I knew it... I had the suspicion watching a review... and within ten minutes of playing... I realized... this is a god-forsaken canned gacha game that got turned into a standalone console release! Streamlined and free of microtransaction elements, but it has a repetitive gameplay loop with lots of flashy elements, but ultimately no game design ideas. The levels consist of 2-3 "floors", the first two being easy, and the last having enemies with ridiculous amounts of HP that can't be killed without the proper gear, in the same way every gacha game does things. Even if you "skill" your way out of not having the strong enough gear, there's a 5 minute timer. You just need to keep grinding levels until your gear gets strong enough. Everything drops like 10,000,000 materials and items. You have a super-smash-bros-esque moveset that hardly matters.
The game's floors have "encounters" which spawn 20-30 enemies in a cramped space in which it's impossible to dodge. The game theoretically has a combo meter, but it's guaranteed to be broken unless you can maintain a high enough DPS to kill monsters before they get an attack off. Dodging is impossible because every enemy explodes in gigantic, casino gem-shaped particle effects.
This is like casinos for zoomers, pachinko for the tik tok generation, a dense force of self-annihilation, the negation of everything good on our shared planet earth... wow... I'm going to go play a classic stage-based 2D action game instead.
Part of me was secretly hoping this game would be kind of simplistic like early Maple Story, but I was wrong! oops! The UI transitions in this game are also weirdly fast. I like a snappy transition but like picking a place name from a menu and then within 1/60th of a second appearing there is a little too fast somehow. It kind of makes the game feel flappy and paper-like, hollow, empty.
This game fucking sucks. I could have spent the $10 on bread...
I had been curious about this for a while and finally took the plunge. The premise is fun, but I feel like the game, about 7-8 hours in, isn't really sticking the landing. The few characters are likeable enough, but story beats are padded out by long dungeons filled with backtracking, repetitive and easy fights and a lot of waiting around for the auto-walk to get to a destination.
I've always found something interesting about the grid-based dungeon crawler genre and its narrative tendencies to plunge characters into some weird spiritually complicated worlds, and it seems like that's the case in Undernauts.
While I'm still interested to see where Undernauts goes (I just got to the Cemetery area), I'm not very into the loot/upgrade loop. I can't really tell how useful my stat upgrades are - I'm still steamrolling every encounter, but occasionally enemies one-shot my characters with a magic spell and I have to warp back to revive them. The party size of 6 feels too big, I don't like having to go through menus fairly often to re-optimize.
Now, here's the thing - I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that later on in the game, encounters get more complicated and interesting. But there are literally JRPGs out there that give you interesting battles within 10 minutes - it feels silly to sit through what would probably be 10+ hours before getting to more interesting fights!
Also, the game has narrative plot beats that are paced so slowly! It took me 7 whole hours to get the first 3 Thingies and get to the first non-boring-cave dungeon. I like the weird idea of Sinners and appreciate some of the historical connections to Japan (although I feel like the writing is a little perfunctory/going through the motions?)
I think the design vocabulary of the grid dungeon crawler is really neat and has a lot of cool potential. And Undernauts has a lot of ideas, but they also feel like weird conflicting compromises at times... the texture of the dungeon crawling feels kind of flat. I think the constant treasure/loot loop emphasizes that - to me, it feels like enough flexibility to let you allocate skills, but adding a layer of all these items and upgrading the items...? Feels excessive and slows down the pacing. I think there's a lot of room for a designer of this genre to cut down on, what I assume, are decades-old conventions that are around because they've always been around.
That is to say, well, I do wish I could finish Undernauts but I don't have the time to slog through everything it's asking of me, sadly!
Gave up at the final boss, but I really liked the arcade-esque difficulty of this game before dodge rolls came along and poisoned every single action game ever.
