160 Reviews liked by Fauxscerf
out infernoes dante's inferno (ps3, 2011)...the most passionate and open-hearted declaration of science and inquiry as our holiest pursuits...affirms multiverse theory as catholic and epic instead of marvel fan...christiaan huygens chuckles before launching his flaming moon attack and einstein knows capoiera...future devs bass boost your game or you will lose...brazil forever and forever amen
If the Resi 4 remake was the sequel to the Resi 2 remake, here's your spiritual successor to 3.
I don't know anybody who wanted a remake of the deeply forgettable Separate Ways campaign. After the pleasant surprise of the 4 remake, I think most were just quietly awaiting more of that reasonably enjoyable content. It's maybe a little more faithful than we'd hoped. This is largely a story about Ada's journey from canon cutscene to canon cutscene. The appeal of this confident, elusive spy, run into the ground as we see her do all the same shit as Leon and respond to an on-screen hookshot prompt as she sees him choked by Mendez. She must think this guy is a right fuckup. Every time she bumps into him, he's shit outta luck.
Look - I like Ada. She's a fun idea, and a good wildcard to toss into the mix after the wholesomeness of the Resi 1 cast. She makes a rotten protagonist, though. Her whole appeal is tied to popping up out of the shadows to turn the tables at the most exciting moment. Watching her do all the standard civvie Resi shit is rubbish. She's supposed to be above mixing herbs. Giving her a canon campaign (Assignment: Ada does not count) was a tacky idea to make the PS2 port look cool. I wouldn't be surprised if Mikami put God Hand into production entirely out of spite for it.
- ̗̀ New ̖́- Separate Ways also attempts to address a problem with the main campaign; the annoying fans who pointed out a couple of memorable omissions from the original. They're back, sweaty, and waiting for your applause.
Ada's secret agent role encourages the team to lean harder into everyone's favourite new aspect of the remake; THE STEALTH! Yup. Get excited to enter more rooms with ganados facing the wrong way for ages. There's a whole bunch of them here. Ada also gets some Spy Vision shit, where she can make footprints glow blue to solve a couple puzzles. It's nothing. Don't pretend you've got an idea, Resi 4 remake DLC.
The campaign does pick up after a brutally dull opening. It isn't a complete slog throughout, and as pandering as they often felt, the old Resi 4 bits did make me smile a couple of times when they were brought in as a surprise. There's a wee coda at the end that leads into 5 a little more cohesively too. I'm not telling you not to play it, just that you totally don't need to. The best addition here is easily Ada and Wesker in Mercenaries, but you get that as a free patch anyway.
The Resi remakes have been Capcom's safest bet for chasing the Triple A crowd for the last decade. Monster Hunter and Street Fighter have a lot of fans, but they're not appearing in the "Similar customers also bought" tab when you put The Last of Us: Part I in your cart. I'm sure they want to keep going, but I don't know if they can confidently put as much money into a 4K Steve Burnside model. They might be stuck pandering to the hardcore fans, and I really can't get excited about a faithful remake of 0. I don't know. Is it worth speculating? This is me writing a lukewarm review because I was let down after the high standards set by the Resident Evil 4 remake. We're in unprecedented territory, here.
HOLY PEAKAMOLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This game is fantastical, and it's finally the best it can be on current hardware, in 60fps and 4,000k. Modern graphics do the original justice and its music and all other wonderful facets of the original game times 9001 (Reference.) MUST PLAY.
Chants of Sennaar
I'm pretty selective with my ratings, I feel. Sure, I make myself rather predictable by typically sticking within the 5-7 range, but it's not like I'm throwing out high or low scores out the wazoo. Generally, I focus on the speculation and intake process of what people have been saying about something, and sort my expectations around those, so usually nothing really strikes me out or base myself on gut feeling when I check them out. Shmups aren't really my forte, but I do have experience with a fair number of them to know the dos and don'ts, plus I like throwing myself at the mercy of danmaku "go big or go home" escalations, so I was expecting to at least casually enjoy this.
