Tuesday 31 December 2019

Androgyne's 2019 game purchases in review

Heller there! Is this the first guest post on Tets’ blog? I think it is!

I’m in the same boat as Mr Tets, having moved to Japan from Australia a few years ago. I’m an avid gamer, but back in Australia, it wasn’t so easy to find affordable retro games, and my interest waned. But in Japan, it’s a different story, great games can be had for pennies all over the place.

Over the years I've played a lot … and sold a lot of them too, for one reason or another. I can’t play some of my old PAL games here now (or it’s a hassle to), so I end up buying a lot of what I've already played, along with games I haven’t played at all. Scattered amongst those I still get some modern games too.

This year, I may have went overboard, and felt the urge to put a quick comment on everything I picked up. I did play almost all of them afterall! So here it is, a quick comment on every game I bought in 2019, in order of purchase. Enjoy :)

Winning Eleven 4 - PS1
I was first introduced to Konami’s soccer games through International Superstar Soccer on the N64, which was a fantastic multiplayer game. Sports games really improved substantially in the jump to 32/64bit machines. For a while, Konami had 2 separate series running concurrently until Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution Soccer became the stand out. There’s so many versions of it released over the years (for a period they were releasing 2 per year!), and they were so popular - and of course, because they’re outdated sports games - that they’re incredibly cheap now. I’ve toyed with the idea of just picking them all up to see the gradual progression. What’s funny is by even just this 4th version, there’s a very solid game of soccer to be had here, in some ways showing up how little it’s really changed in the 25 years since!

Einhander - PS1
This is a very unique horizontal shoot-em up, with really cool mechanical designs and great graphics for PS1. I think it’s the only traditional shoot-em up ever released by Squaresoft? It was certainly a great first attempt. What makes it most unique is the weapon system, whereby you pick up and visually mount different weapons to your ship. Their orientation can be changed to suit the situation and unlike most games of this type, they have limited ammo. It can get tough like most shooters though!

IQ Final - PS1

I played this back when it came out, must have been on a demo disc i think. It’s a puzzle game like no other really, you play as a human on a playfield with blocks continually tipping towards you. Most of them have to be removed to clear a path by highlighting the floor in advance of them reaching it. It makes no sense until you play it, but it quickly becomes a mind bending, difficult game that is quite tense compared to most puzzle games. Quick restarts are a good thing here though!

Street Fighter 2 Turbo - SFC
The last of the SFC Street Fighter games I needed to complete my collection. I used to have it back when it was first out. Together with Super Mario Kart probably my most played game on the Super Nintendo. Although there’s aspects of Super SF2 that I like more, this one is still my favourite because of the meaty sound effects and 10 star turbo speed. It’s ludicrously fast to the point of absurdity but somehow it’s just super fun anyway. Your reaction time needs to be much faster, everyone is more error-prone, it just makes it more interesting to play. Plus you can fit way more fights into a short period of time!

Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai: Taisen Puzzle-dama - SFC
A Puyo Puyo-esque game by Konami. Only played this for a little bit and honestly not enough to tell you the difference! I’m sure it’s great fun in multiplayer, need to convince my wife to give it a crack.

Super Castlevania IV - SFC
Another repurchase of a childhood game close to my heart. It was one of the first games I got for Super Nintendo back then, purchased in the days of decisions made by looking at the cover art and back of the box screenshots. The western box art is just incredible, with Medusa, Skeletons and Hydra. And I thank them for introducing me to this series that i’d remain a longtime fan of! Unfortunately, the Japanese box, while cool in it’s own way, is a little weird with how Simon was drawn. This is still one of the most atmospheric and moody soundtracks of all time. The gameplay is great too. People will tell Simon is overpowered, but that’s half the fun. And they’ll say it’s easy too, but it wasn’t easy at all as a kid. Running the boss gauntlet at the end was something that took me forever back then!

World Heroes - SFC
I like getting these Neo Geo ports to see how they fared on lesser hardware, and fighting games of the SF2 heyday just to see how much they were copying Capcom! This one has a full-on Bison ripoff, and also its own version of the bonus rounds - bashing a statue out of a piece of rock! It doesn’t play all that badly, though the jumps feel too floaty. It had one cool innovation, stages with hazards.

Biohazard RE:2 - PS4
So prior to getting this, I finally played through RE4 on the Gamecube and the PS1 version of RE2. Though I had a friend who was a big fan from the first RE on PS1, for me it just never took hold. I put it down to the tank controls, but since the series became so prominent i’ve always given it more chances and finally it clicked thanks to 2 and 4. So I was excited to see how this remake turned out and for the most part, it exceeded my expectations. Perhaps because of the flood of open-world games these days, it felt incredibly refreshing to play a shorter, tighter experience like this. The level design and puzzles are clever without leaving you stumped too often, the balance of difficulty is great (the game very subtly adjusts the availability of ammo based on your performance, so you never get too powerful and always have a bit of fear that you’ll run out soon!). They greatly expanded most of the game, and so the only disappointment I had was towards the end of the game, which felt simpler than the same section in the original. And though I enjoyed the shortness of the game, it was so good, I could have had more length :D It looks incredible as well!

Biohazard 6 - PS3
A cheap pickup once i started to sink my teeth into the series. I only played for a bit before RE:2 came out and it wasn’t much to my tastes. Felt like they leaned too heavy on the action side of things and it was too dark for it’s own good a lot of the time.

