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Inspiration comes from strange places.
For many, it's bred from obligation; the need to do something, anything, bringing with it the knowledge that there's work to be done and only one person who can do it. For many, it's spite; hatred and anger, boiling within us, screaming out that it won't be quelled unless action is taken now. For fewer, it's from a desire to grow; a willingness to open yourself and expose your weakness, to be hurt, to be vulnerable, in the name of coming out stronger. Sometimes you just see someone fucking up and being so purposefully ignorant about it that it inspires you to do things properly in their stead.
Celeste is one of the greatest games ever made.
If you asked me what drives me, I'd tell you that it's spite. This is probably not healthy for me, and I don't particularly care. If you asked Madeline what drives her, she’d tell you that she doesn’t know. This is definitely not healthy for her, and the game makes sure that both her and the player understand this. Madeline has a vague, oblique desire to be better. What this entails is climbing a mountain, and it’s left unclear how this is actually meant to help. Sure, the obvious metaphor of literally climbing a mountain is as central to the text of the game as it possibly can be, but lacking any further cause, it’s little more than an act of self-flagellation. It’s hard and punishing and maybe Madeline feels like she deserves that. Celeste is hard and punishing, and maybe you as the player feel like you deserve that. After all, if neither you nor Madeline can get good purely for its own sake, what’s the point? Why bother?
It becomes clearer to both the player and to Madeline as the game progresses that this is far more than just banging your head into a wall until you get it right. It’s the purpose of the literal moment-to-moment gameplay — walk in from the left, do some tough jumps, splat, repeat until you get it right — but the narrative undercurrent gradually erodes through the surface to reveal that this is all in service of an act of self-actualization. Madeline is desperate to prove herself, desperate to understand herself, desperate to not give in to darker desires, desperate to be able to look into a mirror and see her own face instead of a stranger’s. Her desperation carries with it the price of the ascent, and the ascent carries with it the price of her. Madeline suffers in her journey. She’s leveled, brought to all fours beneath the immovable weight of her depression, her panic attacks, her inability to understand who she is. The mountain exposes her, showcasing every part of her that she keeps hidden in every reflective surface, threatening the safety of the people she cares about, reminding her of long-dead relationships with the implication that everything happening is all her fault. It isn’t, of course, but Madeline’s struggles to reach self-actualization reflect how she believes herself to be a failure.
The gameplay and story integration here is masterful, far beyond the raw difficulty of the platforming mirroring the narrative struggles faced by our protagonist. One scene where Madeline suffers a panic attack sees Theo supporting her through it, giving her a little pop piece of meditation while she waits for it to pass; all she needs to do is imagine a feather floating up and down in time with her breathing, and you as the player are tasked with keeping the feather in focus. It isn’t too much further into the game when Madeline decides that she’s gotten over all of her fears and doubts and attempts to use the feather trick as a weapon; it fails, miserably, because she hasn’t come anywhere near achieving the self-actualization that she wants to have. She tries to rush things, to force her fears down instead of process them, to conquer herself rather than accept herself as she is. It’s only after she fails and falls that she realizes that she must accept all of the bad that comes when she understands who she is, merging every part of her into the cohesive whole that is Madeline. As a reward for the player, you get a triple jump. As silly as that might sound, given how heavy the narrative has been up to this point, it’s the evolution of gameplay and the swelling of the music that makes Madeline actually feel like she’s living up to her full potential. The climb has been a struggle for you and her, but now you both have all of the tools you need to reach the top of the mountain. Once you have that, you’re unstoppable.
The narrative of the game, for better and for worse, took on something of a new life with the later explanation that both Maddy Thorson (the lead developer and former name-provider of the studio) and Madeline are trans women. For better, Celeste has remained a tentpole of positive representation since the day it released and has provided many historically-excluded people a strong, important figure to relate to; for worse, it’s incited many of the most annoying posters to hem and haw and handwring over what they perceive to be revisionism for the sake of winning brownie points. Maddy herself has written quite openly about the subject and certainly has far more insight into the topic than any schmuck like myself can throw in, but I’ve seen first-hand the impact that this game has had on the people around me. For a lot of my friends, for a lot of people I care about and respect, Celeste is important because Celeste actually gets it. This shit is hard. It’s exhausting. It isn’t climbing a mountain or beating a hard video game, because those things have a defined end. There’s a clear beginning, and a clear conclusion, and that’s that. The struggle to live as oneself and to be open and honest with who we are is a path filled with unnecessary strife and struggle brought down upon our heads by people who don’t get it. People who refuse to get it. People who benefit from not getting it. I shouldn’t need to point at any of the many, many examples of this in the United States alone, simply because there’s gotten to be too many to keep track of. It’s everywhere, as a sickness.
“This memorial dedicated to those who perished on the climb" is one of the most powerful lines I’ve ever read, and it’s the context from outside of the game’s text that defines it. Unlike any mountain, and unlike any video game, the climb doesn’t stop. The climb started before we were born, and the climb will continue after we’ve gone. For how long we’ve all been fighting, been struggling, been warring against every push and backslide, there’s always more of a climb to take on. This shit won't stop. The obvious question, then, is why we should bother to climb at all.
Celeste’s answer is simple.
To be who you are makes it worth the climb.

As summer nears and games release, I thought it would be a good idea to finally play Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, both as an introduction to the approaching season and to just evade for a while playing a nice and short game. And while I expected it to be at least decent, I never could have expected it to be such a direct punch to the nostalgia.
