Presents of Mind

So, it was my birthday last month, but I don’t celebrate it these days like “normal” people do. I tend to just wake up and be thrilled to be breathing, move on and let a new year pass hopefully without any bad stuff occurring. Cake is optional these days (Hey, diet? You doing OK?). I also don’t do presents unless I get surprised with one, but this year, I decided to pick up a few things for myself with a bit of extra money I had left over. A little retail therapy, if you like. It’s been quite a year or few years, is all I’ll say about that. Anyway, here’s a small list of what I got myself:

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“I can stop anytime I want to…”

I wanted to cut back on the caffeine and someone suggested trying mixing chicory with coffee, so I went with Community’s 100% chicory, as I have a few large canisters of coffee here and I like experimenting when I get the chance to do so. Finding the correct mixture for my tastes was an interesting thing as well, but I did try a pot of pure chicory first but found it a bit too strong. Well, that was my fault, but it did remind me of some of my first attempts to make coffee some decades back where one person liked it and another had her eyeballs practically leave her skull. Let’s just say I got a lot better at the making coffee thing since then.

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Review: SEGA AGES: Puyo Puyo 2 (Switch)

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Oh, sure, it looks super-cute… but this game is a MONSTER.

Switch_PuyoPuyo2_desc_char“Did you get the game yet? She asked. I told her yes, I’d gotten it. “Oh, good! This one you can play better!” the voice on the other end of the phone cheerily said, then let out an evil-sounding cackle. My eyes rolled in my skull like marbles on a freshly waxed floor and I laughed. Well, my dear friend was right to some extent, as I got further faster in SEGA AGES: Puyo Puyo 2 ($7.99) that I did in the first game thanks to a new ‘offset rule’ that makes for  slightly less stressful play, ‘Garbage Puyo’ drops be damned. The game also tosses in a few other new rules as well as a very handy and new rewind feature, and overall, feels more fun than the original.

A voice in the background on the other end warned “She just wants to play against you online and win!” and yes, I knew that as soon as I saw their phone number pop up on my home line. Man, if that husband of hers just learned to play and lose gracefully, I’d at least be able to not have to take these awful beatings every so often.

Er, I think that came out wrong, but let’s move on.

The last time we played a Puyo Puyo game, it was in person, she was sick (some allergies acting up) and still beat me like a rug (yes, people used to beat rugs and still do). This time out, now she was tanned, rested and ready and yours truly had no chance against Mrs. Skills Deluxe. Yes, I was beaten like a barrel of pickles, if one beat a barrel of pickles for some reason instead of shooting fish in a barrel (which has always been a bad idea as you’d get fishy water and/or pickle brine on your good shoes).  Oh well, but I’m still pretty good at Bejeweled 3, so I take solace in that. Continue reading

Review: Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary (PS4)

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Just make sure you stick the landing, Miss B.

BVYou’re not buying that excellent Bayonetta/Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle ($39.99) from Sega strictly for the plots of both games, that’s for sure. Both titles hold up mostly excellently in terms of visuals and controls, but the writing is more of an excuse for some lengthy and visually lovely in-game cinemas that pad out both run times. Granted, both games are made to be highly replayed, especially Vanquish, which seems short at about six hours, but there’s a lot more to it once you mess with the difficulty and as with Bayonetta, play through like the bad-asses both characters are. If you’re into both games, they’re far from “one and done” experiences.

 

 

The two stories here actually enhance how wonderfully crazy and brilliant the gameplay is for both titles, especially when you go from hanging onto every word in cut scenes and free yourself from simple button-mashing to pulling of perfectly timed strikes of all sorts in the flagrantly sexy Bayonetta to taking down enemies and bosses with the fast slide and shoot moves from Vanquish. That said, the latter’s plot about Russian-led forces commandeering a huge US-built microwave-powered space cannon to decimate California and threaten to do the same to New York might be something a few players might find blows their minds a bit. Bayonetta’s still phenomenal opening just throws you into battle as it plays out, then teaches you the ropes before the real challenge begins. Trying to explain the plot here? Good luck – just enjoy the cut scenes instead and kill a lot of enemies and bosses when they’re done.