Biohazard - GCN
Despite what I said above, I still can’t really get into the original game. To be honest I'm not really sure why so I’ll probably keep trying over the years! It seems a bit tougher right from the beginning, and from the old days, I recall the puzzles being a bit too obscure. It’s hard for me to play through in Japanese cause I’m missing most of the hints for item usage. As one of the first remakes (if not the first? I can’t recall anything before right now) it’s still very impressive on Gamecube. Moreso I think because it was relatively soon after the original game came out as well.

Biohazard 4 - GCN
As I mentioned above, I had just played through RE4 and decided to get the JP version afterwards just because it was cheap. As one of the most highly regarded games in the series and on the Gamecube as a whole, I had got this back when it came out but just never got very far. As it turns out, the beginning is probably the most stressful part of the game, where you’re low on ammo and the volume of enemies seems at its highest! I’d only ever made it through to the lake or the ogre part previously, but this time I persevered through to the end and I’m glad I did. It really is a remarkably well designed game. The levels aren’t the most complex things ever but they’re all very thoughtfully designed to give unique experiences for every encounter. I remember now, on my first play through way back, I hit the point where you become an escort, and thought “cbf!”. But actually, the escort part in this game is pretty well done and never really frustrating. The setting just gets more and more interesting as you get through as well. Finally “getting” this game feels great and it’s become a good motivator for me to keep at games that don’t immediately click.

Biohazard - PS1
Like this one :D One day...

Ketsui Deathtiny - PS4
The 3rd of the M2 ShotTriggers titles I’ve picked up (after Battle Garegga and Dangun Feveron). Although I’m a fan of shooting games, I’m not very good at them so it’s often the case that I’m thinking whether I should be spending money on them, after all if you don’t get to experience the whole game, is it worth it? Even then, most games of this type are only an hour or so’s play-though even in full! This one in particular, I held off on for a bit because I’d heard it was astonishingly difficult. But I eventually got it and I'm glad I did, as it quickly became my favourite of the releases so far. That is in large part due to the “Arcade Challenge” mode which breaks down the levels into segments, that you can play through on a wide range of difficulties over and over … and over again, before trying for the entire level. Without or with bombs too. It’s an exceptional way to learn the game, and honestly what seemed like an insurmountable challenge at first eventually turns manageable, and boy does it feel great to feel like you’re getting better at games like this (for once!) Like the other releases, it also has extensive options for adjusting several aspects of difficulty, that you can gradually increase as you get better. A full playthrough might be only an hour but i’ve spent heaps of time practicing and having a great time doing it. That’s really the charm of shooters isn’t it, repeat playthroughs. There’s a reason games used to be rated with measures like “replayability”, which is lost today. It also helps that the style of the game’s 2D art is awesome, the soundtrack is awesome, and the feel of blasting - especially the lock-on weapon - is awesome!

The Last Gladiator - SAT

I’m a bit of a sucker for pinball games and had been hunting this one for a while. It has 4 very cool tables and plays pretty good! Unfortunately it also seems to crash my Saturn from time to time.

Tomb Raider - SAT

Did you know Tomb Raider came out first on Saturn? Soon after, Sony tied up some exclusivity for a while and it became one of the biggest games for PlayStation. Like Resident Evil, I’ve always felt the controls in this are a hindrance. Or rather, they just don’t feel that enjoyable to play with. I understand the whole game is designed around them in a manner that makes it like a 3D version of Prince of Persia… but still, I get fed up when i’m constantly over-committing myself and watching animations play out! I’ve only played through the first area really so it’s another on that’s on my list to return to until it clicks!

Vampire Savior - SAT

Vampire/Darkstalkers on Saturn is well known as being some great ports of the arcade games. This one uses the 4MB expansion cart and looks an absolute treat. Even now, playing a game that really took advantage of that cart is an awe-inspiring experience, as there’s just so much animation!. As a game, I prefer Street Fighter for its more basic martial arts premise - Darkstalkers by comparison has really cool character designs but a lot of their moves are packed with so much visual flair, judging things like their hitboxes becomes more difficult. This Saturn port plays great but is also kind of bare-bones with just arcade and versus, no training mode!

Kirby’s Dream Course - SFC
Man I miss playing real miniature golf! There was this great place we used to go to when I was a kid, but I digress. This game is pretty fun and more challenging than your average golf game!

Devil May Cry 5 - PS4
I first got into DMC with 4, then got the HD collection, playing through 1 and 3. Even 2, just in a moment of “how bad can it be” - hint: bad. But I loved the others and I was really excited for this. Maybe a little too excited because although it was great, I was a bit let-down. The combat is exceptional, the best in the series. But although the V character was an interesting diversion, i would have rathered more Dante or Nero levels, because I find them the most enjoyable to play as. And after DMC4 had many complaints about the second half of the game being a back-track through the levels, I had hoped we’d have a grand variety of stages to go through here. Instead, visually it kind of gets samey in parts towards the end, and makes you play through very similar areas with all the characters. The stages themselves are really just arenas now, and I kind of prefer the more puzzly environments of the first and 3rd games, just to keep things interesting. Still, a very well playing and fantastic looking game!

Metal Gear Solid Integral - PS1
Haven’t played through this yet, I bought it after playing through Twin Snakes on Gamecube, and discovering this version is in English. MGS is a series that didn’t click for me until I played Peace Walker on PSP of all things! But I’ve since revisited all of the main series, with the first being the last for me to play to completion. Although the Gamecube version is graphically improved and changed some controls etc from the original, it’s still easy to see that this really was a landmark title for PS1 just in terms of the level design and mechanics. Just thinking back and there really was nothing like it at the time of release. I’ve got to get on this and play through some of those VR missions, as it’s really the sneaking gameplay i’m most fond of, not so much the almost incoherent plot and conversations!

