"A man can change, as long as he lives."

If there's one thing Ridge Racer Type 4 trades on, it is vibes. From the moment you boot up the game you're assaulted by an AWESOME opening movie, which continues into the game's smooth-yet-fuzzy PS1 graphics and importantly the extreme...I think it would be called house style music on multiple tracks for a bunch of it but there's plenty of variety here. Seriously a top tier OST on display here which is funny since when I looked it up apparently the composers butted heads a lot with the sound director over that style. Sorry guys, Okubo pretty clearly won out in getting the right vibe. Lucid Rhythms has got to be one of my favorites and it really puts you in a flow state. Honestly I am just going to copy DoctorQuark here and link the entire soundtrack because it is quick to listen to and absolutely baller.

The vibes extend from there to. The menus are stylish and the Grand Prix mode even has some light story modes to it with some very 90s-looking anime portraits, these are hardly total winners on their own but I quite liked them. They added some more to each Grand Prix and did get me more interested in beating the Grand Prix with each racing team (which I did do!), with the different teams having different feeling storylines although Pac Racing Club and Racing Team Solvalou have overlap. The announcer is on point, I undeniably got pumped in higher difficulties when I would be getting to the home stretch, see the first place car and hear "Take care of that loser!" like yeah lets DO this. Or even the inflections and ways he introduces courses. "Real Racing Roots '99 in...Helter Skelter." is a pretty strong way to start a GP. You even get the announcer absolutely popping off in his own special ways whenever you win a GP on the final race unique to the team you picked which is cool.

The entire game oozes the era it was made, the late 90s, and the cool thematics of the last track put that into effect: After starting with the sweltering Helter Skelter in the heat of summer, the final race is run 15 minutes before the New Year at the Turn of the Millennium, and as you screech down the final lap you'll see fireworks going off in the distance and even take a look at the screen above to see "Happy New Years!" flashing up there. Nowadays it evokes an intense sense of nostalgia, but thinking back to my time as a young'n when that happened it also has the wistful smile vibe to it. The way the games 90s, city vibes go off actually reminds me a lot of Street Fighter III with more house/club music vs. SF3's more up tempo hip hop styles, but that way that it oozes 90s style, stuff like color palette choices, memorable announcers, both of those games feel like peak 90s having gone through them. Type 4 had actually been on my 300 Games Bucket List for a long time and starting to make a list for favorite art styles kicked me into gear playing it.

I've talked a lot about the vibes and style of Type 4 because I would say that's what the game primarily trades on. The gameplay is pretty good, an arcade racer that doesn't go TOO arcade-y, but I do feel like it is on the straightforward end. The main mechanic as befitting a Ridge Racer game is powersliding, knowing how to take extremely sharp corners with a proper slide to avoid smashing into a wall OR oversliding and losing too much speed. Outside of that it is usually just a matter of driving well, cutting some corners, not drifting too much and setting yourself up for the next slide. No worrying about fuel, tires or even car damage here!

I loved the Drift style of cars but here's something I am going to complain about with the controls. The basic way to drift is to cut the acceleration for a moment, jack the wheel to spin out the back wheels and brake for just a moment to go into a slide without losing any juice. Then get back into the acceleration and go go go! This works great. But there's an alternative method to do it: Let go of the accelerator, then put the accelerator back on while turning the wheel at the same time. It might sound great, but the bigger issue is that if you want to cut corners you want to be able to let off the acceleration for just a moment and then get back into it, and of course turn. End result: Too many accidental power slides at high levels of gameplay that can scuttle or make a run much more difficult. I wish this just wasn't in the game at all because the basic method works great.

Following that, Ridge Racer Type 4 I would say is a bit on the low end in content. There's a total of 8 tracks, which feels a bit low to begin with, plus 8 reversed forms of the track. But also a lot of those 8 tracks will take portions from other tracks. For example, Heaven and Hell takes about a third of the course design from Wonderhill and Brightest Nite does the same with Edge of the Earth. It IS neat how it makes the earlier Heats like "practice" runs for part of the track design, but it does mean that while they trade well on vibes the track designs could be a bit more unique. I'd love, I dunno, 10-12 tracks where 2 out of 3 are chosen for the First Heat. Or maybe put the reverse tracks in a Grand Prix mode too, like a continuation of the storyline? Would add some replayability outside of grinding out the game's 130 cars, of which there are too many for how many are just "the same car but +/- 3 MPH". You DO get a lot of delicious extra modes and some neat secret cars at the very end, but I want some more meat outside of grinding out single races.

I think this is played into by the game largely being pretty easy. Mappy/PRC were both beaten first tries by me, with only Solvalou and Dirt Racing Team providing a lot of challenge, and even then that challenge pretty much exclusively lies in Brightest Nite + Heaven and Hell. Apparently people think Phantomile is hard but while the short racing does mean you don't have long to recover from mistakes it also features largely easy corners and lots of room to overtake cars. I never had to restart a GP due to it, and in fact I did not have to do so for any other tracks in the entire GP. Shooting Hoops is actually REALLY easy for a final course albeit in a way I like for how it plays into the final race vibes: I only had to retry a single time until DRT (which is the highest difficulty team), where I needed a few tries, and the first retry was just because I didn't realize it was a no-powerslide course my first attempt. Gently massage the first corner while staying on the lower end of it, take the last corner with a hard dive inside to either land on the brim or go under it, take the second corner pretty hard inside as well and NEVER let off the gas. As long as you don't crash into any cars overtaking them or constantly take super wide turns you'll be fine, and on anything below DRT level you'll be able to recover from at least one big mistake.

