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It's really interesting to think that Atlus apparently wasn't thinking about continuing their mainline Shin Megami Tensei series after the completion of If. That explains a fair bit about why this game, in a lot of ways, feels like a reboot of the series. This is also not to forget that the team wanted to make this game the best it could be and not miss any marks in its potential. Generally speaking, this is a goal most developers have, but it's not uncommon to see pitfalls in the end result because of missing time, skills, and the like. Nocturne was fortunately afforded all of these, and so with its lengthy period of conception and development, its small team made way for a game that's near-perfect to me in a lot of ways. It still has a few slight issues, but none that I can really hold against it.
In fact, it's a little tricky to put into words what I really like about this game outside of the excellent gameplay. The game at a lot of points feels more akin to an introverted experience that one might keep to themselves than one that can be broken down in a myriad fashion and shouted from the rooftops. Much of that comes from the deliberate atmosphere that the game has and I really adore it for that; more games ought to have this sense of comforting isolation. Some of the other SMT games do have it to some degree, but this one is the most overt out of the ones I have played thus far. It also makes jokes related to this game an all the more apt juxtaposition, like this ad for it G4TV once aired.
SMT games did struggle to keep gameplay fresh for a little bit. New entries during the fifth generation still boiled down to the simple demon summoning and fusion mechanics with standard turn-based gameplay that maybe had some odd alterations mixed in (see Devil Summoner with the loyalty system). Compared to what Final Fantasy was doing with each entry then, it made the series look a little barebones in comparison. However, Nocturne introduced the press turn system which has become a mainstay for the mainline games; seeing some additional use in that mobile game DX2 and the Digital Devil Saga games as well. Maybe it's a little weird to get the hang of initially, but that confusion shouldn't last long. Fundamentally, your entire party has a shared set of turns they can use, and certain outcomes can extend or reduce how long the player phase goes on for. Normally this would just be one turn per party member, but you can get fancier than that. Things like passing a turn, getting a critical hit, or getting at an enemy's weakness will count as half of a turn letting you move an additional time. On the other hand, having moves miss, be reflected, drained, or nullified will use up more than one turn; sometimes all of them. There's a little more nuance to it besides that, but in the end it's a rather simple idea that can lead to really fun (or devastating) outcomes. It all depends on how you've built your team and strategize. Well, mostly, there's still the standard randomness typically seen in an RPG, of course.
The player character, Demi-fiend, is treated like a blank slate to build stats and moves on. You can choose a stat of his to raise on leveling up, but in addition can also find magatamas throughout that give you certain resistances to swap out and moves to add to your skill list. Some of these are much harder to get than others, but most of the practical ones not so much. Many of them can be bought from stores or by doing a neat side quest, and it's not required to get them all. Though, the final one you get for collecting the first 24 is absolutely busted, despite you getting it really late in the game and having to suffer through the Puzzle Boy minigame to get it. Said minigame is an homage to Atlus' old puzzle series of the same name (in Japan at least). I like those games from the little bit I've played, but you have to do 20 stages in one go and they get very challenging. The option to get back to the normal game and resume later on would have been cool, but that's beside the point. Magatamas are handy, and make for great team customization.
It's also rather common for RPGs to include elements that intend to add complexity to their games that either don't do anything or push the complexity into convolution. A balancing issue between breadth and depth, perhaps. But this game is rather impressive for having this yet never feeling too overwhelming by allowing a variety of strategies to be viable within a rather simple framework. It also makes good use of pretty much every aspect of the game's systems. One that jumps out at me the most (that I hadn't mentioned already) is that auto battle is actually useful. Especially the case since it's speedy and physical attacks are a solid neutral option oftentimes. I'm not the biggest RPG buff, but as far as I know, systems like that are usually not very helpful unless you wanna die. A couple pitfalls come from the Luck stat on the Demi-fiend not being very handy since it just lowers the chance of being cursed by your magatama, which itself is already pretty rare. Demon negotiations are also a bit weaker in this game. They're much more simplified to the point where scoring a new demon to summon hilariously becomes almost complete chance, save for a few instant recruit scenarios (i.e. some skills fare better depending on who is talking to whom). It's pretty funny to joke about, but when you actually have to deal with it and demons start robbing you of your items and macca, not so much. I do think it was nice that they wanted to make it more accessible to newer players, but the overreliance on randomness makes things a bit annoying. Similarly, demon fusion is great as usual, and lets you choose which moves you can transfer, but not really. In order to get some combination of skills you want in a demon, you have to go in and out of the menu until the fusion preview randomly selects the ones you want. I don't think manipulating this was intentional at all though, as they probably would have implemented choosing skills directly if so. So having to game that system slightly is an annoyance, particularly since lower-level skills like Kidnap and Pester are more likely to be selected, and personally I don't want more demons with negotiation skills.
In fact, practically all of the minor quality of life peeves I have are addressed in the Hardtype mod. Cool! It's a much more technical version as well, but it's also still got the random skill transfers which I'd imagine would make me want to vomit a bit when preparing for some of the late-game encounters. The recent remaster does outright fix that though, but it also looks like it has more things that would aggravate me personally, like the battle music still being compressed when it doesn't need to be. Thus, I'll likely still prefer this version over it.
The setting in this game is also fascinating. This game uses a contemporary world, but, whoops spoilers, the world (i.e. Tokyo) "ends" in the first couple minutes of the game, and its remains become this surreal spherical landscape called the Vortex World. Old places like Shibuya and the Diet Building are warped, not beyond recognition, but far beyond how they would have originally felt. Nearly everyone from the previous world died, so the NPCs are primarily demons, human-like creatures called Manikins, and the spirits of the dead. That description on paper probably sounds hellish, but like I said earlier there's a rather comforting feeling to it. Series artist, Kazuma Kaneko, envisioned the player running around the desert naked, and exploring the world map isn't too far off from that. Many of the locations also have aspects of Buddhism, Gnosticism, and then some in their appearance, and it makes every dungeon ooze with memorability. Kabukicho and the Obelisk are usually first to come to mind for me, and I really think the Amala Network's look would make for a trippy interior in a hotel. There are a lot of strange things like this and such that are never fully explained. They just exist as idiosyncratic phenomena. And of course, I'd be remiss to forget mentioning the outstanding soundtrack by Shoji Meguro, Toshiko Tasaki, and Kenichi Tsuchiya. There is not a single song in it that isn't solid; even the ambience tracks used are perfect. An excellent OST for playing on the go, for sure.
Earlier games played more with the idea of a law vs. chaos setting, but this game leans much more into the chaos side, leaving it to the player to choose which of three doctrines will govern the world (called Reasons). You also have several options for rejecting them as well, making for six possible endings. Gameplay-wise, they don't affect too much save for changing which of the bosses you fight near the end. The exception being the True Demon Ending which requires you beat an extra dungeon that's available to you closer to the start of the game. For the most part, the game gives you positives and negatives for every outcome which makes the decisions feel nonjudgmental and respected. There's no definitive best ending, and only what you decide to make of them. The closest one to a bad ending being the one I accidentally got this time around, which is pretty funny, so I give it a pass. The cast of characters is also very small and major cutscenes are kept to a minimum, which gives things a little less intimacy, but they're always cool and visually remarkable. I find it interesting that the aforementioned remaster gives the cutscenes voice acting; not a downside most likely, but I do think this a rare example of a modern game that benefits from not having any there.
I do also find it interesting that this game gave this series its reputation for being tough as nails. The developers designed much of this game for accessibility and it shows since it's rarely tedious, however it does require you to play by its rules. Matador is the first boss that really makes that apparent. If you're focusing on having a higher level, you're probably still going to have a hard time because the more efficient way to play is by crafting a team that can take the most advantage of the press turn system in a given fight. Once you understand that, the game is rather doable. Of course, I often still died a lot. Partly because the sort of creative gimmick each boss has requires a different strategic approach, and partly because sometimes the game just feels like picking on you.
The original Japanese version of Nocturne didn't include any of the parts related to the True Demon Ending. Those were all added into the definitive version subtitled Maniax, which was the version that ended up being localized for the West. Out of all of the definitive versions of Atlus games I've played, this is the only one that doesn't make changes and additions that feel overly jarring and out of place. The exception to this being Dante/Raidou's inclusion. Though that "Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry" series badge on the European cover is legendary, so I'll take it.
Unsurprisingly, with how long the development of this game was, there's a ton of unused stuff. A handful of unused songs, dungeons that look trippier than the ones in the final release, and a UI that looks closer to the ones seen in the fifth-gen SMT games just to list a few. It looked like a completely different game, and I'm glad the developers have showcased early development on it, even if there's no prototype builds publicly accessible. I find this to be an excellent game as it fosters a unique style and never slacks on substantial gameplay. I think with the next playthrough I might finally go for the hard difficulty (not the Hardtype mod). It's just for a good challenge, but hopefully changes like not being able to run from battle and items costing thrice as much don't drive me nuts. After all, this game would never take advantage of my innate gullibility.

