What game are you playing?

I’d also been deliberately avoiding DDLC spoilers because I kept meaning to get around to it, but it was only when DDLC+ came out that I actually played it. Based on the effusive praise I’d seen it get I was really disappointed in it. I think all the points you’ve made are pretty on the money.

I really didn’t find it scary or subversive - mostly just an attempt at exploitative shock value. Like, sure, juxtaposing horrible imagery with that kind of bucolic school life visual novel vibe could theoretically be effective, but I don’t think it succeeded. I think I’m in the same boat with regards to not finding the content personally triggering but I also feel very weird about how it was all originally a surprise - I’m not the first to bring it up, it might even have been mentioned on this forum, but I can’t help but compare the discourse around Boyfriend Dungeon’s “inadequate” content warnings and the complete lack of content warnings DDLC originally had [for the DDLC+ re-release, the game opens with some vague warnings, but I don’t think it gets into specifics]. The whole experience just left me feeling pretty gross.

“I’m really not sure how Dan Salvato can think his game is in any way a love letter to Visual Novels, though, it really feels like the opposite…”

Nailed it. Frankly I would’ve interpreted it as the work of someone who hated the format and/or the people who play it.

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Y’all like Call of Duty? I played the campaign of Vanguard over the weekend as is custom this time of year.

This year feels like a slighter campaign than usual, especially in comparison to Modern Warfare and Black Ops. I completed it fairly easily over two play sessions. It tells the story of an Allied task force made up of elite soldiers of different backgrounds who head into Berlin as the Germans are just about to surrender. The story is essentially a couple of vignettes detailing each soldier’s experiences during the war, their leader parachutes in on the eve of D-day with the Airborne to take out artillery. The pilot fights in the battle of Midway, gets shot down and teams up with a black US army regiment in the jungle. There’s a Russian sniper who gets to do the Enemy at the Gates schtick in glorious 4k. There’s also a bit where you play as an Australian explosives expert fighting Rommel in the desert.

It doesn’t really do much outside of the COD schtick most disappointingly. There isn’t anything like the level where you infiltrate the Kremlin in Black Ops - nothing too jarring like the house clearance in Modern Warfare. It plays it mostly safe, the only thing it does differently is extremely light squad commands, where you can request your comrades to lay down covering fire.

However, I do want to give Vanguard props for focusing on the racial divide within the Allies. You have the bit where you are embeded within a squad of black soldiers and it does show how they are essentially viewed as expendable. It’s similar with the Australians, who are treated as scum by their clueless British overseers. Great banter between the Australian lot also.

So you have this ragtag bunch essentially fighting off the nazis and preventing them from starting A FOURTH REICH. It’s no Wolfenstein: New Order which told the same story much better and much more humanity, but it’s better than the usualy COD stuff of going off on black ops with the war crime boys. Assuming we get the 2nd Modern Warfare 2 next year, another Black Ops the year after, I wouldn’t be against having these characters come back and eliminate any Nazis in hiding via a series of specific levels.

I made a ranking of COD campaigns on this forum a year ago, I would sit Vanguard in the middle, better than most of the Black Ops games, better than WW2. Fairly forgettable all the same. I give it props for focusing on the under represented factions of the war, it’s just a shame the game really doesn’t offer anything new in terms of gameplay or even moments.

The MP feels better than Black Ops, it feels the same as Modern Warfare. Zombies can go to hell. Bring back MW2 Spec Ops.

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I also did start playing Heaven’s Vault, which is a much bigger time investment - I’ve not played it long enough to have really deep thoughts, but the various mechanical elements seem interesting (although, on a meta level, I’m not clear on how the game deciding that you “correctly identified a word” works in terms of adding it to your vocabulary for translation - it feels a little gamey the first time it happens, as if Aliya magically can just “tell” when she’s gotten it right, once she does?).

It’s also one of those games that has a somewhat unlikeable protagonist - Aliya certainly has opinions about some things, even if you don’t choose the options where she expresses them.

I was also blindsided by the “sailing from planet to planet will cut off your conversation if you arrive at your destination in the middle of one” wrinkle the first time around. It looks like I’m going to need to idle a lot more when sailing!

We’ll see how we go with it.

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Since it’s leaving Game Pass next week, I went and gave River City Girls another shot and finished it in one sitting from where I dropped it previously which was just before the second boss fight. I didn’t like that much before (that’s why I dropped it, after all) and having finished it I still don’t like it that much but at least now I can understand why I feel that way.