And overall the game felt like it almost had "anti-rubberbanding": I swear it seemed like the first place car refused to get TOO huge of a lead in most circuits and it was near impossible to not get 3rd/2nd even when I crashed way more than it felt like I should. Multiple races I felt like I did bad and should not have won but did. It was kinda wild.

Now Heaven and Hell, THAT one was getting me kinda salty, along with Brightest Nite SPECIFICALLY on Solvalou / Hard mode and not Expert. I did need to retry the GP and Brightest Nite multiple times but on Expert mode it felt like it was because I was perfecting my gameplay, meanwhile I swear the Solvalou car speeds I had were perfectly aligned for cars to be next to me in the tiny tunnel areas and then they would just decide we had a before-not-known suicide pact together that I had thoughtlessly forgotten about and smash into me for no reason and then by the end I would lose by a hair. Combine that with some accidental drifts and too many of my runs that time around felt like they ended with what I would term as "bullshit". Heaven and Hell felt like it had less bullshit and more is just a tough track, I never fully got the powersliding on some of the full tight turns down (TBH it felt inconsistent at times, but given I got the first of a double drift turn very consistent later I think I was just bad), I had to retry that one on Expert a LOT. Not so much on any difficulty below Expert mind, I had to retry it a few times on Hard w/ Solvalou and like...a single time when I barely got 2nd in Pac Racing Club I think? I want to point out the time I won I repeatedly wiped out on the same corner and had some other small time losses too, the game is overall pretty generous with what it lets you get away with. It does feel like just going into Mappy or Pac for some time to play and vibe is a pretty good and easy time, so given it is an arcade-y game for replayability not a bad idea.

Definitely worth anyone's time who wants to try out a racing game I'd say, the vibes pull the game up a lot and it is plenty of fun. Despite beating all four GPs I can see myself coming back to this one in the future just for fun. It sits as a high end racing game among the ones I've played. Honestly, why hasn't this franchise come back? I know the last non-mobile games weren't good but a lot of that seems to be either not caring or becoming Burnout for no reason. I feel like if you took a game like this and expanded its size for the modern age it could absolutely still sell well, a Ridge Racer Type 8 if you will. There isn't exactly a ton of competition in the space right now I'd say either.

It's a pretty solid collection of board and card games with a spiffy presentation. For the most part the review could probably end there, in part due to the fact that...well...they're board and card games that already existed. Want some Chess and Solitaire? Got it. Mahjong and Hanafuda? Sure. You even get stuff like Hounds and Hares and I feel like for all but true board game affecionados there will be something new for people to discover as they play. You even get some stuff like Tanks or Bowling. Granted this is noooooo Wii Bowling in terms of control, but it still gives some neat options you can't get with a deck or cards or a set of dice.

I do have a few issues with this collection, a big one being a bit of lacking options and how some games are presented / forced. Poker's a big one: You're forced into 10 rounds instead of being able to just play however many you want and with forced bet increments. The end result is that a lot of the skill of Texas Hold 'em such as bluffing and mathing it out is kinda removed. I get having it as a default, but I don't get why you couldn't at least just say endless rounds given there's already an option for rounds but you can only pick between 5 or 10. Blackjack has similar issues. This doesn't hurt toooooo many games but it popped up enough to be kind of a bummer. And stuff like Tanks is no Wii Tanks, much reduced in scope and how it plays kinda deal.

The other thing is just the AI, while it can be tough in some games (unsurprisingly usually mathematical or solved games like Connect Four), there's a lot of games it is just kinda dim. Yahtzee is the main one as it basically always goes for Straights immediately and doesn't seem to understand the top bonus: It'll gladly take a single six in sixes rather than a two in aces even though it is just the wrong play, very easy to beat. Chess has it always use the same moves and be a bit exploitable, I wish there was a bit of a randomization factor just so every game didn't start e4, and it makes it a bit easy to exploit. There's a few other things like that throughout the game, but for some of the games it is more baffling than others. Seeing a computer take a 24 in Chance when it has a 20 in Fives and the top is open is...yeah.

As much as I am dumping on some points, make no mistakes: Most of the games work fine and some of my biggest flaws like the AI are pretty irrelevent in multiplayer, which is what most people will likely use Clubhouse Games for, and even solo you can easily kick this up to play a quick game of Yahtzee, Chess, Tanks or w/e and just kinda enjoy yourself. I also have to say I am quite glad for Clubhouse Games Guest Pass and allowing easier multiplayer without buying 3 copies of the game. I do wish it also worked with online but I can understand how that might just completely destroy sales.

