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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

Feels convoluted with overly-complicated controls - in the way some PC/CRPG games can be when they don't think carefully enough about how to use the keyboard. For how much this game has sold I'm floored that there aren't keybinding presets nor the game changing in-game key input instructions based on user settings, nor is there any controller support.....?

(Edited to add some positive things about the spatial concepts of the dungeons and towns)
Would you put a health bar into a 3D block / hidden object game, so if you die at the end of three puzzles, you have to redo all of them? Probably not!
Now imagine that there was a game that did this - and in fact, it sold well - not only that, but it became so unimaginably popular, that its idea - adding a health bar to a 3D puzzle game - became considered 'good practice' in thousands of games, and in fact, this game went on to have dozens of sequels with the same idea: put a health bar in a puzzle game.
Ocarina of Time strikes me as absurd. Having played through the water temple, there hasn't been a single truly interesting idea in any of the dungeons. The base mechanics are so flat and uninteresting - imprecise combat (even with the Z targeting), finicky auto-jumping, slow climbing, a camera that almost always points into the ground, and the need to walk slowly everywhere. When the atmosphere and setting do work, it feels more like a welcome distraction against the task of trying to play through the game.
Every room in OoT boils down to:
- Get oriented, see the obvious thing you need to do, and then do it.
- Sometimes doing it is hard: you might die (often from an enemy that's incidentally in the room, and not the conceptual focus of room puzzle), you might fall and need to re-do rooms. Sometimes it's slow and boring: you need to push a block around some ice.
(One room in the Water temple carefully makes you shoot a water-level-changing crystal 5 times to make it through. Nothing about this idea is interesting, the solution is obvious from the get go!)
Or worse, it might be a combat room, where you're subjected to a camera and combat system that's impossible to aim with, with enemies whose design concepts tend to be "invincible 90% of the time, maybe vulnerable in a weird, awkward window".
Every dungeon is dozens of these rooms stitched together, in a way where it's easy to miss a key you need, only to find you need it later - after completing 10 minutes of boring puzzle rooms. Then, you get to backtrack, and do the boring puzzle rooms again.
In this way, OoT feels like it was a 2D Puzzle game on paper, naive concepts hackily translated into 3D with a combat system grafted on.
Each new item you get is a failed answer to 'how do we make this interesting?' Pointing your bow around the room, bombing a dodongo, equipping the iron boots over and over. These new items are never fundamentally interesting, they just create a new paint job for a switch sitting on a ledge.
To OoT's defense, I think it succeeds with interesting spatial setups and dramatic pacing (deku tree web, etc, water temple water level) but the moment to moment execution of how you traverse those setpieces just really doesn't work. It's super cool to think about the process of climbing to the ceiling of the Fire Temple, but it's kind of shrug when you think about the moment to moment process of getting there.
The layout of the world is cool (on paper), it's just a slog to walk across. Likewise with the execution of the towns like Zora's Domain or Goron City - they're neat to be in, up until you need to Do Something.
If you knew exactly what to do and when to do it (to avoid backtracking or costly dead-end-investigation), I think this game would be a lot more tolerable. I can see why it became people's favorites if you're intimately familiar with it - breezing through dungeons and slowly making progress is actually a little fun.
Unfortunately (for this review) it doesn't make sense to review something in such a context of having played it 10 times...
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In some ways, OoT fundamentally feels like a mix of Hidden Object games, the puzzle genre, and even mystery games/JRPGs. It's less a visionary step into 3D than it appears, it's more a hackjob of genres whose saving grace was the production value, hang-out-vibes and atmosphere.
It's very easy to get stuck or lost in the sections between dungeons. E.g., stopping the goron and waiting a minute for it to uncurl, in order to get into the entrance to the Fire Temple. And it's all hampered by slow movement and easily getting disoriented, making what might be a fairly straightforward puzzle into a nightmare.
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What angers me about this game the most is how much Nintendo - and nostalgic developers - doubled
down on the travesty of mechanics the game has. Having a terrible core moveset, tons of stupid items with one-off uses has become 'good practice'. You can probably find a dozen youtube videos on what makes OoT's dungeons "work". None of the fundamentals here are 'good' - they're merely passable ideas that can become palatable through fancy art or story design.
To me, every game reproducing these ideas feels like a child-like grasping at recreating the magic of childhood favorite. And they ironically miss the point: what does manage to work about OoT is NOT those fundamentals of bad puzzles and combat and poor level design, it's the atmosphere and tone, it's the fun of uncovering a dungeon.
Even future Zelda games do this. I don't know how they became so fixated on this uncomfortable mix of tedious puzzles and sloppy action.
Most of what is required in OoT to progress the game is at best calmingly repetitive (it can be fun to breeze through a dungeon and slowly uncover its treasures), and at worst offensively tedious.
What's good about OoT is the strange NPCs, the quiet little subplots on how parts of the world change over time, the random horror, the way you can kind of just hang out and roll around in it. The sense of inhabiting a grand myth. But even that, to an extent, feels cheapened by a story that's too willing to make everything you do as an adult easily fix every single problem. The Kokiri Forest comes back to life! All the Gorons are safe! Zora's Domain melts!
As far as Japanese Anime story set-ups go, Young Link's stuff was not bad. But the follow through in Adult Link's repetitive romp through dungeons, at least through the Water Temple, feels like it's just going through the motions.
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Overall... the execution is really messy and it's hard to give that anything above a 2. But the atmosphere is well-done, so I feel like it deserves at least a 3...

