Fairune Blast (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well this was a bit different. As a reward for completing the three other Fairune games in the collection, this little shoot em up is unlocked.

Taking its cue from the bosses at the end of the first two games, this is a full-on Pop’n TwinBee style vertical shooter, featuring enemies from the main series in formations, and miniature versions of the bosses as, er, bosses.

It’s fun, but very short and easy. I mean, sure, it is only a bonus game but when I started playing I was hoping for more levels and stuff.

Fairune Origin (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’m guessing here, but I think Fairune Origin is the original idea for a game that eventually became Fairune. It’s a very short, similar game with just 12 screens and a few puzzles which are vaguely recognisable as those in the “proper” Fairune.

Your girl is taller and thinner, the baddies don’t seem to require you to level up to beat them, and it’s all over pretty quickly. It definitely feels like a working prototype, and, I suppose, if you see how much improved Fairune 2 is over Fairune 1 then work backwards from 1 to this with the same leap it makes sense.

Not worth paying for, but a nice little bonus.

Fairune 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Perhaps the easiest way of describing Fairune 2 is “Fairune only more”. More enemies, more puzzles, more areas, bigger maps, more items, more on-screen, more lore, more everything. It’s a lot longer too, as it took me six and a half hours to complete – compare that to two and a half for the first game.

That all said, it’s pretty much the same idea. Bump into enemies to kill them, find items to open up areas of the map, look out for hidden paths and secrets, and Save Keys to Open Doors. There’s just, as I said, more of it.

I enjoyed it more too. Certainly, I spent even longer wandering the map(s) trying to reach areas I’d not been, but once you’ve levelled up enough there’s very little to kill you while you do this. In each of the three main worlds there’s a ring you can obtain which lets you walk on sand, water or ice, and as a result these create shortcuts and new routes. You even have to return to earlier areas with your new abilities. Metroidvania? Er, sort of. Maybe.

There are some really clever hidden-in-plain-sight puzzles (clue: keep an eye on the map!), and some really nasty hidden-a-bit-too-well areas. You absolutely have to keep your eyes open constantly – pillar or light layouts aren’t necessarily just incidental, they might be the solution to a puzzle. Examine every wall for unusual shadows or markings – it could be a secret path. Floor a slightly different colour or a tree trunk a different shade of grey? Might be a secret!

Great as these “secrets” are, unfortunately they’re not optional. You must find them all in order to progress, and it’s here the game falls down a little – especially in the final world where they’re even less obvious.

Still, Fairune 2 is a lovely little game and an absolute bargain in this collection on the Switch.

Fairune (Switch): COMPLETED!

A few years ago, I picked this up cheaply on the 3DS and quite enjoyed it. This week, Fairune Collection, which included Fairune, it’s sequel, and two other Fairune related games, came out on the Switch. Since I’d passed up on Fairune 2 elsewhere (mainly through Too Many Games) I jumped at the chance. And decided to played the first game again.

It looks a little silly on the Switch screen, with a huge amount of the area showing the map and inventory, but it plays exactly as it did before. Sufficient time had passed since last time I played it that I’d forgotten everything bar the premise (and that I needed to remember a screen had disappearing floor tiles), which probably explains why I still spent a lot time wandering almost aimlessly.

Still, I enjoyed it (again). Time to move onto the next game!

Yakuza 5 (PS3): COMPLETED!

いいね!

I know it has been some time since I completed Yakuza 4, but I’d forgotten just how bonkers it was. Playing through Yakuza 5 reminded me, but then took it further. So much further. Warning: very minor spoilers follow, although I’ve avoided any details.

For a game which is essentially a man punching game with some city exploration, the amount of time you can spend not punching men is astounding. Within minutes of starting out, I’d already found a Sega Club in which I then collected every item from all the UFO Catchers, played a few rounds of Virtua Fighter, and then had a go on Taiko Drum Master because why not. Bad things are going down? Pff.