When it comes down to it, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is EXACTLY what you'd expect. Good for friends and family who want a more family game oriented experienced, games that have less depth than a full game dedicated to more specific ones would be but have enough, a few stinkers because with 51 worldwide classics would you expect to hit them all and all wrapped up neatly in a nice presentation. It isn't an amazing game, but it is a solid game that accomplishes what it wants to do. So if you're in the market for that then pick it up: You won't regret it!

This is not an actual review, though one day it will get one, except to say that I saw this in a Let's Play many years ago and could remember aspects of it but never the name and for years I thought it was Threads of Fate but it felt off. Just now happened to find it again. Definitely have to give it a whirl at some point.

Not really much of a review, but seeing someone else's review JUST made me remember that I played this back in the day. One of a range of Canabalt-likes that came out after that game's success, has a pretty strong aesthetic choice and of course Always is a good meme. One of those early-2010s memes that felt like it continued mid-late 2000s humor in the vein of Nyan Cat (anyone remember that?), it's a fun enough game. I think Canabalt appeals to me slightly more for reasons I can't explain, but if you want a basic (and free) autorunner game then you'll get your fix here. Yeah not much else to say here.

I dunno, man, this one definitely speaks to me politically but as a work of interactive art? It feels more like it could be a Twitter thread in a lot of respects. Yeah, it is true that people are overworking hours on games and causing issues, but it is not only presented in a pretty passe manner...

But also, is that actually happening for Pokemon? I don't like the annualization of Pokemon because I think it degrades the quality, but Game Freak has never exactly been top notch at that level of polish to begin with and they've implemented a version of a four day work week albeit one that doesn't seem the best. Is it that they're being crunched to death or is it that they were developers who already had issues making now open world games on a home console when from 1996 to 2018 they released a grand total of 3 home console games, and I don't think Click Medic on the Playstation was exactly relevant to their Switch coding ability. Especially when considering that, for example, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (unrelated aside: Anyone else get the subtitles of that confused as Shining Diamond and Brilliant Pearl?) was done by the third party team ILCA. Game Freak actually hadn't released a game since Sword and Shield, three years, before Arceus and Scarlet/Violet. That's pretty similar to most of their dev time (with Let's Go being 2018: They generally release a mainline and something to the side either at the same time or one year apart. See: X/Y and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, FireRed/LeafGreen and Emerald, Platinum and HeartGold/Soul Silver), so the way the presents it as a more "modern reality" doesn't necessarily feel fitting to me. That's also not to say crunch doesn't go on either (Arceus and Scarlet/Violet released same time and importantly were bigger than most Pokemon games: It'd make sense, and crunch is common in the industry ofc), but some of the way the game presents it...I dunno, man. (Not to mention the fact I'd argue a lot of other games get more of a "pass" for similar issues but I digress)

Maybe what bugged me was the thesis the game beats over your head: Another Pokemon Game. You know, just Another Pokemon Game. I just don't vibe with that thesis at all, especially when it comes out in 2023 rather than 2019: Sword/Shield was genuinely extremely stale, but right before it was Sun and Moon which I thought brought some fresh vibes and ideas to the table. And in 2023? Arceus is obviously rather different than most Pokemon games in mechanics, and Scarlet/Violet's issues are on the technical side (the aforementioned programming). I'd argue the game actually is not only fresh but is essentially what every Pokemon fan was asking for in the Gen 3 to Gen 5 era: An open world to explore, multiple plotlines including ones unrelated to the gym challenges, a storyline with more "mature" elements (including death), anyone who was around in that era heard way too many Pokemon fans say it would be THE Pokemon game if they just did that. Sure, sure, not every Pokemon game reinvents the wheel, but honestly I feel like the presentation of "Just Another Pokemon Game" just rubs me the wrong way. It feels very reductionist. Obviously it gets mixed in with the Genwunner type complainer on the picket line, but that's just kinda general criticism (and the way it is presented in game ends up broadly applicable in a way that it is overused).

Honestly, maybe I am overthinking this myself and should just stop talking. I feel kinda conflicted about reviewing it: Maybe that shows there is a sense of a Personal nature to it, which is a positive. The bit with Tajiri felt odd to me: Obviously it is meant to be at least metaphorical, but it feels at odds with what I know about the man (and looking up sources to see if I was unaware didn't find much): It, in many ways, feels like sledgehammering in a general thought on the industry without it necessarily fitting. But maybe I just don't know Tajiri enough. The use of Infinite Jest here also felt like it had the "we're in 1984" energy to me. It is cool it exists and all, but in the end, Another Pokemon Game ended up feeling like just Another Message Game.

(Check out letshugbro talking about making Thatcher's Techbase tho, that's some good stuff)

I really like the idea of the game, a roadtrip through 1970s Italy where you interact with a varied cast of characters and a focus on social issues of the time, but I got one ending of this game and it was so abrupt that it put me off a bit from continuing past that ending for the moment. Part of it also was some of the conversations and particularly the driving mechanic. A few of the little conversation dialogue trees I had, it felt like the other character's dialogue reaction was almost entirely unrelated (a glitch maybe?). The driving is also a bit clunky and particularly the turning feels kinda loose and slow which makes precision or avoiding some of it rough. Given that there are things like races and from what I know parts of it that you need to avoid driving wildly in it hurts my desire to go and get more endings.

