Friday 31 December 2021

Androgyne's 2021 Games and Toys in Review

Well, somehow I skipped 2020 but I'm here for 2021! As always, this isn't necessarily games and toys that came out this year, but just stuff I happened to get this year.

It's a long read so head to the toilet (multiple trips may be necessary) and enjoy! Hopefully i've forgotten how long it took to write this by the end of 2022 or else I fear I may have to skip another year...

Modern Games

Limited to current generation systems. Yes PS4 is current generation since i can’t bloody buy a PS5. Didn’t get a whole lot of them this year, but there’s a lot of quality and it was very hard to pick my top 3!

Mahou Daisakusen (PS4)
This was something I should have picked up when it came out. Damn them for not doing physical releases for the earlier M2 ShotTriggers releases! Once again the port is of exceptional quality and the game itself is really fun, once you get some overpowered weapons I really like the crazy science-fantasy world design. It’s hard, which is to be expected for an arcade game of this type and era, but they’ve got the easy mode in there as well, which is always welcome. It’s a shame it predates their inclusion of the dedicated training mode/challenges, but that shouldn’t stop you from having a good time.

Darius Cosmic Collection Arcade
I played me a load of Darius this year, enjoying the versions on the PC Engine and Mega Drive Minis. It came as some surprise to read that the Saturn port of Darius Gaiden wasn’t actually as arcade perfect as I thought, so i decided to get this collection to see for myself. Plus, save states, they make a world of difference for actually enjoying these difficult games. Darius Gaiden is the main event here and is just something that has to be experienced. Visuals and audio are so abstract that it makes the game almost feel surreal at times. Powering up your ship and crucially, keeping the power, lets you have a lot of fun with the levels too. I quite liked the ports of Darius 1 so I was keen to try the arcade version, with it’s full 3 screen display, but wow it’s actually much harder as a result. You can’t traverse the entirety of the screen, which I thought you could, and this means you can’t really get up in the face of the oncoming assault. You end up having few shots on the looong screen at a time, preventing the use of more, which means you really have to make them count. I think I prefer the home ports to be honest! Darius 2 I only tried out briefly as it’s difficulty quickly put me in my place!

Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2
They were basically giving this game away in a sale. I’ve tried several times now and there’s just something that won’t click with the Guilty Gear series. It looks insanely good, but the character design and flashy moves… i don’t know, I just prefer more normal fighters I guess.

R-Type Final 2
I’d been waiting for this one for a while! R-Type Delta on PS1 is one of my favourite shooters, and this seemed like it’d scratch that itch nicely. Just the idea that a new R-Type was coming out in 2021 is amazing, but the game actually delivered for the most part as well. The aesthetic is on point for most of the game, but a few levels are just weird abstract shape kind of things, rather than the cool alien worlds. Those detracted from the experience for me. Getting to learn the levels and try out different ships was great fun though. The ships have a lot of variation that greatly changes how you approach the levels. I’m a bit salty they have more levels (at least one from Delta that i’d want) as DLC, as even though they’re reasonably priced, I haven’t been in the mood to pay for them. The main problem I had with the base game (and this may have been patched since, i’m not sure) is that it’s far too time consuming to earn the required materials to unlock ships. It starts out fast enough but then grinds to a halt.

Super Mario Odyssey
It’s odd that it’s taken me so long to play this. What is it, 4 years old now? As well received as it was, it wasn’t enough to get me to buy a Switch when it came out, like past Mario’s have. I think a part of me had burnt out on 3d Mario, I was no longer really surprised by what they had to offer. Like, you know they’re going to be high quality, but for me it had become more of the same and boring.

Ironically then, when I finally tried this, it was what it did do differently that I didn’t really care for. In the game you can “possess” other characters to obtain unique abilities. The game is throwing around ideas like nobody’s business, the sheer amount of them is impressive, no doubt. But I just found myself feeling like “Ok, this tank is cool but… this isn’t really Mario, is it?”. It’s mostly predictable what you have to do as well, since the characters are all conveniently placed right where you need them. Another problem I had was, the game did little to make me want to hunt out the huge number of moons. When games do this, I always feel like the more you find, the less there is left to find. It’s like a downward slope of enjoyment. Visually it’s also inconsistent, and the music is decidedly “not Mario” as well and feels out of place.

The game still exudes quality at every point, and is fun enough, but I’m glad I waited as if i’d have bought a Switch for this game when it came out, I think I would have been even more underwhelmed.

Metroid Dread (Switch)
Holy shit, Metroid 5 came out of nowhere this year! And it was a long time fan’s dream scenario - the mysterious Metroid Dread that had appeared on release lists 15 years ago, then disappeared just as quickly, finally returns! How much of that original game remains here, isn’t really important though, is it. What matters is that this is an unmissable game that soars to the heights of the series’ best entries. When those best entries are some of the best games of all time, that is some high praise indeed and a miraculous achievement.

Metroid Dread feels like the most meticulously designed game i’ve experienced in a long time. Virtually nothing is extraneous, every part of the enormous map has been carefully considered to deliver a tightly woven game. This is what excites me; it’s a game that sets out to do what it wants to do, and achieves that 100%. How do you rate a game like that? Is it perfect? I cannot fault the game in isolation. It’s only the core philosophy behind it’s design that serves to offer any means of comparison. And in that regard, I believe Super Metroid to still have the better core philosophy when it comes to 2D Metroid map design. Metroid always has an “invisible hand” guiding you through the game, but in Dread, this illusion can become more apparent than I think it should. But it’s so clearly designed around this that it is no fault, it’s merely my preference that Super Metroid’s is less obvious about this. I can see some people saying “but Dread feels so much better to play, than Super Metroid’s floaty controls!” I wouldn’t disagree about that, or any of the other things Dread clearly does “better” than Super. But Dread’s play control is for Dread, and Super’s is for Super. Neither would fit in the other, they are intrinsically linked to their own games, and perfect in their own right. All of their individual parts are like this.