Zelda The Wind Waker - GCN

A cheap purchase so I could get some hacks running on my Cube :D Of course I played this one back when it came out, and have the HD version on Wii U. Another great Zelda game, but not my favourite, mostly because of how unfinished it felt in places. I still can’t get over Jabun just handing the 3rd pearl to you with no dungeon!

Gradius Deluxe Pack - SAT
As one of the early defining shoot-em ups, the Gradius series is one of my favourites to return to. This pack has 1 and 2, which I’d never played through before. With this, I have all of them except 4, and it’s interesting to see the progression. You can clearly see how this genre started catering to the hardcore fans by making it more and more challenging. The first game is somewhat more manageable and it’s great fun, with incredible music as is usual for Konami games of this era. The second one destroys me!

Super R-Type - SFC
Picked up as more of a curiosity really, after i enjoyed R-Type Delta last year. I’d heard this was riddled with slowdown and sure enough it is! And yes, a brutal difficulty. It’s hard to find the patience for this one now, I’m hoping I can give the early entry more of a chance next year, when the PC Engine Mini comes out and I can use some save states!

Fire Emblem Mystery of the Emblem - SFC
Well, I haven’t really played this one because it’s all in Japanese. Plus i’m not very good at these kind of strategy games to begin with. Picked it up as a cheap cart only, being that i find it very difficult not to pick up Nintendo first party games for SFC regardless :D Funny with this one, as a kid I saw it in a magazine that was touting it’s huge cart size at the time. It had a screenshot with the title “FIREEMBLEM” and it wasn’t until much later that I realised the title was actually 2 words!

Auto Modellista - GCN
I remember the reviews for this being pretty average, but in retrospect I don’t think it’s that bad. Probably at the time it was compared with the vastly more content rich Gran Turismo 3, and the unrealistic visuals. But as you’d expect, the cel shading actually holds up very well nowadays! It could do with some more tracks, but it has some nice ones, like Suzuka, and most of the cars i’d want to race with at least. Despite the appearance it has some pretty realistic physics and plays well. As a first effort in racing from Capcom it’s surprisingly polished I think.

The Last of Us - PS3
Very late to the party on this one. Opted for the PS3 version since i’m a cheapskate! I’ve enjoyed Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games even though (or maybe because) they’re pretty simple, easy games to play through without much complexity. I got sidetracked from playing this more but was enjoying my time, it seems similar but with a bit more stress to the combat than Uncharted, so I’ll return to it soon!

Vanquish - PS3
One of those games i’d heard flew under the radar when it came out, so I wanted to try it out. I’ve only played through a couple of stages but it presents some interesting mechanics with the movement options you have (sliding into cover etc). It has a very cool visual style and the combat is quite intense!

Sim City - SFC
Another first party SFC game i couldn’t resist. 200y and in a box, who could say no!? I stumbled through a bit of the menus for a while, it seems like a quirky version of the game!

Star Wars Rogue Squadron - N64
Didn’t think I’d be able to get this for a decent price but luckily one showed up! Back when it came out, I had it on PC, which was much preferable for the higher resolution. But looking at this version now, it’s still mighty impressive for N64, especially with the expansion pak. I love the Star Wars universe and so I get most of my kick just from being in the scenarios and ships. The gameplay is fun but sometimes leaves me wishing it felt more like Starfox 64 control-wise. In particular, it can be hard to track and hit down sweeping tie fighters far in the distance. Some of the level objectives aren’t immediately obvious either! I must be too used to modern games signposting everything :D

F1 World Grand Prix 2 - DC
With some of the F1 tracks in GT Sport being my favourites, I really wanted a game with all of them! I’m fond of F1 in general because the cars have such incredible braking power. I think it might just be me, but in realistic racing games, I always feel like the car is not as fast as it is in real life. And that the turning ability is not as good as it is in real life! But in F1 games, all of this feels more natural to me. This version of the game is a lot better than the one on N64, as you’d expect! Nicer graphics and smoother controls.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2 - GCN
Suckered myself into getting the Japanese version of this, to save myself the hassle of booting up my PAL version. One day I’ll finish this game … but like the first one, I think it could have done with more Star Fox like controls and more obvious objectives. I swear some of your wingmen say random things that make you think you should be doing the opposite of what you think you should be doing! I also think the game is far too hard to get all the gold medals on. The Ison corridor, covered in fog is a great example - to get the gold you basically can’t use your targeting computer which is virtually essential to have any idea where anything is! And that’s only level 3, it feels like it should be much later in the game, at least until you get used to where the enemy fighters are coming from. Although I think these Rogue games are all pretty well made, I feel they’re a bit overrated. I bet a lot of people used cheats and base their opinion on that instead of playing through properly. Or maybe I’m just bad at them!

St. Andrew’s Old Course Golf - N64
Ehhhh this was really, really bad lol. I don’t know how but in my short time with it, I couldn’t even really figure out how to hit the ball normally. Yeah.

Mario Party 6 - GCN
100Y purchase i was goaded into by my daughter. Still yet to play it!

Zelda Four Swords Adventures - GCN
From the same bargain bin as above! I used to have this but thought i’d pick it up again and see if one day I can play through it multiplayer as intended. It’s fairly fun even in single player but I remember thinking at the time that I just wanted it to be more like a proper Link to the Past game instead of just having it’s visual style.

