143 reviews liked by coffeentacos

The midpoint gear-shift to shooting the breeze with stupid tricks spares it from calcification through worthlessness. Without those, you would think about the rancid writing it's serving you. To think this is subversive, you would need to have never read a visual novel. To think this is competent, you would need to have never read a book.

first impressions:
My adoration of Armored Core VI has led me to the other AC series, in an unending obsession with fusing my will with heavy machinery.

I haven’t cleared this one yet, but I’m excited to keep winding down after late work shifts with some BINGOs and BULLSEYEs.

This soundtrack rocks and both the digital and analog controls are pretty good. Gobs more fun to play, and look at, than the series debut too.

completed june 20
That ruled. Lotsa fun, excited to play an English-patched version of Ace Combat 3 next. What a chill and cool time. Namco tunes while I swerve between skyscrapers or navigate canyons? Dope as hell.

999 had few weaknesses. It was an intricately written story with strong thematic cohesion and great emotional payoffs, hampered only by a slight lack of QoL, a touch of pixel hunting BS, and some rather shallow puzzle design. While it doesn't quite manage to eradicate the pixel hunting (I still ran into at least three puzzles that stumped me for tens of minutes solely because I couldn't tell something in the room was supposed to be a separate, interactable object) it absolutely succeeds in attacking its other two targets.

If the puzzles in 999 are Kindergarten Babytime, VLR's puzzles are High School Physics. They're hard. I find this important and interesting for a number of reasons. Puzzles in video games, far more than any obstacle, are prone to feeling like bullshit. It is extremely easy to design a puzzle that sucks in a way that will absolutely infuriate the player or make them quit on the spot. Most puzzle games avoid such pitfalls by establishing very clear and consistent rules, and then making a hundred or so puzzles within that set of clearly defined rules. Sokoban, for example. Portal. Baba Is You. Even Ace Attorney. You know the type. Zero Escape is not doing this. Zero Escape is making escape rooms with unique themes and very few limits. In 999, this generally means collecting all of the things, and then using them in the only obvious possible way. If you instead had to use them in absurd ways, that would be in line with the traditional point-and-clicks like Monkey Island, but that style of puzzle design has never exactly risen above "questionable."

In VLR, each puzzle chamber is absolutely its own thing, with its own bespoke minigames, and gathering all of the information in a room will still leave you wondering how to use that information correctly. Wisely, the escape rooms contain multiple "chains" of puzzles, so the player only has to figure out one of them to start making some progress.

I am math intolerant. I have yet to convince my doctors that this is a real, bodily condition, but the fact remains that when asked to crunch numbers, my brain often decides to just shut down and wait for death instead. This renders me largely incompetent in the face of many of VLR's puzzles, but even in my despair, I was able to find my way through just about all of them without seeking help. Generally, when I looked something up, it was because I understood what to do but had lost all patience with actually making it happen and wanted to save myself the frustration. In every instance where I just could not figure something out and pixel hunting WASN'T to blame, I was just having a hard time interpreting the clues. While the game is hard, there are few if any cases where it requires a leap in logic that I would consider "unfair." This is VLR's most impressive quality. VLR is filled with Actually Good puzzles, and those are hard to make. They didn't make one good puzzle with a hundred variations, they made fifteen rooms with multiple good puzzles apiece.

The greatest puzzle of a Zero Escape game though, is of course the over-arching narrative meta-puzzle. Like in 999, players of VLR will explore the story repeatedly along multiple branching paths, looking for answers that will lead them toward the grand finale. Tragically in VLR, that finale isn't so grand. In fact I'd hesitate to call it a finale at all. VLR ends on one of the most jarring anti-climaxes I've ever seen, but it sure is a hell of a ride getting there. VLR always, always, ALWAYS has another twist, and almost all of them are wonderfully done. As in 999, no matter where in the decision tree a player decides to go first, they will learn something deeply interesting, and even more than in 999, the player is "supposed" to go everywhere. VLR, unlike the original and frankly correct version of 999, has a flowchart. The flowchart is good. I am a proud ally to all flowcharts in video games, and VLR's is no different. The game has been designed around the flowchart, and it has been designed well. This is all that I have to say about the flowchart at this time.