While I didn't grow up in the same Mediterranean landscapes this game shows (this part of the country is... a bit less sunny, to say the least) I still experienced the sensations of wonder and fun while exploring the beautiful forests and seaside during what seemed like endless and perfect summers, being marveled at the mere sight of an animal, be it just a common cat or a rare bird, to even the unforgettable sight of watching a group of dolphins jumping across the sea while sitting on the sand and the sun sets. All of these feelings and sensations are the ones Alba: A Wildlife/Mediterranean Adventure strives to replicate, and in that department it absolutely shines like a summer sun.
The small location of Secarral feels so real that I'm beginning to question if it's even a fake town; the locales, woods and ruins are just so vibrant and filled with that indistinguishable personality of the Spanish coasts, as so are its people and, above all else, the fauna. While the premise itself focuses on stopping a businessman that wants to build a luxury hotel an and a mayor that is clearly part of the PP (if you know, you know), you'll spend your time on the island taking photos of the different animals as well as you help them and repair the now broken structures of the natural reserve, and you can see how the isle changes because of you for the better; it’s so cozy a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate would make it perfect, that is if it wasn’t 42 °C. There’s such a feeling of peace and pure innocence in every little detail and plotline that even saying yes or no here is fun, the smallest actions are what make the game what it is, which it is a stroll, and as such is a simple as one, for better… and worse.
Even tho my cognitive capabilities are questionable at best, if I’ve learned something through gaming this year, that would be how to do simplicity well. I’ve played a ton of very mechanically simple games, and for most of them that ended up being a huge strength, both when actively playing it, but specially narratively, and where Alba: A Wildlife Adventure trips along the route is that, while selling the idea of you being a small child exploring the world, it also undersells the potential the world itself could have had. ‘’Wildlife Walk’’ would be a better subtitle for the game, since pretty much all of your options are walking, taking photos and being able to press A at designated spots, and while you not having much interaction with the world itself isn’t that big of a deal (tho I would have preferred that the photos that you took could be actually saved or at least appear on the animal guide), the fact that the animals and inhabitants don’t really have routines, but rather just stand there or fly at their designated spots, really breaks the initial illusion of fidelity and realism the game was following. Of course I’m not saying that every single NPC, both human and animal, should have had a super complex AI with clear routines depending of the hour, absolutely not, but considering how the games takes place during a whole week, seeing everything at the exacts same places each time begins to take a toll on the feelings of wonder and uniqueness. There are still unique missions that present a specific animal or a brand-new locations that are really cool, but again, the fact everything besides what you interact with directly feels so static, combined with some strangely choppy and even glitchy animations on some birds and even humans and that, for a game that goes as far as not including fast travel for the sake of immersion (which I don’t mind at all and I’m not complaining), most of the signatures you need to get to stop the construction of the hotel just appear randomly at times instead of being added after talking to a NPC or at least them being present there, it all just screws a bit over what Secarral wanted to be, and by Friday, even if it was still entertaining, most of the child-like fun had vanished… and then Saturday happened.
The last moments of the game are a fantastic ending to the whole experience, one not without its flaws as I said, but at the end, it’s still a game that mainly wanted to be this love letter to both culture and nature, a celebration of everything that is beautiful and the efforts that should be mad to preserve it, both when there’s adversity… and when there’s peace. And in that final moments where it remind me of that, I just couldn’t stop thinking how much I enjoyed this little town and island, how funny and charismatic the characters where, and I realized that the dumb smile I had when I started lasted on my face till the very end.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventures has a younger audience in mind, and I really believe that much of the over-simplicity originates from them being a huge target, but it’s also a short, pretty time that I think almost everyone would enjoy. It’s imperfect, it’s lacking, it’s wonderful. For some I’ll hit harder, maybe even than me, but you won’t know for sure until you take a wild on the wild side… and try soME PAELLA LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

My TOTK thought:
- New tools are great, a lot to do with them and so much better than older tools.
- Sky to land to depths is really awesome idea and works seamlessly.
- A lot of the world feel less empty and has more content in it to do stuff in.
- The towers made exploration much more enjoyable especially since the map was already familiar.
- The main story quests are 10/10. There is an actual campaign and story here with multiple things to do.
- The story is actually good and had a lot of great moments. it was easier to find the memories and it weaved well into main quest.
- Almost every single one of the 92 shrines I did was enjoyable. The puzzles were fun the combat ones were neatly designed.
- Music was great and more felt through out the game.
- Great enemy variety, some really good and unique bosses even if too easy.
- Combat mechanics. After150 hours between this and BOTW and I still don't like it and avoid many combat encounters.
- Weapons still shouldn't break. Fuse helped but the fused mat should break and keep the base. Literally no reason.
- Side quests are mostly MMO fetch quests. Some good ones the exceptions.
- Repeated quests, encounters, and the sky islands being repeated was a shame.
Would give 9.5/10 right now.

It starts with a janitor.
You're tasked with trailing him to his house in your car for a uniform. All you have to do is wait and, when the time is right, have a polite conversation with him.
So, anyway, I put a bomb on his door and blew him up the second he walked over to it. I punched him, tased him, shot him, poured gasoline on his brand-new car, and rammed his brand-new car with my stolen one. When I was supposed to park my car around the corner, I made the side of his car my parking lot. All of this "spooked" him, but never once did he die.
