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FFWF last won the day on March 2

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  1. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth (3DS) - People sometimes wonder about the format and platform of these games. While they're most prominently a Persona crossover, they're also a crossover with the game mechanics of the Etrian Odyssey series - the Japanese title of which is "Sekaiju no Meikyuu", commonly abbreviated "Sekaiju no MeiQ", or "SQ"; from which we get the title, "Persona Q". I'm more of an Etrian Odyssey fan than a Persona fan, games which I only know second-hand; so how does this stack up as an EO/SQ title, and indeed as a sequel to Persona Q? Pretty well, as it happens! One thing I like about the Persona Q games is that they afford opportunities for labyrinth themes and gimmicks which simply wouldn't be possible in the mainline series, and the movie theme is an inspired choice for this title, creating areas which are distinct, instantly recognisable, and culturally universal. I was particularly impressed by the use of feathered dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park parody (making it ironically more paleontologically accurate than the real thing), and all the labyrinths and their selection of FOEs and bosses were a visual treat - with the possible exception of the sci-fi labyrinth, which falls into the trap of being a little too plain at times. I also felt the lack of an equivalent to Q's Evil Spirit Club, a puzzle-based horror labyrinth which is one of my favourite Etrian Odyssey dungeons ever; and in fact the developers openly stated that they didn't include such an area because they got complaints about the first one being too confusing and too scary, which strikes me frankly as cowardice. On the other hand, the fourth labyrinth in Q2 strikes me as a more successful take on the rather tiresome Group Date Café from Q, so it balances out. One thing which is a little disappointing was the enemy variety; I have no complaint about the FOE and boss designs, but where those are unique and tailored to their labyrinth, it is strange to me that the ordinary enemies are the same bizarre assortment of generic Shadows from Q, not infrequently returning with new colour schemes; but perhaps that's a Persona thing. The game provided a good selection of icons for the purposes of mapping, granting you custom ones as new obstacles appeared, but I noticed that there was a slight lag in dragging them on the map which sometimes resulted in me accidentally scrawling a line across my labyrinth; and going straight into this from Etrian Odyssey Nexus I also noticed that a number of common functions are mapped to completely different buttons, though Q2's choices arguably make more sense... One major quality of life change I did appreciate, though, is that there's no need for an "inn" function - the game fully restores you every time you return to the hub; another is that supplying the shop with the right materials needed to craft new items allows you to purchase said item infinitely, rather than only in accordance with how many materials they have in stock as is the case in mainline Etrian. The game does have a few mechanical issues, though. The actual dungeon design is not the best and tends towards the samey, however interesting the gimmicks might be; and boss fights have a tendency to be either a slugfest, or heavily dependent on slightly janky gameplay-story integration (and often both). For a game with a limited character roster rather than the unlimited custom creations of Etrian Odyssey, it strikes me as counter-productive that experience is not shared universally, with characters not brought into battle getting a whopping nothing. This seems strange, because the presentation treats the full cast as constantly with you, with doors and chests and shortcuts being opened by randomly-selected characters from the entire cast pool, conversations mid-exploration featuring all available personalities, and (which I'll come to later) side-quests which encourage or outright require you to use other cast members. Given that the game attempts to be a little more accessible than mainline Etrian Odyssey, and especially that the cast runs to over twenty distinct fighters, I really think full experience share could have been afforded. On a similar note, the game has the gall to (invisibly!) handicap all of your skills if you happen to be using a sub-persona that's too many levels (and it doesn't tell you how many!) beneath that of your main persona, meaning that you could be using the best personas you have available and have all your skills arbitrarily weakened, without even realising it. Additionally, the similarly whopping number of magic elements - eight, plus one physical, compared to Etrian Odyssey's three magic and three physical - means that random encounters against new enemies are a rather awkward and rote affair of cycling through every single element for every single enemy until you finally hit on the one that's right, assuming you have it on your characters at all. Some might not complain about random battles starting off harder than once you learn the tricks, but I really think the number of elements is too many; I gather two of those elements were newly-introduced in Persona 5 and thus weren't in the original Persona Q, for that matter. So the game could stand to be more generous in several regards. It could probably stand to be less generous, conversely, with money; it absolutely showers you with money and you will never ever run out unless you're doing something insane like trying to keep all two dozen characters fully equipped - but just your five regulars are cheap as anything to outfit. Additionally, there's also a gathering function at particular points in the labyrinth, as in Etrian Odyssey; but the game sometimes forgets about these for long stretches of time, and later on falls in love with giving you endless numbers of stat-boosting trinkets from them rather than the materials you need to actually craft new equipment, which is framed as a benefit (it stems from Personas increasing your chances of gaining rare