9 Reviews liked by melos_han_tani
Mega Man Legends
I’ve played a lot of Mega Man games in the last six months, and even when they start to show the signs of burgeoning narrative ambition in the X series, those games are too held up by their own stupidity and refusal to consider the implications of their own worldbuilding for me to say that they’re really About anything. By the year 1997 we’re at a clear point where the X series has established characters, sort of, and a jumble of recurring ideas, kind of, but there’s no real coherence to anything narratively, no actual throughline to that world. And that’s fine with me, it’s really not what I’m here for, it’s mostly something I focus on a lot in my writing about these games because that stuff takes an ever-growing presence in these games to thus far no payoff.
But that IS also what makes Mega Man Legends feel like such a breath of fresh air when it hits the scene on the Mega Man timeline. It’s not just the radical directional shift in gameplay this one adopts (though I do really enjoy that too), and I wouldn’t call it an entirely aesthetic thing either – no, this game is obviously one of the most beautiful and pleasant to look at in the history of the medium, but Mega Man has always had exceptional aesthetics, it’s the one thing that’s virtually unassailable across every iteration of the series so far. For me I think the thing that’s so immediately remarkable about Legends is the clear and deliberate focus on the voice of the game and the characters, something that has never been present in the franchise before. The series has a lot of CHARACTER, but it doesn’t really have characterS, right? Even X and Zero, the closest thing to fleshed out guys we have so far are kind of shallow and stupid caricatures of cardboard cutouts. Legends may not win any awards for MegaMan Volnutt’s personality but the fact that this guy has such a strongly defined voice and wants and, most importantly, that the cast of people around him is much more strongly defined and central to the game than he is, makes the game stand out immediately from its parent series.
Because as much as Mega Man Legends is a run n gun 3D dungeon crawler with light RPG elements it’s equally if not moreso one of those cool mid 90s to mid-00s Japanese games where you don’t have a lot of clearly defined goals (or if you do they’re not really urgent) and you kind of just vibe with all the side characters in a small semi-open world. This is a hard thing to describe but I feel like you know what I’m talking about right? Games like Majora’s Mask, Shenmue, Chulip, most mid-period Harvest Moons, maybe Chibi-Robo? The kind of game where when you were a kid it was easy to ignore the main plot and just chill out. I never played Mega Man Legends as a kid but it would have fit right in with that collection of “games that aren’t walking sims that I forced into that mold because I’ve always been like this I guess.”
This small island and it’s little city of comically fastidious bureaucrats and fantasy policeman who are just inept enough to be funny and unthreatening and workaday tradespeople baking bread and selling clothes and operating tv stations is outrageously detailed, full of little secrets and stuff that help you fill up your health bar during unexpected boss fights in normally safe zones or crafting materials that let your friend research new weapons for you, but it’s full of entirely superfluous stuff too, seemingly just for the sake of character. Multiple buildings and storefronts let you enter and are full of NPCs with bespoke dialogue that have no practical in-game benefit to you, with a fully modelled interior to explore. Lots of NPCs will give Volnutt a little yes or no question to answer for no reason, it’s cute! There are sidequests too but they’re usually stuff like help out the local kid gang with building up their clubhouse by finding a hammer and a saw, or hang out with a local sick kid, or find something this lady could use to add a little splash of color to her landscape painting. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, a game full of friendly people being generally nice, full of unthreatening villains and bright blue skies. The vibes, as they say, are immaculate here. I do want to shout out the voice acting in particular, which strikes that Saturday morning cartoon vibe perfectly but because it’s 1997 there’s not really an entrenched anime voice actor industry that just defaults into all of these roles, so you get a bunch of low budget Canadian tv people doing these voices instead in a way that gives this game some incredible character. MegaMan Volnutt himself is actually voiced by a thirteen-year-old boy rather than an adult woman doing an Anime Kid voice it’s a really distinct sound from anything you would hear today.
