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Salamander last won the day on March 2 2019

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  1. As somebody who is admittedly a little bit cynical about the current state of the franchise, I am rather suspicious of the start-of-year release of Legends: Arceus. It's probably paranoid to suggest that they want it rushed out the door at the start of 2022 because they're also planning to release a new mainline game by the end of 2022... but that's exactly what happened with Fire Red / Leaf Green and Emerald (FRLG January 2004, Emerald September 2004), so there's precedent.
  2. I don't know enough about the specifics of those collections to say, but I believe there's some evidence that ports are subject to different rules than remasters. The same code running on an emulator doesn't count as a different game; but a ground-up rebuild (like the StealthTax versions) is effectively a new game using the old resources and would require relicensing. That's my understanding of one element of what is doubtless a complicated situation.
  3. That seems credible, as those are indeed "stories for the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series and its spin-offs". If it was describing work on the games directly, I would expect it to be worded a little differently; "game scripts" instead of "stories" maybe. It doesn't follow that Flynn would have stories written for multiple unknown Sonic games; or that he'd already written for multiple Sonic games without being given or desiring credit.
  4. With the success of the recent Mega Man and Castlevania legacy collections, it wouldn't be extraordinary for SEGA to think the time was right for (another) Sonic equivalent - and if they could bundle in some of the less often rereleased titles then it would clearly distinguish itself from just the usual classic rereleases. Granted, I think I've already played all the ones I'm actually particularly interested in playing, but games like the early Dimps titles have historically not been all that accessible and it's reasonable to think they might have some pull.
  5. Of course that's the case. But the question wasn't, "why do people want a bad game?", because nobody wants a bad game (probably, maybe). The question was, "why are people still hoping for news if they expect the next game to be bad?" And the answer, setting aside the unacknowledged but ever-present sliver of hope that it won't be bad, is that there's still some worth a community can extract even from a bad experience. A fuller answer would have included the fact that people don't want to leave a community in which they find companionship and understanding, but I had hoped that how communities work and why we're all here was tacitly understood.
  6. A bad game can make an interesting conversation. Simple as that.
  7. Cathedral (Switch) - Throw a stone at the Switch eShop, and you'll hit a retro graphics Metroidvania. What makes Cathedral stand out? Well, it has a confident if not particularly inspired visual style, heavy on bold colours and readable designs. The controls feel a little slippery and basic at first, but over time they grow on you. Perhaps more to the point, it's that the game is substantial; and past the opening sequence quickly reveals a considerably wider scope than you might at first anticipate... It's a game that gets a lot right. The controls are precise. There is a heavy emphasis on traditional platforming, which it pulls off well and with considerable variety. The plot is somewhat mysterious, with a number of points which aren't spelled out to the player but which can be deduced. It's big, too; big enough to have multiple towns, and a whole quest system to keep track of your objectives. More importantly, it's a game that understands that a Metroidvania should have a ton of upgrades, and the game goes all out in this regard; for example, there are maybe half a dozen types of upgrade tied to your armour alone! I should probably stop here to explain my theory that there are two types of Metroidvania. There's your genuinely open game through which you can take completely different routes and in which two playthroughs may look very different; Hollow Knight, for instance. And then there are Metroidvanias which are actually quite linear, just tied in such a complicated knot that it's effectively disguised; Metroid Fusion, for instance. Cathedral is an example of the latter, with a right road that's set in stone. However, it's good at giving you short-term choices (A is unlocked by first playing B, C, and D, but you can do those three in any order); and it's better at being absolutely stuffed with optionals, collectibles, and secrets. That helps to make this a big, big game; perhaps too big, at times, with fast travel points scattered just a bit too far apart for backtracking through its challenging stages to be comfortable. Further to that, it really is a challenging game; Cathedral is hard, with every major room chaining platforming challenges and puzzles - and enemies dealing a whacking great load of damage. Much like Blasphemous, Cathedral provides you with health potions to top you up; less like Blasphemous, it is very much designed around using them, with lategame enemies and bosses frequently dealing well over half your health in a single swoop (and that's assuming you're fully upgraded!). This is one respect in which the game actually feels a bit too hard; an upgrade which used your potions automatically on death, effectively turning them into multiple health bars, would have given a long way given how frequently you'll have to use them. This is a particular issue in boss fights, which can have a lot going on or place you under fairly absurd pressures; there is a considerable emphasis on pattern-learning in bosses (and the odd puzzle even on top of that!), and each fight will gradually become more manageable as you learn the ropes... but you will die again and again. Cathedral is a good game. It falls short of greatness; I don't think it quite tops the vibe