really funny conceptually while also providing good punch out gameplay. I am incredibly glad this was in the game and it just added a whole other level of enjoyment for me personally as someone who has a soft spot for the series it's doing a homage to.
The artstyle of this chapter is inline with the general art for chapter 1 of Deltarune so nothing much has changed but I just wanted to comment on how great the sprite art is and how fun and expressive the sprites manage to be. Not to mention the character design for all the sprites, both for the main party and for all the new enemies and characters/character redesigns, are all really well done in this sprite style and all come across very distinct and easy to figure out how the character is supposed to look just from the sprite. Love the designs and cannot wait to see what the Undertale team comes up with for the next few chapters.
I don't think I really need to talk about the music, everyone knows that Toby Fox, Lena Raine and Marcy Nabors do amazing musical work and this soundtrack is no exception to that at all. I think this game has some of the best music of their catalogues to me personally, the secret boss theme from this chapter for example is incredible and is now probably one of my favorite boss themes overall. Really solid soundtrack overall, definitely give it a listen if haven't already. Some incredibly well made music in this three hour game.
Deltarune Chapter 2 was well worth the three year wait. The writing, music, art, and gameplay all come together to make something truly special that I cannot wait to see how Toby and the rest of the Deltarune team attempt to top. I think this franchise is really something special and I can see why it's gotten the mass appeal that it has, definitely a modern classic in the making in my opinion. This is everything I wanted out of a follow up to chapter 1 and more; I am so excited to see where the story goes from here. Play this game if you haven't yet, trust me its worth your time. Go get that banana and become a [BIG SHOT].
This review contains spoilers
Despite being a huge horror game fan I somehow had never played a Silent Hill game. Which after playing it feels like I made a big mistake for a long time because this game is incredible and I wish I had played it sooner. Silent Hill is an absolutely fascinating original Playstation game that I think definitely lives up to the hype and renown that the series has grown for the original entries over the years. I will be discussing spoilers for the game as always so just a fair warning in advance.
In Silent Hill you play as Harry Mason as he struggles to try and find his daughter, Cheryl, somewhere in this mysterious and unsettling town in New England where he crashed his car. Harry slowly unravels this town's many secrets as he battles many horrific creatures and struggles to stay in the real world as he keeps getting pulled into a nightmare realm version of the town that was created by a cult that had tried to create their own god and started pulling the town into a demonic realm in the process. The story is engaging and pretty solid, I liked the characters and never felt like the story was going in any directions I didn't like, and I definitely felt like some of the story bits really added to the overall horror of the game with how unsettling a lot of the details of the story are, such as the fact that they kept a little girl alive in a dying state for years since she was going to be the incubator for the new god the cult was trying to create. Though an element that I think really added to the horror of the game, in a good way, were the controls.
The controls of this game are pretty clunky and and can take a good amount of time to get used too, but I think them being clunky and kind of awkward really works for the type of game that Silent Hill is. Harry Mason isn't some tactical military man with years of combat training, he's just some dude trying to find his daughter. So him feeling kind of stiff to control and hard to maneuver at times makes sense for him to a degree. At the same time, from a gameplay perspective it does also help the game feel scarier I feel. Not being able to control your character as smoothly or as gracefully as in other genres of games, like an action game for example, help adds to the feeling of struggle and horror as you try to traverse this horrific town. Games that use their controls as a way to help accentuate the style and tone of gameplay they're going for is interesting to me and this game definitely does it in a way that makes it feel still pretty playable while also making you feel part of the experience almost. Since I mentioned style and tone, I think next I need to talk about this game's atmosphere.
Silent Hill is a marvel in how it creates and manages to consistently keep up its atmosphere throughout the entire game. From the moment you first get control of Harry and get thrown into the fog covered world the game just creates this constant sense of unease. You don't know whats out there and you're alone and unarmed in this unknown place. Then once they start introducing more and more of the horror elements to the game it manages to keep feeling intense and and keep the pressure on you as it manages to create this feeling of something being around every corner. Its incredible really and is up there as one of the best horror games for me just for this ability to keep atmosphere alone.
What I find really impressive is that a huge part of this game's aesthetic and atmosphere, the suffocating fog that rests over the majority of the town, is only there because of hardware limitations. It's incredibly clear that this game being on the playstation one really hindered it as they couldn't render the town in a satisfactory manner with the way they wanted the town to function as an overworld; which is very apparent during nightmare world sections of the game where there is no fog and only a darkness that isn't pulled in enough to keep the player from seeing just how much pop-in and loading in there is for the town as you travel through it. So they added the never ending sea of fog that blankets the town during the day in order to let them use their idea while also hiding some of the messier technical aspects, and I'm just impressed with how this bandaid over a technical problem managed to make the game feel more at home as a horror game. The fog in Silent Hill hiding the nightmare creatures that lurk around, ready to kill you at a moment's notice if you get to close just feels right and really adds to the tense spooky atmosphere the town carriers and I'm honestly pretty glad they had to use the fog since I can't imagine how this game would function without the fog there to act as a constant sense of fear of the unknown for the player.