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“I thought you just used microwaves for Hot Pockets and cold coffee!”

Both games allow for unskilled players to get in their kills although the latter game is more punishing if you try and flail through it and refuse to pick up on all it’s trying to teach you. Then again, it may take a bit of getting used to the controls in both titles for some who’ve not yet played both games – your mileage will vary based on how adept you are at picking things up and dealing with the forced camera angles in Bayonetta. Vanquish has a bit more freedom in its camera, but on the harder modes (there are four difficulty settings), speedy, precise play becomes a must. Continue reading

Bayonetta and Vanquish Come to PS4? Sign Me Up!

I did a double take at first because I hadn’t seen the trailer when I found this out and thought for a second this was a new game with both characters in it. Nope, but it’s still thrilling news here for PS4 fans who didn’t pick these games up when they came to PC or when they debuted earlier on certain consoles. To be frank (Hi, frank!), I know I’m going to prefer the new console versions over playing on PC if the frame rate is stable and I don’t need to sit there and tweak settings to get something acceptable. That said, I may need a PS4Pro at this point just for the performance upgrade alone, *sigh*.

Ah well, we’ll see what happens with that particular wallet fight. In the meantime, PlatinumGames, you keep on what you’re doing – I’ll see you in February.

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Talk about a certified Platinum hit…

-GW

Review: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Switch)

 

mario and sonicSega, on a roll, II: While its appeal might seem to be more towards super-fans and younger gamers, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 ($59.99) is quite a fun game overall for all ages. That said, you’d better have a few Switch controllers in tip-top shape and prepare to do a bit of of a workout with your fingers in some of the trickier events. 24 zippy mini-games are here with bright and colorful visuals and a soundtrack that’s suitably Olympic-sounding.

Nostalgic fans who may be a bit older or keen on old-school visuals will very likely love the retro 2D goodness found in the time traveling (via oddball game console trap) Tokyo 1964 storyline and its additional 10 events. The nice thing is the game lets you play through its story modes in order and also lets you have at it in any mini-games here if you just want to grab a few friends and family members (up to 8) and play together. Online play and cloud saves are of course, all aboard if you want to play with a few folks online. That said, it’s good to see the game supports couch play (something more games need).

While it’s kid-friendly, and only supports the less fancier means of control (well, Joy-Cons, motion controls, and some first and third-party game pads), the game doesn’t skimp on the challenge for new players in some events where every bit of precision counts. The 2D retro mode’s games are far easier, bit everything here is well done any guaranteed to get you grinning. You can stay on the couch, too in either mode, but prepare to work those controllers in some events where a bit of precise button pressing, some rapid jamming and other moves need to be pulled off. Notably, there are no voices for the characters outside some generic grunts, but there’s enough of a plot that ties things together if you’re into it and prefer not to skip through short cut scenes and dialog segments.

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Featuring… a cast of DOZENS!

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Review: SEGA AGES Puyo Puyo (Switch)

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I’m set to be sorry, heh.

Puyo Puyo SwitchWhile it’s a tad barebones when stacked up (heh) against its other ports, the M2 version of SEGA’s classic Puyo Puyo is a pretty addictive gem. I had to put off my review thanks to a friend who wanted to school me being a bit ill, but man, I walked right into her trap because even though she was still a bit under the weather when I dropped by to see if she was up for a surprise gaming visit, I was a smoked duck almost as soon as she started playing, drawing a few hearty laughs out of her husband, who refused to play with a “Well, she’s pretty good, even though she’s sick” mantra he fell back on almost every time I lost a round. No, he’s not a big gamer, but he does know from about 20 years of wedded bliss she’s a total monster at games like this.

Yes, there are the much beefier Puyo Puyo Tetris and more recently, the online-centric (and less beefy) Puyo Puyo Champions to scream at (she has both). But this one’s special to her because it was an arcade staple of her growing up in Japan. Well, there was also the hefty bragging from her and a few humorous warnings not to play her by the hubby every so often.  Those alone were reason enough to get a review code. Well, I also was curious see to how good (or badly) I was going to get beaten. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed by the near total routing I received. Or, I was, but too bruised up to say much in my defense, heh. Ow.