The gameplay is pretty slick too. I assume this is an unpopular statement here, I feel like it’s easy to see any game with tank controls and be like ah it’s clunky it’s old it doesn’t feel good or intuitive, and fuckin surprise surprise here comes ina crawling out of her well to defend an old game’s aged elements but hear me out a little bit. Anything that feels unintuitive only feels that way because we don’t have muscle memory for it, right? I have two really distinct memories from my childhood of Adult Non-Gamers pretending to take an interest in my video game at a family gathering and just being unable to conceptualize the basic movement controls of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia and Dragon Ball Z Legacy of Goku II. These are not, these aren’t difficult games to parse, right, it’s just that someone who has literally never interacted with a game until her 50s doesn’t know how to do it. It’s fine!
So having the weird control scheme it has doesn’t automatically make Mega Man Legends unworthy, right? There’s more to it. You have to consider the game that’s built around those controls, and I think MML is pretty well constructed. If anything, the game is tuned a little too easy, with most enemies absolutely confounded by the very simple strategy of a nonstop circle strafe around them, which will serve you like 90% of the time. But by and large I found that enemies were placed pretty thoughtfully, platforming challenges were designed with the fact that your control over your character and the camera is slow and limited, and in general things are designed in such a way that I rarely felt that I was wrestling with the controller, it all felt really well done to me. There are a lot of movement options in this game too, within a couple hours of starting I was really just zooming the fuck around.
The ending of Mega Man Legends isn’t a triumph or a tragedy or a big sequel hook or anything. It has all of those thing but those aren’t the focus. The ending is the quiet few minutes where the car is getting packed up at the end of a trip and you have a moment to say goodbye. You’re encouraged to take one last lap around town, where all the important characters and sidequest NPCs are scattered around to let you know they’re gonna be thinking about you, and they appreciate the little stuff you’ve done for and with them over the last 15-or-so hours. It feels right. I did sing the praises of the dungeon crawling a bit, and I did like it, but the core of the game is fucking around, competing in game shows, helping out a pregnant woman, adopting cats, thwarting the world’s least threatening bank heist. It feels right to spend the real time saying goodbye to the stuff that matters, and spend relatively little on the actual plot stuff which is mostly pretty limp. Just like meeeee I’m very sick right now if this review is incoherent that's why okay I’m gonna go take a nap game good
I’m glad that people connected with Charlotte later on, but I miss something that got lost since this first game. May sound typical for this kind of RPG maker games, but to me the game is entirely about the peculiar and imaginative perception of the world from Charlotte’s view in videogame language.
If I’m allowed to make a guess, I’m pretty sure that most people who grew up with videogames being quite present in their lives have dreamt in videogame terms (specially as children, but also as adults), even daydreaming about them. Something similar must have happened with cinema and TV (camera angles, cuts and such being present in dreams and even when recalling memories) and Hello Charlotte has a lot of this new influence on perception. Her imaginary friend is someone never present that may seem (and may be) a fourth wall breaking reference to the player or just her thinking that she’s a videogame character. The multiple deaths act more as what ifs, what if the world ended if I touch this, what if the scary bear impales me. It may seem insensitive to think about these images, but to me it’s kind of liberating from the perspective of Charlotte, just her letting her mind express herself and experiment knowing that a bad end can always be rewinded.
What’s interesting about the mixed perception between videogames and real life is the point that I miss in the next two games. This perception happens (partially) as a way to connect very designed, even standardized simple rules and the bigger complexities of the real world. Think about little kids asking about “who are the good and bad guys” like if everything was a cartoon, not out of bad intent, but to try and grasp something unknown to them on their terms. The first Hello Charlotte is a quite well achived abstract adventure in the conventional sense with a lot of personal quirks in its presentation that lets glances at Charlotte’s deepest worries. If I’m allowed to take a picky example, Episode 2 represents Charlotte social troubles in school through RPG Maker standard combats. The first game is the imagination running free while still being inevitably attached to who Charlotte is and her life, the second one feels like a failed attempt to represent social anxiety in those terms, ignoring both the way that is really perceived and how the imagination tries to make some sense out of it.
My biggest shame is that the dreamy yet way less abstract influence in the next games does come occasionally incredibly close to my dreamy perceptions, apart from the cinema and videogames presence. The mix between everyday places with something always off, but something that seems normal unless you stop to think about it, and the meaning that such small changes carry (like everything about the school structure, for instance think about how the way to it requires the students to take a mortal drop into a mattress, a process that makes sense but only under a specific non sensical logic). In some way, a perfect match about videogames' constant failures at replicating reality by nature and yet the convincing sense that their obvious fakeness brings. I appreciate the attempts to try to have more focused thematic ideas later on, but while I never found my footing in those, I always yearned for that more natural expression of intuition from the subconscious. Charlotte lets herself see without noticing while dreaming of being herself.
