Also available on PlayStation 3, Android, iOS, and Windows
I went into this game not expecting much. The final product was about what I initially expected, but I still ended up disappointed because the game starts off fairly entertaining and - for history and strategy game nerds like me - pretty addicting. The problem is that it doesn't stay fun. It's like if you started playing a game where the first level was Super Mario Bros 3 but the rest of the game was Math Blaster. I felt betrayed and lied to.
No one should really expect anything when you see that History Channel is the one sponsoring and directing the game. Okay, so maybe you should expect an informative game - and, in fairness, it does a decent job of portraying the Hundred Years War's major turning points - but that's ALL one should expect. The gameplay is like a blend of real time strategy and almost-but-not-really turn based strategy with some light RPG elements. The battles themselves take place in real time, but you have the ability to pause the action to issue commands to your units or use command cards. Then you resume the battle, and tiny little people start hacking each other to bits again. The RPG elements involve the stuff you do between battles. After each battle you win, you earn a certain amount of gold that you can use to either upgrade your units or buy new equipment. When in battle, your units gain experience, and with each level they gain, they gain a skill point. These can be put into general skills, like sword mastery or bow mastery; into attack skills that (obviously) boost your attack; or into defense skills that (also obviously) boost your defense. The problem is that the experience gains slow down more abruptly than Ys I on Master System.
So in the early battles, it's not too difficult; archers = victory. Your enemies just march steadily towards your army as they drop like flies against your relentless volley of arrows. Later on, it gets a bit tougher when they start using shields, and your archers end up having to defend themselves in melee combat. It's alright, though, because they have a melee weapon as a back up. No shield, granted, but they can at least defend themselves even if they won't be winning any major sword fights. Around Chapter 10 or so (at least in the English campaign; I'm not sure about the French campaign), the difficulty spikes to the point where the game just stops being fun. After eleven consecutive attempts at Chapter 13, I threw in the towel. It just wasn't fun enough to warrant the difficulty. I was outnumbered 3-to-1, and while I could make the French cavalry retreat by taking a certain command point and get that number down to being outnumbered 2-to-1, it was on the far end of the map; I had to fight my way past half of their infantry to get there, by which point their cavalry had probably almost gotten into a flanking position anyway. My archers could have cut through their infantry fast enough to manage it if they hadn't had giant ass shields making my arrows virtually useless. To make matters worse, most of them had spears and lances, making my own cavalry units useless against them. It was just a pain in the ass that I decided wasn't worth my time anymore.
Those who know me know that I'm not usually one to get my knickers in a twist about visuals, but the graphics in this game were straight garbage given the platform its on. It seriously looks like a PlayStation 2 game. Given that this is the same console that gave us the beautiful Halo Wars, it was just....ugh. Disgusting looking. Honest to god, Age of Empires II - a game that came out a full twelve years before this - looks about the same in terms of texture and animation quality. It looks like moldy ass. Before each main battle, there's a cut scene explaining that part of the war, and about half of it is live actors (probably pulled straight from a previously aired documentary on the Hundred Years War), but I've legitimately got FMV games on my Sega CD with better video quality than those cut scenes. It's just....inexcusable.
Honestly, the game isn't COMPLETELY horrible, but you've seriously got be a hardcore history AND strategy game nerd to get any real enjoyment out of this, and even then, don't expect it to last. Even on the Easy setting, the game has two modes - bend-over-for-you easy and going-in-dry hard. There is no in between. If you can find it for, like $5 or less, then sure, maybe it's worth some shits and giggles, but under no circumstances can this game ever be considered "good." It may seem like it at first - I got fooled - but it's mediocre at BEST, and that's being generous.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on Linux, OSX, and Windows
I'd been putting off playing this game for quite a while. I kept meaning to - I'd enjoyed the story in the first game, and I've heard the third game's praises sung non-stop for like a year and a half - but I knew I'd want to keep playing once I started, so I was waiting for a long weekend. Well, what better time to start a mid-length RPG than Memorial Day weekend? Luckily for me, I seriously had my shit together with gaming as I managed to put in about 30 hours and clear the game in two days.