Mario Tennis GC - GCN
This completes the trio of 100y purchases that day! My daughter likes this one. I’ve never been a fan of the Mario Tennis games because of those super moves. Feels like what’s the point if you just have a button that gets you out of jail for free every time. And the gimmick courts just frustrate me. I’m probably missing something (if I played properly in multiplayer i’d imagine) but i’d rather play Virtua Tennis!

Klonoa Door to Phantomile - PS1
Always heard good things about this so I was excited to find it for cheap, and it’s a great, charming platformer! Not very difficult and not overly long, but very well made.

Blast Dozer - N64
A game I have very fond memories of playing as a kid. As one of the first-shown N64 titles - I remember seeing it on a VHS promo tape - and one of the first released - in the beginning of many droughts - it probably got more attention than a game like this would nowadays. My friend at the time picked it up and we played it for hours to get those platinums! To this day it’s a very unique game of destruction, and has an addictive time/score attack aspect that keeps me playing.

Ikaruga - PS4
A classic shoot-em up in HD for 500y? Yes please! I haven’t sat down with this version since I got it lol. But I played it loads on Xbox 360. I really like the visual and sound design, and the gameplay gets you hooked really quickly. With the simple colour switching mechanic, it’s able to offer up some very interesting level designs that give it a very different feel to most shooters.

J-League Perfect Striker 2 - N64
This was International Superstar Soccer 2000 outside of Japan. Not a lot has changed from ISS64 but it’s still good!

Power Pros 2000 - N64
Ever at the shops buying 100y games and feel sorry for the store? I mean, how much money can they be making from these things? So when i got Perfect Striker 2 above I also picked up this for another 100y, to ease their suffering. Actually this game and this series is a pretty fun take on baseball! You have a decent amount of control over where and how you hit and pitch.

Biohazard 3 - PS1
Same deal as above. This store was getting a pretty good pay day from me! Now that they’ve announced the remake of 3, I’ll have to get to playing through this one.

Simple 1500 The Block Kizushi - PS1
This is a clone of Arkanoid. Which is a clone of Breakout. I think that’s the order anyway! I got it because a while ago I found a rotary controller for PS1 but then, turns out this particular version doesn’t work with the controller, bummer. It’s a decent version of the game otherwise, but gets pretty difficult pretty quickly!

Starfox Assault - GCN
I remember being so excited for this when it was first announced. Was it around the time F-Zero GX was announced as well? I think so, because they were both supposed to end up as arcade games on the “Triforce” hardware. I don't think Starfox ever came out in arcades though, and it was delayed for ages. But it always seemed like a great idea. F-Zero by the company who made Daytona, and Starfox by the company who made Ace Combat and Cybersled! But by the time it came out I must have been out of the loop because I never bought it until now. Starfox 64 is one of my favourite games and while this feels like a continuation, it doesn’t feel as good to play. The air combat levels don’t have the same tightness, the tank levels are slow and plodding, and the 3rd person on foot? Ehh why do they keep trying to do this lol. It has some awesome moments where you hop in and out of all 3, in and around battle stations and stuff. But the best gameplay has always been the simple shooting in the arwing, and there’s just not enough of that here.

Famicom Mini Super Mario Bros. - GBA
Pretty sure there’s no need for me to go into detail on this game! I picked it up for a couple bucks because it has a nice box!

Luigi’s Mansion - GCN
Got a JP copy of this for convenience, i first played through it at the Gamecube launch. I much prefer this over the 3DS sequel - more interesting enemies, and level progression that isn’t annoyingly chopped up. A very charming game that holds up well, moreso now than at launch when it was unfairly treated for not being “the new mario”!

Pro Yakyuu Spirits 2019 - PS4
Somewhere someone said this series was awesome, and in a period of Vita-induced lust, I purchased the 2012 version way back and was waiting for this eagerly! They skipped from 2015-2019 which is almost unheard of for a sports franchise, but it paid off with a great version! Now, I pretty much have no interest in baseball whatsoever. As a kid, I used to enjoy playing softball just because hell, i liked hitting things really far. But that’s about the extent of my enjoyment. But this game, while baseball on the surface, is more like a game of timing and precision than anything else. Unlike most baseball games, you can see exactly where the pitch is going and how it’s moving. And you can place your bat exactly where you want it to be, and swing at the exact moment you want it to swing. Now that sounds like “duh, how else would it be?” But if you’re saying that then you haven’t played many other baseball games! Most of them it’s down to potluck where you hit the ball. In this one you will know before you even make contact where it’s going to go. It’s a simple thing but they’ve refined it so well that it becomes incredibly rewarding. What really puts this game over the edge though, is the degree to which you can adjust all aspects of it’s difficulty. If you’ve played - any - sports game you pretty much know how bullshit the AI can be. How they can be down a few goals then all of a sudden your entire team is slower, can’t tackle to save their lives, and the CPU is on a murderous unstoppable onslaught. Not like that in this one. If you’re losing, it’s because you weren’t paying attention. The CPU will have noticeable periods where they’ve become discouraged from you giving them a clobbering! Or they get intensified in a close game. But it never cheats, and that is just so refreshing! In every other sports game the difficulty seems to have nowhere in between “cakewalk” and “bullshit”. But here, you the ability to change things like pitching speed and the presence of on screen indicators etc helps you get it to a point that is fair and matches your ability

Tetris - GB
Another game I don’t need to talk about! But how is it that this version still somehow seems the best to play?!

Puyo Puyo - GB

Turns out, Puyo Puyo really needs colour to work. Who’d have thought!

