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    Final Fantasy V (PS)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 15th, 2018 at 20:14:54)

    I played about 5 hours of this and it didn't stand out besides being wonderfully nostalgic. Apparently this one was notable for the job system later made famous (and perfected, according to me) in FF Tactics and for having summons. The story was forgettable and the characters were overly cartoonish and pretty uninteresting.

    The nostalgia was so strong though! It's such a simple RPG! Walk around the small 2D maps, talk to NPCs in towns to glean where to go next, buy your new gear, click on all the pots and treasure chests, sail to the next location, wander through the dungeon, fight the boss, go to the next town, etc. It's cool to see a 25-year-old game have all these Final Fantasy staples--the music, chocobos, the menus, summons, jobs, etc.

    Of course I played the original Nintendo game when I was a kid, but my family had a Sega, not a SNES, so I missed all the rest until FFVII on Playstation, and have played all the main ones since that one, except the MMOs and XV. Anyway, I started to get a little bored and looked up how this one was rated compared to VI, which I also acquired, and apparently V is largely regarded as one of the worst, while VI is one of the best. So out with V, in with VI.

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    The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)    by   jp       (Jul 10th, 2018 at 17:52:58)

    This has been a great game to play on the plane with my two kids. There's surprisingly more stuff to do than I expected - even as a single player (which I haven't experienced yet, but maybe later?). We've played in - I think - three different worlds so far, and each has a different item you use to solve puzzles and such. It's pretty standard Zelda in that regard, but having three links running around doing things adds a lot to the chaos and mayhem.

    At the end of each area you open a chest and get an item you use as materials for different outfits, and different outfits give you bonuses/special abilities which are fun. We've each unlocked a few - I only have one copy of the game, but the kids download to their devices AND they can save their progress which is neat.

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    Bust a Move 2: Dance Tengoku Mix (PS)    by   jp       (Jul 9th, 2018 at 15:56:42)

    I'm currently on vacation and I've been going through stuff I had "in storage". My old (original) Playstation was among the things I've pulled out and plan to get back into "circulation".

    Fortunately, it worked, and I spend a nice 30-45 minutes playing this game with my son - who was not familiar with this style of music/dance game. It took a few seconds to remember how it all worked and I now wonder what happened to this "branch" of the evolutionary road in game design. This game is a weird hybrid of sorts - it's a rhythm/action game that also feels like a fighting game although there's no combat.

    Here's how it works (this is partly as I recall, since I didn't play it that long!)

    a. The game has a bunch of characters, each of which have different dance moves (and a song and a stage). The dance moves change if you pick different characters and might even vary in their difficulty to pull off.

    b. Each match has a set length (the song) during which you'll get to do a certain number of moves. There are moments where you have moves, but not your opponent (solos!) and vice versa.

    c. Moves are a sequence of button presses illustrated in the screen (e.g. up,up,down,left). Each move ends with a separate button press (e.g. X or O). The final button press has to be on beat - the prior presses don't have to be.
    [This is what feels like a fighting game - these are combo moves!]

    d. If you get a sequence right, the next sequence is "upgraded" - get all the sequences right and you "fever" (AFAI remember, that's the "best").

    e. If you get it wrong, you start over (or from a previous sequence). Obviously you won't get the highest rating.

    There are ways to attack your opponent, but I don't recall what they are.

    I DO recall that there are SECRET sequences you can do to unlock even higher combo levels and better scores.


    Anyways, the game still holds up incredibly well - even the gameplay feels fresh and different from other stuff out there now. Weird, huh?


    Also, I think it's a reasonably early game such that "O" is the default for "ok/accept" rather than "X" (then "cancel/back"). Story goes that US/Western devs ignored (didn't know?) the recommended default and used "X" instead - pissing off Japanese devs who then had to change when some Western games became really popular and cemented the "wrong" standard. It's been "X" as default for ok/accept ever since.

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    B Team: Metal Cartoon Squad (DS)    by   jp       (Jul 9th, 2018 at 15:29:46)

    Popped this in during a short plane ride and...hmmm...

    I haven't done any research on the game whatsoever so I'm super curious to know if it's based on an existing IP or not. It's just that the art is so bad that it feels like the only way this would make sense is for it to be based on an IP with a particular niche crowd and aesthetic. Otherwise, the art is just bad...

    The game, so far (I've only played three levels) is a to down twin stick shooter where you control movement with one hand and the shooting direction with the other. It feels a bit awkward to play for me, but having the large-sied DS doesn't help either. You mostly run 'n gun, with some pickups along the way to heal, change to a rocket launcher, or move faster.

    Other that that, I'm not sure what else to expect.

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    Hand of Fate (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Jul 9th, 2018 at 11:37:23)

    I was sold on the idea of Hand of Fate before playing it, and I tried it at a friend's house sometime last year, bought it, and just got around to playing it the last couple weeks. It's a mixture of deck building, dungeon crawling, and action RPG. You are "the player" sitting across a card table from "the dealer." There's no exposition. You're dropped into this mysterious situation. The dealer is an enigmatic figure, and I want to know more about him. Throughout the game, there is little in the way of story regarding who he is, who you are, and why you are there. The dealer tells you that you're playing "the game" that he's created, many have played before you, the dealer always wins, and all the players have died. And he alludes to the fact that somehow Iím regaining my memories through the cards, which leads me to believe I was some adventurer or another who maybe just stepped through the wrong portal and found myself here.