The Witcher 2 picks up the story of Geralt of Rivia a few months after the conclusion of the first game. Still without the memory of his past, Geralt investigates the mysterious assassination of two of the Northern Kingdoms' monarchs and rumors that witchers may be involved. Graphically, the game looks pretty much like its predecessor did, but thankfully, the combat feels much more fluid and natural in the sequel. It's not perfect, mind you; the commands to lock on to enemies and draw your weapon still felt a bit sluggish, and the combat mechanics didn't feel quite as polished as they could have been, but it felt significantly more intuitive and responsive to me than the first game. Granted, I played the first game on PC and the second on Xbox 360, so there's a little bit of apples-to-oranges here, I suppose, but regardless, I felt much more comfortable and confident in the combat this go around.
One thing that I did notice is that there seemed to be a lot less non-humanoid monster slaying in this game than in the first one. You still kill a lot of rotfiends and nekkers (try saying that in frustration with a deep Southern accent; makes for some awkward misunderstanding), but those are bipedal and generally humanoid looking. There isn't nearly as much "beast" killing as there was in the first one. I'm not saying that's either good or bad, necessarily, but it definitely felt just a little less "fantasy" than the first one without the flocks of wyverns to kill (although there were, thankfully, plenty of harpies to massacre).
My one big complaint with this game is the amount of bugs I encountered, especially given that the game's age has passed the half-decade mark. Most of the bugs weren't game breaking, but there was some noticeable screen tearing from time to time, a fair amount of texture pop-in, and extremely finicky button command prompt triggers. I did, however, encounter two or three instances where a major quest flag failed to trigger, forcing me to reload an older save, and four or five instances of side quests being bugged and rendered impossible to complete. The minor bugs, I can ignore and live with, but quest-breaking bugs and main quest flags that don't trigger aren't minor. It's also worth noting that I was playing with the game installed on my 360's hard drive; I shudder to think the frequency and type of graphical glitches I'd have encountered without installing.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Witcher 2. The story definitely kept me hooked, although I found it a little less intriguing than that of the first game, and the characters were decently well developed. Graphically, it looks just fine for an Xbox 360 title, although it certainly doesn't push the system's limits, and the texture pop-in was disappointing. The bugs, however, are definitely an issue worth noting, and from my wiki perusing, it seems as though most of the game's quests have known bugs in one situation or another. Despite all that, however, I finished feeling satisfied and excited to fire up the third game once summer break begins, especially since I have the GOTY edition with all of the DLC.
My Rating - 4 Neps
With virtual reality still in its infancy, it's hard to find a VR game that is truly compelling and actually works. There are several arcade style VR games - EVE Gunjack and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood for example - and there are some multiplayer VR games - RIGS and Starblood Arena - but single player games with a truly interesting and captivating narrative and gameplay experience built specifically for VR are still an uncommon thing. Impulse Gear's offering in Farpoint, however, might be one of the first to break ground in that particular sector of the VR arena.
The basic premise of Farpoint is that you're a shuttle pilot working on a space station observing an anomalous singularity somewhere in space. As you're about to start ferrying two scientists, that singularity suddenly erupts with activity, pulling in the space station, the scientists, and your shuttle inside. When you awaken having crash landed on an alien world, you discover that the singularity was actually a semi-stable wormhole leading to some unknown corner of the universe. The game consists of your character and his journey to pick up the trail of the scientists who would have made planetfall just before you and hopefully find a way off the planet and back to Earth.
The game is a first person shooter, and while it's not mandatory to have the badass PlayStation Move Aim Controller made specifically for Farpoint, I thought it looked hella cool, so I ordered the bundle, and it DEFINITELY enhances the immersion of the game. You lift the gun to aim down the sights as if you would a real gun, and your movements are (almost) perfectly mirrored on screen. It's as close as I've ever gotten to forgetting that I'm in a game. I truly does feel like you're on that alien planet fighting hostile giant spiders (as if anything could be worse), robots, and - eventually - alien foot soldiers.