Nintendo's early explorations of the NES Zapper took two different forms. While Duck Hunt (1984) is the best-known example of a fixed shooter, Gumshoe (1986) offered a dynamic side-scrolling formula in a rather absurd platformer concept. All the major Japanese developers tried to use the Zapper in one of their games, with little success. Gotcha! The Sport! (1987) by Sanritsu Denki and LJN had very poor ergonomics, while the NES port of Taito's Operation Wolf (1989) gutted the arcade title. Around the same time, Sunsoft released Freedom Force, which was designed specifically for the NES. With its automatic horizontal scrolling, the game was reminiscent of Hogan's Alley (1984), but differed in that it spawned enemies continuously, not just during still scenes. The player takes on the role of Rad Rex, an anti-terrorist operative tasked with rescuing hostages from a plane hijacked by a group of anarchists.
The title's difficulty is particularly harsh, requiring almost impossible levels of reaction, especially given the poor accuracy of the Zapper. Enemies start firing a few tenths of a second after coming out of hiding, draining the player's health bar in a matter of moments. The main problem lies in the way the game dispenses ammunition and recharges the player's health bar. Instead of placing the items on the actual shooting area, like all other games that use the Zapper, Freedom Force makes them appear in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, away from the action. Because their timer is so short, the player is forced to keep a constant eye on this part of the screen and be prepared to make a long motion to shoot for the refills. This makes it difficult to focus on the enemies and adjust one's aim. Most of the time, the player is not quick enough to get the bonuses or loses the recovered health immediately after a deadly salvo from enemies that have appeared in the meantime. The player can also swap weapons by shooting the corresponding bonus, but the effects are insignificant. The only exception is the grenade launcher, which decimates everyone on the screen – enemies and innocent civilians alike – and proves to be an exceptional downgrade.
Despite the brevity of the experience – just five stages, each lasting just a few dozen seconds – Freedom Force is remarkably unfair and unpleasant, never helped by the disconcerting and completely out-of-place Hangman word-game interludes. Perhaps most notable is the presence of on-screen blood, though it never approaches the gore of Narc (1988) – whose censorship focused more on drug references – or Hokuto no Ken (1986). More generally, Freedom Force is riddled with design ideas that exacerbate the NES Zapper's already wayward handling. The result is a forgettable experience bathed in an obnoxious depiction of ultra-virile masculinity.