If i was to level one complaint against Dread, it would be that the “Phantom Cloak” ability isn’t that useful or fun to use - you have better options. I maybe wouldn’t even noticed, had they not made it seem more important through their pre-release marketing. As it is, it doesn’t detract from anything either, so it’s absolutely no big deal in what is a fantastic experience from beginning to end.

Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)
Rise is like the Vita Monster Hunter that never existed, only better, with enhancements from World, better graphics cause Switch. Plus a whole bunch of improvements of its own. I really love the increased mobility afforded by the dog partner and wirebug, and though I was originally a little put off by the new mounting mechanic, it grew on me when I realised I can ram monsters into each other, knocking them out cold! In a way, they may have made it too easy compared to earlier entries, but there’s no denying the satisfaction of timing a huge blow to a monster’s head is as strong as ever.

It’s a funny old series; with really no end to what you could do, do you really need a new version? I could have kept playing 4U or World, I still have those. You play them a lot then you get a little bored and eventually stop, then the next one comes out and you do it all over again. I find myself thinking “this is the last one!” cause despite or perhaps because it’s so good, I feel like i could just play this one forever if I could stave off the inevitable boredom after it loses its newness.

Virtua Racing (Switch)
A pioneering title like this should have been done this justice long ago. It’s pretty much flawless as a port - but also flawed as a port at the same time, since it means you don’t get the extra cars or tracks of the older ports. There’s also a lack of dedicated Time Trial mode, which is a real bummer as you have to race with the other cars to submit a time to the leaderboards. It really is wonderful having the proper version in HD though!

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (PS4)
Only took me 20 years to try this series. Felt kinda stupid afterwards, cause it’s damn good. I guess it never appealed originally since visually the old games were kind of grey. I knew the games were popular but didn’t really understand how they played, or why I would like them, so never gave it a chance until now. The remaster work here is incredible - clearly they went top to bottom and left nothing untouched, and it all looks and runs flawlessly. I don’t know exactly how close the feel of the game is to the originals, but if they played anything close to this, it’s easy to see why it became so popular now. Very responsive, demanding and rewarding to control. Very addictive to play, even in a small space, just because the mechanics are so tight. I said I never knew why I would like this game originally, and so for anyone out there wondering if they would too, the answer is: you would like this if you like games that are simple to play but difficult to master, and you love trying to get high scores. You needn’t have an interest in skateboarding either, but you probably will afterwards!

Virtua Fighter eSports
And talking of games that are simple to play but difficult to master, we have the king of those games. It was with much pleasure that I got this “for free” included in a month’s sub to PS+ (about 800Y). Sure, it is just a reskin of VF5 Final Showdown, which I have on PS3, and which still holds up visually I might add. But damn, it feels like a new game even if it’s not. The faster than lightning(!) response of the controls, and the clarity of what’s happening on screen as a result is what I think makes VF so good. For me, no other fighter gets me in a zone like this, where you feel like the game is 1:1 with your brain. Your hands however might be a bit behind your brain!

I normally hate online play but since that’s the whole point of this release, i spent most of that month playing it. I play as Akira since he’s the most hard hitting bad ass karate dude around. He’s also the hardest mother to play as, with hardly any easy combos. But man is it satisfying landing his moves.

My win rate was a measly 35% by the end of the month, but I had fun, the gameplay wasn’t hindered for the most part. One reason I don’t like playing online normally is, you can’t just sit there and learn with a friend all day. The implementation here was a bit annoying as after a few rematches it splits you up and you have to find someone else, so there’s little chance to adapt and get better. After the sub was up i was onto playing something else, but it was by far the best time i’ve had online with a fighting game though. I’m hoping they’re successful enough to make a VF6, and in the meantime i should probably sub or buy the game again since it’s well worth the pennies they’re asking for!

Castlevania Advance Collection (Switch)
I really don’t know how I never ended up with any of the GBA Castlevania games. I love this series! So it was nice to see this collection come, at a price about a tenth of what it’d cost to buy them on cart now. I’ve only jumped into Aria of Sorrow for now, and enjoying it so far. It doesn’t seem like they changed much in the later Dawn of Sorrow.

Thunder Force IV (Switch)
Have only given this an hour’s play at most. I enjoyed playing Thunder Force 3 on Mega Drive Mini, abusing save states to memorize the levels and bosses to have some chance of retaining my ship’s power ups. My first impression of TF IV is that the visuals although impressive for the hardware, do a bit too much obstruction of the view.

Top 3 Modern Games of 2021
  1. Metroid Dread
  2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
  3. Virtua Fighter eSports



This was a really tough call. Not including Monster Hunter Rise just seems wrong because it’s such a high quality game packed with stuff to do, but I just had the most fun and appreciation of these 3. Metroid Dread as number one; I almost didn’t want to. I’m a Metroid fan through and through so it’s hard to be objective about this. But after much thought, it really does deserve it. Tony Hawk’s might be a surprise at number 2, but perhaps because it was such a surprise to find myself enamoured with it, I feel it’s earned it. VF gets 3rd for rekindling a love of fighting games that has mostly dwindled with age and the lack of a couch-side buddy to play against.

Retro Games

All in all, I bought way too many retro games once again. So much i’ve barely played or not played at all, it’s pretty embarrassing. Next year will hopefully be less, i’m certainly at the point now where there’s not many old games left that I want or that i’m willing to pay the price they go for!

Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
Alas, I haven’t played enough of this to comment, other than to say the performance is a little hokey! Nice to finally get it in box this year though.

Rival Schools (PS1)
Been looking for this for a while. Though I didn’t get the latest revision, i’m pretty happy to have this one. Like most Capcom fighters it plays very solidly and has a great atmosphere. Game kicked my ass a bit towards the end though!

Ape Escape (PS1)
I’d always heard the good things about this, and wanted to try it, for it being an early dual stick game. The concept is good but I found the pace a little sluggish and kind of lost interest. Maybe i’ll find Ape Escape 2 one day and give that a go.

Tenchu (PS1)
Haven’t played!

Tenchu Gaiden (PS1)
Haven’t played!

Philosoma (PS1)
A unique shooter in that the levels change perspective several times. It’s nothing fantastic but wasn’t terrible either.

Horned Owl (PS1)
Haven’t played. Need to find a Konami gun to give this a real go!

Simple 1500 The Pinball (PS1)
I love me some pinball and so nabbed this for cheap but only played it briefly. Value wise it’s pretty good, with several tables. Nothing really fancy but not bad either.

Super Aleste (Super Famicom)
This one was pricy but I’ve really wanted it for a while. No doubt it’ll end up on an Aleste Collection 2 at some point, but M2 is just so damn slow with those releases, I couldn’t wait, plus I wanted the excellent box! The game is fun with lots of variation in the weapons, although there are some that are clearly more useful than others. It’s very impressive for a Super Famicom game though, no slowdown and lots of stuff happening on screen.

Samurai Shodown 3 (Saturn)

A game I always wanted, due to being infatuated with Neo Geo and the first game in the arcades. Back then I only had access to the crappy ports you’d get on SNES or MD, so when I saw this was coming to PS1/Saturn, i was really excited! Alas I never played it back then until much later on emu and some of the collections they’ve released. The Saturn version is pretty faithful to the arcade, but I think i still prefer 1 and 2.

Hang On GP ’95 (Saturn)
This game doesn’t seem to be remembered much, probably because it looked a bit old fashioned compared to Daytona and Sega Rally etc. But, it actually plays pretty well! I tried it on the Saturn steering wheel and was pretty impressed. It might even be better than Manx TT to be honest.

Sonic Wings Special (Saturn)
I remember playing Aero Fighters on emu when I first discovered you could play Neo Geo on PC. But hadn’t played it for a long time, so was pleased to find this version. I always liked this series just for its simple military theme. It’s got a load of stages and characters. I enjoyed by time with it but like most shooters, didn’t get very far before hitting my skill limit.

F1 Live Information (Saturn)
Another Saturn racer long forgotten since it wasn’t a port of a Model 2 arcade game. However, like Hang On GP ‘95 it too plays a pretty decent game. Not really a patch on the F1 games on PS1 however.

Loco Roco (PSP)
I’d played the demo of this back when i first got my PSP I think? It’s a clever idea, almost a precursor to gyro controls, in that you tilt the playfield with the L & R buttons. The characters and visuals are charming but the gameplay is a little slow. I should give this more time to see how far they take it in later levels.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (DS)
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (DS)

I used to own Mini-Land Mayhem so that was a rebuy so I could complete the lineup. I much prefer the puzzle platformer style of the original Gameboy Donkey Kong, and GBA’s Mario vs Donkey Kong, than the Lemmings thing they went with in these games, but there’s definitely some clever stuff going on here.

Jump Superstars (DS)
Never played and ended up selling it.

Picross 3D (DS)
Only my daughter played this one. I like regular Picross but it’s one of those things where I get my “fill” pretty quickly and grow tired of it. I should give this a go and see if it’s more interesting.

F1 Nippon GP (PS1)
Picked this up thinking I could do some racing and compare it with the Pysgnosis F1 games, but it’s all simulation and all Japanese. Oh well!

PGA Tour ’96 (PS1)
Golf games really shouldn’t be hard to get right should they? I like to pick up the odd one to see how they try and make the mechanics unique. This is pretty much a typical golf game though. Only gave it a play for a round and wasn’t really impressed or turned off either way.

Hyper Final Match Tennis (PS1)
I thought this’d be good as Final Match Tennis on PC Engine was really great… at least, I think it was, I think I played it on emu 20 years ago. Anyway, this game is not good at all, way too hard to get into.

Power Pro Baseball 2016 (PS Vita)
Shite, another one I haven’t played. I’m sure it’s pretty good cause this series is decent, and I just wanted one on my Vita for a rainy day!

True Pinball (Saturn)
I thought this looked familiar in the shops and sure enough, it’s based on an Amiga pinball game. I was a bit off though I think - i’d played Pinball Dreams and Fantasies but this one is based off Pinball Illusions? The physics are a bit wonky but the tables are pretty creative

Blaz Blue Chrono Phantasma Extend (PS3)
I just nabbed this since it was obscenely cheap. I have it already on PS Vita… or maybe the non-extend version? I honestly don't remember, but I do remember having a good time, once upon a time. Maybe i’ll go back and revisit it on PS3, as the loading times were a bit annoying on Vita.

Wario: Master of Disguise (DS)
Haven’t played this! I should really give it a go and compare it with the original series on GB/A.

The Legendary Starfy (GBA)
The Legendary Starfy 2 (GBA)
The Legendary Starfy 4 (DS)

I played one or the other or all of these… haha. I wanted to get the whole series and i’m about half way there? There’s a bit more japanese than I expected but the games appear solid mechanically. I think I got lost more than a few times as the levels were filled with doors that kind of messes with my bearings.

Smash Court (PS1)
I hoped to like this one, as I remember enjoying the Super Nintendo version on emu years ago, but I was disappointed it had polygonal graphics instead of sprites and was a bit needlessly tricky.