The first boss reinforced my initial outset since, from the get-go, it already establishes everything CAVE wants to bedazzle you with. Majority of its patterns and enemy positions are simple and easy to fixate on, but the application of these Koujuu buggers (literally!) within their speed is what sets this apart. Spread shots, buckshots, rollers, overlays, if you can name and think of it, chances are Akira Wakabayashi and Co. have thought of it. A lot of the characteristics expressed from these bugs also shine due to Akira focusing strongly on the entomological aspect of these creatures to relay onto the artists, with director and programmer Tsuneki Ikeda also noting that it was a return to roots foundation, along with utilizing this as a benchmark for new hardware. Obviously there's some Nausicaa-distilled vibes lingering beneath and on top of the naturalistic world, but the differing aspects of the forests within Mushi's world also tend to give rise into other foundations as you go along, marking your progress as either the blues of Stage 4 or the washed greens of Stage 2 to name some examples, establishing more of an interpersonal relationship with the player and the bullet mechanics. This also doubles up on the repeat learning of the reliable M Shot, the wide but meek W Shot, or the strict yet powerful S Shot. It takes two to tango after all, even if the denizens prefer blasting you away.
To go further about the remarks Ikeda has given, as well as deepen my point about simplicity thrusting itself unto elegance and sensation, two details he's revealed before are about the stronger focus on the characters Reco and Aki, alongside the principles of establishing the high of navigating around these bullets in the first place. That said, I'm choosing to forgo an in-depth look into the mechanical side of the game, since to reiterate I'm pretty green with shmups and also cause I'm still aiming to improve myself with this, and not to mention I'm more focused on the character angle. Shmups tend to not indulge on this aspect of game design, which is fair, but the way Mushi goes about it is very intriguing. Even disregarding the fervent chaos and hostile bombarding, art CGs shown upon level completion visualize the story between Reco's past venture within a forest, and Aki's help in succoring her life via a bracelet embodying crystalized forces of the Koujuu. Years have past, climate has worsened for her village, and its through her flight with the help of a beetle named Kiniro that she sets off to ascertain what has wrought upon them, subtly embellishing and engrossing herself within this area. I wouldn't classify it as Man Vs. Nature as it first appears, despite the parasitic symbiosis between the humanoids inhabiting the area and how the creatures react to them, but there's a subtext feeling of melancholy. The way Reco learns and overcomes these sorts of ordeals and predicaments within the setting is akin to we, the players, adapt and recognize all these obstacles. In a way, it's fitting the True Final Boss is Like That to be climax of both of these themes, even if the true reason is because they just wanted to fuck around with your expectations and play.
I always figured I'd like Mushihimesama, but there's a lot of special somethins within this gem of an amber-colored set. I've done Arrange, I've dabbled with Maniac and Ultra, and even partook in trying out Ver 1.5 as well, all of which are worth exploring. Related to that, the compositions provided by Manabu Namiki and Masaharu Iwata are top-to-bottom bangers. I already went into enough lengths in justifying my High IQ reading of a simple plot, not to mention I already went on-and-on about the connection and design workings between the player and the system, so I'll just go over my favorite tracks of this: Requiem Of The Sky, Like A Night Of Falling Stars, Levi-Sense, really I just recommend sitting down and soaking it all in regardless of playing the game or for casual listening. We talkin S-Tier OST material, be it the original or various arrangements made for the other modes, and I already went the extra yard and put the OST onto my phone to listen to whenever. This one's for my rotational books for sure.