Most bosses feel unique and require you to pay attention to the moves, usually there's something really subtle about how you need to move to avoid the attacks. Things like bullet movement or boss limb movement actually matter since you need to not touch them! (Vs. just roll through it)
I like that harder difficulties add in new moves, too. The dungeons are simple and some have a few platforming ideas to them, they generally had a good pacing even if the structural ideas weren't that profound. I guess if I have a complaint it's that due to the leveling system (which mainly serves as a kind of dynamic difficulty for bosses - if you're too weak, grind a bit to have an easier time). The regular enemy designs are all neat too, but I feel they rarely get to shine because you're either too low-level to engage them safely (there are like, no checkpoints in this game so you almost never want to take risks in the long dungeons). OR, you easily outlevel and just spam your way through fights.
In that sense, this feels like an arcade game that's kind of ruined by RPG mechanics - even if you try to engage the enemies in a fun way, you naturally level up and everything dies too easily. I think every Ys game has this same problem. Sure, you can feel more powerful as you level up, but I think they could have limited that to just the bosses (some kind of thing you can grind for to power up slightly if you really want a slight edge against the bosses).
All the bosses were cool, but bosses have a few issues - like ones who don't have openings until you get a certain sequence of random moves (final boss!) - these are kind of tedious to fight because there's a lot of waiting.
This game has a ton of additive-blend particle effects, which makes reading the arena particularly confusing, especially when the attacks use huge particle effects - the hitboxes are vague and imprecise and you have to just intuit where you're moving (the fire serpent felt particularly bad here.) I also don't like the 'really fast rat human' type bosses like Chester 2 where you either boringly skirt around ridiculously fast attacks until you get a tiny opening, OR you just grind to get more DEF/HP and spam attacks when you know you won't take as much damage.
There's an unpleasant imprecision to flashy boss attacks - part of why this game is so fun is that enemy attacks and the top-down 3D perspective feel really readable - and those flashy attacks feel like they go against what makes other parts of the game good.
Anyways, I like this Ys the most out of the top-down 3D ones (Oath, Ark, Origin). I wish there were more made like this! (Rather than going down the dark, RPG-heavy dodge roll path, like Celceta, 7 8 and 9 did... not really interested in playing those (I played a bit of 8))
Explore RPG-like maps, play minigames and solve NPC quests to fill your stamp card and explore a theme park. It's a cute aesthetic but clearly very kid focused, even though some of the minigames are really hard!
Overall... well of the little I played, there wasn't too much coherence to minigames and some of them required weirdly high scores to win. I read that if you lose enough, you get the piece for beating it, which is an interesting compromise. When you get a piece, you also unlock 4-panel mangas! That was cute...even though the manga wasn't that funny...
Interesting concept for a game (minigame-focused battle-less JRPG), but I'd have to come back to it in a mindset more receptive to the kid-targeted story.
A quiet and disarming point-and-click-style adventure game. I like how it combines different kinds of playstyles - reading books of poetry, looking for birds, solving a cat mystery, painting pictures, playing computer games and learning 'facts' on the internet. There's a nice sense of humor underlying everything and it's a calming adventure to play. I got to the main ending but haven't done the stuff after (my score was at around 60%).
I feel a lot of Bitsy engine energy in this game too - the layout of the flea's areas and the dialogue triggers, the splitting of the game into small square screens.
Being able to switch between Tux and Fanny on the fly is really nice as a solution to the backtracking these types of games tend to have. I felt the walking speed could have been a tad bit faster, you hold down walk a lot and my thumb got tired after a while.
I think the best moments are finding a surprise set of rooms you didn't think to find, the art style changing, then reading some short, poignant text somewhere, little bits of a weird history behind the backyard and forest the two protagonists inhabit.
It's a calm game about appreciating little moments. Liked it a lot! (And there's a whole web series to watch as well)
I actually liked this less than the previous iteration (goats) - felt like this one was a bit slower, too many characters in the city? Idk. I get the want to be 'meditative' but a lot of the stuff in this was fairly slow, perfunctory - frustrating to try and establish a routine. I think fewer characters would have made the sense of stakes between the rural and city more coherent/interesting
I really like the density and variety of enemy placements when playing this game ability-less and with minimal floating, and on 3-health mode. There's something fun about the pacing of boss fights where it's not about constantly trying to get sword slashes or megaman pews in, but knowing when a boss attack will spawn a suckable star, and how to safely reach it, and THEN how to successfully hit the enemy with it.