Seriously though the first ending I had was less an ending and more that it just Stopped. I genuinely thought I was at, like, the first plot point and not an ending, and the result feels bizarre with someone you're supposed to have just met and have had like five conversations with. Given it feels like a very common ending to get (I picked up the first two hitchikers to see what it was like and then essentially just followed where the game sent me) to see it be so ??? is wild. Maybe I'll come back to it because it is very easy to go through more endings (it even lets you start mid-game) but I'm put off of it after one.

​​Pretty fun little game although not much to it, very short, bizarrely I had some collision detection issues where the ship flew RIGHT through the purple sound rocks and gave no additional effects. The ship being able to go offscreen (at least in Browser, I didn't download it) also disoriented me and caused me to die the first time I tried it. Definitely feels like something that could use some more levels (makes me think of all the extra stuff SKYPEACE added) but not a bad use of 3 minutes.​​

I played Kirby Super Star entirely through co-op with a friend, something which I definitely feel enhanced the experience for me. Oft cited as one of the top tier Kirby games alongside Return to Dream Land, Forgotten Lands and Planet Robobot, Super Star absolutely brings a ton of innovations into the Kirby formula. The Helper system for co-op is fun and I liked how the second player functioned different from Kirby (such as being able to escape death by getting a different copy ability during the death animation) and how like. It's funny having to kinda roll with whatever power Kirby has on the spot and pop out your friend and then change it up later or what have you, it helps keep it from getting stale is what I'm saying. Then of course you get stuff like the ability to Guard, the NOVA, the Halberd, a LOT of stuff with Copy Abilities from how they work from visual appearances to introducing a bunch of new ones, Super Star might not be the first Kirby game around (in fact it is the fourth) but it feels like it and Kirby's Dream Land 2 form the genesis of Kirby as we'd call it today.

As fun as the sub-game and multigame format is, I gotta say that it doesn't really come across the best here. Spring Breeze is cute as a nod to the very first game but it is very much a Nothing mode, being so abridged that you kinda just complete it and then forget. Dyna Blade feels like pretty much directly a marginally more in-depth Spring Breeze, albeit it also is very short, the Kirby gameplay is unsurprisingly a fun vibe as usual (and figuring it out with my friend enhanced the fun) but these felt like very "junk food" modes. They did make me think that this game, overall, feels like it would be much more suited to a handheld experience where you're likely to be flipping between short gameplay sessions (although me and my friend did play shorter sessions). Perhaps fitting given Kirby STARTED on the Game Boy? It does make me think that Kirby Super Star Ultra might be the ideal form for this game to take. Dyna Blade DID make me think a Kirby game with a Super Mario Bros. 3-style World Map (already underutilized) could be fun, imagine one where you can have up to 4 friends and whoever has the most level completed panels at the end gets a fun bonus for some co-opetition! Kirby's large repertoire feels like it would offer up some unique options there.

I assume that it is programming or camera issues that prevent Gourmet Race from being 2-Player here, the camera failing to follow Dedede doesn't matter when it is the AI but would with a buddy, but it frankly blows that you can't play the mode with a friend. It feels like that would be super fun and without that it feels like the mode is more of a Minigame like Samurai Kirby or Megaton Punch than the main "Games" of the group. So while I was enjoying myself early, it definitely starts off overall on a bit of a "Nothing" feel to it. The Great Cave Offensive is...fun, including the BEST boss in the game for sure in Computer Virus, but to an extent it feels like maybe it drags a little bit while at the same time being a touch underbaked? It has the vibes of a bit of a Metroidvania (which makes me wanna try Kirby & the Amazing Mirror), but there's some parts that feel a bit janky (like the cloud area in the final group of levels was a bit of a Thing at points) and I dunno. I did enjoy it and I enjoyed it being a lot more unique than Spring Breeze or Dyna Blade, I could see this being fun to return to for 100% treasures.

Fortunately for this game, the last three modes are all bangers. Revenge of Meta Knight feels like the standout of the entire game as it keeps up a very pounding and frantic pace throughout the entire thing, plus I'm a sucker for these kind of cutscenes in platformers and it felt like it gave it a very unique vibe compared to all of the other games. Not to mention getting to go Wheelie Rider with my friend at the very end was pretty fun, Heavy Lobster is pretty easy but some good boss fight design, the banter of Meta Knight's underlings helped underlie the pace. I can see it being difficult to keep up for a full game but man do I wish there was some more here, I kinda wonder if combining it and Dyna Blade or Dyna Blade and Spring Breeze would have been a good idea. Milky Way Wishes is the longest and most intricate of the modes, bringing in a unique mechanic that treats Kirby's copy abilities more like a Metroid power-up which was fun (though sometimes it did slow the pace sometimes with all the ability swapping me and my friend did) and the levels had a lot more meat to them than most of the game. Marx is obviously a very fun fight (right up there with Computer Virus) and feels like a true challenge of your skills through the game.