yeo's environmental design, soundtrack direction, and laissez-faire approach to 'structure' elevates the somber and dour proceedings here and the title's very much so animated by its refusal to guide the player in any strict sense. it's commendable how driven yeo is towards theme and feeling and the world has just enough in the way of flourishes to stimulate a sense of role-playing but too little to fully and succinctly become immersed in; yeo does well to play with this disconnect, causing the complete and utter listlessness of the game to swell and swell and continue to swell prior to the game's climax (if you could call it that) on a frigid november day
on the other hand...there's a dearth of particulars here for me to really feel invested in or compelled by. backtracking here: ringo ishikawa's ultimate success lies in a delicate marriage between the formal & aesthetic language of a kunio-kun game, and the - you'll have to forgive the reductive if undemanding comparison - exploratory, life-sim mechanics of something like shenmue. and the idea's so obvious, so axiomatic even in the kunio-kun games that ringo does little to iterate upon that idea, with certain environmental backgrounds and even mechanics feeling directly lifted from its NES progenitor. thrusting the lifesim framework to the forefront, then, is the most transformative quality of ringo and it achieves this by inviting players to test the boundaries of the world and create their own sense of meaning within that structure - that ringo obscures how tightly directed the game actually is only serves to further entrench just how well-considered and intelligent its design is as well. the game is also underscored by honest-to-god literary ambition which all eventually coalesces into an absolutely devastating ending but whatever i digress
point is, stone buddha...bit less going for it. it's a mood piece first and foremost - which, to its credit, its executes with total conviction and belief in the premise - but everything that you'd expect a game which probes into ennui would have is here, which honestly does it no favours. a lack of concrete narrative + good deal of economical prose invites some lovely interpretations, but you can see this specific ending coming a mile away and there's just too little that's actually transformative about it to really have the same sense of emotional resonance
sounds like im ragging but it's still a great time. unpolished sections and inelegant difficulty curve, sure, but it doesn't overstay its welcome and yeo's willingness to eschew conventional game design continues to delight. there's a lot to love about how the mechanics inform the atmosphere and how you eventually build an innate and instinctual feeling for exactly what you're supposed to do (and i particularly did enjoy how rote it felt when finally mastered - that contrast between what's supposed to be kinetic and improvisational versus the reality that you're a slowly advancing turret) but im also unconvinced that that part of the game was supposed to be intentionally monotonous like everyone says or whatever which does make me feel a bit of internal conflict. id bet my apartment on yeo designing the combat with a bottle of beluga going like 'yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa'. good for him
The new generation will proclaim that this game is dated and boring because it doesn't let you 'Romance' a menagerie of different fetishes, the new generation will proclaim that this game is dated and boring because it's a relic of its time with goofy ass real-time DnD combat, but real money hustlers will recognize that the game is about instilling the value of grinding and rising. Sarevok and your PC are in a race to see who can go harder, move smarter, think wiser, stack more, talk less (or better).
Hard to dislike. It wears its heart on its sleeve, and even if it is a dorky sleeve sewn by a grandmother, can you really hate on that?
Remember that moment in Breath of the Wild's tutorial where you have to chop down a tree and then use it as a bridge to cross a river? Remember thinking 'woah, that was neat!' and then not doing that again for the rest of your 80-hour playthrough? Remember when you unlocked Revali's Gale and then realized you would never have to actually work to gain height again? Remember how everyone, even Breath of the Wild's biggest fans, unanimously considered Eventide Island the best part of the entire game?
It wasn't until I played Rain World, a game so dedicated to its survivalist philosophy that it forces you to become intimately familiar with every facet of how its world works if you want to make even the slightest bit of progress, that I fully realized why all of this stuff bothered me so much. At first it was simple: what good was one of the most robust physics systems ever conceived without any challenges that tested your mastery over it? But Rain World, by counterexample, honed this down, helping me understand just how much Breath of the Wild takes every opportunity possible to provide you with means to avoid actually feeling like you're part of Hyrule. The first item you're handed prevents fall damage from ever being an issue. Beating any of the Divine Beasts "rewards" you with ways to avoid engaging in climbing and combat for the rest of your adventure. Harsh climates may pose a threat at first, but, quickly enough, you'll find clothes that (using a menu!!) completely neutralize them. There's a difference in philosophy here that doesn't necessarily come down to their respective levels of difficulty: Breath of the Wild gives you abilities, while Rain World gives you tools. Breath of the Wild makes you lord of your environment, while Rain World puts you at the mercy of it. I could grasp why so many were enchanted by the former, but, for me, Rain World was enchanting, and Breath of the Wild was boring. Why would I chop down a tree and waste my axe's durability when I could, with the press of a button, raise a magic platform out of the water and use that instead? Obviously, the game deserved credit for even allowing you to do any of these things, but I'd rather see a Hyrule where Link felt just as governed by the forces of nature as everybody else.