Tekken Hybrid (PS3)
A cheap buy just to get closer to completing my Tekken collection. The version of Tekken Tag included here looks and plays great still!

Fighters’ Impact (PS1)
I was hunting out quite a few obscure 3d fighters from the 32 bit era this year. This one is kind of surprising, as it has very unique combo mechanics, that it seems a shame have been forgotten to time and never really got a chance to be developed further. As it is, it’s a bit stiff to really enjoy.

F1 Exhaust Heat (Super Famicom)
Bah, why haven’t I played this yet! I love Mode 7 racers, I need to get on it!

Nissan Over Drivin’ (Saturn)
The Saturn version of the original Need for Speed. I played the PS1 version back in the day. This game got a lot of press back then (originally on 3DO). I found it kind of boring though, the tracks weren’t very interesting.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PS3)
A rebuy. I had this on Xbox 360 once upon a time, bought on sale and barely touched. And it remains barely touched. Something about the later Tekken games, that have so many damn characters, makes them hard for me to really get into. But, my Tekken Tag collection is now complete!

Wing Arms (Saturn)
I think I played the first couple levels of this “flight sim” game. I doubt i’ll revisit it thanks to having to replay from the beginning each time… I think it had no saves? What I played was pretty uneventful dogfighting stuff.

Castlevania Nocturne in the Moonlight (PS1)

This is what, the 4th time i’ve bought this game? I wanted the original packaging and to be able to play it on CRT and it certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard. I also hadn’t finished this game before, which really is quite the embarrassment! But finally I can say that i’ve finished it. I don’t think it’s as good as Super Metroid which it takes from liberally - but it does add a lot to the formula, looks fantastic, sounds even better. A true classic!

Dragon Force (Saturn)
Welp, I bought this for pennies, to take some nice CRT photos and couldn’t get into the main game, there was so much Japanese. Not really my kind of thing anyway, so it ended up in Tets’ collection!

Virtual Hiryu no ken (N64)
Purchased as part of my quest to get more N64 3d fighters, in search of one that may actually compete with the best on PS1 & Saturn. This one doesn’t. But, it’s not really horrible either. It’s pretty much a VF clone, going so far as having both realistic and kids sized characters, this time in the same game. The controls are at least responsive and it had a decent selection of modes and a surprisingly good tutorial for the time.

Super Robot Spirits 64 (N64)
Yeah, thought it might be fun to see some chogokin’s battling in 3d. It wasn’t!

Runabout 2 (PS1)
I’d heard decent things about this game/series … but struggled to finish even the first level within the time limit. Maybe I was doing something wrong hey? It wasn’t really much fun.

Pokemon Gold (GB)
Got it for the daughter, never played it myself. Think it might have been too old for her to get into unfortunately.

Doom (PS1)
The first game I ever bought on PS1 was Doom. My friends made fun of me because at that point it was old hat - but I hadn’t played it! And i loved it of course. It still holds up thanks to the awesome level design. This version is great as well, controls well and has a different but awesome soundtrack. I’m glad to have it back in my collection!

Dual Heroes (N64)
This was the most surprising of the N64 fighters I got this year, as it’s supposed to be the worst? But those people never played Super Robot Spirits 64 or Beast Wars! I kinda like this one. It could do with being a lot smoother but that’s kind of a fault of the N64 hardware more than anything. It just couldn’t do this kind of game decently. But I had fun with it since it is pretty unique, an early take on free roaming 3d fighters.

Spindizzy Worlds (Super Famicom)

One of those games that was always a curiosity in magazines of the time, I finally got to try out. It’s pretty much a Marble Madness clone, I played it for a bit but got bored pretty quickly.

Pro Pinball Big Race USA (PS1)
I used to have this on PC at some point… the developer of this was well known at the time for having some of the most realistic pinball physics, and later versions of the company went on to make one of my favourite pinball games, Metroid Prime Pinball. This only has the 1 table so it’s limited compared to some of the others i picked up this year, but it’s a good table which is what counts!

Riglordsaga (Saturn)
Did I even try this? I’m not sure, I must have bought it cheap for taking some CRT pics but i really need to stop doing that!

Bloody Roar 2 (PS1)
I was impressed by Bloody Roar 1, and managed to find 3 on the Gamecube some time ago, but 2 had eluded me until now. It’s a surprisingly solid series. This version looks a bit better than the first and has similar fun gameplay. It’s a real shame the series hasn’t had a modern version, I think they could do a lot with the concept these days.

Fire Pro Wrestling S (Saturn)
This series is well known for being a wrestling game that takes skill and doesn’t reward button mashing. But despite my attempts at gamefaq’n how to play, I haven’t been able to really grasp what the hell i’m doing.

Mortal Kombat 3 (PS1)
I was a big fan of MK back in the day but only ever had the Super Nintendo versions. I played a lot in the arcade though, so it was nice to get this port, which is a lot closer. It bought back a load of memories playing it again. Although my first instinct would be to say MK2 is my favourite, 3’s additions of the run button and pre-baked combos were good and kind of make it hard to go back to the earlier ones.

Pokemon Snap (N64)
A cheapie that my daughter got a decent amount of enjoyment out of. I played it for a bit too. I guess it kind of takes the idea of grading photos from Zelda? I think that was first anyway… there’s not much to it really, though it was kind of addictive trying to get better photos.

Rise 2 Resurrection (Saturn)
I remember when the first Rise of the Robot was massively hyped and massively let down a bunch of people. Personally I never thought it looked good to begin with, but I was curious how bad this sequel, which is supposed to be even worse, actually was. And it’s probably even worse than that. Good for a laugh at how bad it is though!

