15 Reviews liked by Metamayto

"What simple nonsense."
I certainly consider myself a fan of Studio Elan and have been following them since their debut game "Highway Blossoms", but after a three year wait since their last effort—one I didn't overly enjoy—I was eager to see what they could do with Please Be Happy.
Miho is a fox girl—a "Gumiho"—once stricken by the cruelty of people, but is also saved by one as well: the seemingly contradictory sides of humanities coin leave her confused and mistrusting of anyone except "her person".
This dichotomy is the heart of PBH's sincere journey from mistrust to love; an aimless survival instinct transformed to a wide net of ponderies and passions. Is it truly worth aiming for more in life when we can survive well enough by ourselves, and risk so much by reaching out to strangers?

Miho's very existence is a defence mechanism; she causes people to forget her after 24 hours have passed. It isn't something she consciously realises either—only when Aspen, a barista, recognises her not a day after her last visit does Miho absolutely shatter. Her self-described "armour" was breached and it genuinely terrifies her. It's such a well executed scene, and sets up the rest perfectly.
What follows is a deftly woven tale of growth for Miho and the townsfolk of Wellington. Bit by bit they pull her out the tough shell she hides in with silly conversations, genuine joys, and of course, heartening romance. In fact, I'd say most of PBH's runtime is made up of these seemingly low stake scenes. However, it's the flawless transition from them to drama that absolutely feels a cut above anything Elan have ever put out before. Miho learns that everyone has joys to share, and so to does everyone have anxieties.
It’s these anxieties that are the absolute high points of the story, for all of the main cast. Aspens grounded relatability set my expectations somewhat low for her route, but her battle with what her passion becomes was deceptively nuanced. Likewise, Juliet’s disarming selflessness reveals itself to be not quite an empty nicety, so much a heartbreaking turning point. I haven’t finished her route yet, but even just her common route story was amongst the highpoints of games I played this year.
Of course, this brings us back to Miho. Come the end of her journey Miho faces a mirror; one that reflects what she could have become. Against ridicule and hate she offers the hand of kindness she was once extended, and in one final gambit, the mirror ridicules Miho for the triteness of the words she lives by. The final knife twist of PBH, is that these words weren’t something Miho was told, but ones she came to live by and understand herself; a revelation that completely shatters the mirror.
I could go on about how I think the excellent ost and art compliment the game wonderfully, or how the (full english!) voice acting punctuates the story perfectly, and they do, don’t get me wrong. However, it’s without a doubt the heartening story of a little fox learning empathy and love that hit me here. The moment the mirror shatters PBH’s story comes together to make it feel so, so earned, but it’s the deep respect shown for people who aren’t ready to take Miho’s journey yet that made it stand out even more in my mind.
Something to the effect of the quote I started on crossed my mind even before playing, but by the end, I definitely no longer felt the same way. This almost certainly was an intentional move, and I can’t help but love how the sincerity of this story worked out. Turns out the three year wait was worth it, and what a wonderful success Studio Elan have to show for it.

hopefully they haven't fucking died or something

Pretty fucking great. If you want a Metroidvania with a higher focus on exploration play this, I can't recommend it enough

Lovingly and caringly crafted. While I hoped for a creepy Slay the Spire I was more than happy with what I got.
This game to me is a walk in the woods at night, stories round a campfire.
I have rewritten the ending in my head but without the sandbox the dev provided I would have nothing close.

This has to be one of the best romance works I've ever had the pleasure to play through, it being a GL VN makes it way better.
I fell in love with the setting, with the character dynamics and chemistry, with the development, with the build up. For being tamer than, say, A Kiss for the Petals, this was fairly more genuine than anything I've ever experienced...
This novel actually wanted to make me try, specially through those moments in life when you don't know what to do after harsh experiences, and for that, it holds a special place in my heart.