The last thing I wanted this game to be was more Breath of the Wild (in my eyes there was already far too much of it) and, at first glance, it is. Same Link, same Hyrule, same aesthetic, same general structure. Squint and it passes as an extensive set of DLC for the 2017 release, but, it's only a few hours into the Great Sky Islands when these potential fears get put to rest for good. For me, it happened as I walked out of the penultimate tutorial shrine, stepped onto a Zonai Wing, and used it to fly all the way back to the Temple of Time. Because here's the big open secret that nobody (except for me, apparently) wants to admit: traversal in Breath of the Wild sucks. Having to walk every five seconds to manage your stamina isn't fun, climbing isn't fun, and hopefully I don't have to tell you that fast travel isn't fun. Y'know what is fun, though? Shield surfing. Even though it's generally impractical, usually ending in a broken shield rather than any sort of speedy forward movement, I still found myself doing it nearly every time I was on top of a steep enough hill. Something about just letting it fly and relinquishing control over to the game's physics and hoping for the best never got old, and Tears of the Kingdom is like if they designed an entire game around shield surfing. Zonai Devices are essentially adaptations of traditional Zelda items into the open-air formula, as each has a specific intended use- a spring helps you gain height, a wheel moves objects, and a head targets enemies- but can be creatively applied to other, potentially unrelated scenarios. Whereas Breath of the Wild felt like a set of mechanics without any real structure to encourage you to get the most out of them (and that was a large part of its mass appeal, I get it) Tears comes with one built in. Whenever you're running or swimming or climbing a long distance without first constructing some kind of car or boat or hovercraft, you're losing. And while these vehicles could have just turned out to be another way to bypass Hyrule's rules, they're really the opposite, as Link never feels more at the mercy of his environment than when he's piloting one. Gliders have to be initially propelled in some fashion since they can't gain momentum from a sitting position, fans move your craft in circles instead of forward if placed at a slightly off angle, wheels get caught on awkward terrain, boats are in danger of sinking if their cargo isn't balanced correctly. Controlling a vehicle always means going toe-to-toe with the game's physics, and it's the simple fact that nothing seems to work perfectly that makes this game great. Ultrahand was a turn off at first because of how long it felt like it took to build anything, but, somehow, even this flaw turns into a strength. I often found myself getting impatient and slapping a vehicle together haphazardly, which tends to lead to the most entertaining results. The best parts of the open-air Zeldas are when a harebrained scheme somehow works (or fails in humorous fashion) and figuring out the nuances of how every device works by watching them move around in ways I didn't expect is some of the most pure fun I've had with a game in a long time. Likewise, it's no surprise that you can't purchase any specific device individually and instead have to work with what the gacha dispensaries provide you with, as it's really about making-do rather than having a clean solution for any particular problem. If Breath of the Wild was about giving you ways to manipulate your environment, Tears of the Kingdom is about giving you ways to be manipulated by your environment.
