SEGA AGES Phantasy Star: Pretty Much, Perfection

sega ages logo

And quite well, in this case (Ha and ha-ha).

As soon as I heard that Phantasy Star was making a return as a digital exclusive on the Nintendo eShop, there went that not needing to ask for a review code stuff. Yeah, I  immediately bought it outright (it’s a mere $7.99) because back on the Sega Master System, it was the first JRPG I played and it’s been a game I’ve gone back to a few times, the last being om the Game Boy Advance where we got three of the first four games squeezed onto a single cart (to mixed results). Yes, I still have that one in the library, but I’m not even going to bother comparing it to what’s here (just yet) because once you fall down the Phantasy Star rabbit hole (Rappy hole?), you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.

 

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Capsule Reviews: It’s A Puzzlement!

Not every game needs to go for epic length status or terminally flashy visuals to be enjoyable. I tend to gravitate to puzzle games when I need a break from other genres  and there have been a few really cool ones this year. Here’s a quick look at a some of the ones I liked a lot:

 

solar flux switchSolar Flux (Nintendo Switch, $9.99): Firebrand Games’ great space-themed puzzler may look simple, but it riffs on classic arcade gameplay with homages to Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Puzzle Bobble, a bit of Star Castle and probably a few other titles my brain can’t recall in a really fun, challenging manner. While it’s at heart, a supremely soothing experience, the reliance on touchscreen-only controls combined with limited fuel and the need for precision movement of your very fragile ship means you’ll be getting a game that won’t easily be mastered in one sitting. Yes, the music is ear-pleasing and completely chill, but if you’re easily flustered by even the tiniest of mistakes, the gameplay can get pretty tense if you’re not able to tip-tap-steer your way out of trouble. Practice makes perfect, folks.

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That challenge ramps up geometrically during the 80 missions set across 4 galaxies, but nice looks and all, you’re not here to do any sightseeing. Getting the best times as things get complicated is somewhat tricky (but rewarding). So expect a few retries and perhaps a few times when you’re just putting the game down for a bit and coming back later if you lose that zen-like concentration. Don’t worry, though. Those assorted suns you need to recharge will be there when you return. All is good in this universe, just relax and it’ll be quite the thrill.

Score: A (90%)

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PSN Holiday Sale: Your Wallet Just Went Into Witness Protection

Feh. Santa clearly doesn’t exist in my mind because if he did, he’d have read my mind, checked his list twice and GOT ME ALL THE GAMES I WANTED THAT ARE NOW ON SALE ON PSN. Yeah, I’ve been good, too. Better, even. Heck, these aren’t even physical games so it’s not as if there wasn’t room on that sleigh, pal. *Sigh* Anyway, I’m going to go look at a few of this year’s games I can’t afford and go poke at the budget games section because there are a lot of cheaper indies I can afford. My wallet is hiding somewhere making those whimpering sounds (which makes it very easy to find, by the way), and my aching backlog is glaring at me with that “Don’t you DARE” stare, but I’m not listening (falalalalalalalalalalala!)

Hey, there’s no sin in pleasure, that’s for sure. My bills are paid up for the month anyway, so it’s not even close to landing in guilty pleasure territory (that, and this is a hobby that’s quite guilt-free when all is said and done).

-GW

 

Earth Defense Force 5: Out Now, So Don’t Bug Me!

EDF 5 logo

It’s boom time for those pesky giant bugs and angry-ass aliens, finally!

 

 

Well, there goes the neighborhood as well as any free time I was thinking of dreaming about. Playing an Earth Defense Force game is a total commitment process if you’re a longtime fan. I actually didn’t import the Japanese version because I wanted to go in totally cold (other than watching a few gameplay videos to see how it ran and if some of the trademark wonkiness was still there), so I’d say after all this time, I’m ready to be overwhelmed by this latest alien invasion from developer Sandlot.

While this one’s a PS4 exclusive, I’d gather a PC version is in the works as Sandlot did a PC port of the last EDF game. Granted, the online mode was rife with cheaters and some players teaming up with them ended up with corrupted save files thanks to hacked weapons and other stuff that made for a less than stellar experience. Hopefully, PC fans will get this at some point, but me? I’ll be perfectly happy posting YouTube videos or doing a bit of rare live streaming just to show off my skills (or lack of them, as I’m betting myself a dollar I’ll be REALLY rusty at least for a quarter of Normal mode.

Back in a bit – I need to get a few other things posted today, so it’ll be sooner than later.

-GW

Iceberg Interactive Sale: Some Cold Comfort For That Tight Wallet

If you’re looking to add an eclectic mix of PC games to your digital library, the fine folks at IndieGala have a nice deal for you in the form of an Iceberg Interactive sale. From some solid horror/mystery adventures, to action games and a classic 4X strategy series, there’s sure to be a few titles that catch your eye and get you to fishhook out that wallet.