items) but is actually a problem. As I indicated, the levelling problem also feeds into the game's side-quests - which are otherwise delightful and a considerable improvement over Q. Where Q had fairly generic Etrian Odyssey sidequests, Q2 merges these with Q's "Strolls", side-conversations where the characters hung out; the result being purpose-driven, character-based hang-outs in customised sections of the labyrinth itself. These feel distinct and rewarding because of the emphasis on character interaction; and to this end, the game gives slight boosts if you bring along any of several pre-determined key characters on that particular "Special Screening". Of course, because of the level gap, invariably you won't; and a lot of the supposed character stars are actually fairly arbitrary when any number of characters will continue to chip in. Happily, the only character-mandatory quests are a handful featuring the main protagonist of each game... plus a random one or two others, which is strange and arbitrary. But the main reward for most of the sidequests are special multi-character Unison Attacks which will trigger at certain times provided you have even one of the right characters in your party, so you'll always have access to a few of those. This is as good a place as any to segue into plot, characterisation, and localisation. I honestly don't remember Q that well, but I recall people being generally quite unhappy with the character writing in that title, in which it seemed like some characters were reduced to self-parodies or one-note jokes; but Q2 is to my admittedly untrained eyes much better on capturing the subtleties and multiple facets of the characters on show, which is particularly impressive when there are dozens of them and one of them hasn't appeared in a game for over ten years. The Velvet Room characters perhaps feel the most unnecessary; Margaret, Marie, Caroline and Justine spend the entire game doing a whole lot of nothing, and frankly it's amazing to me that the series's assistant characters topped out with the thoroughly insane Elizabeth, who is milked for all she's worth. The three new characters are fairly well-realised, though they do take far too long to come into their own and so are relative non-entities for the first three-fifths of the story; but the roots are there. There don't appear to be any of the localisation howlers which many people highlighted with Persona 5, either; the character writing to me was very readable and distinct, or at least as distinct as you can get with thirty-odd of them rattling around the hub. In that respect, it's a shame about the lack of a dub, although this point doesn't bother me so much in itself. The localisation could have been stepped up when it came to the main plot, however, which - while good! - has all the subtlety of a brick to the face, to the point that the later revelations are barely necessary; the eventual musical elements in particular read very literally, and it's hard not to think that a dub might well have improved those simply by the necessity of having to make them rhyme. It's also in this respect that the localisation makes what is as far as I'm aware the only actual error: The character Doe, it becomes obvious in the fourth labyrinth, is named after a recurring statement that's important in the game's backstory, a statement which in the Japanese dub begins with a heavily and repeatedly emphasised "doe" syllable (I may not know Japanese, but I know a "doushite" when I hear one). But the localisation misses this entirely and phrases the English line without this syllable, even though it would have been simplicity itself to do so (or just... change Doe's name, even). But, as I indicated, the metaplot as a whole is far superior to Persona Q. It's definitely rather slow in starting; the full cast is delivered to you piecemeal over the course of the first three labyrinths, and while that's absolutely the correct decision in terms of game mechanics, it does mean that the metaplot for most of the game is "Woah, we're in a theater?!" six or seven times over, to the point that even the characters start pointing out the repetition. The main plot only really kicks into gear in the fourth labyrinth... of five; story-wise the game could really have used another, and it wouldn't have been too difficult to slot in - but at the same time, it's not like the game doesn't feel long enough, as my final game file ran to over eighty hours. But the actual reasoning for everything happening, and for why the new characters are so important, is much better than it was in Persona Q. Frankly, I thought Persona Q's "reveal" twist to be idiotic to the point of absurdity, and fatally inferior to the problem it had set up; but the Q2 explanations are both rational and even relatable, drawing a grand point about the human condition with an enemy and a plan which feel deserved and actually something meriting a super crossover to deal with. If there's a slow start, the presentation comes into its own at the end, which does its level best to leave you with a fantastic final impression, leaving no stone unturned. Persona Q2 is a game that will reward you if you stick with it. It's a shame, in that respect, that the odds are against there being a Persona Q3; for Q2 is a game which, as a late 3DS game, indeed the last major 3DS game, cannot have received anything like the attention it deserved. Coming up next: Etrian Odyssey Nexus (3DS) continues to loom large in my mind, and while I'm now perhaps two-thirds of the way through it, that still means there are as many labyrinths left as in the entirety of Persona Q2 - and after eighty-five hours of that, I don't feel quite like diving immediately back into the Nexus. My backlog, then, is formally clear; but I have a few options on my watchlist, and September is a hell of favourable releases - and I do need something else to play for a couple of weeks. To that end, I've obtained the Switch demos for Oninaki, Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble, and Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition, and if Oninaki in particular looks favourable, there's a good chance I'll get that.