R: Racing Evolution - GCN

I love me some Ridge Racer and although I know this isn’t really the real Ridge Racer, what the hey. It looks decent and plays well enough, though it really isn’t Ridge Racer!

Famista 64 - N64
Apparently this series is well regarded but i can’t figure out why. It’s braindead, one of those potluck type games i mentioned above.

Pokemon de Panepon - GBC
Panel de pon is for sure my favourite puzzle game of all time. Countless hours lost with my wife. Countless losses to my wife! But all fun. Don’t really need this version with all the others I have but hey, it’s serviceable and portable!

King Hill 64 - N64

This was called Twisted Edge Snowboarding elsewhere. I remember way back, it was supposed to come out... then out of nowhere Nintendo announced “Vertical Edge Snowboarding”. How considerate! That quickly turned into 1080º Snowboarding, which in turn quickly destroyed any chance this game had of being successful. But playing it now, it’s clear that it would have done that all by itself, since it’s crap! Worse than 1080º in basically every way imaginable.

Panel de Pon - SFC
My history with this game starts on good old emulation, so I finally picked up a real copy to make up for my sins!

Puyo Puyo Fever - GCN
It’s silly but i like Puyo games mostly because of the squishiness of the Puyo themselves. There, I said it! I’m absolutely horrible at the games themselves, my brain just thinks backwards compared to how it’s supposed to, in order to make decent combos and so on. But in this version, the Puyo are extra squishy so i like it.

The Baseball 2003 - GCN
A curiosity purchase, this one is effectively the start of the Pro Yakyuu Spirits game I lavished praise on above. Not all of the elements are in place in this first entry, so it’s not quite there yet, but it was fun to play around with and see how far they’ve come.

SSX On Tour with Mario - GCN
I’d played a bit of SSX Tricky and 3 in the past, and thought I’d give this one a shot. From what I can tell, it wasn’t as well received, partly because by this point it was getting to be “more of the same”, and also because they changed the visual style to a grungy kind of look. I don’t mind that really and playability wise it’s as good as it ever was, so I had a lot of fun!

Need for Speed Most Wanted - GCN
After purchasing Auto Modellista and R:Racing Evolution I was kind of impressed by how well the old Gamecube stacked up visually. I’d never given any of these games much thought back in the day because I was all about Nintendo 1st Party (what can compete with F-Zero GX, seriously?) but actually there was a decent amount of racing games, even if a lot of them were just ports. This one has some convoluted menus that are hard to navigate in Japanese but it plays decently. The handling model has never really been my cup of tea but it’s pretty fun regardless.

P.N.03 - GCN

One of the famed “Capcom 5”. Known for the main character’s booty shakin’. In essence it’s a basic 3rd person shooting game that doesn’t seem very well expanded upon. It does have a pretty cool style for itself though.

Mario Kart Wii - Wii

How am I just getting around to this you ask? Well, Double Dash on the Gamecube was a bit of a disappointment for me. Most complaints or praise usually centers on the 2 character action of that game, but for me I just never liked how they altered the controls. Fine adjustments to direction cause the cart to slip and kind of jerk instead of turn smoothly. It made course correcting annoying on some levels with skinny paths, like that dino level. Anyway, by the time the Wii version came out, my Wii was hacked and it had dawned on me how sad it was that this barely looked any better than the Cube game. So i uhh, obtained a “preserved” copy, tried it for 5 minutes and never again until I picked it up this year. The controls don’t have that slipping like they do in the Cube game, which was a relief. At first I was kind of infuriated by the game though. This seems to have the worst balance of items when playing against the CPU, you are constantly getting hammered and so it’s frustrating to be knocked out of the lead. Especially when the basic driving is so easy really, watching huge leads dissipate through no fault of your own … it’s tiresome! But as I got used to it, particularly the bikes, it became more manageable. I think I kinda jumped into it expecting to be good (i’m good at all the others after all) but it needed a bit of time. I don’t really like the bikes though, having to do wheelies on straightaways, locking your turning ability just isn’t that fun I think. Not much point in playing it now that everything has been refined from this point to MK8.

Beach Spikers - GCN
A JP copy for convenience again. This is like Virtua Tennis pretty much, and although not hard, probably the best Volleyball game ever made. It looks stunning as well, with really cool sand deformation and ahh, attractive women. It can be a bit of a chore to play through the main game though, as you have to level up a braindead CPU teammate, and just as you level her up you’ll hit a class of CPU opponents who cream her again. Multiplayer is where it’s at, if only I had some friends!

Wario World - GCN

Was always curious about this one. I mean, it’s a Treasure game! But it got middling reviews so I never played it back then. Trying it now, it’s pretty playable but not really exceptional in any way. The levels have good layouts with puzzles to find items and so on, a little bit of backtracking. It’s made a bit frustrating by regenerating enemies but apart from that, quite fun to play.

Phantasy Star Online Episode 3 C.A.R.D. Revolution - GCN
Read somewhere this surprisingly had English, so I thought I’d pick it up. Never really played any card type games before. And still haven’t, since it doesn’t have a lick of English! Nice box though :D

GPX Cyber Formula - GCN

Continuing the “try out racing games on gamecube” theme, this is a kind of obscure futuristic racing game based on an anime i’ve never seen. It has some pretty dang cool looking vehicle designs, but it’s kind of a snore to play. Though it runs smooth enough, it’s also a bit drab visually.