You have a variety of weapons from which to choose, but you start with the trusty assault rifle. The assault rifle works like the weapons in the original Mass Effect in that the ammo is infinite but it overheats if fired too much. The assault rifle also has a secondary fire that launches a guided rocket. You can also pick up a shotgun with a secondary grenade launcher, a sniper rifle, a plasma rifle with an energy shield, and an energy "spike" gun that's basically a rifle version of the Needler from Halo. With the exception of the assault rifle and the spike gun, the others have to be reloaded manually when a magazine is spent, but the ammo is unlimited. The spike gun, like the assault rifle, automatically reloads when not being fired. The energy for the plasma rifle's shield recharges over time when depleted, but you have to find ammo for the assault rifle's rocket launcher and the shotgun's grenade launcher, and both are extremely scarce.
The game's visuals are fantastic considering the relatively poor resolution of the PSVR headset, and you can tell that the game would look stunning if the headset were more advanced. The use of 3D audio and the ambient sounds of the world add a level of immersion that, even among other VR games, I had never felt before. While I'm definitely singing its praises and will continue to, however, it's not a perfect game. The enemy spawns in particular feel a bit...uninspired. Whereas in most modern shooters enemies are spawn before you should be able to see them and move around in a relatively realistic way, enemies spawn either from the ground or from behind a ridge (depending on if the enemy is a giant spider or robot/alien), giving it a very obviously scripted and rather arcade-y rail shooter feel. It doesn't totally break immersion or anything, but it would have been nice if the game were a little less linear and had some more organic-feeling enemies.
While I'm tempted to say that the story is the highlight of the game, the gameplay really does steal the show. The story is really interesting and, while rather predictable in places, certainly kept me interested and wanting to know what was going to happen next. The gameplay, however....oh man, the gameplay. Never before I have felt like I was actually THERE, but I felt like I was on that planet all alone with just my rifle and a swarm of giant alien spiders that was trying to eat me. There were a few little problems that are disappointingly typical of anything that uses PlayStation Move - the calibration would randomly go a bit wonky and put my elbow in the middle of my chest, I'd have my face stuck inside a table during a cut scene, etc - but I blame that more on the nature of PlayStation Move and the PlayStation Camera than on the game itself. The only thing mechanically that really bugged me was that there was no way to zoom when aiming with the sniper rifle. It was a powerful ass rifle like it should be, and it was extremely accurate when you were aimed at an enemy, but between the lack of any zoom and the low resolution of the PlayStation VR headset, it could get difficult to aim at any distance, and a rifle with a low rate of fire and a three round magazine isn't very useful in close quarters combat. It obviously didn't break the game, and it was still my favorite non-shotgun weapon (because my favorite weapon will ALWAYS be a shotgun), but it was definitely an irksome design choice.
Farpoint, while not perfect, is without the doubt the most immersive and most fun VR game that I've played to date. The environments are gorgeous, the enemies are totally hateable, and the combat feels absolutely incredible. The sound design is subdued for the most part, but it definitely adds to the immersion of the game. If you want a VR first person shooter with a solid single player and a scifi setting, then Farpoint is EXACTLY the game you're looking. This one's definitely highly recommended.
My Rating - 5 Neps
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how a proper remake is done. This right here. I've played a lot of games in my time, and I've played my fair share of remakes and reboots, and not once have I ever seen a game remake turn out as perfect as this one. I'm going on record here - Fire Emblem Echoes is a perfect remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden in virtually every way.
If you're familiar with Fire Emblem Gaiden or have read my review of that game, then you should be familiar enough with the story, but I'll sum it up quickly anyway. Alm grew up in the tiny Ram Village with his grandfather, Mycen, and, for a time, a childhood friend named Celica. He was shooting some B-ball out in the woods when a couple of knights who were up to no good started making trouble in his village. He and his friends got into one little fight, and his gramps got scared and said "Celica's moving in with some priestesses on this remote island in the middle of nowhere for reason I can't tell you because plot device." I won't go into more detail than that so as not to spoil anything, but I will say that the complaints I had about the story in Gaiden have been COMPLETELY fixed in Echoes. The story is told in a much more organic manner with significantly more character development, resulting in a game that tells the same story but in a way that had me hooked and invested immediately as opposed to mildly interested but mostly apathetic at the end as was the case with Gaiden.