With the basic move set you’re given at the start of the game the game is straight up no fun. I found myself enjoying fighting enemies a whole lot more once I unlocked a handful of moves at the dojo but almost every other aspect of the game’s design really gets in the way of an otherwise decent experience. A lot of the combat design is just incredibly annoying. The most egregious example of this is how some bosses have extended phases of their fight where you just can’t hit them at all and have to wait and dodge projectiles until they’re vulnerable. The two specific bosses I’m thinking of (NOIZE and the fashionista) have gimmicks attached to them that would’ve been so cool if I didn’t have to slog through them half a dozen times trying to beat them.

The progression/RPG-lite elements seemed mostly if not wholly useless at a certain point. You level up and gain stats in this game but for whatever reason, the regular enemies seem to scale along with you stat-wise as the game goes on. I also found enemies that you weren’t required to fight in arenas eventually stopped giving you XP and money so I ended up just running from one story point to the next to avoid taking unnecessary damage. Most of the equipment you can buy doesn’t seem worth it at all since most of them offer marginal stat benefits in specific circumstances (+5% damage dealt/-5% damage taken versus a certain type of enemy was a common effect) so after buying the two items that actually seemed useful and all the moves from the dojo halfway through the game money stopped being a worry outside of buying health recovery items. Which is honestly not that much of a negative since you lose huge chunks of it when you die.

I think the only thing about River City Girls enjoyed throughout are the character designs and the pixel art. I really liked the characters themselves more but a lot of the writing (and the extremely wack ending) came across as weirdly nasty and judgmental. Which I’ll take over all the thinly veiled fetish stuff and other gross parts of other WayForward games, still sucks though!

A silver lining to all this: I loaded up Streets of Rage 4 again (also on Game Pass) and was unable to keep a smile off my face as I was playing it. The combat system in that game is way too much fun to play around in. Never got around to finishing it though so I definitely need to work on remedying that!

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Paused my Metroid Prime playthrough because I wasn’t enjoying it enough to get over how bad it looks on my TV. Gonna buy some component cables. Dipped into Animal Crossing with the update. Doesn’t seem like there’s really a ton new to do without purchasing the DLC? Trying to raise money to expand my storage space because I have 3 copies of every fish and bug for the statues. Yes, that is an insane thing to do.

Since I didn’t really have a “hardcore” game going right now I started up Furi on my Switch. It’s from the folks (The Game Bakers) who made Haven more recently. I’m having a pretty good time with it, especially the Carpenter Brut music. It’s a bit rough in some spots, but simultaneously that makes it feel ambitious, especially given that the roughest stuff (the cutscenes) don’t need to be in there. And I’m personally having some trouble playing it with joy-cons because they’re just not good controllers, imo, and the game is difficult. I almost never play “hardcore” stuff on my Switch for this reason. Might be time to get a pro controller. Not the game’s fault, though! Furi: hard and fun so far.

Side-note, I checked out The Game Bakers’ website to see their other stuff, and there’s a fun little tool on there to “cook up” different types of games. Civilization is the Crème Anglaise of video games, didn’t you know? Somebody worked hard on that and it’s a fun bit.

I played Heavens Vault earlier in the year, liked it a lot. Not fresh in my mind but remember I enjoyed the story and the main game mechanic of deciphering an ancient language.

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Animal Crossing, enjoying the update content and the DLC. Right now getting pleasure from close up shots of the new foods.

Taking the DLC slow. As far as I can tell it would be hard to design a house the game wasn’t happy with, its more about how much you enjoy the process (which I do)
For example, invited my Villager, Tabby the cat, to the real estate island. Turns out she loves Silent Hill style spooky hospitals, who knew. Spent a long time on that one.