  2. Prioritise whichever genre of game you like best, perhaps? Or try to figure out which game excites you the most. I'd imagine that Link's Awakening and perhaps Luigi's Mansion 3 might be relatively shorter titles than the others, too.
  3. I'm not certain there was meant to be that much of a distinction between Sonic and Flickies/Mobinis/"animal friends" to start with anyway; he was presented as larger because he was more important (and interesting), as I read it.
  4. I liked some of the Mega Evolutions which added new types or changed the Pokemon's design significantly, like actual Dragon Charizard, Bug/Flying Pinsir and ridiculous shell-engulfed Slowbro. But it's no surprise that some of the more radical designs were also the ones people thought should have been legitimate new evolutions. I actually think they may have had some influence on the development of Alolan Forms, and now Galarian Forms; it's interesting to see classic designs updated with new ideas.
  5. Regional forms being seemingly here to stay is going to be popular among many; I just hope there aren't so few and so buried among regular forms as in Sun/Moon. Still, on the plus side, at least we know that it's not just Kanto Pokemon this time! (Though still several.) Regional evolutions is an item from the leak that I didn't think could be quite literal... but it looks like it is. So there's no non-Garalian form of Obstagoon? Curious. Team Yell are more like Team Skull than I expected, but their very premise seems... unusually diluted compared to all previous teams. But at this point it's hardly going to be a surprise when they turn out not to be the real villains, after Team Skull, so I suspect that won't feel too strange a twist. It'll be interesting to see exactly what relationship Marnie has with them; I like the idea of a team leader who's not actually officially affiliated with their team. (I'm also surprised that they're not yellow-themed, but never mind.) Also, what's going on in that whole third of the Japanese trailer we didn't get? It looked like there was a new Rotom form in there - but I can't imagine it being a true Pokemon or they'd have hyped it way up. Edit: It's Rotomi, and it's giving you PokéJobs. It looks a bit like elements of Poképelago, in that you send Pokemon off to work and they come back with items and experience? Returns depend on Pokemon sent, typings, etc.
  6. I'm personally willing to give GameFreak the benefit of the doubt when it comes to technical limitations, but at the same time there is simply no doubt that the real villain of the piece here is their business model. The annualisation of the series, with the same dev cycle for HD games that they used to have for 3DS games - I simply don't think it's sustainable in the long term, no matter how much you outsource. Something has to give, and in this case, it was the National Dex.
  7. Broadly speaking, for every previous game in the series then every single Pokemon was programmed into the game and Pokemon from past games could be imported into the latest game by some method or another. (Caveat: Gen 3 didn't have importing but did make every Pokemon available.) However, Pokemon Sword/Shield only have a limited (presently unknown) number of Pokemon programmed into the game, and those Pokemon and only those Pokemon can be imported from past titles, and the developers have indicated that this will be the rule for future games, that there will never again be a Pokemon game where you can use every single Pokemon. (Let's Go was the same, but people assumed it was a one-off.) The developers have indicated that they're having issues with including and updating all Pokemon data (there is furious debate over exactly what the obstacle might be and whether it's realistically surmountable) and that they will endeavour to make unavailable Pokemon re-available in future titles. People are unhappy, in the meantime, about the idea of Pokemon being "cut" (which is not strictly speaking what is happening) or being "held hostage" in paid-for mobile storage apps. For additional context, the number of formally numbered Pokemon has passed 800, with Sword/Shield likely to bring that number nearer to 900; the developers have stated that, including new Pokemon, additional forms, and other unnumbered states, the number of Pokemon models is now around 1000. Based on past Pokemon observed in official previews, the Sword/Shield Pokedex is unlikely to number fewer than 200 Pokemon and is widely predicted to be nearer 300.
  8. I'd take that one with a grain of salt; apparently there have been multiple rumours pinpointing new information for August 7th, and the information differs for each of them. The date was relatively guessable. Also, regarding Zacian and Zamazenta's typing: But legendaries have had odd typings before. It'll be interesting to find out.
  9. It's not surprising, and it's not like the alternative was much better, but it's still disappointing.
  10. I don't think it's been a working title for a while now. If nothing else, I think it got sufficient publicity as just a working title that it might have genuinely confused some people if they'd renamed it; I'm thinking of Octopath Traveler, in this regard, which was also initially a working title but became established as the brand. You don't want to change a name everyone already knows.
  11. It's an honestly fascinating problem that WayForward developed a deliberate thematically one-off gameplay gimmick for Pirate's Curse, but they made it too well and it accidentally plays better than the main series. I don't think they can possibly make "Shantae is a pirate now" the premise of the whole series without betraying what came before, but it's going to be very interesting to see what they can take forward. For example, if the dances become instantaneous, are they really still dances?