Kinda want to go pick up the GBA remaster now..
I think there's a good, strong contrast between playing this with restrictions, versus playing with restrictions in the more kinda-bland-stages-and boss-difficulty-focus that kirby games fossilized into from Dream Land 2/3 onwards (that Forgotten Land slightly does try to move away from, although not successfully).
While I've yet to finish it, I think my perception of the game has more or less solidified almost to the end of world 6. I'm enjoying the game (I play co-op as Waddle Dee) and will probably play into the post-game.
The Kirby fundamentals translated well into 3D. Still present is the strange texture of its somewhat muddy difficulty. Even when the level design shines it's often possible to kind of fudge your way through it because of the generous health pickups and health bars.
I get the sense that if I self-imposed limitations (no healing, no abilities and floating except when necessary) the levels would probably be a lot more interesting to play? Floating lets you pay less attention the level geometry, generous health lets you pay less attention to hazards, generous attacks lets you pay less attention to enemy placements. It's actually a really well-balanced difficult level for people who haven't played many action games, which I respect - the boss designs feel juuust dynamic enough to surprise those players but also remain predictable enough to be manageable. The game even gives some tools to make life a little easier (stackable attack, speed and health buffs, upgradeable abilites). I haven't played many recent kirbies but this felt like a good way for the main quest in Forgotten Land to include trickier bosses while giving enough tools for any level of player to overcome things.
It would have been nice if the game included a way to enforce that the limitations I had in mind, but I guess as is it's still fun, and I could always enforce them myself.
The gacha collection system is kind of whatever - it's repetitive and you only get to decorate your home with three. It felt like it was there to pad out the levels with little dopamine boosts.
The Waddle Dee Village is fun to grow so far, but I feel like it could have been pushed to more interesting places than the few minigames and shops it gives out.
I like the missable side missions, but having the side missions be completeable the first time through always gave me a bit of an 'ugh' feeling when I would just miss one Waddle Dee and know I have to replay the whole stage to get it again. I forget, but I think progress is only saved when completing the level...? That seemed like a weird choice. The side missions do strike a nice balance between perfunctory (find 5 tulips) and interesting (kill a boss while transformed in a weird state).
The little challenge levels (that give upgrade materials) were a cute addition, but they feel repetitive after a while even though I like their design direction. Likewise, within main levels themselves, there are challenge rooms. These are cute but I feel kind of break up the pacing in a strange way, I get the sense they exist because the main level philosophy seems to be built around not enforcing mandatory abilities. However, it would be a waste if the designers didn't build some levels to take advantage of the unique moves each ability has, hence the challenge rooms and challenge levels.
Overall it comes off as kind of a weird, diluted kind of design with odd pacing. Some of the challenges are more perfunctory, but I feel like Kirby could work really well in a 2D-esque Zelda-dungeon setting? Of course, that would be abandoning Kirby's 'use any ability at any time' philosophy (which kind of points to the ways that those kinds of design philosophies can be awkwardly restrictive.) All that these isolated challenge roads really need to feel less awkward would be to slot them into a bigger level with a better arc of drama and pacing. Still, it's admirable to have the challenges anyways, I think it shows the designers' love of the ability sets.
Oh, the art direction - I thought it went between inspired/interesting, to like... out of place? (The regular looking cities.) A bit all over the place.
I have thoughts on the story/setting so far but I haven't finished so I'll wait. It feels pretty usual for Kirby as far as I can tell, but sometimes the dissonance of gunning down little puppies in an amusement park feels really odd! I don't think Kirby games need a deep story, but I do think if you're going to make a postapocalyptic wasteland setting then it should be justified somehow.. we'll see how it pans out.
Overall, a pretty solid base of a game, but I think it plays its hand too conservatively and safely a lot of the time to be a great game.