That all cumulates with the (secret) final challenge: The Arena, something else Super Star introduced to the series, and in turn inspired Smash Brothers' own All Star Mode. This is a very fun way to do a boss rush mode and Kirby feels particularly well suited for a boss rush format. What powers are you going to choose to go through it? For me and my friend, we began with me on Bomb and them on Mirror for an offense and defense combination, but following a good fight with Computer Virus we tried a Hammer and Mirror combo due to Hammer's stronger per-hit damage. But as we got better with guarding the use of Mirror for defense decreased and so we ended up with me on Bomb and my friend on Beam for a good ranged damage combo with less risk than Hammer. When do you use your tomatoes? Getting riskier and feeling when we could press the edge at low damage was critical to us finally beating it, which was immensely satisfying after three sessions of grinding it out.

Outside of all the gameplay stuff, Kirby Super Star is a very pretty game overall with Kirby being vibrant (I love the little hats they gave him), this isn't really graphics related but I do like that each of the Helpers is their own unique enemy with their own portraits. Kirby gets a variety of portraits and all of them have a lot of personality to it and that personality oozing out really just helps the game a lot overall. Kirby's unhappy "Ouch!" portrait or him looking very nervous when he has the Bomb ability are some real standouts, Sleep and Sword too. The music is also pretty good. Marx's Theme, anyone? Gourmet Race obviously became a classic, although if you asked me for my favorite it would definitely be Meta Knight's Revenge.

Kirby Super Star was truly a game that shone more brightly the further into the game it got. The start is on the weak side, relying entirely on the charm of a polished Kirby experience more than anything, but by the time we get to Revenge of Meta Knight the game starts putting out serious bangers and leaves on a high note. High enough to surpass Kirby 64 as my favorite out of the admittedly-small-number of Kirby games I've beaten? No, but it is one I'd recommend people give a shot, especially if you have a friend with you!

Of all the games I've played, this certainly is One of them.

The AI on higher levels takes SO LONG to make a move! Why did it take over two minutes to choose a basic by the book move for a Queen's Pawn opening? I know it's the Nintendo 64, but come on, that's just unreasonable. Couldn't finish my game against the max level computer because it was so frustrating to wait minutes for book moves, can't imagine what the endgame is like with it. Computer's level is actually quite good for 1998 consoles, but the animations have an ugly stink on them that makes me feel like they'd be from some unfunny early-2000s animated show or something. They are also pretty herky-jerky. The fact you don't select your opponent's computer level or anything until after a game starts is...bizarre, to say the least.

By the way, how do you fuck up the camera controls of a CHESS GAME? Get this, you can rotate the board left/right and flip it up/down. Makes sense, right? Guess the buttons, go on. Guess. You see, C Button left is up/down, while C Button right is left/right, rather than just making left and right be...left and right and up/down be up and down. Combined with a surprising lack of visual clarity (in a CHESS. GAME.) and the controls being super jumpy, you want to rotate the board to an upwards angle if you play in 3D a lot which when the controls of all things work against it is frustrating. You'll pretty much want to swap to the 2D board ASAP, which ends up turning off all the battle animations and at that point you're left with a really barebones-featured but good-for-the-time AI chess game with ugly menus.

A rather bizarre game, honestly! I think the difficulty is what throws me off, as there's basically two ways to play: For score, which for the absolutely maximum rank requires the player to not die once while getting a ridiculous number of points, or for speed / pure completion in which case you have INFINITE continues (you only get one life, so every death is a continue) that also does not refill health and gives you back your kinda broken Boost ability at the same time. This means it teeters between something more challenging or something very easy. While I know a lot of people think they're archaic, a lives system feels like it may have been beneficial for a more smooth difficulty curve, or at least being a little bit more demanding with the checkpointing. Note that while you need to never die for the highest rank, you CAN still get high ranks by only dying a few times, so it isn't some totally hit-or-miss thing here.

Leaving all that aside for a moment, I enjoyed this game much more than the original Strider. Hiryu feels smooth to control here (for the most part), and in particular the addition of juuuust a little bit of aerial drift on his jumps makes it a lot smoother to run through and makes you feel more like the futuristic ninja you're supposed to be rather than the lost cosplaying Belmont brother. While the cool options are (sadly) gone, Hiryu gets some secret moves like a backwards flip or a bunch of spinny slashes that add a little dynamicism to the gameplay. I will admit I didn't find THAT much use for them, mostly because Strider just cutting up enemies is so strong, but they have potential and the fact the multi-slashes give you more points encourages you to not just spam the slash button in score runs. Wall jumping and climbing feels niiice in this game, with the only exception being going around corners on a D-Pad sometimes being finicky. I did also have trouble getting the dash out a few times, but I suspect that is more of a Me issue. But with how buttery smooth his jumps and dashes are, it feels gooooood to just slice through hordes of enemies, jumping wildly and doin' some wall climbin' fun.