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It's a fascinating alternative timeline to an already fascinating
anime. Unfortunately some of the vibes are lost consuming it in this way and Lain as an IP is heavy on the vibes but it's better to lower the barrier of entry and actually interact with the media than just forever have it on the list of things to get around to. At least for me.
I'm not big brained enough to understand Lain going in raw. I watched the anime in college a long time ago and kind of hated it but luckily the anime and the game both have a very lovely hand holdy fanbase willing to explain it all to a dumb dumb like me. After a re-watch of the anime and a playthrough of the game, I get the hubbub. It's all very neato.

My favorite Katamari entry, made more easily accessible with some nice visual touch-ups. It’s genuinely impossible for me to play this game without resting into a default :D face every time I boot it up. I love it so much.
The soundtrack is my favorite in the series, the levels are constantly inventive, and the whole narrative thread of taking requests from fans of the first game is so pointed and hilarious, especially considering Keita Takahashi’s reluctance to make a follow-up in the first place. I’m honestly glad he did, because this one is something special.

I liked the colourful PS2/Gamecube era looking artstyle and hud, I like the concept of boss weapons being weaknesses to the level in addition to just the boss at the end, and that’s it. This game is otherwise atrociously bad. It controls like ass, the graphics and animations look stodgy and incomplete, having to dash into enemies to absorb them doesn’t have the same satisfaction as blowing them up, the levels are just plain poorly thought out with infinite air dashes trivializing platforming, but with cheap enemy placement, cheap insta-kill obstacles, and the bosses having cheap insta-kill attacks that’ll all be sure to cheat a death or two out if you. Then there’s all the little technical things, the way mouths don’t move when characters speak, the sound bugging out, clipping issues galore, and countless other glitches. Blatant levels of polish were not applied here, and I could only imagine how backers must’ve felt when they got their hands on it after anticipating it for so long.

I'm a weirdo who did Farewell before the C-sides, but as of two days ago I achieved 100% completion not counting golden berries because I'm not that much of a masochist. Probably the only modern indie precision platformer I'm ever going to 100% like this or say I've thoroughly enjoyed. Also trans rights are human rights.

one of the games that made me love ps2. sly was always my favorite of the playstation mascot platformers at the time (jak and ratchet are still pretty great too.) the artstyle, the characters, the story... it's all a lot of fun. the presentation reminds me of those cartoons that present themself like a more grown up story but targeted towards a younger audience (stuff like ben 10, avatar, teen titans.) i would love to see sly come back.