Eventually, I took Kiryu off to progress the story and then was sidetracked again with noodle making mini-games and street racing. When I tired of the side-quests and managed to push on properly, I found the gritty violence and twisting story somewhat at odds with the whimsy of the rest. That’s the Yakuza way, though. Finding out why the Tojo Clan chairman had vanished, and what treachery was involved, peppered with giving a TV chef a gastronomic tour of the city. Of course.

After Kiryu it was time to take control of Saejima who briefly pottered around Kamurocho before giving himself up to the police and getting sent to jail. What felt like a retread of his story in the previous game soon morphed into Monster Hunter. I’m not even joking. Sure, it’s foxes and bears not dinosaurs and dragons, but it felt and sounded so much like Capcom’s series it absolutely had to be intentional. Now with a prison-issued crew cut instead of his long sweaty locks, Saejima has to try and find out who killed Goro Majima – his sworn brother and long-standing Yakuza series character. Or is he really dead? Before it’s clear it’s time to genre swap again…

To Haruka. Kiryu’s adopted daughter is now All Grown Up ((C) Daily Mail) and about to break into showbiz in that legitimate Japanese stereotype – the teen girl idol. Yep, Haruka’s story mostly involves rhythm action style dancing and singing, with street dance battles replacing the “hey guy nice clothes I’m going to fight you” fracas the other characters endure. When things turn upside-down, everyone’s favourite plum-suited moneylender Akiyama steps in, as he’s money invested in (unknown to him) Haruka’s future success. He doesn’t get a full story of his own, having to share Part 3, but he breaks up the dancing nicely.

After discovering some of What Went Down at Haruka’s talent agency, the next part of the game focusses on Shinada. He’s a new playable character, as washed up ex-baseball pro with a cashflow problem. Although he’s quite likeable himself, his story is dull as anything (being baseball linked doesn’t really help) and I couldn’t gel with his fighting style either. His plot involves his loan shark (Takasugi – who is a great character), and finding out what really happened 15 years ago when Shinada was kicked out of baseball for cheating.

The final chapter, as expected, brings everyone together and eventually explains how all their individual stories are just small parts of some massive plan to, well, that’s a spoiler. There’s twist after twist after twist along the way there, though. Imagine an episode of Scooby Doo, only after taking the mask off the monster it just reveals another mask and another under that. Then another. There’s even the now traditional finale atop the tower in Kamurocho, only it’s not because there’s another twist.

In all, it’s Yakuza. The serious organised crimelords at war juxtaposed with singing contests and taxi driving. Men in suits executing other men in suits alongside baseball practise and playing darts. Punching a huge beast of a man who just won’t stay down followed by a drink with a pretty lady in a hostess club. It’s ridiculous.

And it’s the best. Sure, there are a few slight plot holes. A couple of MacGuffins. A sometimes problematic camera and invisible walls a-plenty. There’s asset reuse, occasionally wonky animation, and product placement everywhere but none of it matters. It’s a great story with a weighty game attached, and sure – I can’t understand most of the words, but the voice acting is *kisses fingers*. Will I be playing more Yakuza games? はい、そうです。

SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium (NGPC): COMPLETED!

I was sure I’d never completed this before, but as I got to the three “guards” just before the Geese/Bison double fight, I realised I had played it before. See.

Not only that, but I chose Ken to play as this time too. Because of course I would. He’s Ken!

Looking at my post from a couple of years ago though, it seems I really struggled in the final few battles last time. No such trouble this time around. Well, I mean, they weren’t a walkover but each of the guards/Geese-Bison/Iori only took a handful of attempts each.

 

Wonder Boy in Monster Land (MS): COMPLETED!

Is he Wonder Man yet?

Another game I’ve completed before, but not recently and certainly not as frequently as Mega-lo-Mania.