Like Classic Rock, Open World is an umbrella term. You have your Checklist Open Worlds, Zelda Open Worlds, Open Worlds that play like STALKER, Open Worlds by Bethesda, and so on. And then you have Rockstar games. The selling point is detail: in Fallout 3, technical limitations mean that every time you see a train running, what you're experiencing is an unnamed citizen with a train hat on, literally running. With Rockstar, the nails in the train tracks around the world are dynamically hammered in by unnamed NPCs that you can talk to. Cars turn realistically in Grand Theft Auto IV, and your average fast-travel system is replaced with a network of trains that you can interact with unscripted. Viewed separately from the content in them, they're masters in their field.
Ultimately, it all comes back to that janitor in the end. I've ruminated on it before, but a lot of what I find to be funny about that scene, in particular, is an imbalance between content and context. It's funny to keep failing specifically because the game asks you not to but puts in no safeguards to keep you from using its more emergent systems against itself. The issue Grand Theft Auto V has is that its caricatures only accelerate this imbalance. If the entire experience is supposed to be stupid, head empty, dumb fun, why play the rules at all?
In Red Dead Redemption II, I occasionally did the same thing. The game was linear, and I was bored, so I gave myself something to laugh at. But more of my time was spent in a modded version of the photo mode, where landmarks as simple and small as hills became vital storytelling tools for my version of Arthur Morgan. Abandoned wagons spoke to a quiet feeling of loss as fog enveloped the greenery. As nature took its course, I felt my figure shrink until it folded into the shadowy figure of the mountains behind me. It could only last for so long—but at least I was there for the trip. Farewell.
There's an inherent sense of melancholy in Red Dead Redemption II's world that I've seldom felt in the games I've played—much less from the Houser brothers and their culture of debauchery. To their credit, much of that comes from the narrative and characters. But beyond anything they had more than a minor role in, it's due to sunsets, fog, red dirt, and dry sand more than anything else. Red Dead Redemption II made me understand the cliche of riding into the sunset beyond a bus I took in high school one time, and it made me want to keep riding through the dark.
Another returning issue from other Rockstar games is as follows: movement still feels janky. I don't find it surprising at all that legendary filmmaker John Carpenter, fan of Sonic Unleashed and Halo Infinite, couldn't bring himself to finish this game. First-person mode here is a continent and two miles above what they half-assed into Grand Theft Auto V for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports, and thus it's the way I recommend playing this. But eventually, you have to get on a horse, and there's no perspective you can control that in where it always feels as intuitive as you want it to be. Crucially, while running around, it was very easy to me to tackle someone accidentally in a public space. I am grateful that the police system in this is more lenient than what's currently in Cyberpunk 2077, because I would have quit otherwise. But it's not perfect, either. You can always pay off your bounties, meaning that while the ride to a nearby post office can be tense, it occasionally feels like there are no meaningful repercussions for aberrant behavior. Combat in Red Dead Redemption II feels better than anything else Rockstar has ever done; using the revolver actually gives you a reason to hip-fire instead of aiming at everything, and it feels glorious. But it's impossible to ignore that a lot of betrays the narrative cohesion found in the cinematics. Given how much of a vibe this game can be, it's a total shame that it falls victim to the Rockstar trope of every mission being either a Shootout Mission, Chase Mission, or Inconvenient Mission that Secretly Becomes a Shootout at the Last Second. As much fun as I had using the shotguns in this game, at some point, I was just kind of over it, and while that's not a feeling that stuck for very long, it never truly went away.
I loved Arthur Morgan, and I loved having him wear a brown coat and have long hair because those are the things that make me feel effeminate and manly at the same time. I loved naming my horse after a television reference because I had one of the final knife twists spoiled for me in advance, and also because it was a cute name for my horse. I liked both Epilogue parts, and I can understand the excuses someone might make for Guarma.
Easily Rockstar's best, I can't wait to see how they fuck up their next game.

So without giving away too much, there's a visual clue in the second section of the game that is vital to knowing the name of the location you're looking at and the names of three of the characters. You're supposed to compare the direction the moon is facing with any monuments in the environment and then use the map to figure out what kingdom you're in. The problem is, the visuals are in 2D and the environment is deliberately framed. It's hard to get a sense of perspective and it's not like I can move a camera around. So how the fuck am I supposed to get my bearings and know what direction exactly that south is?! Yes, I see the monument in the background, the one that appears in the map, but where it's positioned relative to the moon in the sky escapes me! Maybe I'm being a dum dum, but this whole puzzle seemed fundamentally flawed, and I had to resort to using the hint system more than once. I didn't use the hint system at all in the main game and wanted to keep it that way, but alas, I had to swallow my pride. In fact, much of the second section seemed like a confused mess to me. The first and third sections are great though, so no complaints there.
And with that tangent out of the way... The Spider of Lanka is essentially more of The Case of the Golden Idol. Meaning that, if you enjoyed the core game, then you'll very likely enjoy this (very brief) slice of DLC that details the origins of the Golden Idol itself.

Not too long ago, I was asked by a friend to describe the appeal of Gravity Rush, and it took me a while to come up with an answer. Was it a twist on the classic open-world sandbox? A physics-defying superhero simulator? Both of these descriptions are reasonable to some extent, but neither felt like a perfect characterization of what kept me hooked to my favorite Sony series exclusive. Then a few days later, I stumbled upon this list, and BeachEpisode’s description caught my eye: a platformer where you “tumble through the world with an elegance of a Ghibli movie.”