I play the game.
There are a ton of robots.
This is the worst haiku ever this isn't even funny why did I even make this
Inspiration is a key part of the creative process, we are all inspired by an work of art in some way or another, be it a game, a movie, a book, a painting or whatever you can think off: if something can evoke a feeling of any kind it's very likely that someone will use it as a source for inspiration when creating its own work, which isn't a bad thing in the slightest!... or at least necessarily. As I see it, there are three common possible results when a game takes a lot of inspiration from another one: it can take the reference material as a basis and from there go above and beyond and form its own identity, it can be a sort of cute experience with clear nods to other works but still having its own ideas and spins that make it have at least a bit of value, or it can feel extremely derivative and make you wonder why are you wasting your time playing it instead of the better work it’s based on.
Somehow Haiku, the Robot is all three at the same time.
I needed to start this review like this because Haiku it’s a great example of a game with a great basis and ideas of its own can sometimes be clouded and try to replicate the same feelings other works produced, in this case being both Hollow Knight and the Metroid series, without completely understanding what made those games special and lacking their polish and attention to detail, it’s an amalgam of really good stuff and really jarring and disappointing stuff that I still don’t fully know if it’s better or worse than what I already think it is.
And the fact I’m in the middle of this conundrum in the first place it’s a huge shame, because, and I can’t stress this enough, Haiku, the Robot does have some fantastic ideas of its own! The enemy and boss design is simple yet ingenious, the healing mechanic being also tied to the money is a really cool idea that for the most part works really well, some areas like the Factory Facility and the Forgotten Ruins are pretty inspired and fun to traverse and the feeling of progression is steady and the upgrades feel like they have true impact, which is some a really important thing in Metroidvanias specially and they pull it off pretty well.
The problem here is not that Haiku doesn’t have good stuff, ‘cause it sure does, but overall, I can’t scratch this feeling of deja vú, a feeling that’s at every corner of the game; in its story, its areas, hell even the way enemies behave and characters talk, they smell too much of its inspirations, except that not only they all lack the oomf that made them especial in the first place, but there not being as much attention to detail, as much development in certain quest and areas, as much emphasis on characters or combat and as much originality in the boss fights (seriously, it’s mind-boggling how some bosses are exactly the same as some in Hollow Knight only with another appearance, and this not me being a HK nerd, like there are bosses that follow the EXACT design patterns as the ones in the funny bug game and it really broke my immersion at times).
And even with all that said, it has flaws on its own: the chip system seems cool at first, but there are some, like the fast healing one, that break the game in half, others like the one that shows secrets without really revealing there and useful, but some are just too powerful and feel like an obligatory use, and I’d go as far to say that some should had just been full-blown upgrades. And also, and maybe this is just a me thing, but in the end there’s an attempt at a plot-twist about something which… we already knew. Maybe it was just me who even without caring too much about what was happening caught onto it, but I don’t know, it feels like that information was already told in some ways, and it being the ‘’grand reveal’’ is the equivalent to a Scooby-Doo monster turning out to be a human, only not as funny.
And in the end, all that I’m left with is a profound feeling of bittersweetness, ‘cause the game is fun, is well designed and it has really cool concepts, but it isn’t fully its own thing, it isn’t as special as it should be and it’s attempts at replicating wonder and mystery result in it being lesser that it could have been. This one was a really hard one to write ‘cause It’s just me criticizing a game that in the end I kinda enjoyed and had fun with and clearly was made with a loving passion for metroidvanias and videogames; it’s unique, referencial and deravitive all at the same time, and it’s just sad that I can’t just call it only unique.
However, there’s a robot that references Wall-E, which is not only something that I approve but also made want to watch Wall-E again, and that’s a positive If I’ve ever seen one.

Wonderful game in nearly every aspect. Brings Kirby 64 in particular to mind, which is always welcome if you ask me. Had a blast through and through, bar emulator issues that led to me switching cores halfway through the game.
But on the other hand, what was their problem? When writing out the ending, specifically. What was their problem

It's easy to overlook this game as just being a GBA port of the All-Stars version of 2, but the addition of 5 red coins for each level honestly does a lot for these levels. It encourages exploring the different routes in each one, and makes the game just slightly more engaging IMO. I feel like every time I play SMB2 I take the exact same route, and these wonderful red coins were able to break me out of this. Also I love the addition of crunchy ass audio clips playing for everything, I love Toad screaming his head off plucking turnips out, I love Birdo speaking full English in a voice she would never have again, I love that most of the bosses are just obviously Charles Martinet doing a slightly different voice. Fun version, check it out if you haven't, it has Mario Bros like every Mario game on GBA, what's not to love.