Unfortunately, in addition to being visually uglier than 999, the writing in VLR is sloppier too. I obviously will not be providing spoilers as examples, but this is something I must acknowledge. There are logic holes, bizarre characterization choices, the aforementioned extreme anti-climax, and story beats that just do not feel like they're handled in the best possible way. This does not however, diminish the heights that VLR reaches, with a non-linear narrative that is ALSO somehow excellently paced in addition to it's impressive puzzle repertoire. This prompts me to declare that VLR is at least as good as 999 and also that is possibly the most impressive puzzle game I have ever played, even despite its roughness.

Excellent esoteric structure game focused on mass-killing enemies. Just too bad Dispatch Games dropped the ball on localizing this.

Talk about a massive lift from the first game. I like that one, but it feels like a prototype after playing The Second Runner. Hi speed robot action goes so hard in this game! And to think Zone of the Enders 3 got canceled, I’m so bummed. Thanks to Hexadrive to fixing this HD edition…only in the PS3 version. Cygames did the PS4 version, which seems to be good. So many cool ideas left in this one cool mecha game people didn’t buy cuz there was no Metal Gear Solid 3 demo included…

Alright, so this is a dreadful Shiren the Wanderer clone with soulless graphics and bad writing, but you have to appreciate how insane the minigames are. There's one called Tit for Tat where you play rock-paper-scissors with your boobs.

i wasn't really sure how much i liked this and then, when i got to the bonus levels, i realized that i was disappointed that there weren't more. so yes i did like it!

i do feel like there's a little bit less to the game than there appears to be on first glance - the world map is pretty but kind of empty, the side content in waddle dee town is either not spaced out well or is pretty skimpy (or both), and there are so few actual levels. but those levels are so joyful and fun, so it evens out.

and there's a sense of excitement here - last level is the most obvious example, but it really feels like the devs are having fun with the contrasting tones of cute-kirby and apocalyptic-environment. it's got some real kingdom heartsy klonoaness going on, being very approachable but still a video game-ass video game at heart. good stuff.

1. I played the 'Untold' 3DS remake first, which informed how I approached the game. I was liberal with guides, feeling "well, I've already done all this, so it's okay". I hope I didn't damage the intended difficulty, which I thought was as challenging my Untold playthrough on 'Standard'.

2. My favourite part of Etrian Odyssey - any version - is drawing the map, no contest. It's beyond satisfying seeing an empty map grow into a full one, and empowering to use what you've drawn as a resource in exploration. A fun part of going backwards to this version, though, was how much more limited your mapping tools are! There's only a couple icons, and you can't paint the floor tiles different colours, or draw paths to auto-walk down. I say 'fun' because I found this a fun challenge! I used the limited tool set to communicate the floor's specific mechanics in more creative and concise ways. Ironically, the restrictions made my maps more personal!

3. The lack of 'Floor Jump' was the biggest change coming from 'Untold'. (You enter the dungeon at any floor you've explored instead of a checkpoint every five floors.) I like the game more without it! Clambering down to where I was last made the labyrinth bigger, fighting to get there felt stressful, and learning what paths to take made it more familiar. Fast travel makes for a less interesting experience.

4. Respect having the items you need for pub side quests so painfully scarce. Farming them typically gets a level up, so I never needed to grind them out. It's pretty elegant - though frustrating in the moment.

5. Having to think about how my characters react to the story was fun - a lot different from Untold, which has a premade cast and cutscenes. My imagination never ran that wild, but getting to think up little scenarios for my fellows was cute. That said, I did regret basing them on my actual friends. I was always worried about them acting out of character...