When I said that Echoes was the perfect remake of Gaiden, I meant it. This isn't a reboot style game like Tomb Raider (not that Fire Emblem needs rebooting) or a reimagining like the recent Ratchet and Clank but a true remake. Almost everything was kept intact. The world maps looks exactly the same, each battle map is virtually identical to its Famicom counterpart, and the game's major turning point battles still play out the same way. Also like the original game is the lack of weapon triangle, class up "trees" that can be triggered (or not) whenever you want after reaching a certain level rather than a single upgrade done either at level 21 or with the use of an item, and relatively non-linear gameplay on the world map with side missions and the ability to go back and forth as you please. There were only two big changes, both of them positive in my opinion - dungeons have been fleshed out to be more than two screens before the end (they're entire legit dungeons now), and the last dungeon has completely redone. That latter point is extremely significant in my opinion because, while interesting, the last dungeon in the original Gaiden is so frustrating difficult that it stopped being fun and was just irksome.
Another addition that I absolutely loved is the weapon customization. You gather silver and gold coins throughout the game, and these can be used at blacksmiths to upgrade your weapons. You also have the option of naming your weapon. At first I did my usual thing of giving them obscene and offensive names, then I went to offensive and occult names in Latin, and then I ran out of ideas and just started naming weapons after students. I mean, I had like 30 of them; my creativity only goes so far. While it can be a pain to try to collect enough money (even if you take the bitch way out like I did and use the "farm money" DLC), it's definitely worth it in the long run because not only can you (eventually) upgrade a shitty weapon type all the way up to a badass one, but upgrading a weapon within its type (steel, silver, etc) dramatically boosts its stats. We're talking a jump of attack power 3 to attack power 8.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is an exemplar for what a remake should be. They keep almost everything from the original game, modernize the look and feel, and add a few neat extras here and there, but they do all of this in such a way that it still feels like the same game you played on Famicom. There is some post game stuff one can do after finishing Act 5, but I'm still poking around through that, so I won't speak on it too much except to say that you can revisit DLC or random Terror battles as much as you want. I'm not quite prepared to say that Echoes is the best Fire Emblem of the entire series - that title still goes to Awakening for me, I think - but it's DAMN good. If you're a fan of SRPGs at all, you owe it to yourself to pick up Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. It's truly a masterpiece.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift
Batman: Arkham VR is Rocksteady's attempt to cash in on both the early VR hype as well as the hype of the extremely successful Arkham series. It launched with an affordable price tag - $20 IIRC - but that makes a lot more sense when you play it and realize that it's only about an hour long. Despite the exceptionally short length, however, it is at least an extremely enjoyable VR experience.
The game, naturally, is in a first person perspective. You play with two PlayStation Move controllers, one in each hand controlling Batman's hands. You play as Batman (obviously) and investigate the disappearance of Robin and Nightwing. You go through various environments and investigate using your grapple gun, scanner, and batarang. It's not terribly complex game, but the motion controls and VR headset make the game ridiculously immersive. Each environment has optional things to explore and secrets to find. Finding these secrets will unlock secret characters and features.
Let's take a minute and address the game's negative points, and there are several. First and foremost what I've seen most people complain about - the length. The game is extraordinarily short. It will probably only take you between 45 and 75 minutes to finish depending on how thoroughly you explore an area. You've got the occasional little control glitches that often accompany games that utilize motion controls, but they're not too bad; it can take a little bit to get a feel for and avoid, but most of the game doesn't require quick and precise movement, so you've got plenty of time to figure out how to finagle it.
Batman: Arkham VR definitely has its flaws, but as an immersive Batman experience, especially so relatively early in VR's adoption. The length is definitely a legitimate complaint, but at least the price tag is fairly low. The story is interesting, but the gameplay is just unbelievably fun and addicting. Yeah, it's got its cons, but the gameplay more than makes up for it in my opinion.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and Windows
I'm a big fan of TellTale's games. I absolutely adored The Wolf Among Us and all three seasons of The Walking Dead, and I've still got Game of Thrones sitting on my shelf for whenever I get around to starting it. They take storytelling to a level rarely seen in gaming today, and while some may criticize their games for being too light on actual gameplay, the player agency the choices give and the quality of the character development and storytelling that their games provide are remarkable.