  12. In the end, weren't there only a handful of New 3DS exclusives, and not necessarily the ones you'd expect? I remember Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, The Binding Of Isaac, and Hyrule Warriors (de facto, apparently it was abysmal on a standard 3DS). If Switch Pro games would have to curtail their requirements for undocked mode anyway, I would imagine they'd be capable of something similar for docked non-Pro play, though admittedly I know little of such things.
  13. I just feel that some of the system's critics fail to understand the different ways in which people play. I use my Switch exclusively undocked; I don't even have it hooked up to a TV. I never detach the JoyCons, never play multiplayer, I'm indifferent to HD Rumble. If the Switch Lite had been out closer to launch, I'd have bought it, absolutely. Edit: Just remembered that Nintendo did some research in 2017 showing that over 30% of Switch owners use it undocked more than 80% of the time. (Source)
  14. Nintendo has zero interest in making the system stand apart. It's intended to be a no-hassle version of the Switch at a more accessible price; removing bells and whistles to bring the price down is the whole point. They certainly don't want to split the existing Switch market with mutually exclusive gimmicks; it's less for the portable market and more for parents with small children, much like the 2DS.
  15. SteamWorld Quest (Switch) - I have not previously played any card-based RPGs; but I trust the Image & Form crew, and here we are. SteamWorld Quest plays very well; the mechanics are easy to pick up but with boundless depth, you get a steady stream of new cards from treasure chests and crafting and even character development - in some respects, there's actually too much content; I never came close to acquiring many of the craftable cards, which is perhaps a way of encouraging players to focus on developing a strategy rather than taking a scattergun approach. However, this is one of the game's drawbacks: There isn't enough game for the cards. The number of cards, strategies, possibilities far outlast the actual length of the game; indeed, even the addition of extra characters to swap into your three-man party feels difficult to appreciate, because the mechanical potential for experimentation doesn't really line up with how the game plays out in practice. With only three party members usable at a time, any character without a clear niche doesn't have a place; and the challenge level means that you will simply never swap out your healer, for example, while the decision to award only diminished experience to unused party members means that they'll quickly be left behind. The game feels like it would have benefited from full heals after every battle and full XP to all characters to encourage alternative set-ups and strategies; in addition to just plain needing to be longer - but at the end of the day, this is an indie game, so one can't expect miracles. The story, for this is after all an RPG, is fairly standard RPG fare, but quite fun; the characters have just enough of a second dimension to work, and are charming enough to want to spend time with. But it's also a very weird narrative which is barely SteamWorldy at all; it's framed as a fairy-tale, and the characters behave and speak throughout as if they were human - to the extent that the writing would honestly feel more natural if they were. Of all the SteamWorld projects so far, then, this is the one which feels the most uneven; there's enormous potential, and it is fun, but it felt like it needed not so much more time in the oven as a slightly different recipe entirely. Gato Roboto (Switch) - An entertaining and enjoyable mini-Metroidvania, with a Blaster Master twist where your underpowered cat protagonist can leave its chunky mech suit entirely. If we're being perfectly honest, it's actually not terribly Metroidy; while the map is windy and intersecting, the main course is actually very linear with areas being unlocked in a clear order, exploration and backtracking being largely reserved for tracking down bonus upgrades. Additionally, not only are there other vehicles beside the mech suit, there are extended periods where you play as the cat alone. So this game is more of an atmospheric Metroidvania, with its labyrinthine tunnels and ever-present sense of danger; but that's no bad thing. I had my doubts about the game's entirely monochrome graphics at first, wondering if enemies would fail to stand out, or the environment grow cluttered; but everything is actually signalled quite well, and the monochrome look allows for a considerable number of unlockable bonus palette swaps to be found and engaged with; I neglected these, but in retrospect I wish I'd put each of them on having found them, just to see what they really play like. My one real objection is that the game has a fairly unnecessary point of no return just before the last leg; and completing the game locks you into a state where you simply can't revisit the map at all. Possibly this is to encourage replayability? It is a short game, ultimately; I completed it 100% in almost exactly three and a half hours, which apparently is about standard. Short, but sweet; I could have played the game for hours longer, and can only hope that a sequel will one day be on the cards. Coming up next: With nine labyrinths under my belt and over seventy hours of playtime, I can comfortably say that I'm past the halfway point of Etrian Odyssey Nexus (3DS); my strategy of clearing a labyrinth between every other game I play is paying off. But with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch) regrettably proving technically incompetent at present, I've no choice but to wait for it to be updated to a passable state... which means that, with the next game on my list, I'm now playing two Etrian Odyssey games at once: Persona Q2 (3DS).
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