A top-down, 3D action-adventure game with mechanical influence from Dark Souls, 2D Zelda Games, and puzzly-adventures like Fez. I got the Green and Red keys.
The dungeon design feels souls-influenced but the combat (outside of bosses), while having souls-y mechanics, has the kind of fluffiness of 2D zelda combat. I don't mind it, but it did feel a little repetitive after a few dungeons (killing enemies tended to have an ideal strategy, and there weren't many puzzles or other types of challenges to spice up the dungeons like in Zelda games). Finding secrets around the world is fun even after they started to feel a little repetitive (I found myself hugging walls a lot or throwing bombs).
Being able to reference an illustrated manual was really neat, although I found flipping its pages to be a little nauseating. I did find navigation/orienting myself to be a bit tricky, since the top-down view makes it hard to remember where landmarks are (one of the disadvantages when comparing top-down vs traditional 3rd person 3D)
Great music and sound design!
Played in Japanese on PS4. Got partway through the Quatre chapter (in the science town).
The game uses the classic "cast of 8" JRPG ensemble, characters introduced each chapter. I think this game is too long (I'm 2-3x as slow playing in Japanese due to the amount and difficulty of reading here), though part of that is exhaustion with playing in a second language. It's an 60-80 hour RPG with regular timing.
As a Trails fan (who frustratedly put up with the entire ho-hum Cold Steel series), Kuro makes some nice and positive moves for the series. The lead, Van, seems to actually have a canon romance, there isn't any creepy harem dating shit, and other characters seem to have romances of their own as well as interesting ties to organizations or their home cities.
I love the battle system changes - most of the time you can just hack away in dungeons, and more fast-paced Trails-y turn-based combat feels really good! I got the sense that it's easier overall than past games, but I play on Normal difficulty so who knows. That being said, there isn't any real tension in the dungeons. It mostly feels like padding before the next plot beat.
I still feel like the Massive Countries within the Kuro arc has similar problems to Cold Steel - you get a pretty disjointed sense of the entire world, and things start to feel cyclic/repetitive after a while.
Well, I'm not sure if I'll finish Kuro 1, but I'll probably still try out Kuro 2 (or at least watch the series to the end...what's gonna happen??)
I played most of this on Switch and then watched the final dungeon.
Unsurprisingly I was exhausted on the Erebonia setting at this point, the game still has a mostly airship/on-rails and disappointing portrayal of the country. It was a nice decision to start the game with rescuing Rean, but again the characters/writing really didn't make that very interesting.
I can't remember what happened for most of the game, but when they all go to Mishelam at the end before the final missions, that was actually a nice sendoff to the series and characters.
I played about 15 hours of this then skimmed the rest on YouTube. I think it was a good decision to limit the cast size, but the instructor/teacher moe stuff is really boring and I didn't think any of the characters had interesting development. Rean is an awful character.
The Sky callbacks are nice, but really, fictional characters should just... not reappear... it's awkward because their writing is worse, and even more caricatured feeling than it was in the original Sky. I know the whole "big same universe" crossovers are a cool part of trails, but...
Visiting Hamel was kind of interesting. Idk. I feel like there were a lot of possible points the writing could have been cool (Juna being from Crossbell, characters reflecting on Hamel), but the truth is that almost nothing seems to matter any more. Every single villain just gets redeemed, entire war crimes get excused, the game is more or less mostly a pile of stakeless JRPG fluff with some nice moments here and there.
A fun RPG with an okay cast, although you can really feel the series shifting more towards a more recent type of anime RPG moe. None of the characters really left an impression on me, although I recall some nice moments with Lloyd and Elie. Honestly, I think Zero marks the point in which Trails games stopped really being that interesting (although I did enjoy Kuro) and I should have played something else.
Battle system is 'better' than Sky, but I still didn't care for it. It was kind of cool learning about Crossbell, but I thought the way you travel throughout the world felt kind of like an awkward in-between of Sky and the terrible pacing of Cold Steel.