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A Little Mario and Sonic Reminder Tease

So, it’s rare that I write about sports-themed games, so this one’s special on a few fronts. Now, I can’t say a thing until the embargo lifts, but I will reveal some facts about this Switch exclusive.

Ready? GO!

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take to the starting blocks exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on November 5 in the Americas for $59.99 USD and November 8 in Europe with commensurate pricing. For more information, including where you can pre-order the game, be sure to visit the official website, and watch our latest trailer.

Uh, that’s all I got. No, seriously. The reviews are under embargo, so I can’t report anything until then Switch fans, sorry. That trailer and retro mode are nice additions, right?

retro sports

-GW

Sega Genesis Mini: It’s 199X All Over Again

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Yeah, I got one last week.

So yeah, I picked up a Sega Genesis Mini from Amazon last week and it’s quite a good purchase overall. While there are a few clunkers in the bunch (did we really need a Virtua Fighter 2 that’s NOT the arcade version here? Plus some games om the Mini would have been better served with their appropriate sequels on board), the content is pretty solid and developer/port house M2 has done a very stellar job in converting the games to HD in this collection of 42 mostly excellent titles. While I’m exceptionally pleased, I also want a Mega Drive Mini here at some point for some of its cooler Japanese imports and shooters, some of which can be enjoyed in English (if they were localized for other territories outside that country).

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Review: SEGA AGES Space Harrier (Switch)

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Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. GET READY!

Hell, even if I were to think I was born ready for it, back in 1985 seeing and playing Sega’s Space Harrier for the first time in an arcade was a total and unexpected blast. Granted, it wasn’t my first psuedo-3D sprite-based shooter (Willams’ still phenomenal BLASTER was an instant fave for me two years earlier), but Yu Suzuki’s even more instant classic made for a more lasting impression thanks to its more superbly detailed visuals, rock-solid 60fps gameplay and yes, a somewhat crushing difficulty level for beginners. Watching someone play any of the three cabinet version was thrilling enough. But as a player, if you lucked out and got one of the sit-down versions with that big flight stick and body-shaking tilt feature, it was pure gaming bliss that left you maybe a bit wobbly after a few too many replays. Ah, memories!

Still, Suzuki’s game was perhaps too well made, just like his other supremely reliable arcade hits some take for granted these days. This is a game that is flawless in execution, but might be seen by the more jaded gamers out there as “repetitive” because they don’t see the beauty past the lightning fast speed and brilliant use of color. Ever busy developer M2 has done another outstanding job in porting the game to Switch for the ongoing SEGA AGES project ($7.99 per title) in both its original form with a new stage select, optional visual filter and control additions and a new version of the game called KOMAINU Barrier Attack that adds infinite continues and two small stone lion statues to aid Harrier in his quest.

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Screenshots really don’t do this game any justice. Some heads will roll for that.

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That Sega Genesis Mini? It Just Got A Lot Cooler

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Well, now. The final set of games coming to the Sega Genesis Mini have been revealed and guess what? It’s 42 titles and not the 40 initially noted. That final dozen include a few excellent surprises such as Tetris, the Sega-developed Japan-only rarity, and Darius, which never got a retail release.

Here’s the list of included titles:

Sonic The Hedgehog
Ecco the Dolphin
Castlevania: Bloodlines
Space Harrier 2
Shining Force
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
ToeJam & Earl
Comix Zone
Altered Beast
Gunstar Heroes
Earthworm Jim
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
Contra: Hard Corps
Thunder Force III
Super Fantasy Zone
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Streets of Rage 2
Landstalker
Mega Man®: The Wily Wars
Street Fighter II®: Special Champion Edition
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts®
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Beyond Oasis
Golden Axe
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball
Vectorman
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Tetris®
Darius
Road Rash II
Strider®
Virtua Fighter 2
Alisia Dragoon
Kid Chameleon
Monster World IV
Eternal Champions
Columns
Dynamite Headdy
Light Crusader

I’ll admit to being generally pleased with this lineup (let’s say about 85%) but there are a few odd omissions that leave me thinking that there will be some sort of second Genesis Mini or perhaps an update of some sort in the future. We shall see, I guess.

-GW