Just like that, it clicked. In the same way that VVVVVV is a deconstruction of the traditional 2D platformer, Gravity Rush to me feels like the natural progression of deconstructing the open-level 3D platformer. There’s still jumping between floating platforms of course, but the jumping is deemphasized. Instead, since larger objects serving as buoys don’t have pulls towards the center of gravity, it’s up to you to shift the flow of gravity as necessary to prevent yourself from “falling off" and maintain control. Therefore, every surface becomes a possible platform, limited only by your access to said surface and your gravity energy gauge.
Since you aren’t necessarily jumping between platforms, it may be easier to characterize movement in Gravity Rush between two modes: grounded running/sliding, and soaring through the air between grounded movement. With the gravity slide, the protagonist Kat can make tight turns while also easily sliding up surfaces to maintain momentum without needing to jump and re-shift. Meanwhile, aerial movement can be thought more simply as “falling with style” (which explains why Kat’s float is less of a dive without boosting with X and closer to a derpy freefall), but is surprisingly tight; with the ability to slightly adjust your falling orientation with the left joystick, and the ability to either slowly rotate the camera with controller gyro controls or more quickly with the right joystick, the seemingly simple “flying” provides a fairly strong degree of character control. It never feels too disorienting either, because Kat’s hair will always point towards the directed flow of gravity when floating in place, and the camera will naturally rotate back towards “right-side up” from tapping R1 to stop/shift gravity (or you can tap R3 at any time to immediately snap to that perspective). As such, the real challenge is optimizing movement by juggling the two different modes to maintain momentum while never completely depleting the energy gauge. Since gravity sliding uses less energy and spending enough time not shifting gravity (including simple grounded running/waiting or natural freefall) will refresh the gauge, figuring out exactly when to insert these moments in-between gravity shifting traversal alongside collecting blue gravity tokens becomes key to efficiently getting from point A to point B. It’s a deceptively simple yet realized set of controls that can feel overwhelming at first but becomes this thing of beauty once mastered; some might call it less cool since you’re really just flail-falling about, but as an old teacher of mine once asked, isn’t flying really just missing the ground over and over again?
It's for this reason that it becomes quite frustrating that Gravity Rush 2 seems almost afraid to utilize its greatest strength during certain grounded side-missions and a few segments of main story missions. The most obvious culprits here are the forced stealth segments that will immediately catch you upon floating upwards and getting spotted by guards. It unfortunately feels rather counter-intuitive that a game emphasizing freedom of control has a few segments here and there that artificially limit your movement options. There are also quite a few grounded missions that require you to mash the square button to repeatedly talk to NPCs in hopes that they’ll point you to the right direction; definitely not great, but they’re at least over quickly enough and do end up facilitating movement around the city once you’ve got your necessary info to proceed. The absolute worst mission in my opinion however, has to be “Behind the Scenes I,” which has you running through the city on foot while dodging enthusiastic fans; NPC spawns are randomly generated, which means there’s a degree of luck getting a clear enough path and not too many NPCs to where they can’t be easily avoided or jumped over/around. I respect Team Gravity’s ambition in trying to diversify their missions and definitely appreciate the comedy behind the concept, but even I thought this one stuck out like a sore thumb.
While we’re on the topic of complaints, the other glaring complaint I often hear regarding Gravity Rush 2 is that the game feels a bit more grindy than the original title. You’re not likely to pick up many precious gems during most story missions and side missions, so most of your stock is going to come from getting gold medals in challenges and thoroughly exploring the hub areas to snag all the collectibles. Even then, you most likely won’t have enough to thoroughly upgrade all of the combat systems, which is where mining missions come in. Once unlocked, Kat can take a boat to a gravity storm mine and destroy green ore for precious gems. This process can take a while considering that environments are fairly spacious and empty, and it’s not particularly interesting repeating the same mines over and over for those final purchases. To be fair, mining missions do at least provide gravity storms that will occasionally spawn in different bosses for Kat to fight, and can also snag you talismans to augment your abilities and boost certain aspects of combat and movement. As a side note, if you really care about the trophy and don’t care much about the above, it is possible to replay old missions instead to at least get this grind out of the way.
Now, having gotten my major reservations out of the way… I actually like this way more than Gravity Rush Remastered.
The first main reason that comes to mind is that combat definitely has a lot more meat on the bone. In the original Gravity Rush, the flying kick was king; just aim and fire until everything in your path was gone, and if you miss, just keep readjusting and firing until you win anyways. Meanwhile, the sequel significantly buffs your other attack options to where combat no longer feels linearized through abusing the flying kick. Gravity sliding is much easier to implement during combat, not only due to the tighter controls but also due to the addition of a sliding dodge. Stasis Field (telekinesis to grab and throw objects) has also been buffed with a larger range than before, can be used without any temporary immobilization, and allows you to pick up enemies outright to chuck at other foes. You can also hold down the circle button when throwing to produce a piercing projectile at the expense of some of the SP gauge. Finally, Stasis Field can also be used defensively to block physical and energy-based projectiles with the proper upgrades. To tie this all together, the unlockable/farmable talismans really do make a difference in providing that extra kick to your basic abilities (ex: by dealing more damage with attacks, increasing the lock-on range of the gravity kick, decreasing the amount of gravity energy used, etc), and can later be recycled or merged for even more potent combinations of boosts.