But, perhaps the bigger accomplishment here is that Tears somehow manages to justify reusing Breath of the Wild's map. Since the main theme this time around is efficient traversal, an entirely new Hyrule would have likely resulted in players neglecting vehicles to exhaustively explore each region first, whereas now you're already familiar with points of interest and the onus of enjoyment is shifted from the destination to the journey. And if you've forgotten where you should be going, the game makes sure to remind you, as the bubbulfrog and stable quests, which you'll want to activate ASAP, are located in Akkala and Hebra, two of the last areas I went to the first time I played Breath of the Wild, respectively. You're essentially nudged into doing a breadth-first search of the world instead of a depth-first one, and when your players are reaching the exterior of the map before the interior, you're free to fill that interior with... challenges! Despite my Breath of the Wild veteranship, my first dozen or so hours of Tears had me run up a tree to escape angry bokoblins, struggle against a stone talus in a cave because I was used to fighting them in open areas, and be genuinely perplexed on how to reach a floating shrine. Likewise, I actually felt like I had to prepare and come back to the siege on Lurelin Village, the Great Deku Tree quest, and that test-your-strength bell ringing minigame. It never gets especially difficult (not that I expected or even wanted it to) but there's clearly an effort to set up hurdles that players may not be able to jump on their first lap around the track. And while you could argue that these are simply iterative improvements, to me they're complimentary to the vehicle construction's philosophy of being restricted by the wild instead of empowered by it. Fuse does a good chunk of the heavy lifting here, and marks a shift away from pure sandbox and towards survival-sandbox, as all it really is is menu-free crafting. It's not only enjoyable on a base level, fostering experimentation for both useful and useless combinations to the same degree, but it also provides a sense of scarcity that wasn't really present in Breath of the Wild. Gems are no longer abstract materials that exist only to be sold or traded in exchange for armor, but real objects that have a real effect when fused. Drops from keese, chuchus, and moblins actually feel valuable. Elemental arrows aren't gifted via chests, but created on the fly depending on the situation. This time around, you scavenge with purpose. Out of bombs? Find a cave. Need stronger weapons? Kill stronger monsters. Want to upgrade your battery? Test your luck mining Zonaite in the depths. Revali's Gale exists in this game, though you don't perform it by waiting for a cooldown and then holding the jump button, instead by burning a pinecone using wood and flint that you had to harvest from somewhere in the world. Unfortunately, the presence of unlimited fast travel, universal menu use, and generous autosave means that this survivalist mindset isn't seen through to its fullest potential. It feels like a very Miyamotian design choice to subtract as little from a character's inherent moveset as possible in between games, so hopefully the next Zelda will star a new Link (on a new, more powerful console.) But one persistent ability stings more than the rest: the paraglider. Replacing it would've been easy- a shield fused with some kind of cloth could have been made to have the same effect, and I can only imagine how much more interesting this game would've gotten if descents actually took planning. But, even when you get to the point where nothing can realistically touch you, your other powers never stop feeling like tools and not abilities. There's a reason why this game's runes don't have cooldowns- all of them require external factors to actually be useful. Whereas Sheikah Slate bombs provided a consistent source of weaponless damage, stasis could be used on enemies directly, and cryonis, while requiring a body of water, always produced a static pillar indifferent to its source's movement, their Purah Pad equivalents call for more awareness. Ultrahand necessitates an understanding of how environmental building blocks could potentially fit together to achieve a specific goal, fuse relies on extrapolating an object's behavior and reasoning out as to how it would work when attached to a weapon or shield, and ascend extends your arsenal of means of creative traversal, asking you to survey the surroundings around a height that you want to reach without having to climb. Maybe I'm just lacking a certain creative ligament, but recall's main use for me was to retrieve devices that fell off of a cliff as I was trying to use them, which, to be fair, happens all the time, but it's still disappointing that there's not much to it outside of the puzzles designed around it. Even so, it doesn't break the throughline that happens to be my best guess as to why I enjoy messing around with the chemistry system in this game so much more than in Breath of the Wild: everything you're able to do here comes directly from the world itself.
