What Joe Has Been Playing #3
June 14, 2018

RECENT PURCHASES
Whew, where do I begin? Wild Arms 5, Suikoden V and Wild Arms XF are now in my grasp, with the first two being physical copies and the last being a PSN acquisition. I also picked up almost the entire Tomb Raider series on Steam for a buck apiece. Since I already had the original, the reboot and Rise of..., I only spent about $8. Sadly, the Lara Croft top-down games weren't on sale. I know some people have been critical of those games, but I'm willing to check them out.

The only game I'm looking at picking up soon is Xenosaga Episode III, but it might be a few weeks before I work up the needed dough. It's a pretty pricey game, as even disc-only copies are listed at close to $80.


NOTEWORTHY CONTINUATIONS
I only have two to mention very briefly, because I've scratched both off my backlog.

1. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is done. I have a rough draft for a reviewing sitting in my Dropbox. My final rating: 4 out of 5. It's good, but not as good as Sly 2. I think the second game will be the series' standard for some time, if not forever. Rumor has it that Sly 5 is either in the works or being discussed, but until there's an official announcement I'm not holding my breath.

2. Grand Theft Auto V is also in the complete bin. I'm not reviewing this one, but it's my favorite installment since Vice City. It blows IV out of the water, combining both the franchise's new standards with old features. I think the only thing I miss is unlockables that appear at your safe house. I know a lot of people say that function broke realism, but so does having a car that repairs itself overnight or an ammo store that instantly sells rocket launchers to anyone. Realism be damned.


RECENT STUFF
#IndieSelectE3 kept me pretty busy this week. I secured copies of Riddled Corpses EX, Halloween Forever and Xenon Valkyrie+.

I finished Halloween in under an hour and totally loved it. It encapsulates retro sensibilities without falling into retro traps, which is always important when crafting games like this. My biggest complaint is that Halloween doesn't have a pause button, or if it does I couldn't find it. It's not terribly necessary, but it would've been appreciated.

Xenon Valkyrie+ is a decent roguelite platformer that falls into the same trap as its ilk. It starts off thrilling and rewarding, but peters out in the latter half of its campaign. Combat becomes too irksome to justify continuing the campaign beyond the third world, where getting to the boss without dying is a trial in itself. I will say this, though: the game has terrific boss encounters. I think I would have enjoyed the experience more if it offered the same content it does with its boss fights, and it if it had a little more looting. Unfortunately, you can only switch out one of two items (a sword or a gun), and you can only receive one item per area. In order to get this item, you need to kill a mid-boss and get a key. Sometimes you receive this key, only to find out the chest is out of reach and you will never possess its contents.

Sometimes, though, you work your ass off and earn that chest.

...then you open it and get a marginally better gun. You sacrificed a lot to gain almost nothing. To hell with that.

Having completed Sly 3, I logically decided to pound my way through Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time on Vita. It's....... eh? I can't explain it. The game features a lot of the content that made the first three games memorable, but this one is just a middling platformer. I finished it a few days ago, so it's not like I'm stating this opinion after an hour of play. Its missions just aren't as fun, its extra stuff is tedious and overwhelming. The worst part of it, though, is its usage of motion controls. Some mini-games require you to hold the Vita in an awkward position and tilt it. Expect a reader review for this one after the Sly 3 review goes live.

Dungeon Escape is basically a poor man's Super Meat Boy. It's an adequate obstacle course-style platformer, and that's about it. It uses the most basic presentation, and big surprise, it's pretty much the most basic challenging game I've played in a while. I stopped playing a little more than halfway through because it's just not interesting enough to justify its extreme frustration factor.

I returned to Breath of Fire II after years of putting it aside. In fact, I bought it for the third time recently. I have the SNES version somewhere in this house, plus I own the Wii Virtual Console version. Today, I wanted to be able to play the game in my living room, where neither my SNES nor the Wii reside, so I picked up the WiiU edition. I recruited both Katt and Rand and took them back to the rundown shack that will eventually become my hub town. After that, I got to meet Nina and found out the Joker Gang or whatever they're called have her sister. Joy.

Gray Dawn and Volume are the only other games I'm bringing up. The former is a first-person adventure title that's heavy on surreal horror and religious themes. It's better than average so far. Its puzzles are simple and pretty straightforward, but its scares are terrific and psychologically unnerving. The latter is a top-down stealth game that functions more like an old school arcade title (think Boulder Dash).

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Feedback
overdrive overdrive - June 15, 2018 (09:42 AM)
I've beaten Breath of Fire 2 twice and like it a lot, dodgy translation be damned (hell, the second time through, I just emulated it and found a translation patch that improves the dialogue for extra enjoyment). It has a lot of things I like. Good graphics for the 16-bit era, a surprisingly dark (by Nintendo of America standards) story that includes a lot of NoA no-nos like death and religion being evil and a pretty legit level of difficulty where large parts of this game are pretty tough. It has its annoyances, but most games do and I wouldn't call any of them game-wrecking. Just little things like, when you build your town, each house is first-person-invited only, so you can get stuck with a worthless freeloader instead of the person who opens a kick-ass shop or that it can be tiresome to find the fairies that give your party members new appearances and attacks. But, overall, I liked it. I remember fondly how when the game started the whole "find mysterious girl and capture her to clear Bow's name" seemed like a starter quest...and then it took up a large part of the game, having you do 2-3-4 major quests to get her.
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - June 16, 2018 (01:59 AM)
I always want to like Breath of Fire II more than I do. When Ryusui did his incredible re-translation nearly a decade ago (!), I thought the game would finally click with me, but it ended up being the same experience of liking it but not loving it. Wild Arms 2 is another game that's like that.
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - June 19, 2018 (09:18 AM)
OD:
Yeah, I am digging it. Despite its bad translation, it's got a pretty gonzo storyline. Weird stuff like collecting bugs for a frog-man cook-off. And yeah, some of the scenes are legit tough. The boss battles against Terrapin and Algernon were killer.

Joseph:
I've been meaning to revisit Wild Arms 2 to see if I still like it as much as I did when it came out. I'll probably revisit the WA series as a whole, really (sans the first one, which I've played enough times for now).

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