Hot takes on games I played (but did not review) in 2021
January 04, 2022
|From golf RPGs to creepy nuns to chain smoking dogs|
2021 was a big year for me in terms of games. We bought a Switch in July, which opened up a huge number of new games to play. I also sold off a lot of my collection and invested in Everdrives and other long term solutions for some of my older systems since I don't think retrogame prices are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Also, in 2020 my daughter (8) started dabbling in games like Yoshi's Wooly World on my old 2DS, but in 2021 she fell in love with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. She's not much for games with challenge or conflict, so Animal Crossing has really hit a sweet spot for her. Meanwhile, my non-gaming wife suddenly dropped over 200 hours between Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. Apparently a pandemic can make gamers out of everyone.
Here are some quick takes at some games I played in 2021 but did not review. A lot of these I just didn't finish (yet or ever).
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Rating: Ya'll are crazy for liking this
Play time: 3 hours + watching others for like 100+ hours
This game bores me to tears. I don't have the time to drop in every day to keep things up and doing pretty much anything is so slow. And what's the goal, other than shopping and acquiring stuff?
Dragon Quest XI S (Switch)
Rating: I swear I've played this before
Play time: 30 hours
As I said in my Dragon Quest IX review, I think it's a fallacy when people claim DQ likes to stick to roots and tradition to the abandon of all else. DQXI proves me wrong in a lot of ways. It's a gorgeous game and there's a lot I like about it, but I have constant deja vu playing it. It's also too freaking long, and I'm not sure I'll ever finish it.
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 (GBC)
Rating: Best RPG on GBC
Play time: 80 hours
I reviewed the first DWM and liked it a lot, but it plays more like a tech demo. DWM2 is the realization of the ideas in the first game. It's very good at what it does, though splitting it between two versions a la Pokemon ticks me off a bit.
Final Fantasy IV Advanced
Rating: 8 out of 10 chocobos
Play time: 20 hours
The gods do not want me to finish FFIV. I was one of the many people that jumped into RPGs after playing FFVII, and FFIV was one of the first ones I played via emulation in the early days. I got as far as the final boss, but was making heavy use of save states instead of saving properly, and ended up getting myself into a situation where I literally could not figure out how to survive the fight.
This year, I made it pretty far. One day, I turned on my GBA and then turned it off while the Everdrive was loading, not realizing that during that time, saves from the previous session were being written to the SD. Save lost; lesson learned.
I did start a third time, but have not gotten further than the antlion den. Overall, I really like the pacing of this game, though the odd casting time with ATB isn't my favorite. Maybe one day I'll see the ending.
Play time: 10 hours
I've heard a lot about this game. I'm a bit fan of Mario Golf (and it's spiritual successor, Mobile Golf) on GBC. I think it wasn't the RPG elements that I liked though but rather than actual golf mechanics. Golf Story's mechanics are... fine. I guess the draw here is the humor and story, but I can't bring myself to care.
Kirby's Block Ball (GB)
Rating: I hate Breakout
Play time: 4 hours
I hate Breakout, so not sure why I was playing this. I appreciated how Kirby-like this is in theme, music, and mechanics, but I found this really hard to play using a D-pad and a small screen.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Darkness (Switch)
Rating: Sad trumpets
Play time: 8 hours
Here's one I should have really liked. It seemed like it was going to be almost a Metroidvania-Wizardry mash-up. The novelty of breaking down walls and stuff is pretty cool, but the game's other faults turned me off. The combat is uninteresting and I don't care for all the weird systems in play. The art also looks like some mobile game.
The story was the biggest turn off. There's a lot of freaking text and it didn't make me care at all. Early in the game, there is a sexy nun with an eye patch that--not making this up--straight up rapes the protagonist
. It happens off screen and is portrayed as a gag, presumably because it's a woman raping a woman. All the characters wouldn't shut up about the main character's breasts either. Besides being messed up, if I can't play a game with my kids in the room I'm not going to keep it.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Rating: I'm not rating this
Play time: 60 hours (?)
This is the masterpiece everyone says it is. Traveling around is just so fine. I've done about 60 shrines and 2 of the divine beasts. I took a break after finally being a Lyonel--those things are hard as hell.
Legend of Legacy (3DS)
Play time: 15 hours
Here's a dark horse. It's a SaGa-inspired game with a lot of key staff from that series. This, along with its spiritual successor Alliance Alive, is a lot like Octopath Traveler in the amount of love and passion that went into it. I read a few interviews with the director. The guy was just 27 when working on this, but made no bones about the inspiration. This was clearly a passion project for a lot of the people involved.