And what a world it is! Caves were a no-brainer for a sequel, but their implementation here is fantastic. Add an underworld and all of a sudden your overworld doesn't feel bland anymore; constantly checking just around the corner for ways that natural features might open up or connect to others. Bubbulfrogs, at first, felt too carrot-on-a-stick-y to me, but the reward for collecting them is so insignificant that their main purpose instead becomes just to mark caves as fully explored on your map. Unless, of course, you go for all of them, which I personally have no desire to do. If you imagine a scale of collectables from shrines, which you're given enough tools to find all of without an egregious time commitment, to koroks, which you should be institutionalized if you even consider 100%ing, caves sit comfortably in the middle. Their quantity is limited to the point that they're all sufficiently detailed and memorable, but high enough that I feel like I could replay this game and still make significant new discoveries, which was very much not the case for my second run of Breath of the Wild. That sentiment also extends to the depths, which is the only location in either of these games where Link actually feels out of his element, and thus automatically the most enjoyable to explore. In the dark, surrounded by bizarre, hard-to-internalize geography, with tough enemies and an actually punishing status effect... or, what would be one if the game didn't chicken out and make gloom poisoning curable simply by going outside. Though, that's really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the not-so-invisible hand of modern Nintendo's design philosophy inevitably making its presence known. Every beach has a sail, every hill a sled, every sky island enough materials to get to the next without hitch. When vehicles are this fun to use by themselves, I don't mind all that much, though it does occasionally feel like I'm just doing something the game wants me to do instead of playing by my own rules. It bothers me more in shrines, which, unfortunately, took a massive hit in between games. I've always held the opinion that they don't have to contain amazing puzzles, but should instead serve to prod players towards ways of interacting with open-air mechanics that they might not have thought of themselves. Unfortunately, here, they're neither, being solvable about five seconds after you walk in the door, and teaching you things that you'd already known, or, even worse, wish you'd discovered yourself. I felt pretty damn clever the first time I fused a spring to my shield and surfed on it to gain height, but that feeling was diminished when I was given a pre-fused spring/shield after beating a combat shrine. There's enough going on in the overworld at this point that I'd honestly have been fine if shrines were done away with altogether, except for maybe those mini-Eventide immersive sim ones, which were great all the way through. The lost koroks and crystal missions (because, let's be real, they're the same thing) turn out to be better puzzles than anything inside a shrine without even needing a loading screen or a change of scenery. Didn't think it was possible, but the story is somehow also a downgrade. Breath of the Wild's memories meant that Zelda herself could be characterized in a variety of ways depending on which order you found them in. It didn't do much for me personally, but at least it was going for something. Tears's just feel like watching a series of cutscenes out of order, and by the time you've seen two or three of them you know exactly where the story's going, and also that it's godawful. I'm not sure if it's the dreadful voice acting, or just holdovers from Skyward Sword's writing staff, but it's bizarre to see a series struggle this hard with sentimentality when it used to come so naturally to it. Chibi Link waving bye to his grandma while leaving Outset Island makes me feel more than all of the cutscenes in both of these games do combined. Not that it actually matters, of course, until it starts affecting the gameplay. Locking you into scripted sequences for every Divine Beast was already an egregious clash against player freedom, but they at least made sense logistically. Link could easily reach Vah Medoh by himself if it was in this game, and you actually can get to the water temple (and possibly the others... I didn't bother to check) without completing the corresponding sidequest, only to be arbitrarily rejected from starting the dungeon. Considering the sages only grant you slightly better versions of things you can already do, going through the dungeons without unlocking any of them could've been an enjoyable challenge on subsequent playthroughs. Unfortunately, it's not the only aspect of the game left out of the player's hands.
