Phantasy Star (Switch): COMPLETED!

The Phantasy Star games are some of my very most favourite RPGs. Phantasy Star III was my first one, but I later played the original and, although it wasn’t quite the same, it was also excellent.

Since those days, I’ve completed the first game several times – on the Master System originally more than once, in an emulator, and in the Game Boy Advance Phantasy Star Collection. But, loading it up briefly aside, not for over a decade. Until today.

Considering I only started it three days ago, I think I’ve done pretty well! I’m amazed at myself for how much I remembered in terms of what needed to be done, if not the names of actual people or places. Or specific stuff like exact routes to take through dungeons, although that particular issue was helped greatly with the new automap feature.

There’s a new mode too, called Ages Mode, which I don’t remember starting but I suspect I may have done without realising. It supposedly reduces the number of random battles, but increases the amount of experience points and money you gain from the battles you do get. The reason I think I must have played through on this mode is because I found the game a lot less challenging than I remember it being. Sure, I mostly knew what I was doing, but that can’t be the only reason.

For those asking if a 30 year old JRPG like this still stands up today, then I can say yes, for sure. There’s some clunkiness, such as the tiny inventory, lack of space for full-length item names (a leftover due to the Japanese original needing fewer characters – many games have this “issue”, it’s a pain how you use and disembark your vehicles, and so on, but none of these are major issues. The translation isn’t great, but that doesn’t get in the way of the story or the game, and the battle mechanics are standard JRPG fare and even modern games are largely identical. Coming to this so soon after Pokémon, however, I did notice how there was no “speed” stat, which makes the “fight order” somewhat random.

It’s hard not to like the big chunky Master System graphics, and the 3D dungeons are still pretty impressive even now, so yeah, Phantasy Star is still one of the best games ever made.

ESWAT: City Under Siege (Switch): COMPLETED!

What does ESWAT stand for? Is it like SWAT only with an E like eBook and eLearning and eMail? Or are you supposed to say “es-what”? Who knows. But it’s certainly more interesting than the game.

Yes, friends, ESWAT is a proper stinker. A clunky platform shooter with rubbish weapon selection controls and boring levels. A game that suggests, from screenshots and the first level or so, it’s a bit like Rolling Thunder (which is a great game), but disappointingly, isn’t.

There are some positives, such as the very varied levels and a few impressive bosses, but your character is slow (both to move and respond), badly animated, and these issues make it difficult to avoid enemies. Later levels have you in a sort of power armour suit with more weapon options and a jetpack, but your weapons randomly disappear, and the jetpack is a nightmare to control.

I could say more but I’ve wasted long enough on this awful game already so I won’t.

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Switch): COMPLETED!

The first of what will hopefully be many games completed on the Sega Mega Drive Classics collection on the Switch. I was going to play Fatal Labyrinth, but the lack of a manual and the terrible video options (which don’t affect Alex Kidd so much) put me off for now. Instead, this.

The Mega Drive Alex Kidd game isn’t as good as the Master System “Miracle World” title. There. I said it. It looks prettier (although it’s still almost Master System quality graphics), and it’s one hell of a lot easier, but it’s lacking something. I don’t really know what exactly, since it’s very much closer to a remake than a sequel, but there’s something. Heart? Soul? Blocks with stars on them?

Just the two of us. Building castles in the sky.

What it is, then, is a mostly generic platformer starring half boy, half monkey Alex, who suffers from wonky physics syndrome. Alex must unintentionally slide, over compensationally jump, and input lag his way around a number of platforming levels, mostly avoiding enemies as trying to hit them is much harder than just going around them.

He can collect money from defeated baddies and from treasure chests, and then use this money to enter janken (scissors, paper, stone) matches with people for power-ups. You also use janken to defeat bosses. So yes, it’s random as to whether you’ll win or not.

Alex thinking about punching ratboy over there. Sorry Alex! You can only play janken.

Finally, you reach a castle where there is a bit of puzzling and more interesting platforming, before facing the final boss in more hand games and then an actual normal fight. After which, you “rescue” your Dad who hadn’t been captured after all making the entire game a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

But actually, I really quite enjoyed it despite all the terrible flaws.

Katamari Damacy Reroll (Switch): COMPLETED!

This came out of nowhere when announced during a Nintendo Direct a while back. Not least in that we’ve not had a Katamari game on a Nintendo console before, and the series has been pretty much dead for ages.

You can start as small as a mouse but end up rolling up skyscrapers.

Reroll is a remake of the original Katamari Damacy game for the PS2, upping the resolution, reducing the slowdown, making everything look a bit prettier, and removing the loading breaks between certain size increases. The result, is pretty much just perfect Katamari. Sure, it’s more limited than later games in the series (there are only really three rolling locations, for example), and yes, it doesn’t have all the best music tracks or some of the more interesting modes (like “stay on fire” or “you’re always moving”), but that doesn’t take away from the fun there is here.