For those (somehow) not in the know, TellTale's series consist of episodic stories told in five episodes. Being impatient as shit, I always buy the season pass discs and keep them shelved for a while so that when I do play through the series, I can (hopefully) play through the whole series at once instead of being left on cliffhangers until the next episode is released because there are some major cliffhangers in these games. Even if it's not a definite cliffhanger moment, they build up the conflict in the story so well that you just have to know what happens next.
Anywho, you play as the titular caped crusader in a non-canon story of Batman's early days in Gotham before Gordon was police commissioner, before the GCPD worked with Batman instead of shooting at him, and before Batman's archnemesis Joker was appeared. The story revolves around widespread attacks by a group called the Children of Arkham, the secrets of the Wayne family and Mayor Hill administration, and the mayoral campaign of Harvey Dent. I won't spoil any major story points, but it's a brilliantly written story not only of a villain threatening the people of Gotham but a tragedy about the fall and redemption of a hero.
My only major complaint with the game is the frame rate. It's not a high action game, so some people probably aren't bothered by the frame rate, but it drove me up the wall. I don't know how other consoles, PC, or mobile platforms compare, but PlayStation 4 had some pretty major frame rate issues. At times, it was a smooth, unbroken 30 fps; other times it would stutter along like a low end PC trying to play a game on max graphics. It didn't totally kill my experience, but it definitely broke my immersion in places and was an enormous annoyance. Aaaand there's also the occasional entertaining but wtf graphical issue as seen below.
All things considered, TellTale's Batman continues the studio's stellar record of superb storytelling and world building. It's got the bizarre performance issues that often accompany TellTale's games (at least on PS4), but they're not so severe as to render the game unplayable. If you don't care for Batman or the DC universe in general, you probably won't enjoy this game much, but if you're a huge Batman/DC fan or (like me) generally apathetic but love a good story, this should definitely be on your shelf and/or hard drive.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360 and Windows via Game Room; and in arcades
For today's Throwback Thursday review, I dusted off Canyon Bomber on Atari 2600. This has been in my collection for years, but I've never spent much time with it. I went in with fairly high expectations because the game uses the 2600 paddle controllers, and I'm a huge fan of that controller. Unfortunately, the game didn't quite live up to my expectations despite the paddle controllers.
Canyon Bomber boasts eight games, but truthfully, there are really only two variations. You've got your expected gameplay where you use an aircraft of some sort to blow up colored blocks in a canyon for a score, but I found this game mode to be exceptionally boring. It's like Breakout but reverse but not fun. The other game type, however, is Sea Bomber, and I actually did enjoy that somewhat. It's not a groundbreaking game, and it gets boring pretty quickly, but it's moderately fun. You actually use the paddle for that mode because you have choose the depth at which your depth charge will detonate to destroy the ship that you're targeting. It's good for a score attack sort of competition with a friend, but it didn't hold my attention for more than two or three games.
The visuals, for an Atari 2600 game, aren't terrible. The ships are defined, and you can tell what each of the aircraft are supposed to be. The paddle controllers, at least in Sea Bomber where they're actually used, are extremely responsive. Sound leaves some to be desired, but given the age of the game and limits of the system technology, it's reasonable.
Canyon Bomber is yet another dime-a-dozen Atari 2600 games. They go for like a dollar or two cart only, and even complete in box copies only run you about $10. Don't got out of your way, though. You're really not missing much.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Android, Windows, and arcade
I'm gonna be frank here - as much as I ADORE arcade shmups, I've never played a Darius game before. Heresy, I know. So I went into this one with a blank slate in terms of expectations. All I knew was that this was probably the most hyped Limited Run release (not to mention the most expensive due to the high digital price) and that the series had a respected pedigree. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, I was not disappointed.