Super Monkey Ball - GCN
So this year Sega finally bought Monkey Ball back, in the form of Banana Blitz HD, a port of the Wii game. I have nightmares about that one and it’s motion controls and flick jumping, but I have always enjoyed the originals, so I picked this up again. Still a classic, but I’m just not good enough to get as far into it as I’d like! That’s half the fun I guess.

Super Monkey Ball 2 - GCN
I actually got the sequel at the same time. I’ve completed this one years ago although I remember it being a bit of random luck in some stages, it’s still fun. The main game gives you infinite retries though I think there’s an arcade mode that groups levels more like the original. Have had a lot of fun with the mini games in both of these, playing with my daughter and wife.

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg - GCN

I remember this game getting a pretty poor reception at the time … maybe cause it wasn’t a new Sonic or was just a little weird in concept? I’ve found it to be pretty decent, actually had more fun with it than any of the 3D Sonic games I’ve played. It’s a puzzle platformer where you kill enemies by pushing your egg around, making it bigger Katamari style. The only real complaint I have is that pushing away from your character makes him stop rolling the egg. Considering you want to be rolling it most of the time it’s a bit frustrating when it happens while you’re turning. It seems like it would have been better to have a button to toggle holding it or something.

Bloody Roar Extreme - GCN
Not many fighting games came out for Gamecube, even less so in Japan. I think this series is kind of underrated by most, the PS1 original impressed me quite a bit for it’s fast action, responsive controls and interesting characters. This one is similar and the graphics are considerably better as you’d imagine. Actually I was quite impressed, on the surface it seems to be pushing the hardware about as much as say Soul Calibur 2 does, and some of the stage designs are pretty cool.

Viewtiful Joe Revival - GCN
This is a re-release of the original Viewtiful Joe with an easier difficulty setting. I’d only played VJ2 previously and in all honesty, I’m not sure what that game does that this one doesn’t. I think 2 had a new character. Either way, this one plays pretty well too. I can see that it’s a quality game (certainly visually and sonically) but it hasn’t quite stuck with me just yet. Something feels off about his momentum grinding to a halt when he jumps and attacks. The slow-mo mode just feels bad I think; I want just the enemies to be in slow mo, not me as well! Fast mode i find is too fast. I probably just need to give it more time!

Aero Gauge - N64
Have been hunting for this for a while. I was trained in the N64 era not to trust 3rd party games so I hardly had any back then! But while this is no F-Zero, it’s at least competent, looks and runs decent for an N64 game, and has an interesting if overly difficult boost mechanic. You have to kind of go into a corner, let off acceleration and then skid, press again … or similar, tbh I forget exactly. But it’s overly complicated for what it is, and unfortunately it seems to be a near necessity to actually win any races, even on the easiest difficulty.

Kururin Squash - GCN
Perhaps because i like squishy things, I’ve always wanted to try this Squashy game. I’m not sure why it’s called Squash actually. But hey. I had the GBA games long ago and enjoyed, to a point where they just got too hard to be enjoyable. I was probably going for the highest ranks, which surely contributed to that, but as it turns out, I think the main thing must have been that those games were controlled with the D-pad. This one, using the analog stick, feels sooo much better to play, because you have that precision control over your placement, instead of having to rely on tapping. It also looks great, has varied levels and challenges, multiple “helicopter” types. It’s a really great, simple arcade-like game.

Simple 1500 Space Invaders - PS1
Space Invaders … maybe one of the first games I ever played? I can’t say for certain, but it was amongst a pile of 2600 games my parents had when I was very young. So I have a soft spot for it! This is really as simple as it gets though, there’s a few versions but it mostly amounts to a different background graphic. This seems way harder than I remember as well - I guess it was a coin muncher originally!

RC de Go! - PS1
I must have been looking for this one for years, I was so pleased to stumble upon a copy. My interest stemmed from the Vita/PS3 game Motorstorm RC, which if you haven’t played you should, because it’s fantastic. This game is very similar, a kind of semi-overhead racing game. It controls really well (as long as you’re accustomed to your left is right, right is left when facing the camera!) and looks good because it’s not really pushing a load of polygons. It doesn’t quite nail the feel of RC control as well as Motorstorm does but considering it’s age, it does a good job! The manual also points out that a proper RC style controller was available back in the day… which is now on my list of things to find!

Crash Bandicoot - PS1
The final Crash game i needed to complete the set. For some reason this one was harder to find than 2 and 3, and Racing. Anyway, I had played it when it first came out. It was and is still kind of primitive, in a way just like a simple arcade game - lots of trial and error! But it controls well and it’s addictive. I know the games all got HD’d recently but i’d rather play these originals because a) they’re cheaper! And b) they still look great.

Super Bomberman 3 - SFC
It’s kind of nutty how many Bomberman games came out in it’s heyday. 5 main series entries on Super Famicom alone! I sank tonnes of time into 1 as a kid, and played the rest here and there on emu but this is my first cart out of the 5 to get now. It’s Bomberman alright! You’ve kinda played one, played them all I think. This one has some Louie dinosaurs to ride on, but they’re really just replacements for some items they removed in most cases. They changed the style from the more rendered look of 1 & 2, to the pixel art of the PC Engine games. I like both styles really.

Sonic Adventure DX - GCN
So i have the DC version but couldn’t be arsed getting a battery for my VMU. Figured I’d get this despite what people say about the bugginess, cause at least I could save. Turns out VMU don’t need batteries to save, which i completely forgot, and turns out the bugs are just as bad as people said! Straight out onto the beach and he clipped through the sand. Sonic has fingers though!