What's up with the fact enemies seem to just...mostly lack collision damage, though? There's multiple bosses where running into them and spamming the attack button led to easy wins, sometimes dodging their attack patterns, and it felt really weird. The game's entire difficulty curve is mostly low, outside of the end I'd say most stages are pretty easy, but then spiking pretty hard in only a few sections or bosses. Most didn't feel too challenging (I was shocked how easy Meio was!), but there was definitely some that kicked my ass. The game's difficulty only really starts to ramp up in the last level or two, with the final levels feeling particularly harsh (and swapping the game's usual dichotomy of easier stages but harder bosses).

Frankly, my favorite part of the game was probably the vibes and the art. The game for the most part looks goooood, an excellent PS1 spritework combined with some beautiful anime cutscene art. Seriously, look at these! and, uh, ignore the screenshotting making them look kinda worse fsr. Even when the game isn't being mechanically dense, the vibes and control make it a Fun experience. I do think the length is a major downside, being defeatable in under an hour pretty easily and with the end result being that it DOES feel a bit shallow. The game doesn't really expand on its concepts a lot in that runtime and it even ends up re-using some elements within that timeframe in a bit of a lazy way. It also felt disappointing how often the right option felt like just moving right and mashing the attack button, the Scientists miniboss in particular felt actively harder when I was trying to dodge them rather than just spamming. Also while I am going to bet Auto Fire makes the game easier, I think I should have used it because by god does it hurt your thumb to mash attack the way you should in this! They put it in the game, so I'll take advantage of it.

Honestly, I might go for a second playthrough with Hien later since it was short and enjoyable. Totally recommend trying it out of you want some fast-paced, low commitment 2D ninja action in your life!

So, my birthday is February 10th. Of course I posted about this in various online chats I was in, which led to someone I know on the How Long to Beat discord posted a single image and a joke that "here's a game you should play! ;)"

https://i.imgur.com/3kxNFxv.jpg

So once I looked at How Long to beat and saw it was like a 2 hour game I had to do it. And that's why I downloaded and played The Bugs Bunny Birthdat Blowout in 2023 of all things. So, what are my thoughts? Well, it isn't a horrible game, just one with some critical flaws that make it wear thin despite the modest playtime. The ol' Bugs Birthday Bashorama is pretty much what you'd expect from the NES in that it is a sidescrolling platformer, with one button to attack and another to jump. Six levels with four stages each. Basic stuff. Bugs controls...fine enough, not the tightest platformer ever but far from the worst, although the game's low framerate makes it sometimes feel less responsive than you'd like. I think the bigger issue comes from Bugs' hammer attack, which simply has too little range, and a bit of a windup to it. The end result is that trying to hit enemies WITHOUT getting hit yourself is frustrating, fortunately the only enemies you usually need to kill basically don't attack except by moving. But it does get pretty silly when you hammer a frog and its sprite just teleports forward and then it keeps jumping and hits you. Or lands in front of you and you're back to square one.

This game's difficulty is at war with itself, although it lands squarely in the "very easy" category. The way it gets there is mildly frustrating, in that the game is full of a lot of "Gotcha!" trickery (platforms that disappear under you being the biggest ones, with at least one required blind drop into a pit area that lands you on one and means you WILL die if you don't know to jump instantly, but also hidden enemies or the like), but when you aren't getting had the jumps are fairly reasonable and the game is mostly timing based and very easy. This is especially true because the game showers you with extra lives via the (pretty random, admittedly) bonus games (I even got a +50 lives near the end!), so you get some serious trial-and-error gameplay going on! It's far from the worst you'll get on the NES, but it does get tiring by the end of the game.

Let's talk about something good, if not fully utilized given it is a random liscensed game from 1990. I think the idea of this game's collectible, the carrots, turning into platforms for you to use after collecting them is an interesting design space. You do get some tricky jumps where you have to jump to collect them, land back onto the main stage and then use them, but they're rather few and far in between. I could totally see some modern 2D platformer use them well though, like hidden secret paths only done by backtracking after grabbing collectibles, or mix and matching it with stuff like crumbling platforms (I was shocked this game never did it) or moving platforms or whatever. It did make me think about the level design in a different way than a lot of games, so good on it. Also while the gotchas wear thin, they DO feel like they really fit the tone of Looney Tunes and Bugs in specific.

Why does this game have so many bosses when it reuses them so much? Daffy is a boss in EVERY world and like every time he is PATHETICALLY easy that's actually hilarious but also not good gameplay. You fight Elmer Fudd like three times. The fight does not change any time. The final boss is the only one who uses a truly different strategy, although Pepe le Pew is at least a bit unique. If you can't make unique bosses, at least scale them back a little bit to avoid the endless repition.

Anyway this game's plot is David Fincher's The Game so that obviously gives it an extra half star-

SUBSTANTIALLY worse than Ninja Gaiden Shadow. While Shadow tried to introduce new concepts to the series from other ninja-based action platformers, Ninja Gaiden (GG) is a pale imitation of the more main series that brings nothing new and feels like little more than a downgraded experience. It also doesn't exactly seem like it "gets" Ninja Gaiden.