I'm writing this shortly after finishing the main story. I planned to spend longer, picking away at finishing the Pokedex until it was mostly complete before finishing the main quest. But, writing in February 2022, there are a ton of games coming out this month I want to be free to play; Dying Light 2, Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring, and more. I'm fully confident I will continue to play this game for the rest of the year, or atleast as long as it takes to fill out the Pokedex, finish all side requests, and whatever else I find to do. Because only a month into the year, I know this will be my favorite game of 2022. Not because it's the best, not because I won't play other good games, but because of what it means to me in my soul.
Pokemon Legends represents a lot of really great things, most clearly an escape from the funk Pokemon has found itself in for the last decade or more. While I've personally thoroughly enjoyed every mainline game enthusiastically, I still had my issues. I thought it was a series that lacked direction; while obviously far from being a straight up JRPG, where it wanted to lean seemed unknown. Most fans seemed to just want the game to be more hard, targeted at the demographic of mid 20-30 year olds that grew up on the first 3 generations that have know aged out of the property on a difficulty level. And for a while I resented these people, enhancing the difficulty wasn't going to solve deeper issues and I thought they were just failing to verbalize actual issues, playing some fan made enhancement hacks like Sacred Gold have opened my eyes to the fun simple changes like that can make. I still think that isn't the direction Game Freak should ever go, or would ever go for that matter, but I understand. Speaking of which, what audience does Game Freak want to cater towards? Simply, all of them. Boys, girls, kids, teens, adults, any age or gender or experience with games. I'm sure a giant chunk of Pokemon's profit comes from selling merchandise, I'm positive there's a huge chunk of people buying cute Pokemon plushes without having ever touched the games. It's a multimedia empire, and locking off the core pillar of the property to people with adequate gaming experience would never happen. I thought it should lean more in the style of the anime for a while, deemphasize the gyms, instead focus on the details of any given individual Pokemon, exploring this world, meeting characters with random side quests for you. When Let's Go came out, my perspective matured a bit to just thinking it should focus on the catching aspect, like Let's Go did. Catch Em All is such an iconic catchphrase that fits the series great, and we had slowly creeped away. By Sword and Shield, I had settled into feeling like the main appeal of Pokemon was the creatures, the visual appeal and designs, and focus should be directed towards showcasing that as much as possible. Pokemon Snap last year was excellent for that, seeing Pokemon outside of static battle poses and actually living in their natural environments felt shocking and extremely charming.
This is all to say, Pokemon Legends Arceus is a game I have been wanting for years.
By the end of the first area, maybe 2-3 hours into the game, I had spent 15-20 hours just wandering around, engaging in the core loop of this game. Wander into an area, catch a bunch of new Pokemon in natural seamless ways, try and complete Pokedex entries. It feels like a collectathon, except instead of coins and jewels or whatever it's hundreds of unique living animals. It'll take my time to drill into the subtleties that make this system work as well as it does for me, but things like encounter variety, different levels/types of aggro, the pacing of a dex, and the exact size of the worlds certainly play a huge role.
The battle style I think also fits this game really well. It's simplified in a lot of ways, which I think is a good decision given how the focus has shifted, but still with enough new depth to make meaningful decisions. I went into the final fights 10-15 levels under and was able to pull through with good use of the games systems. It also feels like the stat distribution has been curved a bit, making low level Pokemon stronger and high level ones weaker, so as to make fights a bit more balanced at all stages. Your level 20s can still have a bit of trouble with a level 8, while also taking on level 35s. The battle screen is also well stylized, letting you choose your own framing with black bars on the top and bottom for dramatic effect.
I have so much more to say, about this games style and its story and its worlds and so on. Some of its main criticisms I have disputes with, and I have some undisputed issues of my own. But my hands are tired, I want to talk about this at length in a different form later, and I think it's clear that I love this game in spite of any faults. Please play this game, and if you're Game Freak, please expand on this premise.

Truly a hidden gem, this game feels like a love letter to old school nintendo classics. The gameplay is a bit of a mix of dungeon crawling and exploring the overworld talking to npcs. Finding little hidden secrets is satisfying, npc dialogue is charming and legitimately funny. The difficulty is one point of contention, this game is really hard. Expect to die many times if your ego is too inflated to tone down the difficulty. Would also do well to keep some paper on hand as there is no journal tracking sidequests and a lot of puzzles are very difficult to work out mentally. If you have fondness or nostalgia for retro adventure games like Zeldas at all, you simply need to play this game.