Dariusburst is a horizontally scrolling shooter, and while I prefer vertically scrolling shooters, this one is QUITE good. There are a few different gameplay modes. You've got your regular arcade mode, called AC mode, which you can play either with infinite lives to practice or on with your standard allotment of lives (I think 3 is default). If that's too easy for you, there's Original EX mode. It's the same style as AC Mode except that instead of Easy, Medium, and Hard paths, you have all new stages with Expert, Extreme, and Exceed difficulty paths. Then there's CS mode which is a gargantuan mode with over 200 missions. Then there's the online Chronicle Mode, divided into 64 different servers, which boasts over 3000 stages and can be tackled and progressed by people from all over the world. With nine playable ships and a bunch more from various companies' IPs that can be purchased as DLC, there's a wide array of aesthetic options.
The gameplay itself is on point. The hitbox isn't too big like I felt it was in MUSHA, and it doesn't quite go into "bullet hell" territory with 90% of the screen taken up by shots like Ikaruga tends to do. The levels themselves are fun with multiple enemy types and formations, usually coming from the right but, in later levels, also attacking from the left. You've got some special "burst" attacks that I typically save for hoards of enemies or the final boss. As for the enemy bosses, they're the real stars of the show here in my opinion. They're all GIANT ROBOT ALIEN SEA CREATURES. That's the coolest shit in the world. Most of them have attack patterns that are relatively easy to figure out, but there are a few that are either tricky to figure out or just tricky to avoid even after you've figured it out.
My biggest gripe with the game is that they seem to have gone for quantity over quality with the levels. I mean, over 200 levels in CS mode, and over 3000 levels in Chronicle mode? They all start to feel REALLY samey after a while. I'd have rather had a story mode with 20 good, unique levels than hundreds and hundreds of cookie cutter levels. I know that's a personal thing - some people would prefer an ass ton of samey levels - but it's a definite con in my book. I'm all for survival modes with endless waves and stuff, but this just seems excessive to me. It's not a survival mode - there's a definite end - so I don't really think that massive number of levels was the best design choice.
Dariusburst CS: Chronicle Saviors is a fantastic arcade shmup. It's not without its flaws, but it's positives more than make up for the few negatives. If you're REALLY into this game and want to keep playing forever and ever, then it's got you covered with the 200+ level CS mode and the 3000+ level Chronicle mode. For most of us, I suspect the AC mode will suffice for our fix every now and then, but there's definitely a lot of game here to experience, even if it is mostly filler. There are some questionable design choices with out CS mode and Chronicle mode were made, but even with that in mind, Dariusburst CS: Chronicle Saviors is a must-buy for any fans of the genre.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Neo Geo X, Saturn, PlayStation, Switch; Wii, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable via Metal Slug Anthology and SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1; Wii via Virtual Console; PlayStation Network, iOS, Android, and Windows
Metal Slug is the first entry in what is - in my opinion - the greatest arcade run-n-gun series of all time. It's the reason that I hunted down a Neo Geo MVS cabinet, and it provided some of my all-time favorite Wii co-op memories when playing Metal Slug Anthology. I'm more than a little biased, but this series is one of SNK's greatest masterpieces, and it all started with this game.
The basic plot is that this evil General Morden took over the world's governments and took possession of a new all-terrain war tank called Metal Slugs. Marco Rossi and Tarma Roving are sent in to reclaim or destroy any Metal Slugs they find and to locate and destroy Morden's base of operations. They complete this critical mission by running to the right and killing every enemy soldier in their way (of which there seems to be an endless supply). Along the way, you encounter POWs you can free. If you save these prisoners, they pull large weapons - heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, flamethrowers, etc - out their anuses. At least I'm assuming that's where they were hiding them. Not really any other place I can think of to hide heavy weapons when you're just wearing rags and are being tied up by the enemy.
The game itself is extremely simple in concept, but as an arcade game designed to eat your quarters, it's insanely difficult. I also suck at it, so it's a damn good thing I can set the cabinet to Free Play and just continue infinitely. I could play every day for the rest of my life, and I'm fully confident that I'd still never be able to 1cc the game. It's a great challenge, though, and it's ridiculously fun when you're playing with a friend.