The real crux behind the deeper combat, however, is due to the presence of additional Gravity Styles which drastically alter Kat’s abilities. For instance, Lunar Style sacrifices power in exchange for more manueverability. The wormhole kick in particular lets you zoom in on enemies (which tackles the issue I had in the original, of faster flying enemies slightly moving out of the way and causing my kick to miss entirely) and can be used to teleport across the stage. Additionally, Projectiles fired with Lunar Style create lingering hitboxes once they hit their target, which can stun-lock individual enemies and knock off armor. Jupiter Style, on the other hand, slows down Kat’s standard grounded movement but in return, adds a lot more weight to Kat’s grounded combo attacks and allows you to charge up a kick that not only deals more damage, but can also create a shockwave upon impact that can eviscerate nearby foes for better crowd control. Similarly, you can charge and fire larger projectiles in Jupiter Style to instantly wipe out bulkier enemies. These two styles also affect Kat’s traversal options. Lunar will give you access to a quick long and low rocket Jump and a charged spring Jump for height, both of which can be chained off walls to maintain momentum. Meanwhile, Jupiter Style buffs Kat’s gravity slide, by not only increasing the base speed, but also granting Kat superarmor with the relevant final upgrade while allowing Kat to quickly slide-tackle enemies. As such, switching between the different styles (including the basic Normal style) grants Gravity Rush 2’s combat a bevy of different approaches to better handle varied mobs while also adding additional depth to Kat’s movement in-between.
The next improvement surprised me; believe it or not, despite my earlier complaints towards some of the missions, I actually do think that missions on the whole have also been improved. I’ve been a bit harsh so far regarding the missions that I don’t like, but the truth is that most of these feel relatively inoffensive or at the very least, not very intrusive. Stealth missions are quickly bypassed by running past enemies, taking them out one by one, or walking on walls outside of enemy vision. Mining missions, as brought up earlier, can be mostly ignored if you’re willing to grind the aforementioned old story missions for upgrades instead (and in fact, if you don’t care about the trophy or maxing out every single stat, you’ll get enough gems and talismans for the crucial abilities from other side/main missions anyways with little detriment towards movement/combat). It also helps that upgrades to the gravity gauge and health bar have been decoupled from the gems system altogether, and will naturally be augmented from completing story and side missions (as opposed to the original, which only increased the upgrade capacity cap for completing missions), thus providing a stronger incentive to tackle all the game’s sprawling content while lessening the need to gem grind. Granted, I still can’t defend Behind the Scenes I given how many times I had to restart due to bad RNG, but it’s more of an anomaly amongst better arcadey challenges that are otherwise great at testing your combat and movement optimization.
Having said that, there are some great side missions in Gravity Rush 2 that more than make up for the duller moments. One fan-favorite is the [cake delivery mission]( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c5Io9tyES8), where Kat has to deliver fragile packages with Lunar Style using plenty of spring and rocket jumps to maneuver around skyscrapers, all the while dealing with recipients begging her for “the good stuff” and dodging attacks from your voracious best friend Raven. My absolute favorite though, has to be the first movie star mission, where a non-powered Kat must play the role of Battle Nurse through the filming of various scenes; the irony of a super-powered protagonist acting as a stunt double for a superhero film without her gravity powers definitely does not escape me. Not every side mission hits of course, but the vast majority of them grant you interesting avenues to exploit Kat’s various movement and combat abilities in a different fashion, and it’s still absolutely heartwarming and adorable to see Kat stumble and bumble her way through all these absurd scenarios while helping so many others along the way; in that sense, Gravity Rush’s side missions actually remind me a ton of my recent playthrough of Yakuza 0 and all the wild sub-stories that it had to offer.
Perhaps that’s the best way to explain my love of this franchise, as I could honestly nitpick the game all day. Gravity Rush 2 suffers from a similar issue to its predecessor in that the FOV feels a bit too constrained at times, which becomes particularly noticeable when you crash into a wall and the camera gets uncomfortably close during areas with tight corridors. Special moves are a strange combination of busted and janky; the Spiraling Claw does tons of damage between enemy clusters but often gets you stuck on walls, the Gravity Typhoon is just a quickfire projectile chuck that is often detrimental in the long-run since it strips the environment of possible projectiles for Stasis Field, and both are essentially rendered obsolete by the Micro Black Hole, which will outright destroy any enemies in Kat’s vicinity. Finally, I have some problems with the pacing here and there, particularly in how the beginning is rather sluggish (without many opportunities to really abuse your gravity shifting powers) while the endgame is quite rapid-fire and blows through multiple story chapters in the course of a couple hours.
Despite all of that, I absolutely adore this game. I have to admit that I don’t really mind that most of the missions are just some combination of flying around and beating up enemies, because Team Gravity does a much better job disguising all this by slightly varying your specific tasks during missions to better facilitate the satisfying bread-and-butter movement + combat without levels feeling too rote. It helps that the core game-feel is greatly accentuated with the little touches like how the wind rumbles around you while boosting, or how falling and landing from great distances creates an earth-shattering boom that stuns you temporarily unless you land and roll with R2. So much of the world feels like it was constructed with such love and care to the point where I’m willing to overlook much of the jank and many of the dips. The environmental storytelling of all the various locales, the little bits of chaos that ensue as casualties of Kat’s gravity powers (from accidentally launching NPCs about to destroying parts of the environment from shifting and landing all over the place), the little responses here and there from other civilians when Kat makes gestures at them… there’s so many details that ultimately bring everything together. I especially appreciate being able to revisit Hekseville again from the original Gravity Rush; it was quite nostalgic catching up with all the familiar locations and characters while understanding how new events played a role into shaping subtle differences. Sure, the story takes so many twists and turns that at times you wonder if anything’s ever played straight in the first place, but there’s this undercurrent of sincerity that keeps you invested throughout the game’s entirety. The final chapter after the fake credits was the perfect way to tie this all up, resolving a lot of the resounding questions left after the ending of the original Gravity Rush while giving Kat & friends the opportunity they needed to go out with an emotional climax.