Speed King (PS1)
A futuristic racer from Konami. Always curious how these me-toos hold up against the likes of F-Zero and Wipeout. Of course, it doesn’t hold up at all. It feels more like you’re just controlling a camera through the course than an actual vehicle and seems like they wanted to make this kind of game without actually knowing how they wanted it to play.

Zero Divide 2 (PS1)
The robot fighting series that is basically Virtua Fighter reskinned. That’s not really a bad thing as it plays pretty well and looks pretty cool as well.

Tomba (PS1)

I’ve wanted to try this for a long time, being made by the same guy behind Ghoul’s n Ghosts etc.. but when I sat down with it, it wasn’t what I expected at all. Movement (especially jumps) felt kind of awkward and then it hit some town segment with too much japanese and I bailed.

Mario Kart Advance (GBA)
I own this one already but found a nice copy in box. It’s an excellent Mario Kart game, with a huge amount of tracks and replayability. I still think I prefer the Mode 7 style games for their simplicity - they make for the best time trial games!

Beast Wars (N64)
A free roaming fighting game with the Transmetals characters. It looks so appalling even for N64, and plays like shit, with most matches being nothing more than a rocket firing contest.

Sonic R (Saturn)
This game is a pretty impressive showcase of Saturn 3d. The controls are a little slippy but you can get used to them. What I found surprisingly disappointing was the lack of tracks. While there’s a lot to find through exploration, compared to similar games of the time, such as Diddy Kong Racing, it’s quite lacking in replayability.

Rockman Zero Collection (DS)
I picked this up for like 1000Y, and it has 4 games that are all supposed to be great. What a steal! But i’ve only played a bit of the first one so far so I can’t really say much. Looking forward to putting some time into them one of these days.

Space Harrier (Saturn)
A nice port of the game, but boy I am not very good at it. I find it hard to judge what will/wont hit me with the perspective.

NBA Jam T.E. (Saturn)
Just bought this cheap to resell as I already own it. It’s a great port of the arcade game though!

Mario Tennis GB (GB)
I think this was last of the GB/GBA Mario sports titles I needed to complete that set. This plays a decent game of tennis for the hardware!

Super Mario Advance 3 Yoshi’s Island (GBA)
This is one of my all time favourite games on SNES, which I got here since it was cheap and in a nice box. One of these days i’ll finish this version to see the new levels they added.

Project Diva F2nd (PS Vita)
I like rhythm games but I found this one incredibly difficult right from the beginning, and ended up just selling it.

Zack & Wiki (Wii)
This game got good reviews so i always wanted to try it out. I played a bit and enjoyed how it takes advantage of the Wii remote in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Visually it has a lot of charm as well. I’m not sure I’ll get very far in it due to a load of japanese but i’d like to give it more time.

Nights Journey of Dreams (Wii)
I believe most people consider this inferior to the Saturn game but, from my short time with it, I found it plays… mostly the same (assuming you use the analog control method - the motion controls suck). Admittedly, I haven’t really sunk much time into the Saturn game either so i’m probably missing something. It’s a lot easier to see what’s going on here at least.

Top Gun (Gamecube)
Figured i’d buy this cheap and resell it once the new movie comes out. I only tested it works since I have no interest in it otherwise

Necronomicon (Saturn)
I finally found one of the most famous Saturn pinball games! Aesthetically it’s really cool, and plays very nicely too, and has 4 good tables. A really nice one to have.

Mario Tennis GC (Gamecube)
Just one for the completionist in me. I’m sure these games would be better in multiplayer but I don’t really like the inclusion of the super moves. Guess i prefer my tennis plain!

Rockman X5 (PS1)
Most retro Rockman games are a hard buy these days, with them being ported into collections for modern systems. Because of that I doubt i’ll end up completing the X series on their original releases. But this was crazy cheap so i nabbed it. I haven’t really played it much but it seemed about the same as the others.

Shadow Struggle (PS1)
An obscure 3d fighting game that’s nothing special, but at least competent. What’s funny is even stuff like this looks and performs better than the fighters on N64.

Gunbullet (PS1)
I haven’t tried this yet but I’m sure it’s good as i’ve played the sequel, Gunbarl. They’re very fun and simple arcade lightgun games, but using them guns does a number on my aging eyesight!

KOF 95 (Saturn)
Finally completed the Saturn KOF lineup with this one. Alas, something is awry with my cart slot or the ram cart, as it doesn’t want to boot. Oh well, nice box :D

Pool Edge (Gamecube)

This was a surprisingly good pool game! It was made by NDcube who later went on to many of the Mario/Wii Party games. All the physics seem accurate and the CPU puts up a decent but not cheaty challenge.

Masters ’98 (N64)
Picked this up to see how the N64 handles realistic golf. It looks pretty ugly with blurry sprites for the player character, but the courses aren’t too bad for the era. It plays decently as well, which you’d expect given how many of these T&E soft made over the years!

Tekken 4 (PS2)
The series completionist and box-art loving rabbit hole goes a long way, friends. I don’t have a JP PS2 to play this one yet! One of these days. Always wondered how it played, as it’s known as the black sheep of the series. I’m interested to see how different it feels to normal Tekken.

Actraiser (Super Famicom)

They announced a remake of Actraiser this year and while deciding if I should get that, I ultimately came to the conclusion that it was instead time to rectify having not played the original. And i’m glad I did, because it was a great time! I don’t often finish the retro games I buy - mostly that old school difficulty. So i was worried about this as i’d heard this game was tough, especially the Japanese version. I somehow managed to finish it though, and it felt great when I did. The last section is an every boss gauntlet before the final, that felt insurmountable at first, but by the end I was barely getting hit. And that sums up the action parts well - nothing is really unfair once you play it for a bit. Even tne hit kill spikes of this version weren’t a bother. I was also unsure if i’d like the “god” sections of the game but these turned out to be a nice break from the action sections. They’re not especially challenging but don’t really get boring either. The game also has great visuals and epic sound!

Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (PSP)
I didn’t actually play this, at least not this year. Years ago I played a half-translated version obtained through questionable means, and so some nice box art and a cheap price later, i am now guilt-free! I loved the heavily japanese inspired environments in this one.

J League Winning Eleven (PS1)
World Soccer Winning Eleven ’97 (PS1)

I don’t know what i’m doing here, maybe just trying to complete this series on PS1 as going any further than that… there’s a billion games in this series. They really were the best you could get back then though.

Cool Boarders (PS1)
Cool Boarders 2 (PS1)

How cool are the cool boarders? When i play, i’ll let you know. Sigh.

Monster Hunter 3G (3DS)
Monster Hunter 4 (3DS)
Monster Hunter X (3DS)

Now this is getting embarrassing. I don’t have a JP 3DS to play these suckers yet, but one day… you try saying no when they’re going for 100y!

Super Smash Bros DX (Gamcube)
Just a double to sell. Everyone knows this game is a classic!

Hat Trick Hero (Super Famicom)
Haven’t tried it yet. I’m interested to see how it compares with Perfect/Fighting Eleven, which are the best soccer games on Super Famicom.

SSX Blur (Wii)

Haven’t tried it yet! Keen to see how messed up the motion controls are… or not I guess. I doubt they’re that bad since iirc they were only for doing the uber tricks.

Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge (PS3)
A last minute retro purchase, so I haven’t played it. I’m interested to see how the PS3 version performs, as I used to have this on Wii U, where it had some performance issues. I got a bit frustrated after a few stages back then but hopefully I can see it through a bit further this time. Not as good as Ninja Gaiden 1 or 2 but worth a play.

Top 3 Retro Games of 2021
  1. Actraiser
  2. Mortal Kombat 3
  3. Castlevania Nocturne in the Moonlight



I had to give to Actraiser. While not perfect, I was more pleased with this purchase than any other this year, it was a lovely surprise I didn’t know I wanted til I got it. I know it’s absurd to put Mortal Kombat 3 above SOTN, but I’ve done just that since I had more fun playing around with it and remembering the good old times. I’m so pleased to have finally beaten Castlevania though! Now I can talk on the subject with a bit more authority! It’s a shame 2 of my games are games i’ve played before but like I said, i’m running out of old shit that’s good but still cheap to buy!


This was a pretty decent year for Transformers! I’m mostly a Masterpiece-centric collector and usually scoff at cheaper alternatives to characters I already own “definitive” versions of, but there’s been a definite increase in the quality of mainline figures, plenty I couldn’t ignore.

Kingdom Rodimus Prime
I was very unsure about getting this, based on the pre-release pics. Well, it looked good, but mostly the price thanks to yet another destined to be cupboarded trailer, was putting me off. However, I decided i’d be happy enough with the robot and so I sprung for it, and it didn’t disappoint. in hand I was surprised that I loved the inclusion of the trailer! It’s basically the same as the MP one but perhaps because it’s not as bulky or more of a kids thing, it just feels more fun to play with. The main robot is excellent and feels well worth the price, with a clever transformation into a better than average cybertronian truck. I do wish his windscreen had the red from the G1 model, I think that would have improved the look considerably.

Kingdom Cyclonus
I remember when the Universe/Henkei Cyclonus came out and I found it to be one of the best deluxes of the time. In retrospect, it has it’s faults. Did they ever release a version that had the colours right? And his rear end in spaceship mode was a bit of a mess wasn’t it. Well, forget all that cause here is a voyager that fixes all those problems and more. It’s got a simple and ingenious transformation and looks perfect in both modes. I gave him the old Henkei Nightstick and now he’s pretty much perfect.

MP-52 Starscream
Ahhh, I kinda hate the fact that they keep redoing old MPs; having to spend a lot of money again, being left with the old one just sitting there. That thought process has left me with MP-10 as my Optimus Prime, not MP-44, and MP-21 as my Bumblebee, not MP-45. But those guys still hold up. The old MP-11 Starscream barely stands up these days, so this was an easy decision, and it turned out great. The figure is infinitely more stable than the last one, and looks fantastic in both modes. There’s a few quirks, like I think they could have done something cleaner for connecting to the flight stand, and there are still some points where you’ll want to handle with care. But I can manage that, and I don’t see much need for a V3 in 10 years time!

MP-53 Skids
It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years since Hound, the last realistic G1 car released in Masterpiece. Thankfully, mine’s still in one piece, but that was a concerning release for all the reports of breakages. I had a lot of thoughts at the time about that one, was it too complex for it’s own good? But it makes such a brilliant robot! It certainly came with too many accessories, and was quite expensive… But here we are with Skids, the latest G1 car. Not a popular character by any stretch, but maybe that has played in his favour. As what we have here, is a relatively cheap MP, that delivers no more than it needs to, and does it exceptionally well. This feels like it almost could have been designed in the Sideswipe/Prowl era. It’s actually fun to transform - quick and intuitive. Solid, with nothing that seems like it could break. Fantastic realistic car mode with unobtrusive gimmicks. Nicely poseable robot that is proportioned better than his stock photos would have you believe. The only complaint I have is, they should have given Skids the Motocompo accessory, if only because he’s the same price as Reboost, so why bloody not!