OE_GK

NOT the John Wayne version, thankfully. I’d bet the real Khan would keel over laughing if he ever saw The Conqueror (before having some heads go rolling).

Also of note for you 4X fans is the new expansion to developer Shining Pixel’s deep and challenging Oriental Empires, which just so happens to be called Oriental Empires: Genghis. That expansion (also available on Steam) features a wealth of content that includes a new solo campaign as well as a load of other content:

OE Genghis

KHAAAAAAAAN!!! Before China was eating our lunch, they ate their own for quite some time. Yes, this game is somewhat educational.

Become Genghis Khan in a brand new story campaign
Play as other new factions in the ‘Time of the Mongols’ sandbox campaign
A new map that extends from China in the East across the vast steppes of Mongolia all the way to the Caspian Sea
Stunning new buildings
New roster of Mongol units
New units for the Turkish tribes and the Empire of Khwarazm
Many new resources, technologies and characters

While the base OE game isn’t on sale, it’s still a quite reasonable enough $29.99 which gets you a rather huge amount of content as well as a pretty decent historical strategy sim. If that screenshot below and the gameplay footage at the end of this post makes you yell out “Hex, Yeah!” well, my work here is done.

Oriental Empires Genghis Screenshot (5)

Now, then. I’ll pipe down and let you go and let your fingers do the walking on over to those links above. If you do buy something or a bunch of somethings, feel free to drop a comment below.

 

-GW

Fanatical’s Kingslayer Bundle: Instant Backlog, Must Haves Edition

Fanatical Kingslayer

Deal of the month? Try YEAR, if you want to never see daylight until next spring or summer…

Okay, thanks to a few more codes that rolled in, I’m buried up to the gills in reviews (blub, blub!). So while you’re waiting (tomorrow will be a fun day for some new and older games I’ve been zipping through at various paces), why not pretend to  be me by getting your own big-ass backlog? Fanatical’s really excellent Kingslayer Bundle offers up almost $190 of PC games (via Steam) for a measly FIVE BUCKS.

Yes, you read that right. If your PC meets the specs for even the pair of older Star Wars RPGs, those along offer upwards of 40 hours of play each. (and both Knights of the Old Republic games have multiple endings, so you may end up playing longer than that). The other games also come recommended (I liked The Age of Decadence, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, STYX: Shards of Darkness, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and what little I played of Oxenfree quite a lot). Metal Slug X is of course, pure arcade fun, as is The King of Fighters XIII. The only game I haven’t played thus far is The Sims 4, but I’ve never really neen much of a fan of that series (*shocking!*).

Anyway, this lot of ten games is only going to be available for a brief period, so jump on this deal if it floats your boat. It certainly won’t sink your wallet at all, that’s for sure.

-GW

Capsule Reviews: Get Me Reroute! (Or: Part 2)

Heh, oops. I had a little router issue not long after posting yesterday that had me a bit flummoxed after several restarts and too much waiting around, but we’re back on the boat and headed somewhat upstream, whee. Anyway, back to more of what you should be playing or at least looking at with a thoughtful gaze:

 

 

forgotton anne boxForgotton Anne (PS4/Switch/PC/Mac, $19.99): No matter what you get this one on, it needs to be bought, played and thoroughly enjoyed. If the words “playable anime” get your ears perked up, you’ll be pleased to know that developer ThroughLine Games has created exactly that, as well as a love letter to the works of Studio Ghibli. A beautiful hybrid of adventure, platform and puzzle game with a bit of detective story for good measure, it’s also (in my opinion) hands down, the absolute best game to date to come out of the Square Enix Collective program which focuses on getting more indie games out to the masses. Go download and play the PC or Switch demo (the latter is on the eShop) and you’ll see this one’s an instant classic.

In addition to a memorable lead character and well-told story, the game’s visuals, voice acting and soundtrack are all phenomenal. The addition of multiple dialog choices makes the game quite replayable because the manner in which you interact with characters or solve problems alters a few plot points or closes off some paths. This isn’t a game about fighting tons of enemies, leveling up or the usual stuff you may expect. It’s a story-driven game where you’ll appreciate the quality of the finished work as you’re drawn into the plot and memorable characters for as long as the experience lasts.  I’ll go as far as to say this one is one of my favorite indies of 2018 and it should be one of yours as well.

FA_Garden

Everywhere you look, there’s something to see that catches your eye in this game.

This is a game I’d even highly recommend non-gamers have a go at, as there’s neither a life bar to worry about nor a true Game Over state. That and with a controller, even the slightly tricky longer jumps that need to be made aren’t a total pain. Just watching Anne’s animation as she gets around is a joy, and yes, the different Forgotlings are equally impressive. While this game probably won’t get a sequel, if ThroughLine wants to do another Ghibli-inspired game, I certainly won’t stop them. Hell, I’ll be cheering them on and hoping it’s as good as or even better than this is.

