Review the last game you finished

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Artemis008
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Re: Review the last game you finished

Post by Artemis008 » Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:12 pm

Tales of Phantasia's dungeons were worse imo, it also didn't have as good a battle system as Symphonia which didn't help things much. They're all absolutely massive and hard to navigate, with plenty of obnoxious puzzles and really long boss fights. Maybe if the battle system wasn't as clunky it would be a little more forgivable, idk.

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Re: Review the last game you finished

Post by I am nobody » Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:49 pm

Squidlit is better than I make it sound. Unfortunately, I left Squidlit to have this ridiculously unfair review pairing and, well, let's just say I didn't spend all day thinking about what I wanted to say about Squidlit.

16. Squidlit (4/8) (PC)

Squidlit is very dedicated to being a GameBoy game about squids. Everything is green, you only get two buttons, and even the level and enemy design are straight from that era. If not for the sense of humor (squid puns!), friendly checkpoints, and flavor dialogue choices, you could understandably mistake it for a port of a 25 year old game. Or the first level of one, anyway, because it's 45 minutes long. It's fun and funny, and maybe that's as long as it needs to be given the price ($3) and mechanical simplicity, but I was hoping for a little more.

17. Virtue's Last Reward (4/9) (PC, Vita, 3DS, PS4)

They changed the controls and some of the help text for the PC port, so it's totally a new game.

Spoilers because, despite my best efforts, I wrote an essay again. No actual spoilers. The tl;dr is exactly what you'd expect if you've ever read anything I've said about this series.
Spoiler.
As I've mentioned many times before, 999 blew me away like no other game had. VLR came along a few years later bearing the full weight of those expectations and, if anything, surpassed the reaction I had going into 999 blind. A few temporary blips where I overreacted right after finishing games aside, it occupied my #1 slot unchallenged until its sequel, ZTD, game out two years ago. But also like 999, that ranking was entirely based off an increasingly distant first experience, because I never actually got around to playing it again.

...Anyway, I was right the first time. VLR is an unqualified masterpiece that nothing except its sister games have come close to approaching. Which is not to say that it's flawless. Although its system for navigating the plot results in far less repetition than the original version of 999 and you're never made to repeat a puzzle, there are a handful of nearly or actually identical story sequences in different branches where the skip function inexplicably doesn't work. It's a port of a Vita/3DS game that didn't look great on its original systems, and it is *very* apparent than some of those textures and animations weren't meant to be seen at PC/console resolutions or screen sizes. It also continues the series' bizarre tradition of having one or two female characters, in this case Alice and Clover, who are wearing far too little clothing even as everyone else is dressed normally. The other character designs are great, which just makes how ridiculous they look stand out even more.

All of which is unfortunate, but also just about the sum total of my criticism.

The puzzle gameplay is basically 999's on steroids. There are seven more rooms than in the first game, and they're just about universally more complex and imaginative. Each one centers around unlocking a safe that contains both the key to exit the room and a varying number of plot-relevant items, but those safes all also have a second password obtained from finding a more involved or less obvious solution. These unlock secret archives that are a mix of developer commentary and extra explanations. There's a lot of variation in terms of puzzle difficulty, especially for the alternate solutions, but they're all enjoyable and satisfying to complete. They also tie into the main plot much better than their 999 equivalents, with the unlocked rooms and the items you find in them often becoming driving forces rather than just obstacles in the way of escape.

And that story is, of course, where the game truly shines. 999 had six branches you could do in any order, but you were guaranteed to run into more or less the same handful of core mysteries in the same order, and you didn't really get any answers from three of them. VLR has nine core branches, along with eleven shorter bad ends, that each have their own version of events. Some things happen the same way from different perspectives, some are basically unmodified, and many don't happen at all in other paths. The end result is that you're always getting both answers to old mysteries and entirely new questions with each path. Most interestingly to me, it further means that any two players will likely see things in a very different order, and thus come up with much different theories along the way. And that's important, because unlike a lot of mystery games, you absolutely can figure out every twist before its revealed here. It's constantly dropping hints or even explicitly stating the answer in seemingly innocuous ways, so everything feels fair even when it blindsides you.

