Update after finishing: except for a few interesting plot twists, the gameplay remained the same. A few dungeons had you needing to escape a bit to not run out of heals, but it never got intense enough that I had to run. (And more grinding was always the answer)
The stat curve balloons bizarrely near the end- you go from like 1000 to 3000 hp in a few levels.
Curious about the 2nd now!
Haven't finished but I don't think my opinion will change much:
This is the first installment of a bigger series. Apparently this first game is pretty bad (according to the fan translator), I would have to agree.
You play the role of a... Japanese person... who also has powers to transform into an Oni/demon. To discover your power, you travel between different islands (set in Japan, although it's often unclear where you are at any time) and explore dungeons/towns, alone, Dragon Quest 1-style.
I think this game was rushed. Every village looks exactly the same, stores aren't labeled, it's possible to overlook entire towns (and sets of armor). Often entire villages will be murdered or die but the shopkeepers will still be there speaking normally.
The progression between continents is strange, completing a key task (getting a ship) will actually just instantly warp you from one continent to the next. There's no world map.
The writing is sort of funny - villages are plagued by pretty straightforward tropey occurrences - demons requiring sacrifices, kappa or tanuki gangs threatening villages, demons impersonating others... you'll go up into mountains or into caves to look for stones to let yourself transform. NPCs seem to be sort of exasperated about their lives ("I hate farming!") or ("The taxes are so high!") . It's a little amusing, but there's not much depth there.
I liked the enemy sprites. The battle system is fairly flat so far. The one on one combat hasn't felt interesting yet - pretty much it's always healing every other turn and making sure you have enough attack power to take down the boss. You get a wide variety of spells but they don't seem to do much more damage than your sword.
One interesting idea is the ability to transform into... an Oni form? I'm not sure, but you get this cool suit of armor. However, it makes your attacks like 50% weaker, although you gain a huge boost in defense. It reminds me of Lightning Returns' costumes system, except... extremely minimal and clunky, haha. No battles have required using this to any interesting extent. You get access to some powerful spells, though, but even that hasn't been used too much.
You can only save at towns (which costs 5 gold, always, for some reason), and dungeons are fairly boring/repetitive as you're always choosing Attack and fighting one of three enemies, so not using save states in this game seems like it'd be frustrating and rough, if one were to die to the boss.
Overall, definitely feels rushed. Historically amusing but not that great of a game. Curious about the later installments.
Very nice art and some funny humor with the useless crafting results. Remarkably hard to progress in without a guide - you have to craft stuff like torches to make your way further into the game, but it's often unclear what exactly needs to be combined. The process is often trial-and-error, and worse, you can craft a useless item like a baseball bat, which makes you lose the items...
The loop of the game involves managing hunger, thirst, health and fatigue. It's quite perfunctory to manage most of these. Thirst is extremely boring: you can fill a water bottle 3 times or drink from a river. Hunger is not much more interesting: you either have to grind for a piece of meat, then grill it, or eat berries. Fatigue limits how much you can explore to a few minutes, unless you have berries.
I didn't find balancing any of this to be very exciting or fun to manage, most of the time I was cutting my exploration short by having to attend to a system. And then there's health, where you get murdered instantly by night pigs or something.
I'm not very experienced with the survival genre but this doesn't seem to be a great representative of it!
On the plus side though, the general progression of the game is a nice, cute adventure game. Finding the 7 shape gems to restore some magic ship, and apparently there's a dating-esque part to the game where you find another kid? I didn't get there yet.
EDIT: (See bottom. Finished the post-game)
Finished the first playthrough. There's a lot of extra story stuff in the 2nd playthrough, so I want to do that at some point.
Overall this is a pretty brilliant and personable feeling children's adventure game. You live in a place called Color town - which is a 3x3 grid of different villages, with separate themes: "Old Japan", "Modern Japan", "Future", Desert, Downtown, Jungle, etc. In order to have the carnival, the town needs a lot of power, so it needs 8 stars - which you have to get from the dieties at each of the 8 towns' shrines. To get the stars you need to give them their desired offerings (a red hat, a laptop, etc), and finding those items is the meat of the gameplay.