Really beautiful structure to uncovering the depths of the island. Finding new entry points, realizing that it's one huge, interlocking network. A shame we don't see much more of this dungeon-crawling-influenced, platformer-esque type of design for 3D games.
Amazing contrast between friendly surface areas and the droney ambience of the underground - feels reminiscent of Dark Souls's approach to ambience 14 years later. The way Roll's radio-filtered voice comes in at the right times to describe stuff works really well to punch up the anime emotions or atmosphere.
Once you got used to it the controls were actually pretty cool. There's a bunch of things that could have been ironed out without losing the combat's identity (in particular, the ability to aim without auto-lock on would have helped a lot. Likewise, a faster camera speed and bigger FOV in boss arenas).
Uncovering dungeon maps slowly and finding treasure is fun, even if it's pretty easy most of the time and you don't need most of the treasure.
It was also fun to hop around the towns and occasionally run into random quests. Really fun atmosphere there.
Overall a really interesting world structure, interesting that within a year or two, Ocarina of Time would come out.
Weak Points:
- The pirate fights were.. acceptable story-wise (I think it got old after a while though), but from an execution standpoint they were sometimes unwelcome and sloppy. In particular parts of the air fight and the sea fight - neither were mechanically interesting, and took forever. (Taking down their airship was a little cool, though - that's the kind of setpiece fight I think Works, since it's not really hard but it feels really cool).
- Special weapons ended up being underutilized. I didn't make a handful of them and pretty much dropped everything for the buster around midgame.
- The buster's range is overpowered - it ends up flattening many of the enemy designs
- The regular enemy designs aren't that interesting - the camera system struggles to reasonably handle 2-3 quick enemies. Encounters can be fun (circling and stopping to shoot at the right time), but some enemies involve just waiting around for them to drop their shield.
- Game was obviously rushed at points - the final dungeon in particular was a lot less interesting than the 2nd and 3rd sub-gates. The sub-cities definitely felt like they were going to have more narrative significance, and the drill ability didn't amount to much (there wasn't much reason to use all those shortcuts between the subgates by the end of the game.) Perhaps, too much budget spent on pirate fights...

Not finished yet but I don't see my rating going up or down over the rest of the game. An improvement over Crash 1 (can't speak to 2/3). The little moveset tweaks with the...hookshot woman..? Are pleasantly fun, subtly changing the way you view the levels enough to remove some of the fatigue that playing entirely as Crash has.
Still, the checkpoint structure in some ways feels less like a way to pace out the levels, than a hack for how much trial-and-error is required to learn the obtuseness of some obstacles. That obtuseness is created by too-shallow camera angle making it hard to judge depth, a problem which I thought we could have solved by the end of the 1990s! Yet it still plagues this game all over the place, from the chase sequences to the occasional enemy placement. That being said, the platforming and attack hitboxes are fairly generous so it's nothing a few retries can't fix, but it is still annoying because of how Crash level design tends to work (very precise sequence of inputs and timings to get through obstacles - thus if you fail at the end of a level design segment, you have to go all the way through the same boring inputs to try the end again.) This is especially annoying in the crate challenge levels (The flashbacks), which have interesting, difficult ideas, but often sandwich 3 or 4 ideas together in a segment before hitting a checkpoint.
When the levels feel good, there's a nice rhythm to levels and it's fun to see what the developers have done with visual theming (although it can be hard to read the environment at times.) Overall a mixed bag so far (with more good than bad) but the more tedious stuff (The time challenges, 100% crates) are optional which is fine (although it'd be nice if timed challenges were segmented rather than resetting when dying at the end of a stage.) Stages maybe feel a bit long, too...

Fine for what it is - an early 3D precision platformer, but overall not that interesting. Maybe back in its day...
Feels like an auto-runner in some ways, the obstacle layouts demand very precise and rigid responses to them. Complexity scales by repetition and mixing without any spatial variation - instead of Pit-Turtle, we get Pit-Pit-Pit-Turtle - perfect 6 jumps for the first checkpoint, then 12 jumps for the 2nd checkpoint, etc.