Let's get the big issue with this game out of the way: You essentially don't have mercy invincibility in this game. It isn't COMPLETELY non-existent, but it is so much so that getting stuck against just about anything is death. You know what sucks? When you go up to a hit a boss, say one with a slightly large hurtbox like the Stage 4 boss, and because you slightly miscalculated it you clip his sprite's hitbox and take 50%+ damage before you can escape. Or, say, having a moving spike barrier against a wall in the final level, and you mistime it and get hit. Guess what: You cannot escape those spikes until the barrier itself moves because you are caught in constant hitstun, causing you to take 80%+ of your life. This fact alone accounted for at LEAST 66% of my deaths and is probably the main thing that made this game just flatout unenjoyable. It's just not good.

On top of that whenever you're NOT having this issue, the game is EASY. Almost the only challenge in this game comes from cheapness such as having enemies that are offscreen but can fire projectiles. Even then, health pickups are abundant and so dying to enemies essentially only happens if you get wombo combo'd due to a lack of mercy invincibility. Wall snapping to this game is a bit too happy and you will frequently snap to a wall when you were trying to jump up a platform which is annoying. It does sometimes interact weirdly with walls and cause you to fall and die but most of the time it is just overly happy. And on the ship level Ryu will frequently clip into the boats sides instead of gripping on. And whenever a boss isn't clipping into you like a madman, the boss is easy with the exception of the 2nd Stage 4 form which I could not figure out how to dodge and just damage racked. Heck, 2/3rds of the final boss have easily findable spots that the boss CANNOT hit you on and the third stage has an easily observable pattern to make it trivial!

At least it has Ninja Gaiden style cutscenes? Presentation-wise the sprites are, you know, they're fine for a Game Gear game. Especially a year one game that I cannot imagine had much of a budget given it was a made by a studio I can only find info on like "was a game developers outsourced mobile ports too, did such a bad job Capcom never worked with them again" and that SIMS + Sega made their own Master System / Game Gear Ninja Gaiden (...which was so late it only came out in the PAL region and was actually well received but I digress). The sound though, dude, the music is soooooooo soulless and soooooo repetitive and there's some real weird sound effects like this sword twang on the final boss that gets spammed when you hit them and is loud and is annoying. Dunno what's up with that.

There's other bad stuff here too. A big one is that this game is SHORT: It is 5 "stages" but that is deceptive, as one stage is naught but a power-up room and a boss. If you know what you're doing you can easily beat this game in 30 minutes and it has no replayability. No secrets, no difficulty levels, nothing at all. This game has roughly the same amount of content as STUART LITTLE, come on!

Ultimately a tedious and frustrating affair, Ninja "Game Gear" Gaiden will only be worthwhile those with particular interests in exploring the Sega Game Gear's catalogue (it was a top seller when it came out, to no surprise when it was a portable Ninja Gaiden), those who want to DEEPLY dive into the history of Ninja Gaiden, ooooor they just like to play 30 minute-1 hour long platformers out of boredom on a Tuesday night.

I decided to play Strider tonight because I saw multiple people leaving reviews on it lately and the How Long to Beat time was about an hour, so why not check out what everyone's talking about? And I gotta say that by the time I rolled credits at about twice of said time, the main thing I had to say was "Wow, that kinda sucked".

Look, I can see plenty of reasons to like this game. The art, especially for a quite early Genesis title, is very well done. This is probably most epitomized in the Siberian Wilderness stage in the segment with power outages (where the darkened, silhouette look broken by crackling electricity is pretty badass), the ending sequence and city shots, and the detailed sprites on enemies along with Strider himself. It has the clear intent of a neo-futuristic, 80s anime style setting (given Moto Kikaku's involvement on the manga this seems particularly fitting), and there's some pretty rad boss visual designs. The music's pretty solid and the sound can be good too, although I do feel the need to note two things. First, Stage 4's Amazon enemies seem to have some oddities going on with their sound, because a lot of times I'd have them play their attack sounds on loop a LOT when they were on the fringes of the screen in a way that was outright annoying. I thought maybe this was just a glitch of some kind, but when I checked a random Longplay on Youtube and it seemed to have the same issue so IDK. Hiryu's sword swing also makes a LOT of sound when you spam it but that was probably more frustrating than when it'd be designed due to listening with headphones rather than a crowded arcade or CRT or w/e so I don't hold that much against it.

I just couldn't jive with a lot of the gameplay though. The game feels like a bad, peanut butter mashup of Ninja Gaiden's speedy action with Castlevania's jumping physics, with the end result being a game that demands precision and speed that feels stiff and, in my opinion, unresponsive. You can definitely get used to it, sure, and it is consistent (even if Strider tumbling with the horizontal jump is at first maybe a bit throwing off), but it isn't particularly fun to play. It's like a bad version of a Metroid-style two-different-jumps mechanic. I also felt like some consistent hitbox and physics dissonance was on display here, largely with any kind of moving platform, which was absolutely PAINFUL in the final level. I died at least 10 times to the run up to the final boss because you have to stay on a moving platform that will cause you to flip off if you don't grab and/or jump with the right timing, and there were plenty of times I just grabbed on and then instantly fell off or fell off for seemingly no reason and so on. There's also a bizarre inconsistency to the game: I streamed a good chunk of this with a friend on Discord and we both noted how I'd run through the same area, often times doing the same thing, and yet have enemy spawns vary for reasons that were esoteric to us.