Bomberman Hero - N64
Ok, so they had some Bomberman that weren’t like the others. From what little I played, I would have preferred it was like the others. This has some confusing menus in japanese and just some weird little platforming and boss challenges. I probably went into the wrong game mode :D

Dino Crisis & Dino Crisis 2 - PS1
Since I got into Resident Evil i’ll probably like these right? I will find out one day, for now they’re on my pile of bought but not played.

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker - PSP
It feels absurd buying a PSP game these days, so widespread was the piracy back then. This was bought on sale to free myself of guilt again, plus cause it has a nice box. It’s been a long time since I first played through it now, but it was good enough that it got me onto the series as a whole! I remember it being very impressive for PSP.

Pikmin - GCN
A game i’ve had on PAL since it came out, I always get about 10 days of in-game time into it and start to feel the pressure of finding ship parts before the time runs out, and drop it. I’m at about that point again now, but this time I’ve been playing with my daughter, who as it turns out loves Pikmin. Playing through it now, I’m kind of surprised that it’s a bit Metroid-ish really. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice that before, but yeah, you are gated off here and there and have to find the Pikmin and a means to progress, backtrack from time to time. It feels less convenient than a side scroller though. One thing I hate is how separating your Pikmin can cause them to mindlessly walk, as a group, directly into a hazard like water. Another thing is how you have limited control over the hoard, yet at times you have to direct them over small bridges and such. It feels like it’d be better if you could choose a formation for them, like a straight line, a bit like how you can in that Zelda Four Swords game.

Pikmin 2 - GCN
We’re also playing through this, same story as above! No 30 day limit now, but you still have to do your work in daily chunks. Except for when you go into the ground, and there’s no time limit. To be honest, the time limit starts to feel like why is this even here now, just let me play. It has 2 new Pikmin colours but you have to convert from the existing 3. I never know how many i'm going to need ahead of time so it just feels like a guessing game, until I walk out and realise I made the wrong decision! Still, daughter is loving it so we’ll try and see it through.

Crazy Taxi - GCN
What’s really crazy is buying a second copy of Crazy Taxi on the Gamecube because it has a nicer box! And it was cheaper! So i sold the original for more than I paid for both together :D This year I finally got the hang of the kind of strange boost and drifting mechanics, enough to complete (to my satisfaction, i’m not doing that freaking last one!) the Crazy Box mode. I’m still not good enough to last all that long in arcade mode. Maybe as a kid with better memory I’d be able to remember where everyone is and where they want to go before picking them up, but not now!

Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 - GCN
Ok so this one is in English! Huzzah! I got my first taste of PSO via PSO2 on the Vita. It was free! That one is all in Japanese lol. But I managed to get through for a good 50 odd hours, thanks to some resources online, and enjoyed my time. I since played PS Nova on Vita as well, which isn’t online but more of the same. So it was time to finally try the original. I’m not playing online, though I think that is actually possible with some convoluted measures. But it’s been pretty good if more challenging than I expected. I was kind of surprised that it seems more stat/rpg ish than PSO2 is - ie, you have no control over your defence/blocking of attacks. That doesn’t sit well with my tastes but I managed to get through a bit and will play some more eventually. Love the atmosphere of these games regardless.

Super Smash Bros. Melee - GCN
Yet another game i’m sure everyone is familiar with. My last memories of it were almost destroying a controller trying to do all the… Events was it? Something like 51 events and the last ones were absolutely brutal. Anyway, I like this series but I’ve always liked it for the multiplayer; chaos with all the items enabled. I can’t stand how these days people play it with all the fun turned off! I don’t really get the chance to play multiplayer like the old days, but fond memories and the wealth of collectibles and fan service will make this a fun playthrough again. Until i hit that damn Events mode.

Super Mario Stadium (Mario Superstar Baseball) - GCN
So this is the Mario version of the Famista series. And it seems about as brain-dead as that was. I think there were special moves ala Mario Tennis and i think i probably hated them here too!

Animal Forest + - GCN
I have an unhealthy addiction to buying games in complete Japanese that i’ll probably never play. But I have played this before, and it did come with it’s memory card that I can repurpose! It’s interesting to go back to this original style, so many things i’ve forgotten over the years, like how the screen doesn’t scroll and instead transitions like the early Zelda games. I remember wanting this specific version for the N64 from when it was first shown, because in a way it reminded me somewhat of A Link to the Past (things like the trees). Ok so it has nothing to do with Zelda really but it got me to try it out when it hit Gamecube and it’s become a favourite. But you’re really better off playing one of the later ones, with many improvements to convenience!

Sonic Riders - GCN
Sonic seems to have so much potential with racing games … yet it took until All Stars & All Stars Transformed for it to really get it right. I’ve only raced a few tracks on this one so far. You’re on a hoverboard so it naturally feels kind of floaty, and you have these kind of wind tunnels that will suck you around on rails, which seems to remove some of the challenge.

Sonic Heroes - GCN
This one at least seemed less buggy than Sonic Adventure DX from what i’ve played. It’s kind of annoying to have to switch between the characters constantly - for one, the buttons to change aren’t locked for a specific character (they’re more like next/previous buttons), so I always had to look up to see what button to press to switch to who. There’s also an annoying amount of text on screen and voice talking to you while you’re trying to play! It was very distracting. I will give it some more time though since I guess the 3 character mechanic could be used for some puzzles or something later on.