Yes, you have to collect girls in one of the levels. It was a different time!

It’s impossible to play Katamari without a massive grin, and even though it’s incredibly simple and very easy, it’s just amazing. Now I just have to go back and try and get a bigger cow. Who knew signs with cows on counted as actual cows?

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! (Switch): COMPLETED!

PETA’s favourite game returns for more family-friendly forced animal abuse.

Many, many years ago, I played a game called Pocket Monsters Green on my Personal Computer using a Game Boy Emulator.  I have now, essentially, just completed it.

Of course, this isn’t the same Pocket Monsters Green. It’s actually more Pocket Monsters Yellow, the modified version that came with Pikachu, only with the more familiar western “Pokémon” branding, and all the modern stylings and conveniences the yoof of today enjoy and appreciate. Yes, it’s many steps forward from the Game Boy title from last century, but it’s actually many steps back from more recent Pokémon games.

Lapras giving me the side-eye.

For starters, being a re-imagining of the first title in the series, there are only the original set of 151 monsters in your pocket. This also means it’s a straightforward and already known story. Then there’s the loss of actually catching them properly: Previously you’d battle a wild beastie until it was almost out of HP, then you’d use a pokeball on them. Now, the mechanic is borrowed from popular telephone distraction app Pokémon GO!, with a “throw” of the joycon approximating a finger swipe. But guess what?

High-fiving Dave, my eevee, is amazing.

It’s fine. It’s all fine. I only missed these things for about ten minutes, and once I had an eevee on my head I was won over. These changes, and others (like not needing a specific Pokémon for world-usable moves, such as surf) streamline the game and speed up the grind. Progress through the game is swift, and as a result I’d beaten the final trainer in under 27 hours. That’s quick, for a game in this series. I’m torn as to whether that in itself is a problem, because of course it’s short, but there’s a lot of post-game content to get through too that makes up for it. All the rest of the creatures to enslave, for one, and a load of new expert cockfighters have sprung up and need defeating too.

Elite Four? Wiped on the floor, more like.

Pokémon: Let’s Go! is a hybrid. It’s a simpler game than the “main” series, designed to pull users of the mobile game over (clearly proven by their close
interoperability – you can even pull your Pokémon over from your phone). It’s more in-depth and complex than the phone game though, adding a world, story and characters appropriated from the original Pokémon Yellow. It’s trying to be accessible to everyone without coming across as too cut-down for the full-fat game fans or too elaborate for the casual phone-prodders. Somehow, against the odds, I think it manages to occupy a sweetspot. Certainly, I could see what was “missing”, but I don’t miss it. I would have enjoyed a new story, but I’m not upset it’s a retelling. The lack of excitement for new areas and monsters discovery is tempered with reminiscence. Like someone remade your favourite slippers only now they have wheels and can toast bread.

Krusty the Clown’s decapitated head looks horrified as a dead Snorlax is found washed up.

King Oddball (Vita): COMPLETED

Imagine a cross between Peggle and Angry Birds. You can’t? Well just play King Oddball instead.

The aim (ha!) is to chuck rocks at tanks and helicopters, so as to destroy them all. Of course, there are more things to blow up than you have rocks, so you need to rebound them or make use of other objects to drop on them instead. If you manage to bounce a rock back at your head, or hit one than three baddies in one throw, you get a bonus rock.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s some variety in levels, with different layouts, and sometimes tanks need two hits rather than one, but very few are taxing and those that are can mostly be fluked. Still, it was enjoyable in a Peggle-y sort of way.

Knights of the Round (Vita): COMPLETED

Or technically, PSP, as it’s part of the PSP Capcom Classics compilation. Although technically technically it’s an arcade game. And one I thought I’d played before, but it seems not.

It’s basically Golden Axe only set in Arthurian legend times. And your character (I was Arthur) levels up, giving you supposedly more powerful attacks (negated by more powerful colour swapped foes) but ever more impressive looking armour.

It was fun, although I missed being able to dash left and right like you can in Golden Axe.

TwinBee (Switch): COMPLETED!

A few years ago, I completed this on the Xbox 360. And now I have completed it on the Switch. As in, the NES game in the NES classics thing.

It’s a decent little vertically scrolling shooter with an odd bell shooting system (shoot bells enough and they go blue, collect a blue one to speed up your ship), and I lost my ship’s arms at one point so couldn’t drop bombs.

After beating the end boss the game loops back to the start, so no credits as such. Still, done.

Dynamite Dux (MS): COMPLETED!