I do think part of the atmosphere working so well is tied to the game being as short as it is. I finished the game in a little under four hours and I am more than content with that length. I know the big for a lot of games today are to be as big and time consuming as possible, but horror games just cannot function that way. Eventually you'll stop getting scared or lose all the tension the game once had because you'll be used to it by that point. It was my biggset problem with Alien: Isolation back when I played that because it was a twenty hour horror game that stopped being scary around hour ten because you've seen all the scares the game could possibly throw at you at that point. Silent Hill feels like its just the right length to stay unnerving and tense while also not ending before the player has had enough which I feel really helps the game keep up its tense and spooky atmosphere that has been so well crafted over the course of the game. All that being said, there is one thing the game does that breaks this atmosphere and general horror vibe a bit.
One of my only two criticisms of this game is how it handles the combat; not in the gameplay itself but in the weapons you get as well as the amount of ammo you get for the guns. What I mean by this is that the game just kind of throws ammo at you to insane degrees. By the end of the first nightmare section I had almost two hundred pistol bullets and a decent chunk of shotgun ammo saved up, and this trend continued throughout the rest of the game up until I got a weapon about halfway into the game, the emergency hammer, that basically just invalidated every enemy outside of flying ones and bosses. Combat managed to maintain some tension through throwing more enemies at you at once and forcing you to struggle against a lot of them coming from all sides, but that quickly deteriorated as you could just swing he hammer a couple times and be done with the encounter once you took care of the first one in that encounter. It's not the biggest issue in the world, but it did take me out of a few combat encounters and bosses since I never really had to worry about or struggle with weighing whether it was worth it to waste some ammo since I always knew a truckload more was around the corner.
Now for the second thing I have a number of criticisms for in this game, its the puzzles. The way this game handles puzzles is really bizarre in that it almost has a reverse difficulty curve with the first real puzzle, the piano in the school, being the hardest and the ones later on all being relatively easy in comparison. The piano puzzle is effectively a puzzle without a clue due to how the clue is written and how much mental gymnastics you would need to take to solve it on your own with what you're given (unless you're me who was just absentmindedly pressing different keys on the piano while trying to figure out what to do and got it on accident. Which doesn't make the puzzle good but it does make it kind of funny that I solved a ridiculous puzzle on accident). Thankfully this is the only one that is super obtuse but it does kind of make all the other puzzles after this one feel lesser just because knowing how hard this was supposed to be gave me expectations for the rest of the puzzles in the game which, while I'm glad they weren't as weirdly obtuse as this, felt all pretty straight forward and easy even removing the comparison to this puzzle.
Overall, Silent Hill is a must play in the horror genre in my opinion. This game effectively writes the book on horror tone and atmosphere while having fun (though admittedly dated) gameplay and a pretty strong story. Seriously if you haven't played this game yet please do, there's a reason the Silent Hill name has stayed in people's minds despite it being seventeen years since the last game in the series most people would consider good released.
Generally I like to go in detail and talk at length about what I liked and disliked about a game when writing reviews like this, but considering The Quiet Man has wasted enough of my time as is I'm going to just be blunt and get this over with as fast as possible: This is the worst game I have ever played.
The gameplay feels like if you took the earliest possible pre alpha demo of a Yakuza combat system and released it. There is exactly one combo you have and you'll be seeing it a lot because this game just likes to throw random combat at you every 3 seconds. The story is practically non existent because in trying to emulate a deaf character they just removed all sound from the game despite the fact that the character has conversations with some characters and clearly understands what people are telling him to do and what they're asking him so instead of emulating what it must feel like to be deaf it just feels like you're watching a movie on mute. The main character uses sign language exactly three times throughout the game which I thought was important to bring up since again, according to the devs they were trying to emulate how life is for those who are hearing impared, without even really including the most common way deaf people communicate. The nicest thing I can say about this game is that for most of the shots the FMV cutscenes seem to be shot competently.
Game just is not good, and I hate to say that because I like to see the good in even bad games but I just felt like my brain was melting as I played this game. To make things even worse when I closed the game it didn't even close it just hid itself in the system tray so it was still up but just continuously eating my ram. I wish I could say I was surprised by this but when I discovered this the next day I was more just disappointed that the game couldn't even close right more than anything.