It was pretty imperative that they didn't miss with this one with the 2D series banking on this game for its big comeback and it's my pleasure to inform you they didn't fucking miss.
Metroid Dread is easily the best game MercurySteam has ever developed and they've finally crafted a Metroidvania here that can go toe to toe with the best of the genre. Presentation wise I really enjoy what they've done here. The backgrounds are extremely detailed with biomes that get more and more interesting as you progress. The cold, clinical atmosphere the game often creates is evocative of the rest of the series, but there is definitely a bit of a sterile, less natural element at play here (with the exception of a few areas) which I think gives the game something distinct from its predecessors. I actually really like what they've accomplished with the 2.5D look as well, lighting is often used to great effect and the material work still manages to look good with the side view perspective. The only downside in the presentation, imo, is the music. Young composers and series newcomers Soshi Abe and Sayako Doi handled the music for this game. I like the fact that they've injected some new blood here but while I certainly don't think the soundtrack is bad, the focus is more on Fusion style ambience (and still not quite as well done as Fusion) than Super Metroid's perfect mix of ambient tracks and melodic yet still atmospheric tracks, which I loved. I hope that the series focuses more on Super's musical style in the future as I do think this did sometimes detract from the series' signature atmosphere.
The story is another thing that is somewhat mixed for me. I think a lot of people were expecting a very specific story to come out of this game after Fusion and if those people refuse to accept anything else they will probably be disappointed. I think the story here is still good, with hype moments, good reveals, and stellar cutscene direction, plus it manages to avoid essentially all of Other M's myriad of issues while still not shying away from some of the ideas presented in both it and Fusion (though mostly Fusion). That said, it ends just a bit too abruptly after the big climax and it's certainly not doing quite as much on a thematic level as Fusion was, though there is some interesting stuff going on here that I think should not be overlooked!! Overall I'm saying I enjoyed it and really don't think the story should be dismissed just because it wasn't directly following up on what Fusion set up (I think that could well be still to come for this series anyway).
The level design and movement are absolutely best in class. This is like, an RE4 level of fine tuned to me. It feels like a middle ground between Fusion (you always have an objective) and Super Metroid (you are not told where to go to reach that objective). They do block off backtracking a bit more than I'd like occasionally, but it never feels arbitrary or too restrictive as before long you'll acquire whatever item you'll need to break through that backtracking barrier and have things open up again. The way things loop back in on themselves and the design guides you back and forth through the game's various zones feels masterful and extremely well paced, it is by far one of the game's greatest achievements. On a micro design level, the level of execution required in some of these ability based puzzles to get Missile/Energy tanks is devious but never cheap, requiring both thoughtful planning and precise execution. This execution is never an issue because the movement is so fantastic. All abilities feel vital while also never being frustrating to control once you get a hang of the learning curve on some of them. No hesitation this is one of the best feeling Metroidvania games I've ever played.
Finally I'd like to talk about combat and the EMMI, because this is where the game shines even brighter and what elevates it to a masterclass in my book. EMMI zones are the game's biggest deviation from the classic Metroid formula, evolving the ideas present in Zero Mission's stealth and Fusion's SA-X to a whole new level. I was definitely a bit worried about how this would be handled but it turned out fantastic. There always manages to be tension in these zones, whether it's a new trick the EMMI throw at you that you must adapt to or a particularly challenging bit of level design to navigate through when one is on the hunt. The EMMI's AI is also extremely well realized, and compares really favorably to even the best pursuer enemies in video games (eat your heart out, Resident Evil!) Working in 2D and the specific concept of the EMMI has allowed them to completely avoid the issues with pursuers in many 3D games where it's all too easy to catch them fumbling around on corners or not reacting to your movements in a nuanced manner. It feels like they are genuinely smart without just automatically knowing where you are, which is the perfect accomplishment for videogame stealth I feel. I think they've also been smart in how they sometimes withhold the part of the expected gameplay loop where you find the Omega Cannon and defeat the zone's EMMI, sometimes for much longer after you've initially set foot in its zone for the first time. It makes it all the more satisfying when you finally get the abilities that allow you to discover where the cannon in that area is and be able to take the fight to the EMMI.
This is hands down the best combat in the series, made better by the fantastic movement I mentioned earlier and how they've refined all combat abilities to ensure they can be used without breaking momentum. Combat feels punchy, fluid, and all the other buzzwords you commonly associate with "good game combat." This is made most clear in the game's bosses, which are absolutely the series best in terms of design and difficulty. I was practically jumping out of my seat with how much fun I was having fighting these things and they tie the whole experience together in a wonderful way.
Play this god damn videogame. Metroid is back. I don't envy Retro, Prime 4 has even more to live up to now.

This game fucking sucks, but you can make literal war criminals wear funny hats, so there's at least SOME redeeming qualities to it

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