10 Yakisoba Pans out of 10!!!
Vanillaware's greatest accomplishment by a landslide. Hyper-ambitious, utterly indulgent, and convoluted as all fuck, but miraculously never buckles under the weight of its own intricacies. 13 Sentinels pulses with a sense of delirious vitality and freewheeling passion that is so so rare in games with this level of production value and craft. 13S' disarmingly dense story construction feels a bit like the tangled web of plot complexity in the Kingdom Hearts series, but it actually uses those twists in service to its own emotionally resonant characters and conceptual intentions (instead of rendering everyone a charmless exposition machine giving you truly insane loredumps that ultimately dont impart anything that meaningful). The nonlinear, fragmented story delivery is filled with literally hundreds of galaxy-brain twists and turns and occupies dozens of genres at once; different character narratives make up an amalgam of pastiches including Evangelion, Perfect Blue, Macross, Sukeban Deka, Madoka Magica, Barefoot Gen, and more... and it all feels TOTALLY fitting in a game that's clearly a meditation on the experience of coming of age while awash in Japanese history and cultural memory--without a lens of pure nostalgia and nationalism. There's real nuance to the game's exploration of Showa Era Japan's wartime suffering/shame and its eventual globalized cultural/industrial recovery here, and I felt this deeply even from my semi-clueless outsider perspective. It's actual thought provoking stuff that the nonlinearity totally works in service to, and also happens to be an extremely well-crafted and fresh style of story delivery for its' own sake.
Much has been said about the gorgeous illustrative art within the Remembrance portion of the game, and I could gush about it for years (PLEASE MORE PUPPET JOINTED/PERSPECTIVE WARP 2D ANIMATION IN GAMES I LOVE IT) but I feel like the Destruction segments are being a tad undervalued! They're extremely snappy and fun (especially if you play on Intense, which is totally surmountable for average players like me but raises the strategizing requirements considerably). I've seen a lot of responses lamenting that Destruction doesn't share the vivid, illustrative style of the Remembrance segments and can see why people might think that from the trailers, but I totally disagree after experiencing the game. The depersonalized, infographic-style representation of truly harrowing, wide-scale mech carnage feels like a very conscious and effective creative choice to contrast with the intimate and sentimental visual novel sequences. Both visual styles absolutely work in harmony with one another, and the juxtaposition only serves to strengthen them. The combat music is some of the best shit EVER too, who needs fully illustrated mechs when the bops are this massive
Also, I was totally blindsided by the FUN AS HELL queer stuff in this game! It's definitely not "perfect", but said romance is so charming and allows its complicated, lovable characters to be confused, flirty, devious and loyal in ways that few other games do. While there IS some (funny!) humor surrounding one character's klutzy and confused queerness, same-sex attraction itself is never treated as an absurd joke, only validated: the joke is that said character is too bone-headed to admit to himself what's plainly obvious (and beautiful!!!).
anyway I lub dis gaem you should play it it's v special and a truly rare experience. Props to Vanillaware and thank you for toning down most of your skeevy fanservice to a degree where I'm not irritated by it constantly
I used to pretend to be dumb and give people my password and let them steal my account. i would then wait 3 months or so sometimes to use the recovery system to get it back and by then they would be using my account as an extra storage. So id come back to my account with more money and items than i started with :) (I was 11 btw)
This has to be in the top 5 most interesting games I've ever played. Not for the gameplay or even the story, but just for the feel of the whole thing. Everything is slapdash and weird; it's like the games' seams are showing on purpose. The dialogue is fun and snarky, the levels are more engaging than I initially thought they'd be, and there are some legitimate emotional moments packed in there.
I was looking forward to 100%ing this, unfortunately I was having trouble getting certain events to occur, so I gave up on that. It's a shame, I definitely wanted to spend more time with this weird world.
In the end though, the standout aspect of this game is the soundtrack, which anyone who knows this game talks about. It really is great; I recommend listening to it if you don't feel like playing this.
I'll miss this game
0 Lists liked by melos_han_tani