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So, I finished Dark Souls again! The game is very good! I have now played the whole series (plus Demon’s Souls) in the past 13 months or so, and I can definitively say that the first game is my favorite. It’s just impeccably designed from start to finish. I’m experienced enough at these games now, so the combat and boss fights weren’t as front of mind as they had been in previous play throughs. This left me with a lot headspace to focus on the narrative and themes in the game, which really solidified my esteem of the game. I don’t know how much people care about the story in Dark Souls, let alone spoilers, but I’ll hide it anyways: The core of this game’s narrative came through so clearly this time, that I’m a little disappointed in myself for not really internalizing it earlier. The core conflict is between two ways of carrying on in a doomed world. First you have Frampt’s optimistic approach. You keep the flame alive and continue the age of light, facing the end of the world and saying “we’ll try again, and maybe it will work this time!” But, if you follow a certain quest-line, it becomes clear that all of that hope is based on smoke and mirrors. With one exception, everyone related to the age of light is long dead, with the Goddess of Light literally being just a projection of her grieving sibling. The King himself has gone hollow, wasting away at the center of the world. Kaathe’s nihilistic worldview may have the truth to back it up, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the right choice. By killing Gwyn and not linking the flame you are letting the world as you know it die, without any promise that what comes after will be any better. The DLC area suggests that whatever future this way holds could be just as grim. Frampt may have been lying (or decieved himself) about the prospects of linking the flame, but can you blame them for choosing hope, even if it’s unfounded? Kaathe may see the world with clear eyes, but does that count for anything when the solution is to let the world die? I of course chose to let the flame die, because of my nihilist tendencies, but for the first time I understood the other path, and how it might be appealing even if you know it’s false.

Anyways, this was my first experience with any Souls game as a magic user first and foremost, and I’m mad at myself for not trying this sooner. I played a glass cannon sorcery build, which was a BLAST! By the end I was melting 2/3rds of a bosses health bar before they even started an attack animation. Bosses that I had bashed my head against for hours on previous play throughs were going down on my first try. It’s a completely different way to play the game, and I’m really glad I went out on a limb this time through. What a great game!

Definitive* (Personal) Soulsborne ranking:
  1. Dark Souls
  2. Demon’s Souls
  3. Dark Souls II
  4. Sekiro
  5. Dark Souls III
  6. Bloodborne

*Subject to change at any moment for any reason.
Also, 1-4 are all S tier, with DS1 just a hair above the others.

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I would strongly recommend you get an 8BitDo SN 30 Pro+ instead of the Switch Pro controller because it’s cheaper and better. The main thing is that it has a good, firm D pad, which is especially helpful for Switch because it has so many 2D platformers. I got one for Monster Hunter Rise since that’s also a demanding action game and it’s now one of my favorite controllers for any system.

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My sprint through Halo hit a slump when I hit Halo 5, a game which feels far more like another team picking up the pieces of a franchise than Halo 4 ever did. There’s a litany of changes to the traditional formula - the ability to aim down sights, a permanent four-Spartan team filled out with AI if you’re not in co-op, expanded movement options with dodges, slams, and even hovering. I don’t think any of these changes are necessarily bad, but taken in aggregate they wildly alter the feel of a very familiar series.

I took a few days off after a bug halted my progress on the third mission, but after coming back into it I’m actually finding myself increasingly invested. As much as I dislike 343’s multiplayer armour design (and a little of that comes through in the armour of your new teammates), they nail human industrial design: there’s an early set of levels on Meridian, a human colony glassed during the human-Covenant war, that is being excavated by a (very Weyland-Yutani inspired) company and the mining colony vibes are impeccable.

Narratively, it’s taking some big swings that pick up threads established in Halo 4 as well as relatively deep cuts from tie-in novels and other sources. I don’t think all of it lands, but I do have to respect the intent.

As with the rest of my replay I’m on Normal difficulty, which is lower than I tend to normally play Halo. My reflexes - and tolerance for reattempting the same checkpoint - are fading. But on Normal, at least my most hated aspect of Halo 5 is more tolerable: the recurring boss fight. You see, Halo 5 features a boss built around the idea that you have a full fire team who can flank a target and shoot it in its exposed weak point… only 343 seemed to forget to make sure your AI team will actually do that. It’s a frustrating fight to do once, it still blows my mind five years later that they force you to repeat the fight multiple times.

Still - the hooks are in. I want to remind myself where the story left off, and wonder just how much of a retcon or narrative realignment Halo Infinite is going to be.

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Almost immediately after my last post I fired up Streets of Rage 4 intending to play a little bit of it and ended up running through the back half of that game in a single sitting. Although I’m riding off a bit of unmitigated hater energy after finishing through River City Girls, I do think Streets of Rage 4 is one of the most enjoyable arcade-style modern brawlers I’ve played. Which I admittedly haven’t played a ton of but it’s easily the only game of the sort that didn’t feel severely outclassed by games that are several decades old.