Finding the items involves meeting shopkeepers, doing simple minigames or tasks, and exploring the townsfolk's home pages, sometimes looking for clues on who to give what item, or how to do something (e.g. there's a minigame where you need to cook a dessert, so you need to do some reasoning to find a recipe for it in the game's internet).
Exploring characters' home pages is pretty fun - they link to each other's, so you can see who's friends with who. People even have little blogs, so you get a sense of their humor, quirks, personality in a rich but succinctly stated way.
Every NPC in the game (about 70 in the first playthrough, and about 50 more in the 2nd) can be invited to the carnival - sometimes through just speaking to them, or by doing other things first (often bringing an item, or clearing some other condition). Since every NPC is named and has a unique design, it's actually manageable to faintly remember each person's job or role.
I loved the little stores and shops - you can't buy stuff, but you get a sense of the types of places in a 70s-90s-inspired japan. Dagashi stores, shoe stores, libraries, tailors, fireworks, bakeries, etc.
Anyways I love the scope of the game - the first playthrough took me about 8-10 hours, which is a reasonable length. Some repetition does set in by the end (e.g. in each of the 8 towns you need to answer a 5-question quiz about the town in order to get the golden star - which can be kind of cute at first but eventually feels repetitive), and there start to be a lack of any interesting item puzzles, but for the most part it's a strong game, and it's fun to just poke around and read the webpages. Or to receive e-mails or BBS requests from people.
The 2nd playthrough involves a lot more puzzles relating to the webpages (e.g. finding hidden links, solving quizzes), so I'm curious about that.
Other than that... the game features a lot of "Monpi", these monster/object humanoids. E.g. a talking eggplant. They're quite quirky and represent maybe a relation to the lives of inanimate objects? There's some 'lore' to the world of Uki-Uki regarding these natural ecosystems outside the borders of the town you never visit. Like a lush jungle, or a mountain range with no humans, or a desert that was once an ocean. They're not the focus of the game, but they give this simple depth of fantasy to the game's atmosphere that's appreciated. In some ways, the 2nd playthrough of the game can be seen as trying to 'mix' this inaccessible world of the Monpi with that of the humans.
Finally, this game was directed by Noriko Miura, older sister of famous manga artist Sakura Momoko. I wonder what she's up to now! Seems like she didn't do any games after this, unfortunately, although the studio, indieszero, did go on to make some cool games (electroplankton, sennen kazoku).
Makes me pine a bit for this era of Nintendo games, where around 40 people would make a short and unique game. Oh well!
The post-game is a fairly different-feeling experience. What happens story-wise is that you are chosen, once again, as the carnival organizer. This time though the goal is to have a night carnival! Luckily everyone you invited last time is still up for it. What happens this time around are the following:
- Under-construction webpages of monpi are now open, and thus there are a couple dozen more monpi you can invite
- There are more monpi to chat with (chat works by choosing between two conversation options until you manage to invite the monpi - it's fairly trial and error to pick the right choices)
- Various new events are triggered once you've invited the correct monpi.
- These new events include interesting things like: visiting the "hidden sides" of the towns' webpages to find clues that will open up a storeroom under a statue (Which gives you confetti for the fireworks lol)
- Finding a hidden maze underneath a "stone circle" in the town square. Here you meet a queen who allows the carnival to happen at night. There's a (simple) mystery hunt to open up this area involving angel NPCs and new links on monpi's webpages
- You start to get deliveries from Monpi, which can be used in small quests. Likewise, a big sidequest involves collecting candy box stickers to mail in for prizes.
- You're free to explore all 8 towns from the start.
Despite some of the events and the newness of some monpi webpages, it's more repetitive than the first playthrough. Because you don't have the discovery of new shops and towns to balance out the simple quests, you're pretty much doing simple fetch quests in between meticulously sweeping the web for monpi pages.