Final Judgment: A sloppy "Ys Oath"-like with poor level design and a so-so JRPG story with uninteresting characters and padded out dialogue. Has a few interesting ideas here and there but doesn't add up to much.
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Other Thoughts:
So far, I like the bosses - you can bring food in and heal your way through the fight, but they're more fun if you try to not heal at all. It feels kind of like Ys Oath/6/0, but slightly sloppier? Hitboxes are iffier, the camera is tilted too low. Being able to magic-bullet spam with the girl while dodging reminds me of the fighting style in later Gunvolt games.
Dungeon design is repetitive/mini-map-watching focused. It's hard to get a sense of where you are in the scene, and there haven't been any interesting puzzles. The enemies can sometimes have interesting designs but the game gives you a lot of tools to make most combat encounters trivial.
The dungeons have a grading system around not taking damage, breaking all the pots, and finishing in a certain time. It's... not a very interesting grading system - I don't think the game has enough precision for a 'no damage' achievement to be 'fair'. But I guess it adds a tiny bit of replayability. (The grading system gives you points towards your Hunter Rank - similar to Bracer Rank if you've ever played Trails in the Sky). I would be interested in a low-hit run, but taking zero hits in sometimes 5-10 minute levels is too much!
Setting/story is fun - that mid-2000s tsundere girl/happy go lucky guy pair protagonists vibe. Nothing particularly deep, very light. Very 2000s Falcom, too. Has a bit of Gurumin! to it as well.
I like how the world is compact (well, certainly there will be a 'there's more!' jrpg world reveal, but atm it is compact!). Each time you clear a dungeon the dialogue of all NPCs gets refreshed, which is very Falcom-y.
The UI Widget items were cool, though. Kind of a funny idea... put a pedometer on the UI, or a widget to let you solve math problems, or something that reveals the tricky timing behind critical hits!
There's a weird system to leveling. Enemies drop food, and you can eat food for healing AND EXP in a dungeon. OR, you can try to obtain 10 of a food, and trade it in for a higher-grade food that gives 50% more EXP.
It seems to incentivize grinding or like, staying underleveled near the end of a dungeon. It feels like they wanted to keep leveling limited to after clearing levels, rather than within levels - by making food also heal, you're less likely to waste it all in the middle of a level (as you might need it later to heal.)
I wonder if it was some weird attempt at fixing how in Ys games you just end up overpowering everything by the end. It's hard for me to tell if the food 'works'... because the levels themselves aren't very hard to begin with. So far, I've just ended up saving all my food and trading it in for better food so I can be at a decent level for the boss.

I don't really play procedural run-based games, but I heard this is one of the best so I played a few hours. I did the 'first steps' of beating Mom, and then completing another run and beating the Utero level. It seems there is at least another 10,000 hours of gameplay. I might play other characters or try challenges.
I think it feels strong in how you're always betting whether the risk of uncovering a new room will bring enough rewards, but I also think the core of it (this intentionally imprecise teardrop firing mechanic) ends up feeling a bit repetitive.
I appreciate that the core motion and attack mechanics can be tweaked in tons of ways to be slightly better or worse, and hence, the appeal as a procgen game.
That being said, even though I know I'll have a different experience each time I play, there's still something very samey to it no matter what.
I guess that's where I differ from other fans of the genre. I do think it's neat how there are obscure secrets and branching runs (reminds me of the arcade shmup genre), I suppose in some ways the modern indie roguelite is a continuation of arcade action. But I think in BoI (although it feels like one of the better ones) still does feel like this experience of starting very weak then hoping to become a very powerful build by the end, the chances of trying your luck. Going through rooms feels like going through the filler rooms in a Zelda game.
Overall, it feels like the experience of having the same sandwich spiced a randomly different way. A nice sandwich, but still a pretty plain one...
The most powerful idea of roguelites to me is the idea of hiding secrets amongst a texture of randomness. I think it's cool how deep the secrets in BoI go.
Although as a designer I feel kind of iffy about inherently making my game sorta repetitive and meant to be played over and over for 1,000 hours. But I like the idea of getting to become familiar with a 'space' by seeing it in randomized parts. Maybe there's a way to distill the randomness/replayability procgen strength of stuff like BoI into a shorter experience, who knows... it'd be cool to leverage that into a somehow more straightforward narrative game.

As an action RPG, it felt a little sloppy - right off the bat the analog stick movement doesn't work properly (movement seems to tend to lock into 8 directions). Enemy hitboxes and tells are a bit hard to see, the colors of everything tend to blend together and in the first dungeon I wasn't able to have much of a satisfying combat experience. It seems like this roughness is meant to be balanced out by the grinding and gear upgrades, which is a little disappointing... that's kind of the design space a lot of ARPGs end up in, gear upgrades that end up making up for a gameplay loop that doesn't work too well.
The item selling side was fun for a while but setting prices - and even just the act of setting out items - felt perfunctory, repetitive - another step in the way of me upgrading my gear (which was frustrating to keep track of between all of the inventory management, wishlists). Sounded fun on paper, though.
That being said, I did like the roguelite idea of having four separate dungeons to go into and make your way through, which felt like a more accessible structure to a roguelite beyond the common 30-60 minute runs. At the same time, I guess this more accessible approach feels less mysterious? Not a fault of Moonlighter, just ... roguelite thoughts. Playing Moonlighter does make me think that ARPG mechanics do ultimately hurt the roguelite appeal/structure, making it a more flat experience.