The plot is, in turn, carried by the cast and the AB game. The former is much more fleshed out than in 999, thanks in no small part to the game being over twice as long once you cut out repeated content, and play off each other fantastically. Many seem to have an obvious role at first, but trusting in those expectations can be quite dangerous. That's most important in the aforementioned AB game, which pits you against said characters in a mini-game along the lines of the prisoner's dilemma and drives most of the plot. Misreading someone or making assumptions about what the game won't do can dump you into a bad end, which can often be quite a gut punch despite not having any real gameplay consequences. They also managed to write characters that feel like they have agency and intelligence in a mystery game without diminishing the player's opportunities to demonstrate either, which helps tremendously in becoming invested.

It's something of a miracle that this game and (especially) ZTD exist considering how reluctant ChunSoft were to continue the series, but I'm so glad they took the chance. They're still incomparably ahead of almost everything else I've played even years later, and I wholeheartedly recommend them (with 999 first, of course) to anyone who appreciates a good mystery. Just don't ask me which of VLR or ZTD takes my all-time #1 spot.
Fun easter egg for the Steam version: the framerate is capped at 63 FPS, which has a digital root of 9.

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Re: Review the last game you finished

Post by I am nobody » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:30 pm

R-5. Bioshock Infinite (4/15) (PC, all the recent Sony/MS consoles, not Vita)

Infinite came along about 4 months after the English release of VLR and was bizarrely similar to it in some very specific ways. And also my reaction to it: It was my game of the year in 2013 and bounced around my top 5 for a few years after that until I forgot why I liked it and (the otherwise fantastic) Burial at Sea opened a giant plot hole that rendered the entire exercise pointless.

The first you'll notice about Infinite is that it's visually stunning. And it's not that there's one environment or a few setpieces that stand out - practically every part of every level from beginning to end is absolutely beautiful. Dishonored and its sequel are the only games I can think of that come even close to this quality of world design, and they're both going for a very different aesthetic. You really can't get some of the things this game shows anywhere else, which makes it all the more fortunate that the technical side of the graphics also holds up just about perfectly.

And then the shooting happens. It's pretty dire at first, both because it gets in the way of exploring the world and because you've only got a dinky pistol that barely does damage and is boring to use. It gets progressively better over the course of the game without ever having a specific moment when you realize you're okay with it or ultimately becoming more than decent. I initially thought I was going to agree with the widespread complaints about "ludonarative dissonance" between the violent gameplay and story, but it very quickly becomes apparent that this is a violent story about violent people doing violent things. It's maybe a little silly that Booker kills so many people basically single-handedly, but I don't think there's anything thematically inconsistent about the body count. It's quite likely that some of it was shoved in there by 2K because shooters sell copies, but the deaths nonetheless serve the plot.

So far so good, but that's where the story kicks in. And, well, it's not actually very good. The characters, their abilities, and the events they experience are all basically what the plot needs from them at that moment. There's often no obvious logic for why someone could do what they just did or why something happened just then beyond that it'd be awfully convenient if it did. Some conversations are clearly in the game only to provide audio for trailers and don't fit with the surrounding context at all. It's entertaining enough, and there are some legitimately great scenes in the last couple hours, but it starts to fall apart if you think about it too much.

This is where I'd normally say that the game didn't hold up and is no long particularly essential, but, well, those environments are really pretty. The gameplay and story probably could've used another pass, but they're both fine and have their moments of inspiration. They wouldn't be enough to make Infinite a classic on their own, but they're enough to keep up with the visuals. It's a bit like a world class art gallery that you can only experience through a pretty good tour. Maybe the tour wasn't the best part, but it's still a world class gallery.

--------------------------------

Going to do Burial at Sea separately when I get back at the end of the month. Wouldn't usually handle DLCs that way, but part 2 in particular plays almost completely differently from the base game.

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