Also, if this ever gets a physical edition at some point down the road, I say get it just for anything art-related that comes as part of the package. Well, the game, too, but yeah, seeing more of this gorgeousness is a thing that’s necessary in a more physical over digital manner.

FA Wings

To paraphrase ZZ Top: “She’s got wings… and she knows how to use them…”

Score: A (95%)

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Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP: So Far, So Good

Way back in 2011, I spent about five minutes with Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery on a friend’s tablet, but I liked the tiny sample I played enough to keep that memory socked away in the brain files. Seven years later, I’m playing it on the Switch and so far, it’s quite an impressive experience. This isn’t a review (yet), but more of a recommendation if you’re looking for a game that’s quirky, amusing, and yep, maybe a bit pretentious (but in a good way provided you “get” its humor). Oh, and the soundtrack by Jim Guthrie? Perfection. That and it’s a mere ten bucks, people.

It’s been quite a good year for these sorts of indie games, so I’m pretty pleased that this one’s out in the wild and seeking new players as well as those Switch owners who’ve played one of the previous versions. Go get it, I say. Review incoming in a day or two, if you feel the need to wait.

-GW

Gear.Club Unlimited 2 Launch Trailer: Wheel Impressive

 

Skidding into retail and the eShop today is publisher Microïds and developer Eden Games’ Switch exclusive sequel, which is the sole licensed racing game on the console following the success of the original Gear.Club Unlimited (which has gone on sale on the eShop for a limited time). The sequel offers more than 1800 miles of tracks, over 50 cars, 250 races, including championships, missions and challenges, enhanced upgrade and customization features and more.  A review copy is on the way, so keep an eye peeled for an upcoming post. I did really like the hands-on time I spent with the game, so feel free to check out those impressions here.

GCU_2_01

“Key in the ignition, pedal to the floor, open road around the bend, headed down Highway 10…”

-GW

Capsule Reviews: Barney’s Got It Right (Again) Part 1

(Thanks, CptNem!)

“Get me rewrite!” Or: Sometimes the Stupidest Things Happen at the Dumbest Possible Times Division (Q Branch). Anyway, last night I was about two hours into writing up this article, I actually sneezed while typing and (get this) accidentally replaced about 8 or 900 words and a few videos with one word. I hit that Undo button and laughed loudly because boy, it’s a good thing that option exists when stuff like this occurs, right? But guess what? That actually didn’t work. Yipes. I then find out that WordPress’ auto-saving function in drafts or works in progress does NOT account for these unhappy accidents and yes, will overwrite even as one is trying to fix an issue. Eep.

After some time messaging with a WP tech support rep who was otherwise helpful but couldn’t solve my particularly stupendously stupid accident, I figured out that yep, I needed to start over. I absolutely HATE rewriting stuff like this, so after pressing the old panic button about a dozen times until it exploded, I decided to go watch a three quarters of a very good Netflix documentary on Orson Welles and call it a night. Hey, it was a long day up to that point and staying up any later trying to fix what was busted would have just made things worse.

Anyway, yep, I’ve been busy playing a bunch of games that I’m going to recommend below, now in slightly shorter form than the original, but I think you’ll get the gist of things. Or at least your wallet will start trying to hide before you can whip it out.

R-Type D EX boxR-Type Dimensions EX (Nintendo Switch, $14.99): Absolutely stellar versions of the 1987 classic arcade shmup and its 1989 sequel offer up a wealth of options that make it accessible to anyone who can hold a controller. Both games feature the ability to switch between 2D and 3D art on the fly (with a number of visual options), super responsive 60fps gameplay at 1080p and even a 2-player co-op mode where friendly fire can be toggled on or off.

There are even slow motion and fast forward options if you want to learn how to play or just make things pure hell on your stress level, although that crazy fast forward mode is survivable if your skills are up to the challenge. Me? I laughed so much while using it because I was thrilled I actually survived a few levels while using it. The game tallies up all the R-9 ships you’ve lost, so completing a stage with as few (or no) deaths is pretty rewarding when it happens.

R-Type 01

Heh. You may need a Geiger counter (or H.R. Giger counter, actually) to tally up this game’s visual references in a few stages.

The game is still as incredible a challenge as it’s ever been, with those Bydo Empire baddies doing their level best to blast you into space dust. Whether you play with unlimited lives or really challenge yourself with the more intense original difficulty, you’re getting a pair of games with a ton of replay value as well as a nice slice of game history. I’m not sure if Tozai Games has the publishing rights to the other entries in this series, but if they do, a nice set of all the games would be more than welcome by fan if they can make it so. This one’s also on Steam if you’re a PC gamer looking to check out what’s here on a PC that will run it, so go take a peek if your interest is piqued.

Score: A (95%)

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