Bit of a random choice this. I think I’ve played a demo on the Spectrum once before, but that’s all I know of it.

And it showed, because it took ages for the “hold punch to wind up your attack” mechanic to make sense. Once it did, though, it was a very easy game.

It plays a bit like Double Dragon crossed with Alex Kidd, if Alex was a duck and could pick up machine guns and rocket launchers. Maybe NARC in a cute suit.

Also it had Colonel Sanders in it for some reason. No, you can’t punch him.

Trax (GB): COMPLETED!

I had no idea this little gem even existed. Not only that, but it’s by the same chaps as Kirby’s Dream Land. Even without knowing that, I think I could have guessed – the music and sound are reminiscent, and even your tank resembles Kirby. Sort of. Even the end sequence is the same as Dedede chasing Kirby, trying to pounce on him.

But before that, the game.

You drive a cute wee tank and shoot other cute tanks and trucks and things. There are bosses, power ups, hidden stuff (blow up everything!) and it’s really quite fun. Spinning your turret round is a minor pain (you can only do it clockwise), but never really annoying. There’s a fair bit of slowdown, but that’s to be expected given how busy it can get with lots of enemies, bullets and explosions, and this is only a Game Boy, remember.

Did they ever make a follow up to Trax? Because I’d love to see one, perhaps with better turret spinning!

Toki (Arcade): COMPLETED!

A very long time ago, I played this a lot in the arcade. Then, also a very long time ago but not quite as long ago, I played and completed the Mega Drive version. Which, I noted at the time, was almost completely different. I never went back to the arcade original, until now.

It’s one of those games that has lots of sections that seem completely impossible but then, somehow, they become very easy. Like the crystal mammoth boss – impossible. Until you crouch, hammer fire, and take out his feet.

There are some frustrating bits, and one section where you have to jump from a mine cart thing to a platform and not die instantly by one of about five baddies waiting, but overall I found it more enjoyable (and do-able) than I ever remember.

Doshin the Giant (GC): COMPLETED!

Oh Doshin, you big lump with your slow legs and your slightly inappropriate belly button. Such a relaxing game, even when the disasters come and threaten to destroy all your little people and their houses and monuments and chickens.

Slightly spoiling the relaxing gameplay was a bizarre bug I came across which is probably due to the fact I was running this under emulation and via a Steam Link: Two islands I’d set up and had my people building stuff had all their buildings deleted every time I looked at the list of monuments I’d not yet built. Very odd, and took me ages to realise that was the cause so I probably played for five hours longer than necessary.

That aside though, the slow pace and the nice music and the simple gameplay is always a joy. Even if everyone dies in the end. Oh, spoilers, sorry.

Bulb Boy (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bulb Boy is a nice little walk-and-click adventure game and it was very cheap recently. And by nice, I mean horribly grotesque and full of demonic imagery and guts and dead things and maggots and evil spiders and a giant monster made from your own poo.

There’s a story, although nothing is ever spoken or written down. It’s all gestures and speech bubbles with pictures in. Given the content of the game, that’s probably for the best. I don’t really want to understand fully why there is a giant headless turkey “pecking” about in the kitchen.

I mean, just look at the screenshots.

It’s only a couple of hours long, but I certainly enjoyed it. The puzzles were never too clever or too obtuse, and the sections where you had to navigate hazards provided variety. In fact, the only real complaint I can make is that when you die and your little lightbulb head is horrifically mutilated in some way, it takes just a bit too long to restart. Oh, and I came across a bug where I put an egg in a place and it was supposed to pop out another place and it didn’t, so I had to reload. Aside from those, though – recommended. Just wash your hands afterwards.

Sanrio Characters Picross (3DS): COMPLETED!

I was convinced this took me around 40 hours, but no, just under 28. It just felt much longer than the other picross titles I’ve played on the 3DS, but it’s about par for them.

There’s not a lot else to say, really. It’s picross, with Sanrio (think Hello Kitty) characters as the puzzles. There are loads of stickers to unlock, but they’re of little use as you can’t take screenshots, but the main picross is the same picross as picross ever was.

Burly Men At Sea (Vita): COMPLETED!

I was going to buy this for the Switch on a number of occasions, but never got round to it. And then it appeared on PS+. My Vita came out of retirement, and after twice as long updating it as it took to play the game, I’d completed it.

And then completed it again. And again. And again.

You see, this story about four bearded sailor brothers is somewhat short, but that’s only part of the point. At various points in the story you can make a choice (although it isn’t always obvious there is a choice!) and the story takes a new direction. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll end up back at the start ready to begin a slightly different adventure.

I really love the art style, and the text is humourous. There isn’t much in the way of puzzling or gameplay of any kind, really, but it’s an enjoyable set of sea tales nonetheless.