The monpi have an assortment of webpage-based minigames to play - they're often luck based, stuff like, "Simple Blackjack" or solving a timed maze, or a sliding tile puzzle. There are some that even require coming back on multiple days, like planting and watering a seed. The worst require massive amounts of luck (winning blackjack 5 times in a row) while allowing you only one try per in-game-day, meaning they're missable.
Overall it's something I think I'd have liked as a kid, but I really was just grinding by the end for the sake of it.
In the end though, you're greeted with an even livelier carnival than the first round! That was kind of neat.
Overall a bit disappointed - what was looking like a strategic kind of digging game ended up being a fairly flat-feeling repetitive light-roguelike with grindy currency and hard-to-intuit damage numbers and risk scenarios. The UI poorly communicates whether or not you're losing money or items after levels, and the crafting system is really confusing as to what exactly spending more money will do for me. Huge numbers appear in the earliest items making it feel unclear (in the gacha game sense) what exactly I should be spending resources on...
One of the earliest Korean MMOs, some of the devs who would go on to work on Maple Story.
I never played this as a kid but played for a few hours recently to see what was up. The English localization was surprisingly good, the game, of course, fairly simplistic and awkward to get around. The UI is like.. proto-maple-story which is interesting. Very calming, acoustic soundtrack, historically-researched setting that I didn't get much into (the game feels a bit impenetrable... I picked the healer class by accident and of course, have no intent on figuring out how to party, so quit immediately).
Also has a charming pixel art style when people were still figuring things out - strangely realistic rabbits combined with these cartoony people and realistic architecture.
More fun than Ys 8, but you can slowly feel the series losing its identity here. The weapon type system is bizarre and annoying, constantly breaking the flow of fighting. The shallowness caused by removing jumping is 'balanced' by a guard and dash move (which you always have to spam to move quickly around the gigantic maps), there's no fast travel for at least the first few hours? The feeling of being 'stuck to the ground' and my eyes glued to the minimap reminds me of the worst bits of games like Zwei 2.
There's so much loot and the gains you get by upgrading weapons with them feel minimal to the point it's easy to just overlook it entirely. It feels so routine to have to clear the enemies, stand at a item pile for 5 seconds, etc... cross-check if you can upgrade...
Still, the combat is fast paced and fun in the times it's working. It's a bit simple as far as the regular enemies go but fast paced enough that you have to do a little dodging.
I actually still like the boss design at this point in the series, even though the presence of healing items kind of balances it out in a weird way - I only died a few times to the first 5 bosses or so, so there wasn't much of the fun you get from Ys 6/Oath where you are constantly dying to get a sense for how to move in response to the bosses. It also feels far less dramatic because you don't have that sense of verticality that bosses in earlier Ys games utilized via your jump ability.
Overall, a fairly flat experience (so far - I quit at the fire temple). Also way, way too long! Quests are bizarrely hidden, you have to talk to 50 NPCs spewing nothingness before finding someone who tells you to run back and forth for 10 minutes to give you 4000 gold.
I still don't know how the later Ys Celceta will be, but if it's a bridge in between 7 and 8 (with the completionism of the forest) then that's not a great sign. 7 already has some of the later completionism, through the NPCs who ask you to find 10 of each type of wood, or find special gems.
I think over the past 15 years the Ys series seems to have lost some sort of leadership that really pressed the game to have a unique action identity.
It seems that, via osmosis, the bland ARPG design of the Japanese game industry slowly seeped into Falcom over those years. (But if Ys 9 is anything to go by, at least Falcom's action still tries to maintain an interesting simplicity, even if it's come to rely on bland parries and dodge rolling and has been poisoned by the "40+ hours of playtime!" completionism that's rampant across the industry).
Another great series kind of ruined by the pursuit of stat-heavy action RPG mechanics, completionist gameplay loops and the Dark Souls-led fetish for perfect guards and perfect rolls. It's hard to see what's going on in the 3rd person perspective. Enemies and fights just feel like memorizing when the enemy is going to attack (vs. the previous games where you'd always be constantly adjusting your position and height via jumping/running around, looking for an opening.)