It’s interesting that they appear to waver between approaches for the MP line - drifting from complex and pricey, toon accurate to a fault, to simple and cheap and toy inspired. Is there really any overarching policy here? Sometimes I don’t think there is, and they’ll just do what makes sense on a case by case basis. Skids for example has a butt-ugly cartoon model so they based this one on the toy. I think that was the right decision here, and now, I’m hoping as we get ever closer to MP Jazz and Mirage, that they can strike the same balance for those.

Studio Series Hot Rod

This turned out to be a really great deluxe figure. They nailed the proportions of Hot Rod’s robot mode to such a degree that it almost makes me wish they’d redo MP-27 with some of the same ideas. The inclusion of the matrix and light burst accessory, for recreating the movie scenes and poster, was a great bonus. His car mode can be a little dinky, and unfortunately some tabs in his exhausts seem to have broken on mine, which is a shame. But still the best deluxe Hot Rod we’ve got.

Studio Series Kup
Kup has 2 solid modes but doesn’t really feel outstanding in either. His gimmick of arms and legs detaching for recreating the scenes of the movie is a nice touch, but they do tend to fall off a bit when transforming. Overall though I was happy as he fits in well with the rest of the movie cast.

Studio Series Scourge
Is a spaceship and a spaceboat really that far apart? Finally Scourge gets his proper alt mode! As you’d expect, he’s a little shell-formery, but he looks the part in both modes. I do wish they’d found a way to clean up his wing kibble a little better, but that’s about the only complaint I have.

Studio Series Blurr
How many Blurr’s have I skipped to get to this one? The only other one I have is TF Animated, I kind of got sick of waiting for the right G1 version to hit! This one satisfies me despite some quirks, like the odd way his hands connect, and the kibble underneath his arms.

Studio Series Wreck-Gar
I was excited to get this as Wreck-Gar is such a unique character, and one they haven’t really touched over the years. He didn’t disappoint, looks as he should in robot mode, and convincing in bike mode. Quite a mix of bright colours, fit the movie aesthetic perfectly.

Kingdom Tracks
They’ve taken the MP design as a base here, simplifying it for the price point, and it turned out pretty well. The car mode is shapely and the toy style red flame hood decal is nice for a change. It fits very solidly together, almost too much so, as separating it out for transformation can be a little scary. Robot mode is frankly sexy as all Tracks. It’s a shame he couldn’t have some more of the paint apps the MP has, but it still looks good. The legs have the same kind of strange floaty appearance as the MP, but it’s hard to see how they could do the legs differently with this car model. The Takara release seems to have avoided the connection issues on the side of the legs, thankfully. They could still be better designed, but they hold together well enough for me.

Studio Series Sharkticon
I’d been getting so many 86 movie characters, it just seemed wrong not to get this one too, and i’m glad I did. He’s a chunky little guy that is really fun to play with, and I think it looks better than the efforts they’ve made with this character in the past.

Kingdom Galvatron
My kingdom for a proper G1 Galvatron! It’s not the MP i’ve been waiting an eternity for, but it’s damn good regardless. It goes perfectly well with Scourge and Cyclonus, particularly once i took off the battle damage. It didn’t look bad really, but such an odd choice considering the other 2 don’t have any, and you know, since no one fucking likes cheap battle damage paint! Takara assembled the shoulders correctly for their release, so no worries there. Proportionally he looks better to the eye than he does in photos. Suitably bulky and befitting of the new destron leader. Height wise, he looks perfect to me. I haven’t got my tape measure out with the cartoon scenes, but on the shelf it feels right. Galvatron should look stronger than his subordinates in my mind, and he does here. He comes with a few accessories that i’ll be leaving in the box, some gun no one asked for and a Matrix that just looks weird since it’s on a fixed chain. Transformation wise, things for the most part tab in pretty solid, and his space cannon is about as good as you could hope for, with only a little underside kibble really detracting from things.

Top 3 Transformers of 2021
  1. MP-53 Skids
  2. Kingdom Cyclonus
  3. Kingdom Rodimus Prime


Mainline was so close to taking it out this year! But there’s no denying it, MP Skids is the best Transformer of 2021. As fun as Rodimus Prime is, I think Cyclonus is just nicer looking in both modes, so he takes second.


A new category! I decided to get into collecting these since they’re cheap… although that might not be true with how many i’ve gotten in the short time i’ve been interested in them. They’re all pretty nice in their own way and addictive to collect, especially since I can just grab them from the local shop instead of having to resort to online purchasing. Choosing my favourites was hard as it’s difficult to not just give it to anything covered in tampos!

Tomica Premium 01 Skyline Turbo Super Silhouette
This one looks excellent, with sharp tampo printing all over, transparent head and tail lights. No opening doors or suspension, but I really like how low to the ground it looks, with the scoop thing up front.

Tomica Premium 02 Celica 2000 GT-Four
The colour is kind of a not-white white, so this can look a bit plain. It has opening doors and suspension, with nice tail lights. Not a bad one, maybe the car just isn’t that attractive to me. I really want a later model Celica with more curves.

Tomica Premium 06 Ferrari Testarossa
The first Tomica Premium I got. Man what a refined looking car design this is. The model is nicely detailed with popup headlights. Unfortunately the shade of red on them is a little mismatched. The interior is a cream colour which is nice for making out the details. The wheels look excellent with the traditional 5 spoke star design being nice and clear, as they’ve got the inner parts in black.

Tomica Premium 11 Skyline GT-R V-SPECII Nür
They really did the Skyline design justice with this model. The bayside blue paint is iconic and it’s metallic appearance is unique amongst the other Tomica Premiums. There’s opening doors and suspension on the wheels, which have very clear and realistic rims.

Tomica Premium 17 Ferrari 512BB
Another nice Ferrari model. This one has an opening back with engine detail, which can detach (to avoid breakage) a little easier than i’d like. There’s also pop up headlights, but no suspension. The two tone design means the lower half of the car is all plastic, but it works well.