In addition to running and gunning through enemy soldiers, if you get close enough to then, you can stab them with a knife and kill them (which is RIDICULOUSLY satisfying to do). You'll also have to content with enemy tanks, artillery, planes, helicopters, and patrol boats. While you'll play through most of the game on foot, there are several occasions where you'll get to take control of a Metal Slug. You get an infinite ammo machine gun while you're in the Metal Slug, and your grenades are replaced with cannon shells. One level at the end, you get to use an anti-aircraft gun and massacre whole squadrons of fighters. It's basically the coolest shit of 1996.
Metal Slug isn't the greatest run and gun game of all time, but it is the progenitor of the greatest run and gun series of all time. I stand by that statement; fight me. The biggest problem I have with this first entry in the series is that there's some serious slow down on the arcade version. Later ports fixed that for the most part, but it's a pretty jarring thing on the arcade. Honestly, though, that's my only real complaint. It's just so damn good, especially when you've got a friend to play with you. My recommendation is to play it on PS2 or Wii on Metal Slug Anthology or on the digital release on Switch, but however you play it, it kicks ass.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Wii U via Virtual Console and Wii
Pikmin is a game that's been in my collection for years but that I've never played for more than about two hours until this week. See, I hate time limits. Like, that's pretty much my least favorite thing in a game. It's why Majora's Mask is my second least favorite Zelda game after Zelda II (I haven't played the CD-i games). I decided I should probably put on my big boy britches and actually play through it, though, since I think it's the only Nintendo IP I've not played, so that's exactly what I did this week.
Pikmin is, at its core, a real time strategy game, but rarely does it feel like one. You're not base building or destroying enemy cities or installations or anything. You've your little Pikmin - fire-proof red ones that hit hard, super light yellow ones that can hold bombs, and amphibious blue ones that can touch a water molecule without instantly dying. You'll have to build up your supply of each type of Pikmin and use the right one for the right job. They're also ridiculously stupid and will charge headfirst at an enemy that it definitely can't kill, and the yellow and red ones will jump into water with a total disregard for their own safety just like America jumped into the Trump administration.
The story is that Olimar, this little pigmy looking dude with Vulcan ears, crash landed on this planet. His space suit only had 30 days' worth of life support before he dies from exposure to oxygen (it's toxic to him). He's gotta scour this planet for 30 missing parts to his ship, although there are really only like 20 that are REQUIRED to get back into space, so as long as you find the right pieces, you don't technically have to find all 30 (although it's not terribly difficult to find them all with time to spare; I did it in 24 days). Without spoiling anything, I will give you some advice, though; leave yourself at least two days for the last area (it took me three because I fucked up and wasted the bombs, costing me a day).
One thing I did really love about Pikmin, however, was the surprising and frankly rather deceptive look of the game. It looks like a fairly cute, innocent little game. You've got this cute, funny looking little guy and all these adorable little creatures...and then you start talking about suffocation, you hear Pikmin scream as they drown, you see them get eaten, mauled, and crushed to death, and you watch them burn to death. Like, damn, dude. This game, despite being super colorful and cheerful, is actually pretty fucking dark when you think about it. That juxtaposition between the aesthetic of the game and the dark reality of what's going on is just brilliant in my opinion and artistic af.
To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of Pikmin. I know I said I love how jarring the contrast between the look and reality of the game are, and I do really admire that about it, but there are a couple things that really keep me from loving it. First is that the Pikmin AI could have used some work. I'm not saying they should be autonomous and play the game for me, but I should be able to walk across a bridge without ten of my dudes deciding to jump to a watery grave despite my best efforts to keep them on land. They also seem to get caught on every conceivable obstacle in the environment, and lord help me if I'll ever find half of them. The look is cute, the story is interesting, and the gameplay can be fun, but between my gripes with the AI and the fact that I utterly LOATH time constraints in games, I just can't bring myself to love this one. I liked it enough to play the others in the series, so I'll eventually get Pikmin 2 on either Gamecube or Wii, and I already have Pikmin 3 sitting on my Wii U shelf. This one just doesn't rank that high for me.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.