All of the elaborate completionist loops just serve to confusingly maybe make you sort of stronger. It's a far cry from the flawed yet interesting power curves and balance of Ys Oath in Felghana. There are just SO many items, the weird character-switching system feels contrived and bad-feeling to have to keep switching to the right character to actually do damage. Ys used to be about the fun of constant action and ridiculous boss movesets, this Ys just feels like a constant list of chores needed to chase the ever growing enemy power levels...
Which is kind of a shame because the game looks nice and has great music! Maybe the 'map out the world' loop worked a bit better in Memories of Celceta (which I haven't played), which wouldn't be marred by as many 2010s action-rpg-item-heavy systems nor the cursed 3rd-person-action-perspective camera.
People also seem to like the story, but I played for 10 hours and I didn't even get to control the cover art blue hair girl...? How many villagers do I need to rescue, areas do I have to tediously grab the treasures from and items do I have to grind for before the story does something? ahhh..... oh well, there are other stories to experience..
Bit of a sloppy Ys 6/Origin-influenced game, which was sad because of how much I like those games. The main problem is enemy movements are more or less unreadable, so you use your ridiculous movement speed to just dash in and out and slowly/boringly pick off enemies. Likewise with the bosses I played, your jump dash is so powerful that the bullet patterns tend to feel a bit samey. The camera also moves way too much and the stages are dark so it's hard to see where you are.
Interesting introduction to the world of Touhou though, which I can't say I particularly enjoy or have interest in, but I can understand the appeal of wanting to occupy an innocent fantasy world filled with little girls where nothing feels particularly pressing.
Interesting experience with trying to give that 'big classic JRPG' feel to a very small map while simulating grinding on a basic level - but generally, misses out on the way that older JRPGs create dungeon spaces and kind of feels like a more shallow interpretation of the sense of conserving resources in a dungeon. Also has needlessly frustrating puzzles and dungeon layouts.
Neat and robust RPG Maker game where you strategize a bit about how to 'equip' your rooms so that you make money from the guests. Seems to have the entire Harvest Moon arc going too - learning mysteries about the town, unlocking new areas, expanding stores, etc. I appreciate how that experience is condensed and how little character arcs dot the gameplay experience.
Overall I felt the writing style to be a bit dry/well-trodden and just good enough to get the job done, but the creator does express a love for this kind of British(?) period setting, so I appreciate that.
Casual town-builder that is overall feels like optimization puzzle. The interface is a little bit slow and information is organized kind of weird. There were a few discoveries to make in terms of how to best grow the town, but it was annoying to constantly cross-reference the structure evolution paths and keep in mind what needed to go where. Progressing time felt a bit needlessly slow even at 4X. The "Goddesses"' dialogue was... unique at what it was going for (this sort of 'maid' vibe) but they all felt a little similar with repeated text.
There's a metaprogression that makes it easier to score well on levels. I didn't like that simply because it made me feel less able to gauge how well I was actually doing the levels...?
I played a few hours but there were still more mechanics to see. This is really easy to get into and simple to start for a town builder, though, so it was fun to learn about the genre.
One of the first big and memorable indie games I ever played as a high schooler, I decided to revisit it this year.
Level design-wise it held up pretty well. It's a level of precision platforming that's emblematic of Maddy Thorson's design style, but not as tricky as earlier games like Jumper. The rooms instead have been balanced to fit into a Metroidvania map, with a health system allowing you to play rooms imperfectly, with added challenge in the form of "100% Health Gates" - which won't open unless you reach them without taking damage.
It can be a fairly demanding game: in harder sections of the game, you might go through 4-5+ challenging rooms without a checkpoint. It's an interesting style of difficulty, but one that's not my personal preference as I'm not that into the amount of redoing that occurs in that kind of level layout (... maybe I should have picked the easy difficulty!)
Still, I was surprised to the point that I managed to intuit how to control my character's jump height precisely (the variable jump height of your character is an important part of many of the levels.)
There's a little bit of interconnectivity in the game's zones, but for the most part you'll be finding a zone, playing through its 15-20 zones, encountering 2 or 3 checkpoints, and fighting a boss, while finding abilities, money, health upgrades, and Golden Orbs to open the final area.