of an overgrown Flash game. But it is very solidly decent, and I will cheerfully recommend it to any fan of the genre. Abyss of the Sacrifice (Switch) - What attracts a person to a game like this? Is it the lure of a visual novel about which nobody is talking? Or is it the homely amateurishness it exudes? Perhaps, in a strange way, it was fate; for only after buying this game did I realise it is actually by my old friends D3 Publisher and Intense Corp., who previously developed the Parascientific Escape trilogy on the 3DS eShop (which I enjoyed) and the early Switch title Escape Trick: 35 Fateful Enigmas (which I did not). In doing a little background research for this review, incidentally, I determined that 35FE was, in fact, cobbled together from a pair of previously unlocalised DS games from 2007/8; Abyss Of The Sacrifice, meanwhile, is a port of a previously unlocalised 2010 PSP game. In other words, the first D3/Intense games I played, the Parascientific Escape titles, were in fact their most recent; and both their Switch offerings were resurrected from over a decade ago! For the present, though, the more important implication of this revelation is that AotS isn't just a visual novel; it's a visual novel and escape game - and, much like Parascientific Escape before it (which in retrospect inherits a great deal of AotS's DNA), is heavily inspired by the Kotaro Uchikoshi stable of games (though it's actually almost contemporaneous with the original 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors). I'm reluctant to disclose much more than that, though, because as I said, part of what drew me to this game was its mystery box value; and indeed the game takes its time in explaining its premise. What I should foreground, though, is that this is a chunky game; it tops 35FE to run to a total of 36 stages, for instance, each with one or sometimes several escape or "Search" sequences (the UI beats 35FE too). Past the tutorial, stages are doled out broadly in lots of five, one for each of the five protagonists; but it's here that the game structure gets interesting. Again, part of the puzzle of the game is just figuring out how the structure works; but suffice to say that there is a non-linear element, that sometimes playing stages in a particular order may affect the content of later stages, and that some stages may unlock (or lock!) certain other stages. Although the game has a stage select, you're essentially building a custom route through the game; once you reach an ending, you unlock the ability to reset an earlier stage in your timeline to its point of completion, opening up your options again. (You can't skip whole stages, but there is a well-judged text skip function for previously-read text, and previously-played escape sequences can also be skipped from the menu.) It's quite an original way of structuring a visual novel, at least in my admittedly limited experience; the closest analogy I can think of is Zero Time Dilemma. Unfortunately, this is where the flaws start to creep in. Because so many stages have to make sense regardless of order played, most stages do not and cannot develop the overall storyline; instead they focus on developing the characters, with escapes frequently taking place in flashbacks or dreams. When the order does start to matter in the late game of each route, however, it can be incredibly confusing to figure out what combinations of stages will change anything or unlock new possibilities. The game has multiple endings, and while I found a few on my own, I did resort to a walkthrough to figure out what route to take for the remaining ones; I can figure out the logic in retrospect, but it's not really the sort of thing you could deduce in advance - it's a matter of trial and error. It's also reportedly the case that you can't get the true ending without having first beaten all the other stages, but if so the game doesn't actually indicate this... which isn't great. These same problems - baffling logic and an ultimate need to depend on walkthroughs - also extends to the game's escape sequences, which, while they start out strong, do grow increasingly challenging and obtuse in the later stages of the game. As with 35 Fateful Enigmas, I ended up looking at walkthrough videos a lot, seeking out which perspectives I missed or seeking answers to puzzles so that I can reconstruct the logic backwards. Some puzzle solutions I still don't understand. It's worth noting that the game does have a built-in hint system... but it's incredibly inconsistent, with its hints ranging from outright giving you the answer to merely restating the premises of a problem. The barebones translation frequently doesn't help - and doesn't always read as if it was composed with reference to the game itself, either. Perhaps this is a controversial statement, but I feel that escape games in particular should always come not just with hints but with a built-in walkthrough. This isn't a game about skill of execution; it's a game purely about understanding the designers' logic, and as a long-time escape game player, I can tell you that some people's mindsets just do not click. ...With that said, I actually enjoyed this game a lot - far more than 35 Fateful Enigmas. It's original, it's experimental, it's genuinely stuffed with content; and if the writers' skill isn't equal to their ambition, if the art is distinctly amateurish, if the puzzle design is sometimes off-kilter... well, frankly, I'm far more inclined to be forgiving of what is clearly not a particularly professional outfit. When it clicks, it clicks; as an overall package, the game is fun. It also has a surprisingly satisfying and completely bonkers ending, and ending on a good note goes a long way. I'd play another D3/Intense game, if they give me one. Just... maybe they can actually make a new game again next time; or at least port over something a bit more recent. How about a compilation of those intriguing-looking Dasshutsu Adventure games from the 3DS which never got localised? There are about half a dozen of them!