At the end of the day, there is simply nothing like the Gravity Rush series. No game before or after has ever felt this exhilarating to me, zooming around these anachronistic floating isles and kicking major ass against these shadowy creatures while having fun with friends made along the way. Even despite the missing online functionality, the core solo experience feels just that memorable to me. It’s rare that a game fills me with the same sheer sense of wonder and discovery since the first time I ever completed Okami, nonetheless while considering all the various imperfections involved. Perhaps this game is the perfect encapsulation of a Japan Studio title: an innovative spin on a classic genre that pushed its concepts to their very limits while effortlessly exuding charm. In spite of all the lack of polish here and there, Gravity Rush 2 manages to stay true to itself, and most importantly, never forgets what makes games so much fun in the first place. I’ll forever be saddened at the loss of my favorite Sony developer, because this game deserved so much more. Nevertheless, as long as red apples keep falling from the sky, the seed of hope will find a way to keep hitting us somehow.

This review contains spoilers

I’m grading entirely on a particular scale:
the totally-blind-discovery-on-a-whim-pleasant-surprise-that-I-did-not-pay-for scale
And also: the I-normally-hate-this-kind-of-game scale
I’m shocked that I not only got into this but got engrossed enough to do it one sitting. Went in completely blind, downloaded off the PS+ catalog on a whim. My initial impression was “ok, they told me this was made by three people and it sure looks like it! I’ll give it an earnest shot but proooobably won’t spend more than an hour on it.”
Had no idea it was originally conceived as a Skyrim mod, but I got the hunch while playing that it sure looked like and played like a Bethesda game! Now it makes total sense. But Bethesda wishes they could design a narrative like this, even if I think the execution was a bit wonky at times. I don’t know how much that says about Bethesda or about this trio of devs.
I like clockwork game worlds. I like it when NPCs interact, I like being able to have an impact on the world’s trajectory in any large or small way. I like how X-Y-Z interact and play with each other, and the more variation and possibility the better. So I was pleasantly surprised the more I saw how these NPCs interacted and played off each other, how their paths became laid out and predictable, what makes them change said path, etc. It’s not incredibly deep in that regard, but for the narrative it’s trying to accomplish it’s deep enough.
Time loops are a tricky thing, especially in a video game. This immediately reminded me of playing Outer Wilds and really admiring certain things about that game, but not enjoying some other parts of it. But conceptually I love the idea of these kinds of worlds that are dense with information and knowledge that progresses each subsequent loop. In The Forgotten City it’s a lot more linear and far less esoteric, but in my opinion this also allows it to be more cohesive and focused. I don’t normally enjoy time travel stuff in media, video games specifically, because there just tends to be logistical leaps in logic and a tendency to lean heavily into tropes. That’s certainly the case here, to a degree. But I get it. It would be tremendously tedious for the player to re-experience so much of what goes on here when trying to get back to the point the player was in before failing the previous loop. So NPCs kinda just have to go along with it when you go “just trust me, bro.” And therein lies the sole purpose of our favorite every man: good ol’ Gerelius. What an absolute bro for doing all that insane shit for me just because I asked him to at the start of every loop.
At the start when the game gave me that cheeky bit about the “Karen” meme, I internally winced so hard that I almost thought about just uninstalling the game. But boy did they do an about face on that with the “Charon” reveal. Still a bit corny, still a bit “really, guys?” but honestly, fair play. And that sums up my relationship to this game over the course of playing it: being pleasantly surprised by how much my expectations were being subverted. I was not expecting them to go to the places they did. I was expecting more murder mystery and less philosophising on morality and religion. They didn’t always hit the mark in my opinion, but the effort is appreciated for sure.
And for me, to have wrapped all of this up in ancient history myths, aesthetics, and motifs made it even better. I love this stuff. I suffered through Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the most bloated game of all time, simply because I love this stuff. I was not expecting to literally go down deeper into the depths of the underworld and find the Egyptian version of it, and the Sumerian version of it. I was not expecting to confront the god of the underworld himself, his Hades ass, his Pluto ass, his ancient aliens ass floating in space smugly telling me about how pitiful humans are while he also gives me an exposition dump about how he’s the biggest simp of all time.
So glad I kept playing for the fourth ending. After I got the second ending I considered being done with it. Maybe I’m just pessimistic about games sometimes but whenever a game has multiple endings, specifically when at least one of them is about “how many NPCs can you save?”, I just sometimes assume that all of the endings are similar variations of each other. So to not only discover that’s not the case, that there’s a lot more to the fourth and final ending, that was a very refreshing and welcome surprise.
It also has a ton of little things sprinkled throughout in terms of objects, trinkets, relics, tools, etc, with little definitions for them. It was pleasing for me as an amateur dipshit who has a passing interest in ancient history stuff.
