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Donkey Kong Country
Sekiro rightfully earns its spot as my second favourite FromSoft game. The Souls formula is still there, but the gameplay is fairly different now. Taking Bloodborne’s aggressiveness encouragement another step forward, Sekiro rewards not giving the enemies a chance to breathe more than ever. Boss battles are a tug-of-war of trying to break each other’s posture and perfect blocking to mitigate it. The dodge button pushes you forward by default and you often hope to have your attack blocked more than a it be a direct hit. Some of my favourite FromSoft bosses reside in this game with the final boss perhaps being my favourite overall. Level design is also at its best with the game finally giving you a greater range of movement and verticality with jumping and grappling. There’s even decent stealth mechanics. Sekiro was a really pleasant surprise and I hope they continue The Wolf’s story.
It was pretty imperative that they didn't miss with this one with the 2D series banking on this game for its big comeback and it's my pleasure to inform you they didn't fucking miss.
Metroid Dread is easily the best game MercurySteam has ever developed and they've finally crafted a Metroidvania here that can go toe to toe with the best of the genre. Presentation wise I really enjoy what they've done here. The backgrounds are extremely detailed with biomes that get more and more interesting as you progress. The cold, clinical atmosphere the game often creates is evocative of the rest of the series, but there is definitely a bit of a sterile, less natural element at play here (with the exception of a few areas) which I think gives the game something distinct from its predecessors. I actually really like what they've accomplished with the 2.5D look as well, lighting is often used to great effect and the material work still manages to look good with the side view perspective. The only downside in the presentation, imo, is the music. Young composers and series newcomers Soshi Abe and Sayako Doi handled the music for this game. I like the fact that they've injected some new blood here but while I certainly don't think the soundtrack is bad, the focus is more on Fusion style ambience (and still not quite as well done as Fusion) than Super Metroid's perfect mix of ambient tracks and melodic yet still atmospheric tracks, which I loved. I hope that the series focuses more on Super's musical style in the future as I do think this did sometimes detract from the series' signature atmosphere.
The story is another thing that is somewhat mixed for me. I think a lot of people were expecting a very specific story to come out of this game after Fusion and if those people refuse to accept anything else they will probably be disappointed. I think the story here is still good, with hype moments, good reveals, and stellar cutscene direction, plus it manages to avoid essentially all of Other M's myriad of issues while still not shying away from some of the ideas presented in both it and Fusion (though mostly Fusion). That said, it ends just a bit too abruptly after the big climax and it's certainly not doing quite as much on a thematic level as Fusion was, though there is some interesting stuff going on here that I think should not be overlooked!! Overall I'm saying I enjoyed it and really don't think the story should be dismissed just because it wasn't directly following up on what Fusion set up (I think that could well be still to come for this series anyway).
The level design and movement are absolutely best in class. This is like, an RE4 level of fine tuned to me. It feels like a middle ground between Fusion (you always have an objective) and Super Metroid (you are not told where to go to reach that objective). They do block off backtracking a bit more than I'd like occasionally, but it never feels arbitrary or too restrictive as before long you'll acquire whatever item you'll need to break through that backtracking barrier and have things open up again. The way things loop back in on themselves and the design guides you back and forth through the game's various zones feels masterful and extremely well paced, it is by far one of the game's greatest achievements. On a micro design level, the level of execution required in some of these ability based puzzles to get Missile/Energy tanks is devious but never cheap, requiring both thoughtful planning and precise execution. This execution is never an issue because the movement is so fantastic. All abilities feel vital while also never being frustrating to control once you get a hang of the learning curve on some of them. No hesitation this is one of the best feeling Metroidvania games I've ever played.
Finally I'd like to talk about combat and the EMMI, because this is where the game shines even brighter and what elevates it to a masterclass in my book. EMMI zones are the game's biggest deviation from the classic Metroid formula, evolving the ideas present in Zero Mission's stealth and Fusion's SA-X to a whole new level. I was definitely a bit worried about how this would be handled but it turned out fantastic. There always manages to be tension in these zones, whether it's a new trick the EMMI throw at you that you must adapt to or a particularly challenging bit of level design to navigate through when one is on the hunt. The EMMI's AI is also extremely well realized, and compares really favorably to even the best pursuer enemies in video games (eat your heart out, Resident Evil!) Working in 2D and the specific concept of the EMMI has allowed them to completely avoid the issues with pursuers in many 3D games where it's all too easy to catch them fumbling around on corners or not reacting to your movements in a nuanced manner. It feels like they are genuinely smart without just automatically knowing where you are, which is the perfect accomplishment for videogame stealth I feel. I think they've also been smart in how they sometimes withhold the part of the expected gameplay loop where you find the Omega Cannon and defeat the zone's EMMI, sometimes for much longer after you've initially set foot in it's zone for the first time. It makes it all the more satisfying when you finally get the abilities that allow you to discover where the cannon in that area is and be able to take the fight to the EMMI.
This is hands down the best combat in the series, made better by the fantastic movement I mentioned earlier and how they've refined all combat abilities to ensure they can be used without breaking momentum. Combat feels punchy, fluid, and all the other buzzwords you commonly associate with "good game combat." This is made most clear in the game's bosses, which are absolutely the series best in terms of design and difficulty. I was practically jumping out of my seat with how much fun I was having fighting these things and they tie the whole experience together in a wonderful way.
Play this god damn videogame. Metroid is back. I don't envy Retro, Prime 4 has even more to live up to now.
I played the demo of this when it was in development and had fun with it, really though I just think Metroid 2 is a really fucking boring concept for a game. hunting down the Metroids just gets really boring after you've fought your 10th gamma Metroid. I feel like no matter how many times you try to fix Metroid 2 its still a flawed concept at the end of the day.
Devil May Cry 2
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