Games from August
September 01, 2021

What a boring month waiting for some new releases.

Blaster Master Zero 3 (PS4) - Never got any better. Basically felt like a glorified DLC of Zero 2 with a lot of mediocre level design, upgrades that just weren't fun. Gave up trying for the TRUE ending since you have to fight a series of rehashed bosses from 2 except you're stripped of all your upgrades. It became too frustrating.

Axiom Verge 2 (PS4) - Absolutely loved it. Very strong Metroidvania with rewarding exploration. Feels much more like Castlevania rather than the Contra run 'n gun style the original had. A very strong tool set of abilities that were fun to play around with. Great OST and pixel art. Easily the best indie game I've played this year. Difficulty could be a bit better balanced (too hard at first, too easy by the end), and the bosses were pretty underwhelming.

Ashen (PS4) - The idea of a co-op focus Souls-like always turned me off. I read it was possible to play solo, so I gave it a shot when it was on sale. I thought it was a decent Souls-like for the first half. I liked the minimalist art style and atmosphere. The combat mechanics weren't as tight as a From Soft game, but they were serviceable. The second half is too difficult without an ally and unfortunately anyone who wanted to play online did so 4 years ago when it launched on Xbox. Enemy groups are too large and tanky. Much too difficult to stagger foes without 2 characters swinging. Too many areas with 6-7 long range attackers. Plus all the weapons feel pretty samey and I quickly noticed the hitboxes aren't the best. There's an option for the AI to control a co-op partner for you, but the AI is pretty trash. Frequently walks off cliffs, consistently gets stuck in front of ladders and won't follow, often ignores you when you need help (such as during a pin down attack). The character progression system is largely automatic stat boosts from completing quests and spending large amounts of currency upgrading the samey weapons, so that doesn't help either. Late game enemies were also especially bullshit with many instant, tracking attacks with awkward and vague animations that are too difficult to react to. The final boss was also extremely frustrating - it literally killed me with 1 touch my first try with 1-2 hits to go. This is a game that pretty much requires another human to enjoy and I never saw one my entire time playing. It felt like the devs didn't understand what makes Dark Souls challenging. From Soft doesn't fill their maps with unfair bullshit - their games heavily punish mistakes.

Minoria (PS4) - Really solid Metroidvania from the people who made Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. It has excellent sword-based combat with a good parry and dodge mechanic. The moveset just feels good to use. It tries to go for a Souls-like approach to combat and unlike Ashen, these guys seem to "get it." You have more than enough tools to get through many rooms without taking a scratch, but you're punished quite a bit for taking 1-2 hits even. It does get easier as you level up, earn more charges of your healing spell, etc. Biggest problem is it's too short - only about 5 hours with a relatively high $20 price tag.

Panzer Dragoon Remake (PS4) - I'm really glad I only spent $6 on this because I finished it in one sitting. Pretty fun classic rail shooter though.

No More Heroes 3 (Switch) - Certainly an experience. I loved it, but it's pretty jank. By far the best combat in the series combining the classic style with some of the mechanics from Travis Strikes Back. The boss fights and insane cutscenes are still the best part of the game, and it's extremely stylish at times. Unfortunately like its predecessors, it's full of filler between the bosses. The open world is empty and unnecessary - you just drive around looking for side missions to earn money. Occasionally you bump into some collectibles but I didn't bother trying to find them all to get a reward. The mini game's aren't amazing, but they're were surprisingly entertaining for the few times I played them. I ended up doing a lot of side fights since I enjoyed the combat. There's extra incentive with XP to upgrade your stats, and I think that made the side content a lot more tolerable and worthwhile. The gameplay loop isn't the best and you have to REALLY like Suda51's insane style, art and humor to really get the most of it.

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mariner mariner - September 03, 2021 (04:27 PM)
I think I've heard disappointment in a couple places over BMZ3, which is disappointing. After the second showed so much improvement over the first, I had some high hopes for this one. Hopefully they are done with the series now, at least for now. I wonder if they have any other 8-bit style plans to go along with their Gunvolt games?

Glad to hear positive impressions on Axiom Verge 2. It doesn't really fit in with my Metroidvania schedule at the moment, but hopefully can get around to playing it next year...

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