Snowboard Kids - N64
I’d heard great things about this - supposed to be like Mario Kart? I guess it has items but from my first play, it seemed slow and crappy. And like, after these big simple courses you have to thread your character like a needle through the gate to go back up the course? If you miss, have fun being stuck on the wall for a while. Yeah, I’ve probably missed something but first impression wasn’t very good!

Bushido Blade - PS1
This was always a curiosity; the fact that reviews said things like you can kill in one hit. How does that work I wondered. I thought it’d be a bit tedious trying to land this one hit if that’s the case, imagining it must be difficult to do or else the game would be too basic? Well I played for a bit and yeah that’s  how i felt afterwards as well. It’s an interesting premise but the result is you’re a character who has very poor mobility and just doesn’t feel good to play as. Each press of a button is a huge commit and I really had no idea when would be the right time to strike or move, ahead of time.

Kuru Kuru Kururin - GBA
After Kururin Squash impressed me so, I picked up one of the old GBA games again, allowing me to formulate the opinion you read earlier. Still fun just not as precise as it needs to be for some of the later difficulty!

Street Fighter Zero 3 - PS1
At some point in our lives, we all have to come to terms with the fact that we’re either going to spend the money to get Street Fighter Zero 3 for Saturn, or we’re going to live without it. But that doesn't mean we can’t play the same game elsewhere. In like, a million places these days! I already have the PSP version digital on Vita (for godly D-pad) and the Alpha Anthology on PS2 (great but 480i whyyy). So I picked up the PS1 version here, for a measly 500y to get me some 240p goodness. I had played it back then and don’t remember any missing animation or anything, who knew any better? Only saw this game a few times in the arcades. Nowadays, it’s hard to be impartial because that info is everywhere. People who’ve never played the Saturn version, shit all over the PS1 version they probably never played either! But the reality is, this is a great port, probably the best that Capcom could have done on the hardware. Even now, knowing which specific frames are missing, they made great choices as to which ones to cut, to keep it running well. Plus it has most of the characters that were added later, and the excellent world tour mode. Of course, at some point in our lives we all have to come to terms with the fact that one day, we’ll probably buy the Saturn version as well.

Toshinden - PS1
I wager most people have played this only in demo form! It was on that very first demo, at least in Australia. Before I played it, magazines were pitting it against Virtua Fighter and it was actually coming out on top in most cases, because of the texture mapping, transparencies and overall visuals seeming better. But when I played it, it really didn’t feel that great, more like just a basic Street Fighter clone in 3D, with shonky controls. It did (I think) introduce free roaming which is something. As a memory it’s nice for me to have it still.

Toshinden 2 - PS1
When 3 Toshinden games are lined up next to each other for 100y, what do you do? You take them home to see the progression. In this case, not very much progress at all.

Toshinden 3 - PS1
Here, the game is changed quite a bit. There are combos from button strings and it feels a bit more responsive and impactful to play, but still not a standout fighting game of the era.

Bushido Blade 2 - PS1
I uhh, haven’t played this enough to tell if there’s any real difference from 1 to 2. Sorry!

ESP Ra.De. Psi - PS4
After Ketsui Deathtiny won me over at the beginning of the year, the next M2 ShotTriggers title was a definite purchase, and this didn’t disappoint either. Arcade Challenge mode returns and again helps to make the impossible seem possible. This time, they’ve added a series of tutorials that again take chunks of the game and task you with completion in small bites. It’s tied it into a room decorator and gacha system that you know, I don’t really give two shits about. But the tutorial even existing is awesome. The game itself, is an interesting evolution of the gameplay of Dodonpachi. In that game you had 2 weapons, a standard spread type shot and a more focused laser. Here, you have 2 spread shots. The 2nd one fires a blast that sticks to enemies, and then when you destroy with the first, you have a multiplier applied for a period of time as you destroy more enemies. The bomb is also unique in that it creates a barrier of invincibility, and has a meter. You can use it for a short period or charge it up and use the whole lot. Recharging the meter requires you shoot a lot of things and collect a lot of power-ups though! The pixel art is beautiful as you’d expect, and the setting and characters very unique (for the time - this was amongst the first games to not have a ship/plane as the player character).

Tobal 2 - PS1
Completing my Tobal collection seemed an easy thing to do but Tobal 2 was a little harder to come by than I thought it would be. Though the character designs in these games don’t do much for me, I’ve always been interested because i’d read they played very smoothly, and felt a bit different to Virtua Fighter and Tekken (even though all 3 series originally shared a director). It does play pretty well given it’s age, and offers a unique take on the 3D fighting games, though I must say I still prefer the others!

A surprise last minute of the year find. As I mentioned before, I’ve played this before and so it was a safe bet. I loved this one for having the game set across a single mountain, that from the very top you can traverse multiple courses.


And that’s it! 98 games I think. New years resolution: Buy less games. Shouldn't be hard, I got a lot of things i've been looking for this year...

For my Game of the Year, we’re going with games from this list, not games that came out this year. It's also limited to games I hadn't played before.

The top spot goes to Ketsui Deathtiny. I just had the most fun with this of any game this year. As a lover of shoot-em ups, it really hit the spot with just how good it feels to play, and I still can’t get over how well the modern additions help to improve your skill level. 

Biohazard RE:2 is a close runner-up, I hope this game starts a trend away from bloated levelling up in open-world games, back to tighter designed experiences. 

For real retro, i’ll give the nod to Kururin Squash. It’s a shame this series ended after this one, but I reckon it’d be a great download only game on Switch, so who knows!

1 comment:

  1. Why thankee kind sir for the guest post, I hope it's the start of some more, I sense a beautiful relationship starting


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