Waypoints still have no place in a Zelda game. Sidequest lists still have no place in a Zelda game. Loading screen tips still have no place in a Zelda game. And don't get it twisted: this is my favorite game with "Zelda" in its title since '02, but it's still not a Zelda game. Breath of the Wild's marketing as a modern reimagining of Zelda 1 has always struck me as phony, because, aside from not being confined to the series's formula, they're not at all alike. That game, to me, is characterized less by unlimited freedom and more by the fact that you had to find everything yourself, whereas every point of interest in both of the open-air Zeldas is signposted to some degree. Even if you love these games, you have to admit that the appeal has shifted. It's not about exploring to learn more about the world anymore, it's about exploring to find unique scenarios. Aside from a certain way that the depths and overworld are connected (that took me an embarrassingly long time to put together) there's nothing to figure out here. I don't want Impa to tell me that geoglyphs should be viewed from the sky, I want to see them on the ground and logically reason that out for myself. Talking to villagers used to be one of my favorite parts of Zelda games, but now it's something that I actively avoid doing. But this general overhaul isn't my problem; my problem is that Nintendo thinks that no aspects of the previous games are worth carrying over. What if certain caves had Dark Souls-style illusory walls, and you could get the Lens of Truth at some point to see through them? What if there was one guardian left alive in the deepest wilds of Hyrule that you could just stumble upon? What if there was an especially difficult, especially complex shrine somewhere in the world that no NPC even hinted at? Why is there still no hookshot? It feels like Nintendo's terrified to implement anything unique that some players might miss, but the point of a world this vast should be to conceal secrets. I want to travel to a far-off outskirt of the map and find something that doesn't exist anywhere else. A Link to the Past gives me that feeling. The Wind Waker gives me that feeling. Neither of the open-air games do. The closest Tears comes is with the Misko treasures (which are much more fun if you haven't found the hints leading to them) and the costumes in the depths (which are much more fun if you haven't found the maps pointing to them.) And not because of the reward, but because they're housed in cave systems and defunct buildings that are architecturally distinct enough to feel memorable. Exploration in this game is far more varied than in Breath of the Wild, but this Hyrule still doesn't feel mysterious. I can't help my mind from drifting back to Rain World, which went the distance to fill every corner of its universe with unique entities that most players won't even see, let alone meaningfully interact with, part of the reason why it'll continue running laps around every other open world until the end of time. This game consistently delighted me, but it never enchanted me. We may never see a traditional Zelda again, and, if we don't, I'll genuinely feel like something is missing from the series (alongside an actual soundtrack.) If Tears of the Kingdom was, like, 20% more cryptic, I think it'd be my favorite game of all time, but, if I'm being honest with you, it comes pretty close anyway.
In many ways, I don't understand it. This is likely the longest review I've written on this site, but everything above is just an attempt at rationalization as to how this game was able to capture me for four months of nightly sessions when I got sick of Breath of the Wild about a third of the way in. I bounced between an eight and a nine throughout my playthrough, but I don't think I can earnestly not consider this game one of my favorites when it contains so many activities that I just love doing. I love exploring caves. I love trying new fuse combinations. I love picking up korok hitchhikers. I love gathering my party of sages. I love putting my map together in the depths. I love sailing to new sky islands. I love chucking shock fruits at a lizalfos standing in a knee-high pond until it dies. I love watching bots take out monster camps for me. I love using Sidon's ability and making my water warrior marbled gohma hammer do 200 damage. I love riding a Half-Life 2 airboat through flooded tunnels. I love perching a Zonai Cannon on top of a hill at just the right height to stunlock an ice talus. I love driving a monster truck around and sniping bokoblins with Yunobo. I love ascending to the top of mountains. It's not the risky endeavor I asked for back in 2020, and it's still far cry from Nintendo's best sequels- Majora's Mask, Yoshi's Island, and even Mario Sunshine- which may straight up piss off faithfuls of the original. I have a hard time imagining any fans of Breath of the Wild outright disliking this game, though it has succeeded in converting a skeptic in yours truly to the religion of open-air Zelda. It's nowhere near perfect, but perfection is overrated anyway.
deliberate vs expressive movement, restrictive design to encourage thoughtful play vs free design to encourage unorthodox solutions; this dichotomy not only allows us to quickly convey the mechanical aims of a game but also is a fundamental litmus test for any gamer's preferences. this made strider a particularly interesting game to me on my first blind playthrough, as through the relatively painful gotcha moments and frequent shifts between setpieces it was undeniable that the game drew deeply from both sides of the spectrum of restriction with regards to its movement and handling. main character hiryu's moving jump arc is a graceful (if not captured well by the choppy animation) parabola befitting the fixed movement of something like castlevania, yet it interfaces with the rest of hiryu's kit elegantly thanks to its lack of endlag and gentle buffering. hiryu can leap backwards to cancel his ground slide, instantly flip off of poles and ledges that he grabs, and rotate mid-jump to slash foes behind him with minimal effort. learning the ins and outs of how all of these moves interact with each other takes effort thanks to both natural and unnatural restrictions set in place: the inability to jump out of a crouch given that the input makes hiryu slide makes sense, while some curved ceilings being traversable forward via climbing monkey-bars style while instantly making hiryu fall off if he goes backwards is less intuitive. however, practice learning these interactions can lead to extremely fluid platforming that skirts the need for precise routing.