This game also gets a lot of hate. I'll probably end up reviewing it in 2022. Spoilers--it'll be a really long review!
Octopath Traveler (Switch)
Play time: 70 hours
When I reviewed OT, I had beaten the scenario for my chosen character and seen the credits. I felt like I had "beaten" the game. There's a post-game "true" final boss though that ties the stories of the 8 travelers together. I have 3 chapters left, but burned out over Thanksgiving after a boss took an hour and a half to beat. I know what's coming with the superboss (there's a gauntlet of bosses, so you end up fighting 10 bosses in a row without the ability to save). I'm not sure if I'll have the patience or stamina to see it to the end.
I will double down on my assessment of the soundtrack though. If you haven't heard it, take a listen on YouTube or something.
SaGa Frontier Remaster (Switch)
Rating: Not glimmering
Play time: 12 hours
This was my biggest disappointment of 2021. I had never played the original, but the premise sounds like something I should love. Seven short RPGs that could be played independently but the stories intertwined a bit with shared characters and such. It also had the return of the monster class from SaGa II, which is one of my favorite RPGs.
I was very disappointed. The stories were poorly told, with 8-bit level guidance and dialog. I don't mind sparse, but none of the characters interested me and that was a big part of the game's appeal. The gameplay ticked me off too. I could wrap my head around SaGa 1 and 2, but combos triggering randomly and the usefulness of any given skill over another being non-obvious meant I felt like I was just picking random moves and hoping for the best. The movement speed in the field is way to fast. Due to confusing PSX-era map design where its hard to tell what is and is not a path, I'd often get stuck doing multiple encounters in a row in the same spots when lost.
I made it into a few scenarios but didn't like any of them. I kept playing it but not having fun. One day I realized "this isn't even remotely fun" and rage sold it on Mecari. Was it necessary to sell it? My heart says yes, yes it was.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Jack Frosts
Play time: 12 hours
Working on the original rather than the redux version as I prefer playing on my DSi than my original 2DS (which is super uncomfortable to hold). I came in expecting something more like Wizardry or Etrian Odyssey, but the dungeon crawling seems like less of the focus. This is the first non-Persona SMT game I've tried. It took a bit to understand that fusion, not grinding, is the way you advance. Working my way through the second strat--er, sector now.
The experience was positive enough to convince me to add SMTV to my backlog. I'll probably peck at SJ when I have a dungeon crawling craving because it's a pretty good one.
Sonic Mania (Switch)
Playtime: 8 hours
I had a Genesis and a Game Gear as a kid, and the only games I had for them were Sonic, though I never thought of myself as a Sonic fan. Truth be told, I think I enjoy the idea of Sonic games more than playing them.
That said, Mania plays like Sonic as I remember it, not how it really was. I tried popping in Sonic 3 recently and found it to be really irritating in ways that it wasn't as a kid--obtuse level design, blind jumps, enemies I couldn't anticipate, etc. Sonic Mania has a bit of that, but it doesn't feel as egregious. I think Mania is helped by the wide screen aspect ratio, which lets you see more hazards.
Also, either I'm getting old or this is hard as nails. I have yet to get a chaos emerald or beat the game. I'll need to come back to this one (but with the time limit turned off--these levels are too freaking long)
Stardew Valley (Switch)
Rating: Iridium quality
Playtime: 70 hours
I've only played this game co-op but holy hell. I've dabbled in Harvest Moon before, but this is something else. My wife mostly did animal stuff while I focused on the dungeons and fishing. This seems like a game I could play forever and not get bored. Once I got used to the controls, the Switch port felt natural.
Super Mario 3D World / Bowser's Fury (Switch)
Rating: 3 green stars
Most have my time has been with the original game. Me and the wife have co-oped Bowser's Fury a bit and gotten about 50 cat shines, but the whole raging bowser thing is kind of annoying. The original game, on the other hand, is really good. I've beaten all the levels now and pop in now and then to get more green stars. I have about a dozen levels left, but I'm on track to 100% this game.
Tales of Vesperia (Switch)
Rating: A smoking dog of my soul RPG
Playtime: 15 hours
I started this one the day after Christmas. I wasn't expecting much as I always had this impression of the Tales series as a B-RPG. I found myself staying up way too late this past week playing this thing. I'm awful at the combat, but it doesn't matter much. There is a pipe smoking dog that attacks with a sword in his mouth.
Plans for 2022
More "reviews" that are too long and don't actually review the game.