Tomica Premium 18 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport
This car looks like an absolute beast! The sculpt is perfect with fine casting on the hood and rear window, and sharp protruding fenders. The spoiler is permanently fixed in place and really sells the look. Immaculate tampo prints are everywhere. It’s really impressive how crisp they are for the size.

Tomica Premium 19 Lancia Stratos HF Rally
Hey, the Sega Rally car! This looks pretty damn good, but I think they maybe went a bit bright with th egreen, and a bit dull with the yellow on the wheels. Otherwise it’s a fine sculpt and painted very nicely.

Tomica Premium 24 WRX STI NBR Challenge
This one looks great and goes perfectly with the BRZ, matching it detail for detail, but i was disappointed that it came with the spoiler as a separate piece. I get that it has to fit in the box somehow, but mine got crumpled and is now kind of permanently crooked. The piece also doesn’t secure to the car body as well as you’d like, easily getting knocked out.

Tomica Premium 31 Ferrari F40
The F40 is one of my favourite Ferrari designs so I was very pleased to pick this one up. The sculpt is great but they cheaped out with plain silver wheels, so you can’t make out the star shape rims clearly. I think their paint budget went to the seats, which are red, and this is a nice touch. The back of the car lifts up to view nice details on the engine, but it kind of leaves an unsightly gap when it’s closed.

Tomica Premium 38 Mazda Savanna RX-7
This one is as white they get, and looks much nicer than the Celica as a result. The car is sculpted nicely with opening doors and popup headlights. They look best when out, as they don’t want to sit flush with the hood when closed. The rear of the car looks the best with great transparent pieces for the lights, a clear number plate.

Tomica Premium 39 Sileighty
I’m not entirely sold on the original car’s look, which has the front of a Silvia and the back of a 180SX, but there’s no denying this is a very nice casting. I really like the blue, which has a rich wet look to it. There’s transparent lights front and back, opening doors and suspension.

Tomica Premium Unlimited 01 Wildspeed RX-7
The sculpt here looks perfect, what an awesome kit for the RX-7 this is! They really did justice to the wheels - with the back set being deeper than the front. They don’t have black paint but they still stand out because of the shadows. The car is mostly static with no play parts. I don’t mind that, but I can’t shake the feeling that the orange colour is a little too dull compared to the Fast & Furious movie it appears in.

Tomica Premium Unlimited 02 Detective Conan Ford Mustang (Shuichi Akai)
I don’t have much attachment to this car (and the show - which I haven’t seen at all). But seeing this at the shops, it was just remarkably striking visually. The white lines across the body are really crisp and work with the red and black to make it very appealing.

Tomica Premium Unlimited 03 KITT
I was going to type out the Knight Rider theme song but I don’t think anyone would recognize it. Just hum along in your head. I was so excited when they announced this! I’d just got into Tomica and here they were bringing out a version of one of my favourite 80’s tv show “characters”. I was left a bit cold when the first pics emerged though, seeing that they’d left the sunroof open, was a bit of a surprise as KITT mostly appeared in the show with what looks like a closed top, or at least a very dark one. In hand, the roof didn’t bother me that much. It actually has a nice effect of giving the interior exceptional visibility. Instead, my only real complaint is that the iconic red light at the front of the car, isn’t nearly as clear as it should be. It’s there, but you need a goddamn torch to see it!

Tomica 78 GT-R Nismo 2020 model
It quickly became apparent that Tomica looooves the GT-R, in all its varieties. This one looks very nice, for being in the mainline, with a beautiful pearl white finish. The rims are unpainted, which I usually don’t like, but it seems to work here with the contrast of white and black everywhere. There’s no opening doors but it does have suspension.

Tomica 5 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
One i picked up due to its resemblance to Binaltech Tracks. The main blue body is pretty nicely done, but unfortunately the head and tail lights are just painted on. The back doesn’t look too bad, but the front isn’t very convincing. The doors open and it has suspension

Tomica 117 Toyota GR Supra
This is the weakest of the Tomica i’ve got so far. While the real car is distinctive for it’s sharp lines, this cast just looks too soft with very little definition. The red colour is dull and makes it hard to see the tail lights as well (which along with the front ones, are just painted). No opening doors, but it has suspension.

Tomica 64 Ferrari 488 GTB
Side by side with the Supra above makes it easy to see those deficiencies I mentioned. This one by contrast has clear sharp lines, beautiful red and better details. Only the plain wheels of main line Tomica let it down.

Dream Tomica 148 Fast & Furious Supra
I love the old Supra and toyed with waiting for a Premium… but in the end I couldn’t resist this one, and it actually impressed me more than I thought it would. The main downside is the rear tail lights, that look like they haven’t even tried. But the rest of the car, sculpt and paint wise is quite impressive. I would have liked a painted spoiler but the grey plastic isn’t much of an issue in person. It’s clear their paint budget went to the NOS tanks in the back window, which look great. I would have preferred the top on look, if only because they’ve left some unsightly ‘tabs’ at the top of the windscreen. I’m hoping they do a Premium Unlimited version with all these issues rectified, but for now i’m quite happy with this piece!

Top 3 Tomica of 2021

  1. Tomica Premium 18 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport
  2. Tomica Premium 11 Skyline GT-R V-SPECII Nür
  3. Tomica Premium 01 Skyline Turbo Super Silhouette


The BRZ is such a beautiful looking monster of the track, it was my number 1 easily. The bayside blue Skyline takes second, I think mostly because I just see this as a car I would have loved to have in real life, it’s design is quite timeless, and the toy does it complete justice. The Skyline Turbo is another track beast. I guess it really was hard to look past the tampo’d Tomica!

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