becoming comfortable with the interactions of hiryu's toolkit was evidently on the mind of the developers as well. one of the simplest examples that showcases their understanding of the stiff horizontal jump is an early-game boss that reappears in the boss rush that uses a dome ceiling to ricochet lasers at hiryu. the goal, while simplistic, requires leaping over the lasers as they descend to land on the other side of the boss and continue attacking it. on the opposite end of the complexity spectrum is the jungle level's middle section, which presents a variety of routes through a set of trees laden with vines. here the player can navigate up in any way they desire: from running to the end of each section and wall-jumping up to higher branches, to using hiryu's high vertical jump to skip certain problematic platforms, to grabbing upon the sloping vines that can toss strider off if not treated with care.
in between these are a vast variety of setpieces that veer between demanding careful routing and allowing the player to devise their own unique approach. areas such as the upside-down portion of the fifth level provide choices between hectic series of moving spike towers riddled with enemies on the bottom or precise platforming challenges on the top, but the density of your options unfortunately chokes out hiryu's ability to move given his large sprite and hitbox. this section, among others, features a slope on which hiryu can gain momentum for a large jump, a tool that may as well be completely scripted and often is a pace-killer once the location of these sections is memorized. certain sections require nigh mandatory use of a powerup that increases the length of hiryu's sword, and while they consistently do drop said powerup in each area, the fact that the alternatives generally boil down to pixel-perfect attack positioning or damage boosting feels like a major oversight (the portion before the gorilla refight is a perfect example of this). however, otherwise uninteresting ideas turn into gold when they utilize hiryu's unique moveset. for example, the power grid area with electric arcs on a timed cycle could potentially result in tedious stop-and-go gameplay in a lesser game, but thanks to the intricate lattice of platforms available and strategic enemy placement, routing one's way through this section is engaging and potentially very speedy (if you don't want to grab the 1UP that is).
the weaker sections undoubtedly necessitate memorization, but I can stomach a 20 minute game with some heavy memo, which I think is what kept me afloat for a solid five runs of this one. it helps that while the bosses are undercooked, finding speedkill strats is simple, keeping them from dragging the experience down (especially important with a brief game with ~10 bosses total). I also enjoy the odd little shmup touches, such as swooping enemies with powerups such as options that orbit around you. having options in general is a bit of a game-breaker, and I really wish I had gotten the special animal version of it once. I may try the genesis version down the line, but the playstation port of the arcade original felt very well-polished: large options menu, autoslash and roll buttons, better collision handling, and supposedly a small speed bump.
This review contains spoilers
There is some weird gender essentialism running through all the work... A problematic notion of "only girls (and non-binary people) allowed", in a game of transient stages of the self. A game which shows the multiplicities of matter and skin and bones and time and love, and yet all the realities are yet permeated by the human-construct of gender.
Even then, I was captivated. This is the best deconstructeam has put out, specially in music and execution. They always have interesting concepts, but budgetary constraints hinder their ambitions. Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is an outstanding work of occultism, of never revealing but always going outside the frames of the screen with their prose. The little stories you read, the voyages of the witches, the many immortal lives, they break the knowledge of what's possible, physically, socially and politically
All the immortal beings gather their cosmical experiences around a cup of tea, then they get high as a cow and have amazing sex. Then you go tell your friends who you love so much about the sex, they cheer you and support you, and you support them in their new projects. Time passes and sadness persist, all the knowledge in the universe doesn't add to much if you cannot share it with your loved ones. One day, all that will remain will be memories of many lives
Sorrow looking at the moon
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