Helpfully, I totally missed getting the bell so had to rely on mainly faulty memory to make it through the castle at the end. I’d stocked up on Thunderflashes though, which makes taking out the dragon a lot easier when I finally got to him.

Great game, but overshadowed now by the far better Dragon’s Trap remake.

Mega-lo-Mania (MD): COMPLETED!

I alone am best.

I must complete this every year, I think. There’s little need to mention much about the game really, except to say that 1) I played as Scarlet, and 2) once again I reached the final level as the only person to actually put any of my men in suspended animation. Meaning another instant win.

One day, someone else will manage it. One day.

Pulseman (MD): COMPLETED!

But he’s a robot so doesn’t have a pulse surely.

What’s this? A Mega Drive game I’ve never heard of? Surely not. Especially since it was written by Game Freak and published by Sega themselves. How come I’d never seen it before? Perhaps it’s because it was Japan-only?

Well, despite being Japan-only, and all the dialogue in the game being in Japanese, all the speech (and there’s a lot) is in English. Which begs more questions – why wasn’t this released outside of Japan? Bizarre.

The game itself plays like a cross between Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog. Pulseman himself looks absolutely nothing like Zero from the Mega Man games, and none of the levels look anything like Aquatic Ruin, Green Hill Zone and Casino Night at all. Unlike both those games, though, Pulseman is badly animated and movement is jerky. He’s got a swipe attack and a weird backflip thing (during which he’s invulnerable), but the main gimmick for the game is his ability to charge himself up with electricity and use it mainly to become a ball that bounces round the screen.

To charge, Pulseman can either run a short distance or perform a dash. The ball he turns in to can then be used to reach higher platforms, break through certain walls, or travel along wires. There’s a power up which allows Pulseman to remain charged indefinitely, so long as you don’t die or finish the level.

Speaking of levels, they’re varied and some look incredible. In particular, backgrounds are often made up of the sort of sine-wavey trickery demo scene stuff tends to do. It’s occasionally distracting (on one later level seemingly on purpose) but it looks really clever. On the casino level you wonder how they squeezed so many colours out of a Mega Drive.

Jerkiness aside, it’s a fun game. Not too hard, sometimes frustrating (mainly due to leaps of faith or those baddies that follow you round discharging you all the time), and with lots of “wow” moments with the graphics.

Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch)

It’s widely known (he says, as a nobody on the internet) that I’m a massive fan of Hyrule Warriors. Not really the musou genre generally – just Hyrule Warriors. Such a big fan of it that I’ve put over 300 hours into the game across the four copies that I own. I thought the draw was mainly the characters from the Zelda series, but here’s Fire Emblem Warriors proving that to be nonsense.

On the face of it, Fire Emblem Warriors is a reskin of Hyrule Warriors. This makes sense, as it’s the same team making the same genre of game, but it’s very similar. Sure, the characters are different (although many are similar in how they play) and the levels are new (except most feel very much like remixed old levels), but it’s the same game. Isn’t it?

That’s what I thought. When I completed it I posted about some differences then, but having played for more than 80 hours now I’m thinking they’re even more separated. In fact, I think I might even like this more. Blasphemy, I know. Perhaps it’s the tactics, the directing commanders, the weapon triangle.

In terms of progress, having bought all the DLC, I’ve S-ranked 100% two of the scenarios in History Mode, S-ranked all of the “normal” (that is, non-time-distortion extra) levels in another two, and almost 100% S-ranked two more. I’ve then done almost all the level-70 and below missions in some other scenarios. I think perhaps I’m 75% there?

Certainly it’s a repetitive game, but no two levels are quite the same regardless of how similar they are. And it’s the best game.

Rogue Aces (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well, the “Frontline Campaign” completed, at least. I’m not sure the other modes are completable? Anyway, I completed it.

And good grief was it hard. It plays out as a grid of islands, each one like a miniature normal mode, only there are a fixed number of targets to take out. Once you’ve done that, you move onto taking over another island, heading from the bottom left of the map to the top right. As you do so, the enemy head from the top right to the bottom left.