This is particularly notable because Strider is HEAVY on trial and error gameplay, it loves to put enemies just off screen or in spots where if you don't react immediately after entering a new area you'll get hit. There's also plenty of "gotcha" moments in the game. If you don't know a trap is coming up right when you beat the first boss, for example, you WILL get hit. Boss quality varies heavily but most are unimpressive in execution, one of them felt particularly odd as it seems like it has unavoidable damage to hit it and you basically have to mash and have full health to win before you die. When I looked up other runs, I never saw them avoid the damage either. It's likely possible but I couldn't figure it out. I'd probably enjoy this more if the game's physics felt more free, because then I'd be able to memorize myself into a nice rhythm of jumping, attacking, and so on.

It's not as though gameplay is without any merit. The idea of Gradius style Options as power-ups is underexplored but interesting. The game's got some classic ninja wall jumps and ceiling clings and platform grabs and tends to mix these in quite well: If the jumping didn't feel so bad for me the actual level design seems solid if very difficult (you can definitely tell this was an arcade game!) to me albeit with way too many gotcha moments. Some of the Options do seem to sometimes work oddly, mostly just kinda going wherever they please off screen, but it's pretty cool conceptually and fun to use. Plus I love how it fits hard into the cyber-ninja theming, he has a robot dog!

Overall, Strider might be pretty fun if the way it controls and the physics hit for you, but those things just never hit for me and it just dragged down the experience and kinda devolved into a frustrating effort by the end of things. I respect the influence it had over gaming and Strider Hiryu himself is cool, but it was just a miss for me.

Jesus Humanity.

Perhaps the worst thing about this game is the bizarre Intentionally behind the design. It's not just that there's no block button and that you're invincible whenever you crouch or jump (which also has flight, but no air attacks!), it's that the AI abuses it too. Or that you become unable to attack if your "Power" level, which goes down whenever you get hit and has the time it goes up depend on your actual health, which the AI WILL use to casually infinite you if your HP gets low enough, because you can grab enemies who are proned on the ground to end it early and then just grab them to deplete their power again and infinite them if their regen is not high enough. The game has horrible turning lag, which is only worsened by needing to double tap back to turn around (this is apparently a setting in the configuration that is on by default for...for some reason). The AI is subject to this as well and so will do the same thing the player does: Use their invincible jump to cross up the opponent and try to throw out their fastest attack. This also leads to the ideal way to beat the AI being HILARIOUS! Keep jumping in place while the AI attacks and try to catch them in an attack to throw them, which they will often jump themselves but you then jump back and so you and the AI keep jumping at each other for like a minute before one messes up. Oh, also, A and B are attacks, but the C button ain't jump and is in fact near useless! Wanna know how you jump and fly around? You hold up. It's as painful as your fingers as you're imagining.

Why is the timer so weird? It's like the devs have no concept of time. It begins at like 90 seconds, yet lasts about 10 minutes real time. Just like...w h a t? The super stiff controls make the platforming parts hell, although the idea of combining a platformer and a fighter is at least interesting, especially since your health is shared between platforming stage and boss fight. To be honest in the right game this could be fun, but Heavy Nova ain't it. Did I mention you don't start with all the moves? Yeah, you have to grab "Level Up" containers around the platforming stages in order to get all of them, and while the early ones are smack dab in the middle of the stage the last one is hidden. This also means needing to fight the first boss without any but like 4 moves which is about as fun as it sounds. More hilariously, fighters with attacks missing in the story mode (because the 2nd player AI ALSO doesn't have all their moves) are still missing them in the 2-player mode, so the first boss for example only has four attacks in the vs. mode. It's downright comical. This game has some instances of borderline unavoidable damage, enemies just out of sight to blow you up immediately, some absolutely BAFFLING hitboxes that will largely whiff for no good reason (same for the AI in the boss fights and missing!), and overall is just poorly designed.

The music is decent enough but mostly uninspired, although I did like that they went ham on the final boss theme, and uh. Game's preeeeeeetty ugly man, these are NOT the best lookin' robots you could find, palette swap heavy game, some real jank. Also stages don't have defined edges, so they go infinitely left/right, which led to the funniest part of the entire playthrough as I used the dash attack to escape the AI, the AI used the dash attack to follow and since they can be held infinitely we just zoomed across the entire screen like Sonic Adventure 2 for like a minute. I will also confess I didn't beat this game without a Game Genie code to have infinite Power because the AI can infinite you with two attacks if you don't have it and it just was TOO obnoxious to handle.

It's a failure on every level, but at least streaming it out to friends was a fun time. Thanks to Vee's review of the sequel for bringing this game's existence to my mind and making my friend go "it'd be Funni if you played it this sounds so BAD I'm curious".