The combat engine in this game is so extremely well done. It’s simple enough that you can pick it up, look at the controls and freestyle your way into some fun combos (like I did after not playing this for months!) or you can fool around in the training mode to really appreciate the technical differences between each character. I only used Blaze and Cherry, who have plenty of notably drastic gameplay differences between just the two of them, when I finished the game but going through the in-game tutorials for the other characters and seeing all the wild stuff they’re capable of really scratched the fighting game enthusiast part of my brain that just wants to sit in the training mode figuring out what kind of things the game will let me get away with.

The one thing I will knock the game for is that the soundtrack did not hit for me at all. I don’t dislike it per say but none of the music in the game made much of an impression on me as I was playing it. Which is a bummer considering how much I’ve enjoyed the other works of most of the composers on this game. Olivier Deriviere’s work on the dynamic music and soundtrack for Remember Me (a real banger of a game I might add!) has remained standout in my mind, Yuzo Koshiro whose done a lot of killer music across multiple generations and platforms but most relevantly did the unimpeachable classic house-influenced soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2, Motohiro Kawashima who co-composed the mind-blowing 90s techno by way of Genesis sound hardware soundtrack with Koshiro for Streets of Rage 3, Yoko Shimomura of Street Fighter II and Kingdom Hearts fame…

There are a couple songs that stuck out to me having now listened to them outside the game but the I’m more than a little sad the whole thing isn’t as awesome as it coulda been. The rest of the game being extremely sick more than makes up for that though!

Playing inscryption and loving it so far

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My brain has not really been letting me settle on any particular game recently, so I’ve decided to enjoy flitting from thing to thing. I’ve been trying Big Games that Everyone Plays that I haven’t, so I’ve been on that Undertale, and I played the intro of Skyrim to say that I’ve done it. I will probably finish Undertale, and I don’t know that I’ll go back to Skyrim. It’s not that I don’t see the appeal, and the intro was cool, but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it. I did make a cool lizard dude, though. I like my lizard dude. Tried Gears 5. Still don’t really like Gears games, apparently.

I tried Forza Horizon 5, but it crashed to desktop twice when I was doing the opening plane-drop tour thing, so I think I’ll wait for a patch or two. The only driving game I’ve played literally in decades is Burnout Paradise (cart racers don’t count Sonic Transformed is the best one objective fact), so I thought it was time to check back in. Oh well.

Things I’ve played before: Wildermyth is as charming as ever, but I think if I do another campaign I need to bump the difficulty. I feel like it needs to push back a bit more for me to love it. They Are Billions is a clever thing indeed. Felt like I was starting to get my feet under me, missed a single zombie wandering in, dead. Good stuff. Feel like I should look up an opening guide.

FFXIV Endwalker comes out at the start of December and I shall spend that month having adventures with my fantasy buddies and crying, if Shadowbringers and the last 30 seconds of the launch trailer are any indication.

I really loved Wildermyth but my experience of the difficulty in that game was bizarre and eventually took me out of it. I dont normally play games like this but was plowing through the normal difficulty like nothing. One step higher and I held my own until everything fell apart right at the end of the campaign and then when I restarted I couldn’t get past the first mission? Like it just wasn’t clicking in my brain.

Got Later, Alligator for my birthday a couple of months ago, and finally got around to playing it. Once I realized I’d replay the day a few times, regardless, the fact that some of the minigames are quite luck-based stopped annoying me and I had a great time with it. The soundtrack bangs (it’s 2Mello, so that was a given), and the animations are all quite adorable. I’m in the middle of a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure rewatch with my friends, so the little gator!Jotaro one character had saved to his phone was a hit in our group chat.