    The dealer explains the game to you over the first level, but youíre figuring a lot out yourself (e.g., that some cards get locked to you until you fulfill their conditions, that the icon on the bottom of the card is a token that grants rewards for fulfilling conditions, that you can equip as many rings as you want, etc.). Very intuitive way to present rules and information. So *basically* how the game works is as follows:

    - Deck building is fantastic and never gets old. You have two pools of cards, equipment and encounter cards. Equipment is your various types of weapons, armor, rings, and artifacts (trinkets that have some special use like making you temporarily invisible, giving you a fire aura, reflecting ranged attacks, etc.). Encounter cards are little scenarios that determine much of what happens to you in each level. For example, The Maiden can give you food, increase your max health, and bless you. Ambush gets you a combat encounter with an equipment draw card as reward. Dark Carnival has you choosing a series of chance cards as your character explores a weird carnival. There's usually some element of risk/reward with the encounter cards. The Altar, for example, gives you a 50/50 chance to be blessed or cursed. All these give the feel of a tabletop game with the dealer as DM. Anyway, you choose a prescribed number of equipment and encounter cards to fill your deck, and then you enter the level.

    - Dungeon crawling is exciting. Levels are made up of a series of encounter card arrangements that your player, as a tabletop game piece, moves across. Find the exit, go to the next area, explore the area, find the stairs, and repeat until you find the level's boss in the final area. Each card you land on flips over and you resolve the encounter. There is *tons* of chance here, though you have some control over what encounters you will...encounter...based on what you chose to include in the deck. When you have to choose chance cards, you can have either a Huge Success, Success, Failure, or Huge Failure, which will change the outcome of the scenario. However, as I learned when reading an FAQ one night, the chance cards are not completely random! You're shown the cards, and then they are shuffled. But there is order to it. If you watch closely, you can follow individual cards as they shuffle. Itís not too hard when there is like one or two slow shuffles, but itís pretty impossible when the shuffle speeds up and especially when there are three or four shuffles. But it makes your odds of the easy shuffle encounters almost 100%, which means guaranteed equipment or blessings or whatever. Prior to this, I'd just been picking the left-hand card every time because I thought it was random. But now, if I choose the wrong card, it feels like my fault!

    Each level also puts different default curses on the player, and the dealer shuffles different negative cards into the decks, and this can make things really tricky! One level that stood out cursed me with "Whenever you acquire a curse, lose 10 max HP." You begin with 100HP, so 10 is a lot. I had runs where I was cursed down to 40 max HP because he also shuffled encounter cards in that would put a random curse on you. Another level curses you such that when you counter-attack, you consume a food (every space you move consumes a food, and if you run out of food, your health begins to drain, so you *really* need to manage your food) AND every character takes additional 50% damage. The next-to-last level, the dealer shuffled a bunch of Rusty Axes (the worst weapon) in my equipment pile, so it was difficult to acquire a good weapon. These starting curses and insidious dealer cards can really change what equipment or encounters you put in your decks. For example, to combat the "lose 10 max HP per curse" curse, I only included one helmet in my deck, the one that reveals the exit from each area when you enter an area, and then included every encounter card that had a chance to give me a helmet. Once practically guaranteed to get that helmet, I could make a beeline for the exit in every area, thus not veering off in unnecessary directions landing on more curse cards, and allowing me to attempt the boss with sufficient HP. The one that consumed a piece of food every time I counter-attacked and made everyone take 50% more damage meant that I couldnít counter and I couldnít get hit much. I wound up removing most of the combat encounter cards from my deck and luckily discovered a couple rings that let me heal in combat (one saved me on the boss).

    - Action RPG combat leaves something to be desired. It hearkens back to simpler days of button mashing hack-n-slash games. A little slow response to buttons (e.g., slightly sluggish movement, you can get caught in combo or finisher animations, etc.), but there is a rhythm to it in the attacking and counter-attacking. It's almost got an Arkham/Shadow of Mordor feel. If this was polished, the game would be significantly more fun. As it is, the combat becomes nearly as frustrating as the randomness. Blessings and equipment can change the feel of combat, but it's generally basic and easy to get overwhelmed (e.g., 6 lava golems, multiple bosses at once). Some encounters just kill me (Lich, &#*!@ Kraken), and randomness plays in both to (sometimes) what monsters you will fight and what equipment, blessings, curses, and health buffs, you will have accumulated up to that point. For example, I almost rage quit after I unlocked the Kraken encounter, which becomes a locked card in your encounters pile (i.e., it cannot be removed until you defeat it). I kept landing on the Kraken, at least 6 games in a row. You can't flee from the Kraken, so you have to fight it, and the fight involves actually fighting the last regular boss, the King of Scales, whom I hadn't even encountered at that point outside the Kraken battle, WHILE trying to kill the Kraken. It was brutal.

    This turned really detailed, huh. One of my favorite things about Hand of Fate is that you can play the game with different goals (e.g., progressing through quest lines; trying to kill a particular boss or complete a particular task; or going for the level progression). There is also an endless mode, and DLC that adds different modifications to your character (think classes). I wonder how differently Hand of Fate 2 changes up the formula. I mostly want to see improved combat. Super interesting game though, highly recommend checking it out.

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