Visually this game is very pretty - lots of early 3D spaces, interesting color palettes, especially the overworlds. I played the first hour here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxhU8zYErJ8
The game uses 2D sprites in 3D areas to neat effect, I love the cactus towers (sabokuri), and it was fun to see what areas each new kingdom held.
The writing was... pretty bare bones. The arcs in each kingdom feel sort of like a broken JRPG - you might stick a thorn into a train to slow it down. Or rescue a clan of chickens from an invasion. Or fix a rainbow bridge by finding 7 items, or help a marriage that's going to go wrong... most of the time it's fairly unremarkable, but occasionally some situations are surreal and unique - a guesthouse owner in the middle of a jungle, with a single guest - a man who can't wake up. Other humans trapped in the storybook, forced to work as clowns forever.
Due to how the game works, it's possible to miss entire kingdoms based on very unnoticeable decisions (I did). I might do a playthrough again to see those areas. Which leads to my next point - as an adventure game Fantastep... sucks lol. Puzzle solutions range from obvious to impossible to guess (one involves you having to return to the same room 5 or 6 times to find a different clue in the same spot). At one point I beat the final boss before saving each kingdom, and it set flags in such a way that some kingdom's quests were automatically completed. It's possible to miss items to complete quests! The game requires you to find 5 flower rings. The game actually has 7 or 8, relying on clues from hidden fairies to decipher which are the ones you want to use. I used the wrong rings and got the bad ending, but at that point I was locked out of the good end, and didn't really care...
Overall a pretty rough game with some great art and music. I really like the strange storybook fantasy atmosphere, even if it's roughly and poorly rendered. Definitely makes me want to check out similar vibe games from the mid/late 90s, like Napple Tale.

Pleasantly surprised at parts with Metroid! Dark Souls bonfire runs have nothing towards the run through Tourian, or making your way through ridiculously precise rooms of Kraid or Ridley's Lair before having to win at equally ridiculous fights.
The silence of Metroid's world works great - the art feels creepier and more organic as you go deeper into the planet, only to at times be replaced by the metallic architecture of Ridley or Kraid. It really conveys the sense of being in an alien planet, one that we'll never see all of, and one that wants Samus dead.
I found the moveset to be really well designed - not being able to shoot down and Samus being two tiles high means you have to really be aware of what's at your feet as well as how that distance affects where you shoot and jump. The screw attack adds an interesting (if chaotic) extra layer of strategy to later levels - although it feels powerful at first, it has an element of the unreliable against the flying beetles, and can feel slightly stiff to pull off in certain situations.
Enemy patterns can be very difficult but I feel like every room had some kind of 'solution', even if it was very hard to pull off. I found some of the timing windows too intense - the very long, narrow corridor in Ridley's lair with endless flying beetle pipes come to mind. Likewise, it can be hard to get your bearings as your health meter quickly depletes, with the game severely lagging when multiple enemies are on screen, and Samus's slightly limited movement conflicting with enemies that are somewhat too quick.
Health is hard to come by: this feels balanced throughout brinstar and Norfair, but takes a turn for the worse in Ridley and Kraid's areas. Part of this was that I never found the Varia suit (50% damage reduction!), but I do think that some of the long runs from the elevator to the bosses were just Too long, especially when you have to grind your health back after dying.
I thought the long beam, bombs, ice beam, missiles were all great additions to the arsenal, having their place within combat. Having the ice beam the whole game led to a really weird dynamic of having to be more precise with shots so as to not unfreeze enemies.
Room designs were generally pretty varied, and I liked that! It really felt like I was just stumbling across loot that the pirates left around - not as much like it was just a big world full of upgrades to find, designed just for me. That worked thematically with the setting. I liked that some rooms had an element of humor - the hidden hole near an energy tank, the secret morph ball passage beneath an otherwise very hard gauntlet, etc.
The copy pasted rooms felt a bit cheap, but it did add to the sense of being in a maze. I had a lot of fun drawing out my own maps for this game.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised! There's a lot to this game that could be improved, but I don't think improvement looks like Super Metroid. Key to this game are the arcade-y, yet nonlinear, stretches of making it to the next elevator or boss, and the way the game demands you to intimately know how to handle enemies and be on your guard. Things can go south really fast relative to other metroid games.

didn't have time to finish but i had a good time. Even on Very Hard the combat still felt too easy though? Maybe I overrelied on the stunning weapons. fun and fast paced though. story was kind of hit or miss, had a fun 3D cartoon movie vibe at the best parts, and felt kinda tired/played out at the worst parts.

played the japanese version. still 5 stars. the way it imagines 3D landscapes for a classic RPG story is really nice. yes the battle systems are broken but that's okay. Really wish we saw more JRPGs of this scale/style

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!
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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.
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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)
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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.
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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!
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POST-GAME ADDENDUM
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.

2005

i once found god in this game
i played it again as an adult and god was gone

Decent action platformer, the screen size feels a little small and sometimes VFX would cramp the screen a lot.

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.