  8. That's honestly a fascinating idea. Somewhat goes against the usual nature versus technology theme (in the sense that nature is usually the good guys' side), but perhaps she could represent those conspiracy theorists whose paradoxical credulousness results in them becoming pawns of genuinely corrupt and insidious powers.
  9. I think a little bit more openness and honesty about the decisions they make, the kind of budget they're dealing with, and the expectations they have for Sonic games and their audiences would go a long, long way.
  10. It seems it's more that it could be done, but it would be hard work and not cheap. Which means it's really a factor of whether Nintendo thinks it's worth the work, and I could see that it might be; Metroid Prime was a while ago now, so I can see how it might be advantageous to have the trilogy ported over to provide some context in terms of gameplay and story for what the sequel will be. You could see it as testing the waters or at least preparing the ground, rebuilding the consumer base for MP4. Given that Metroid V is probably happening, it might also be the case that Nintendo wants to give Metroid a big push, a go-big-or-go-home effort. Well, ultimately, we don't know. All any of us can really do is give our opinion on the viability or potential of the project. The one thing I'd say for sure is that Nintendo can't scrap Prime 4 now (though probably they would have done if they hadn't already announced it before the failure of the first iteration).
  11. Not surprising, not even wrong, but still disappointing - if only in the sense that it means we'll have to wait even longer for something, anything to happen. Unusually restrained, considering that they were on the verge of at least teasing something a year ago; but I have to assume they're now following what seems also to be Nintendo's current strategy of announcing things only when they're very, very sure when it's going to come out.
  12. I know we're joking, but in a sense, aren't the Olympics games the successors to Shuffle? Party games, minigame-based, uses a large swathe of the cast... If ever SEGA loses interest in the Olympics license, a new Sonic party game might not be a crazy idea.
  13. Gnosia (Switch) - Thinking of this in the terms the game is often described - "anime Werewolf visual novel" - is not especially helpful. After all, the Switch already has a more conventional iteration of that concept, the fun-but-falls-at-the-last-hurdle Raging Loop. No, Gnosia is very different, possibly even unique, for reasons other than its extraordinarily varied character design, its phenomenally alien music, every other aspect of its presentation which sets it apart: The fact that it's an arcade visual novel. Rather than being a linear or even a branching narrative, it's structured around randomised rounds of sci-fi Werewolf which take maybe fifteen minutes for you to win or lose, and then the whole thing resets. (For all the jokes, maybe it really is more Among Us than Raging Loop.) It's a bold conceit. Time loops are a dime a dozen in visual novels, either encouraging you to play again and again to access other plot branches, or as a structural device to take you through repeated variations on the same storyline; but Gnosia is the first one to really sell the Groundhog Day loop to you as a player by truly making you experience it, over and over. Because there is an overarching story here, with dozens of unique events scattered throughout the game (and to which you can be guided, but never pointed straight to, by a handy event finder); and even more than your goal is to win each round, your meta-goal, your roguelite goal, if you like, is to eke out more information about the other characters, to bring about unique sets of circumstances or meet special challenges. It's the sort of thing most visual novels tell but don't show - again, see Raging Loop for an example. The protagonist, or usually their co-lead, has gone through loop after loop after loop, battling to make something new happen; but they don't make you jump through the hoops yourself. Gnosia does, and it's great. Risky, too; it doesn't work unless the agony is there. Because you will be going through endless failed rounds and filler rounds, rounds where you tried something new and it didn't pay off, or failed to rise to a challenge, or just no new events seemed to spawn. Round after round, wondering what you're meant to be doing, where you need to turn to search for the truth... The tutorial alone is a dozen or so loops long! It's a good thing, then, that the standard gameplay loop, the non-metanarrative, is darn fun too, playing Werewolf with as wild and weird a cast as any you're likely to meet, gradually honing your skills (which is to say, grinding experience points to upgrade them!), and, more importantly, learning about the way the characters tick. Not all information is checkmarks on a spreadsheet. This character is a bad liar, this character gives themselves away readily, this character won't normally work with this character - in a way, you're learning about them as people as much as you are about them as game constructs, too. It seems to take most people between about a hundred and fifty and two hundred loops to gather all the information needed to complete the game. So, is it worth it? Heck yes. Gnosia is a sci-fi with texture, its aesthetic helping to sell a world packed with weird and varied ideas - and perhaps some which shouldn't be so weird as they are; how many games do let you choose "non-binary" as your gender, after all? But it sells the emotion, too. At the end of the day, any game like this is really about the characters and the connections you make, and at the end, I was genuinely sad to be leaving these characters behind. But I had a whale of a time with them, on this weird, looping adventure. Gnosia is a highly unusual game, neither truly a visual novel nor a werewolf simulator. Thank goodness for games which do something revolutionary. Romancing SaGa 3 (Switch) - And speaking of revolutionary, here is a game I have been meaning to play for a long, long time. Romancing Saga 3 is one of those legendary lost RPGs which never made it to the west the first time around; but after a successful remaster of the previous title in the series, this game (and, subsequently, more of the series since!) was given a new lease on life and a long-awaited localisation. I'd heard this one was relatively easier to get into. If that's true, well, emphasis on the "relatively". The SaGa series does a lot differently. You have eight different playable protagonists to choose from, and after a largely common introductory sequence, you get turned out into the world with little in the way of direction and are basically given leave to wander about as you please. I've heard this game styled as a "SNES open-world game", and honestly that's not far wrong; you roam about, finding boat rides to new places, following leads to dungeons, completing sidequests, and for the longest time a larger goal than that seems nowhere to be found. It's a frankly weird experience - not helped by a similarly weird set of mechanics, with no level-ups and fixed base stats, with improvements to HP, skill points, magic points and weapon proficiency coming at random, and ditto learning new moves. Encounters scale with you (bosses, thankfully, do not), meaning that you can go almost anywhere in any order you choose; events and sidequests often have multiple outcomes, consequences unclear; items, moves, the whole shebang is unbelievably mysterious. Frankly, I found it stressful. Elusive mechanics and an elusive plot are a bit much for me simultaneously, and I spent a lot of time looking at guides. But here's the thing: After a while, it clicked. The gameplay loop started to solidify. Hints to a wider plot and overarching objectives began to appear. The mechanics started to click. Sure, there was still a lot I didn't know, but did I need the guides? Probably not. (I don't regret looking at them, though. I prefer a game to tell me how it works; it can be as hard as it likes if it does that.) For all that much of the game seemed like meaningless meandering, be honest: What RPG isn't full of irrelevant sidequests? Once you start to see the big picture, the pacing of plot-versus-sidequests becomes more controllable and more satisfying. Indeed, there's actually rather more plot than I'd quite been prepared for, though much of it is still implied, or only hinted at. Once I found my feet, the game ended up being more up-my-street than I'd imagined, and ultimately I don't regret a minute of my dozens of hours in the game, through to the last moments of the tough-as-nails final boss, which, like all the best ones, took everything I had and was won at literally the last move I could muster. No, my only regret... is that playing this game to prepare me for more SaGa worked too well. I'd originally intended to move forward to the recently remastered Saga Frontier; instead, I'm going back - to Romancing SaGa 2, the one they say really is hard... Fingers crossed that the practice will have paid off. Carrion (Switch) (Greatest Time of Year DLC) - For some reason, Carrion got DLC. Christmas-themed DLC. In April. Well, why not? It's a good game which has a certain amount of room to grow - and that's what this DLC does, adding a short, single-sitting mini-episode with fairy-lights and Christmas tunes and a new array of challenge rooms to sneak around. Most importantly, there are a couple of new mechanics added to this installment: Electrical traps which can (of course) be turned against you or your enemies, and switches tied to the lifespans of particular antenna-waving foes. Are these embellishments a sign that the developer is actively considering new ideas for a future installment? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but what matters it that this is a fun half an hour or so's extra gameplay from this cathartic alien murder spree, whatever it may bode for the future. Coming up next: More of just about every one of my usual genres, from Metroidvanias to visual novels and RPGs - with a decided tilt towards the obscure...
  14. I don't see why not, really; Sticks is relatively easy to drop in to probably any Sonic canon. Granted, I don't know what the games would do with her, given what they are now (then again, who even knows what the games are right now?); but I'm sure the comics could find ways of doing something interesting with her. It's useful for a more narrative format to have a lot of characters available in the toybox for whatever situation they might come up with.
  15. Tragic but true. Strictly speaking, there's nothing stopping any large IP holder from producing a smaller-scale, smaller-budget project nonetheless - but it appears to be the opinion that only the biggest profits are worth chasing, and anything less can be left to the indies. Titles like Sonic Mania and Ghosts 'N Goblins Resurrection are probably the closest we're likely to get.
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