It also subverted my expectations in terms of the actual ‘gameplay’. Following the opening bit, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was now playing a glorified walking sim with dialogue options. So to actually get a bow and to actually be able to use it in a stretch of the game that is much more focused on combat than I ever would’ve thought, uh pretty cool I guess? It was a welcome change of pace and I certainly did not hate it, but it’s also not good in any technical sense. It’s tolerable for what it is. I liked getting the golden bow and realising the pathways it opened for me with its abilities.
Now for the actual beat-to-beat and word-for-word storytelling and writing… A mixed bag sometimes. Some of the philosophising on religion in particular is a bit ham-fisted and almost preachy, and perhaps not as clever as I imagine the writer of this game thinks it is. I sometimes wanted more out of the characters because in some ways it is very character-driven in the sense that you’re meant to want to be able to save all of these people, or most rather (fuck you Desius.) And in that regard it left me wanting a bit more with some of the NPCs.
But y’know, considering how low the bar is for cleverness and thoughtful writing in video games, at least in my opinion, they did a good job here all things considered. I could nitpick about how I wish the dialogue was a bit sharper and felt more period-appropriate, or about how the player’s occasional modern day references were a bit cringe, but overall I enjoyed the story here despite the execution not being perfect. It’s a nice, brisk, self-contained little story with a few interesting ideas and themes that may inspire some contemplation from the player.
Graphically this game is what it is. It's fine. The facial animations are bad. Some of the textures are sub-standard. But overall, I think it looks fine. The environment is pretty enough to look at and authentic-looking enough to help with immersion. The lighting is good, especially at night or in darker areas.
I enjoyed figuring things out, like how to obtain the bow and deal with the assassin. Sometimes the answer was a lot less complicated than I had assumed. I enjoyed unfolding the clockwork puzzle of what the devs designed and making pieces fit together. And I really enjoyed the good ending, where you meet everyone in the present day. Is it kind of dumb? Yeeaaaaahh. Does it have logic holes? Yeeeaaaahh. But it was nice and it gave me a bit of catharsis. It was worth seeing through to that end.
I’m glad I played this on a whim and I hope these guys get to make another game. The big boy AAA devs could take a few cues from them when it comes to narrative design.

So I finally completed this today (April 16th 2023). Feels like the end of an era. And I'm oddly emotional about it.
To give some background - I'm a casual learner of Japanese. I've been teaching myself it for a long time now. Happy Salvage is the first ever game that I've played from beginning to end solely in Japanese. I read and (tried to!) understand every sentence I came across. I took hundreds of pages of notes and never rushed ahead. I read random NPC dialogue, did side-activities whenever they were available, and generally played it as I would any normal game. It is a bit difficult to attribute a numerical value though, as my experience with HS was much more 'edutainment' than as a standard video game. I went through it all at a snail's pace and got stuck often, because my Japanese is far from fluent. But I would say, all in all, I enjoyed my time with it. There's no way I could've reached the end credits if I hadn't.
So why play through all of Happy Salvage I hear you ask? This super obscure PS1 visual novel that, I assume anyway, most likely flopped in its homeland. After all, there are many other Japanese games that are far more sought after when it comes to being translated so that Western audiences can enjoy them. Well... it all just fell into place to be honest. I happened upon Happy Salvage in some random Youtube video that I was watching; the theme being about PS1 games that never made it overseas. A brief clip of HS was shown and it immediately stood out to me. The tropical locations, the bright visuals and the underwater exploration definitely appealed to me, and so on a whim I downloaded it (through nefarious means >:D). Upon booting it up for the first time, I quickly realised that Happy Salvage was a good match for my intermediate level of Japanese. It wasn't too verbose, the prose was hardly elaborate, and the story generally moved along at a good pace. I also noticed that all the dialogue and narration in the game had subtitles provided - there are no voice-only cutscenes if memory serves - which was perfect for me because my reading skills far exceed my listening skills. And also, if you think about it, isn't it generally a better idea to play a Japanese game that's likely never to be translated than one that is? I dunno - makes sense to me!
Anyway, to give a brief synopsis/description of what Happy Salvage is. It's about 65% visual novel, 35% underwater action/adventure game I would say. You play as Wataru Nanami, a university drop-out who inherits a salvaging company when his dad and uncle go missing. They've racked up a debt and it's up to Wataru and his cousin Marina to pay it off. You do this by diving underwater with a partner and using various tools to scour the ocean floor for valuable items which you can then sell off. There's a lot more to the story though, with Wataru and his gang investigating an ancient culture that has several ruins underwater ripe for exploration, while also making friends and developing bonds, all of whom have their own emotional baggage.
Of course, this premise mostly serves as an excuse to set Wataru up with a harem of adoring ladies, all eight of which have an invisible meter of sorts that you build up affection with as you progress.
They are...
Marina - Wataru's cousin and the main heroine of the game. She's generally a good lass, though quick to anger. It is weird that the vanilla girl in this game happens to be the main character's cousin. I'm not sure how romantic their relationship can get because I didn't pursue it, but... yeah. Ignorance is bliss.
Looly - The very chirpy and enthusiastic granddaughter of a former monarch of one of the game's islands. She's royalty of sorts, and gets to go on diving expeditions despite only being 10 years old because she's rich and, well, because this is some anime shit. Not nearly as precocious or annoying as you would assume. Being just a kid, she's not as involved in the story as some of the other cast members, which suits me fine, because I'd rather the game not have any of that loli nonsense at all. Again, I don't know how her route is resolved by the end, and I'd rather keep it that way!