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In one of the Halloween threads people mentioning Majora’s Mask got me wanting to play it. I played it before as teen, tween or child ( I can’t remember) and (in memory) it’s my favorite zelda game. I don’t have an N64 anymore so I got the remake for the 3ds and despite being apathetic or negative on the changes made (that I noticed while playing), it’s still one heck of a game.
As a kid I picked up on the end-of-the-world-ness, but it didn’t instill dread; I could just go back in time or slow time. This is still how I generally feel about playing the game except there’s a feeling of regret with how I make Link spend time in Termina.
The game spans three days culminating in the moon crushing the world. At any point you can go back to the start of this cycle. For the first two days a giant boulder blocks the road to Romani Ranch and is cleared on the third day. Romani (a kid who lives on the ranch) stares blankly sitting on a box. Her older sister regrets not listening to her. Partway through the game, you get access to a bomb big enough to clear the way to the ranch early. Now Romani runs around practicing shooting a bow to defend from an alien invasion that takes the ranch’s cows. These sorts of events happen often enough that putzing around or even helping other people comes with a sense of doing something at the expense of other things.
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I just finished the 2nd dungeon and things associated with that, but I’m really liking it. Well except the Deku Palace, which seems bad. I need to look into things a bit more, because my feeling is really more of a gut check thing, but I think the way the Dekus are (seem to me) to be non-western (I put screenshots below | not sure what word to use really) and the way that crosses with their story (they think some monkeys kidnapped the princess and are going to burn (cook?) a monkey as retaliation and are so blinded by their rage they won’t listen to what the monkey is saying) feels not great.

Deku Pics

DekuHome
DekuPeople
DekuTemple

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Well, I finished Halo 5, bringing me back up to speed on the series ahead of Halo Infinite next month (question mark? I still would not be surprised if the campaign was further delayed). I’ve already written quite a bit recently about the series so I won’t labour the point but I really am curious to see how they reconcile the end of Halo 5 with what we’ve seen so far of Infinite’s campaign. It’s clear that they’re not throwing every plot beat 5 set up away, but “ok you’re on a halo ring fighting the Banished from Halo Wars 2” is certainly not the premise I would have expected next.

I’ve ended up with a bunch of games on the go so I’m trying to cross them off my list. I went back and finished Link’s Awakening (on Switch), which was silly because I’d basically stopped right before the final boss. Zelda games fall in a category where I repeat the same mistake over and over: I decide I want to see and so as much as possible - if not actually 100% it - and then I realise that’s too much work and fall off it before I actually complete it. I didn’t 100% it in the end, but at least I finished it. My opinion hasn’t changed: it’s a very fun update to the 2D Zelda formula and I highly recommend it. Now, having finished that, do I tackle Skyward Sword…?

Lastly, I knocked out Unpacking with my partner yesterday afternoon. It’s a very neat little game and I almost wanted to put something like “but, there’s not a lot to write about”, except actually I think there’s a lot of clever stuff it does. It’s Environmental Storytelling: The Game and really rewards paying attention to what items reoccur and where you can place things. Definitely a spoiler so I’ll tag it as such: the best bit of foreshadowing was probably moving into a guy’s apartment and realising “there’s no space for her to work on her art, there’s not even space to hang her degree, this isn’t going to work”. Lengthwise I think I misjudged it, it’s a little too long for just one sitting like we played it, but I’d also say the story is just about a perfect length - unpacking the final location, I was thinking “if there’s one more of these it’s been dragged out too much” kinda thing.

Next? I think I’m going to try and finish Inscryption.

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I’ve bunny hopped back into DOOM: Eternal, intrigued by the introduction of Horde Mode and new Master Levels. But I figured I should warm up the shooty fingers before doing either of those, so now I’m doing an Extra Life mode run through The Ancient Gods. Um yeah this game is still the closest thing to a pure shot of adrenaline and it’s incredible.

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I hit this scene in SMT III nocturne and been thinking a lot about it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AvHTjsW2B0.
First, because it has a beautiful transition and setting. But also because of the way the game is handling its themes. I find interesting that here we get Chiaki making the point that a meritocracy-based/technocratic society is the one to be preferred on the grounds of the previous world’s being a waste of time, resources and people’s potential. I like how her Reason is based on the naive thought of “progress” as a way towards an egalitarian society, and that a good life is a life of doing “meaningful things”. Like, girl, the problem wasn’t the previous world, it was capitalism!! Having philosopher kings or supposedly hyper-competent leaders isn’t going to fix anything lol. I also love the fact that we get the teenagers spelling out these ideologies, it makes for good character development imo, and makes me think about the popularity of this sort of view in our own hell world. I’ve yet to finish the game and get the full picture to better understand this, but would love to hear thoughts!

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Pro tip: If you need help passing the time while farming in Shin Megami Tensei V – or if the game isn’t dour enough for your liking – I highly recommend putting on some GY!BE in the background!

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