It starts out pretty easy, but once the enemy reaches you, a Baron – a highly powered up fighter plane – seeks you out on the level and really makes it difficult. I found taking him out needed to be top priority.

The final level on the map was utter chaos with many, many retreats due to being almost shot to pieces. Eventually I took everything out and won the war.

Picross S (Switch): COMPLETED!

This reminds me of a puzzle.

It’s hardly innovative, being yet another game in the long line of Picross titles from Jupiter. And after Picross e to Picross e7, as well as a few others, you’d think I’d be fed up of Picross games by now, right? Well, no.

In fact, Picross S is in some ways a step beck from the 3DS games. There’s no Micross mode for a start. It also doesn’t make use of the massive Switch screen to allow huge Picross puzzles – 20×15 is your lot here.

But that doesn’t really matter all that much, as it’s Picross and Picross is great. Besides, there are more puzzles here than in any previous game (although I suspect many are repeats), and I got around 25 hours out of it. Picross S2 now, please.

Although I do have Picross e8 to get now too.

Metal Slug 2nd Mission (NGPC): COMPLETED!

Pineapple!

As well as completing 1st Mission, I thought I’d do 2nd Mission. Makes sense. It’s good, too.

I think I was misremembering how good, though. I was pretty certain it was better in almost every way than 1st Mission, but no. Certainly, the addition of speech, more levels, and two characters to choose from are improvements. Changing the Start button from “toggle between guns and grenades” to “throw grenade” is definitely for the best. However, the levels seem less interesting for the most part, and some – like the prison and the factory – are just rubbish. In addition, many of the bosses are just those from the original again.

They also seemed to add a lot more colour to the game, especially the player character, but this just makes them garish. The animation on the new alien foes, though, is super smooth as they sort of tear open and vomit goo. No, really.

On balance, it’s still excellent. It’s just not quite as impressive or fun as the first game.

Metal Slug 1st Mission (NGPC): COMPLETED!

Rocket Lawn Chair

The Neo Geo Pocket had some great versions of Neo Geo games. They were reimaginings of them rather than ports, and played to the little handheld’s strengths.

Metal Slug 1st Mission looks and feels like the “grown up” version, only is more platformy, a bit less shooty, and much easier. That’s not to say it’s easy, it’s just the original Metal Slug was definitely a bit of a coin chomper. Sadly, there’s no speech, but that’s a small loss.

The levels are varied, with some needing exploration, some straightforward left-to-right jumping and shooting, a few sideways scrolling shooter sections, and some massive bosses. In some ways it feels a bit more like Mega Man than Metal Slug (not least when you get to the disappearing block section), but that’s OK as Mega Man is great too.

Oh, and it looks amazing. That NGPC could really make some pretty games. Just look at the sunset here, for example:

You can’t see from the screenshots, but the animation is awesome too, especially on you and the soldiers. The cute “SD” Metal Slug tank and jet look fantastic as well.

Mappy-Land (NES): COMPLETED!

Cheesy.

Mappy is a game I always play whenever I fire up MAME and haven’t anything in mind to actually play. I’m terrible at it, but I play it quite a lot. Imagine my surprise when I found this NES-only sequel existed. Not only that, it’s pretty good too.

Like the original, it’s a platformer where the gimmick is trampolines. You bounce on them to reach higher platforms. It differs from the original in a similar way to how Pac-Land and Mighty Bombjack did over their predecessors – by making it a side-scroller. Sort of.

You collect 6 items in each level then head for the exit. Sometimes, you have to obtain an item from a  sub-level to open the exit. Once you’ve done all 8 levels and given your girlfriend a load of cheese, the game restarts with different level layouts and a different set of items to collect. Run through all the levels four times, and that’s it! Well, the game starts again, but it’s effectively completed. Which is what I did.