Elissa - A tomboy and mechanical prodigy who constructs most of Wataru's toolkit and salvaging equipment along with her grumpy grandfather. Blighted by some generic brittle bone condition, she has a fragile disposition and seems the most tragic of the cast. I really liked Elissa by the end to be honest.
Miranda - The classic tsundere. A rival salvager to begin with, she's hostile towards Wataru and anyone else wanting to help her. Wouldn't you know it though, she has a heart of gold and an ailing little brother to keep alive, and joins Wataru's team after realising the true power of friendship and all that bollocks. A predictable arc, but she's another likeable presence.
Ranai (or is it Lanai?) - A spirited tribeswoman who can communicate with animals and for some reason has a gigantic belt substituting as a bikini top. She's a bit demented and I'm not sure how much of that is intentional.
Alma - A doll/cyborg constructed centuries prior that had broken down on an abandoned mobile island before being discovered by Wataru's crew and fixed by Elissa. Yes, it is as absurd as it sounds. She doesn't engage in any diving. As you would guess, Alma becomes less detached and more sentient/human-like as the story progresses, though it's done in a subtle and gradual manner. Her backstory and flashback scenes can be genuinely moving, despite how silly her character may seem on paper.
Panache - A missionary and the daughter of the priest on the game's hub island. Like Alma, she doesn't do the whole diving thing for some reason. Very quiet and soft-spoken, literally so. Her voice recordings are very low in the mix for some reason and it's hard to make out what she's saying at times. You have to go through a specific set of tasks to 'unlock' her route, so I'm thinking she might be a bonus character or something of that ilk. She's a cool lass either way.
Roshidy - A marine archaeologist and university professor, who happened to be Wataru's teacher before he dropped out. She catches wind of his antics and reunites with him, wanting to get in on the salvaging action for her own research. Mostly an elegant and classy lady, she gets a bit hands-on once drinking is involved. She also dresses very inappropriately when it comes to diving underwater. Not that I'm complaining. Needless to say, Roshidy's intro scene set off about five different kinks in me and she's probably the best thing about Happy Salvage. Before Sadayo Kawakami, there was Professor Roshidy. You better believe this was the dame I hooked up with by the end credits.
During the course of the story, you make choices which effect who you end up with, and other systems are in place too, like how often you take someone salvaging with you and if you treat them well. Take care not to hit your partner with your speargun during a dive, because they'll remember it! And while there definitely are some creepy elements and cultural idiosyncrasies that just won't sit right with a general Western audience, I would say that one of the strongest facets of Happy Salvage is its cast. They're (mostly) a super endearing, positive, proactive bunch of do-gooders, and the game as a whole is elevated by their good will and camaraderie with each other. Yes, there are anime tropes by the dozen, but nobody here is particularly irritating, or irrational, or downright stupid. Happy Salvage has a great central cast and it was a pleasure to spend time in their company (mostly).
The underwater exploration and salvaging is the meat of the game in terms of pure gameplay. It's... serviceable at best. Losing oxygen because you came into contact with a deadly fish is a regular annoyance, but the further you progress, the more oxygen you can hold in a canister, and hostile sea life becomes less of a problem. And thankfully, all in all you don't have to spend too much time doing the whole salvaging thing. It's especially helpful to pay attention to a video walkthrough like I did for some of these sections, as there can be puzzles involved, or not-so-clearly defined objectives to partake in in order to move the story forward.
And so my time with Happy Salvage has ended. It was a lot of time. Maybe too much. But I put my knowledge of the Japanese language to use, and it got me through the game while understanding most of what was going on. And along the way I learnt a lot more too. So it feels like an accomplishment to reach the end credits. I'm a little relieved, but also saddened that it's over. The same way a lot of people are sad when a Persona game ends. It was a long trip with a lot of friendly faces, and now that it's over, it feels like there's a hole where it used to be. Barring some stressful salvaging sections, Happy Salvage is textbook 'comf'. It's breezy, good-natured and a perfect summer game. While I understand why it wasn't localised in the West due to some problematic story elements, I feel it's a shame it will never reach a Western audience. The probability of a fan translation seems low, since the game doesn't appear to be on many people's radars. But I can confidently say, as someone who played the translations of Iru!, Dr. Slump and Aconcagua, that Happy Salvage is a much better game than any of those.
If you're reading this review and you feel enticed to maybe check out Happy Salvage because of it, I sincerely hope that one day you'll get that opportunity, without a language barrier standing in the way of you doing so. It's a hidden gem that deserves a wider audience than the one it got.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is my favourite game of all time period. It is a masterclass in storytelling, it's world never stops surprising me. Its secrets are still being discovered to this day. The gameplay feels amazing and the hunting system is on another level. It's massive campaign, distinct characters, honour system, soundtrack, score, story beats is all of which I find perfectly executed. I have rebeat it more times than any other game. I highly recommend a high honour play through, and I am of the belief that it is the best story path for it. It is what gifted me so many feels. Arthur Morgan, no matter how you play, is still a deep and phenomenal protagonist, this is all thanks to the amazing writing team and the performance by Roger Clark. Every character is fleshed out, and the more you investigate into them, the deeper they go. I remember the first time I walked into Dutch's tent and found a script by his bedside of the speech he just gave in the mission before. This is a testament to how far games have come. And even in 2023 it feels as if it could have came out yesterday. Theres so much to say, but some things just need to be experienced. I have never felt so fulfilled by a game, it is my definition of perfection.