I really like the atmosphere. The music is sort of plunky and simple - it can become grating at times as it's General MIDI but without much of the 'touch' that can be applied to those palettes to make them less irritating to hear over and over.
Areas are hand drawn, a simple but effective art style that lets the shape of the huge rooms breathe. I enjoyed when the game did interesting structural setpieces: a gigantic fall into a pit, a mysterious "blank" area at the bottom of the world, falling off the top of a big cliff and playing a gem-collecting minigame on the way down, a giant ice castle, at the top of the world, etc.
One notable design choice is that there's hardly any backtracking in this game (unless you want to get some completion). For the most part, as long as you manage to find the needed jump upgrades, you just need to find the next area to explore. Still, I got lost a few times due to the map not having markers or indicating room connections until you find adjacent rooms.
Boss fights can sometimes feel very demanding, and it's frustrating that you can't save right before most. I don't mind the style of AUS's bosses (which remind me of the difficulty of ones like Ys Oath in Felghana), but replaying stuff before the boss just to try again is a bore.
The bosses are fairly simple pattern-based bosses where you avoid obstacles and wait for an opportunity to bonk the boss. Most of them are fairly fun, there are a few stinkers which involve getting the boss's projectiles to hit the boss, or involve you playing 'tennis' with the projectiles.
Overall, it's a fun and unique world to explore. It wasn't as good as I remembered but it was still pretty good! I love the unique touch that a solo (or small team) dev-created metroidvania has .
Good example of a game that is badly in need of both design craft and narrative theme. On paper, the game sounds interesting enough: revive a town through shops and farming, adventure the nearby landscape with shopkeepers, dive into dungeons..
Customizing the town (at least a few hours in) only involved placing a few shops and some other items to optimize their income. Restocking shops involves a process of farming for particular materials, walking into the shop and restocking. As the game gets bigger you have more shops to restock. I guess the idea is that the player was supposed to be sort of a supplier for the town, but the NPCs' dialogue didn't feel particularly interesting.
Made worse is that grinding for these items is a little boring. The combat isn't that interesting, the environment you find enemies in ranges from empty large maps to dungeons filled with boring mechanics reminiscent of the 3D Zeldas' boring puzzles. So if you need to restock, it means going to a dungeon and finding an enemy that you easily kill. Because there's SO MANY materials, I would assume this kind of gameplay loop would occur a lot through the game.
The dungeons are bad - for some reason the Zelda Items needed to do the (boring) puzzles are tied to party members, so you need to bring a mining person to mine ore, etc... puzzles seem simplistic or perfunctory, the combat doesn't really use 3D in an interesting way...
So overall, you have a combat/exploration loop whose combat isn't fun, nor exploration interesting. And that feeds into a town management loop, which is tedious, simplistic and slow (to farm you have to walk to the farm screen...load.. etc). The Town is 3D and explorable, but there isn't much to explore or see (like in a harvest moon town), it would have felt more efficient to merely make everything into menus? Or to shrink the size a lot more or improve fast travel.
Simple town management could be cool, but it would only work if it was feeding into an adventure experience with more well-designed and interesting things, or narrative hooks. But Ever Oasis feels like spending time in one flat system in order to make the numbers in another flat system go up.
I think the number of shopkeepers could be way lower. Lean into making them actually interesting characters, tie them to the environment in some way so that there's a desire to go out into the world. Create some kind of motion that makes it actually interesting to run around. Make the shops interface in more interesting ways with the combat/exploration systems, etc...
Ever Oasis reminds me of why 'lots of game systems!' games can fail, in that if none of them are given ample design thought, there's a risk of nothing interesting happening - sure, the systems feed into each other and make numbers go up, but there's not much meaningful outside of that. (And there's already a genre for 'number go up' that streamlines and gives lots of thought into making number go up - clicker and idle games!)
Anyways yeah. I guess I like the spirit of this game, but it doesn't do anything particularly well, which is sad. I think the setting of exploring outwards from a town, going to the countryside, etc, is really interesting!