I don't know what got into me recently, but whenever I would start up a new game, I would lose interest almost immediately. Could I be experiencing burnout? Instead of going through something new, I opted to replay some games instead. I found solace here; it felt good to play games again. So this game releasing in the midst of my burnout was nice. Katamari is the best kind of comfort food.
I love Katamari! To be more specific, I love Katamari Damacy, the first game. There's something about the original's simplicity that always has me coming back for more. Meanwhile, I only ever played We Love Katamari once. It's a great game, just not as great as the original; at least that's how I remembered it, and after playing this remaster, my opinion still stands, but really, they're both fantastic games. I completely understand when people say this is their favorite Katamari game; the levels have more variety, the soundtrack still goes hard, playing as the cousins is a nice touch, the King's backstory, etc. This remaster also adds a few things, like eternal mode, which was absent from the original's release. Eternal mode allows you to roll around levels without a time limit, which I absolutely adore. There is also an added indicator pointing the player to level goals or a barrier that you are now able to get past. Oh, the Royal Reverie content is there too. It's just five additional levels that let you play as the young King. They're not too great, honestly! A bit underwhelming, in fact.
It really all comes down to rolling shit up, and it's still fun to do so, which is something the games that came after WLK weren't able to accomplish. With Keita Takahashi no longer being involved with the series after the release of We Love Katamari, as corny as it is to say, the series lost a bit of its magic. It just never felt the same afterwards, so that's why I'm glad these Reroll games exist. Now if only we could get a new game that is even remotely comparable to the first two games!
Played through the whole thing with a friend, and throughout our playthrough we went through a wide array of emotions, like pure unadulterated joy laughing at the broken physics or the ridiculous amount of loading screens. We also experienced plenty of suffering, like the ball puzzle in Silver's story, but the best moment was my friend popping off at that scene. He had no idea this was going happen, and honestly, that made it all worth it in my book. Talking about this game is like beating a dead horse, yada yada. If you can find someone else who is willing to suffer through this with you, I say give it a shot; you might have a blast with it!
I forget when I first played Super Castlevania IV, but it was quite some time ago, and all I really remember is not enjoying it. I've been on a big Castlevania kick lately, and I knew it would finally be time to revisit SCV4. Will I see the error of my ways, or will all the bad memories come flooding back? Yeah, I still don't like this one.
It's not a bad game; it's just completely serviceable. This game feels like what an AI would spit out if you tasked it to make a Castlevania game based on all the previous titles. Story-wise, it's a retelling of the first game, with Simon Belmont taking on Dracula for the first time. In the North American version, the story was altered to take place after Simon's Quest. The gameplay, on the other hand, is a whole other can of worms. The biggest change here is multi-directional whipping. Sounds cool on paper, right? But I'm going to be a snobby, elitist asshole and say this shit stinks. This trivializes most encounters and makes nearly all of the subweapons practically useless. At least you can flail your whip around if you hold the attack button.
Jumping was also changed. In the previous games, your jump was more methodical; you were committed to your jumps. In SCV4, you can adjust your jump midair. I don't mind this as much, but I really do prefer how your jumps were performed in the previous games. Honestly, the most glaring issue here is that I find the overall package boring. I never cared for this game's visual aesthetic, and the soundtrack was just kind of there. Also, why is this game so long? It wasn't until after I finished stage 9 that I realized the game was still going. I replayed Rondo of Blood the day prior to writing this, and that game is a nice, brisk seven stages with branching paths and a second playable character (I would have used Dracula's Curse as an example instead, but I haven't replayed it yet).
Super Castlevania IV kind of just exists. Again, I don't hate it; I just don't find any aspect of it particularly interesting. I get why people like this; 8-way whipping is cool, and more mobility in the air is nice, but for me, I was yearning to go take a nap instead. Ya know, I also wasn't super (heh) into Contra III; maybe I should give that one a second try as well.
I might have spoiled myself by playing Aria of Sorrow before any of the other GBA Castlevanias. To be fair, I did try Circle of the Moon for an hour before I backed out like a coward. My first few hours of playing this, I kept thinking to myself" Man, I can't wait to replay Aria of Sorrow". That thought soon dissipated after unlocking a few of Juste's abilities, and I was able to enjoy myself a bit more. Even the music, which I wasn't really into initially, grew on me.
I brought up Aria of Sorrow a few times, but really the game I should be bringing up is Symphony of the Night. I was reminded of Symphony a lot, like how you just accumulate a bunch of crap in your inventory that you can't get rid of (not as much as Symphony, mind you). If there's one aspect of this game I'll say is better here than in Aria, it's your dash ability. In Aria, Soma only has a backdash, which has a significant amount of cooldown. Meanwhile, in Harmony, Juste has no cooldown on his backdash (just like Alucard in Symphony) while also having a forward dash. But by far the biggest comparison I can make to Symphony is the second castle.
I had no idea this was in the game, so it came as a nice surprise, but this is also where the game started to lose its steam for me. I just don't think "Castle B" is nearly as interesting as the inverted castle in Symphony. Another castle means more ground to cover, and while I think dashing feels great, all your other movement options feel a bit lacking, especially compared to Aria. I know comparing this to a game that came out afterwards is unfair, but I can't help it. Exploring both castles felt arduous towards the end, so much so that I beelined to the end even though I was around 190% map completion. I also found it quite easy to get lost, but I'm also dumb as rocks, so take that point with a grain of salt.
Despite growing a bit tired of this game towards the end, I still came away enjoying it. With how mixed the reviews are for this game, I went in expecting nothing more than a slight improvement over Circle of the Moon, but it's more than that. I will show Circle of the Moon some respect and finish it, but not now. Instead, I'll say this: don't skip this so you can jump right into Aria like I did. You might appreciate it more.
This game sure has some staunch defenders and I think I somewhat understand where they're coming from. The music is a lot more atmospheric compared to other Castlevania OSTs and, uh actually, that's about all I got. It's not as bad as a lot of its detractors say it is, but it's not this misunderstood gem either.
As is (mostly) standard for early 3D games, the camera is a mess at points, usually at times when you don't want it to get fucky. The biggest cause of death in this game isn't the enemies or bosses, it's the one-two combo of the camera and jumping into poisonous water/bottomless pits. Speaking of the enemies, they feel mostly uninspired (except for the skeleton bikers, they're rad). The bosses were quite pathetic, I literally threw axes at Dracula's face, and he couldn't do a thing.
There are two playable characters, Reinhardt and Carrie. I was originally going to play through both campaigns but after finishing Reinhardt's hollow story I opted out of doing so. Carrie is supposed to be the "easy mode" of the game, so if you're curious enough to play this, then it's probably in your best interest to go with her instead. On the subject of easy mode, if you want to see this game through to the end, then select normal difficulty after choosing your file. The game will end early after finishing the Castle Center level.
I actually had this game as a kid, and I know for a fact I never really got much further than the Castle Wall level. I remember the big skeleton boss in the first level and that's about it. I must have shut it off after falling into the poison river one too many times and switched over to Mario 64 or Pokémon Stadium instead. It's not awful, but it's also not good and I even struggle to call it mediocre since I felt almost nothing playing this. From what I hear, Legacy of Darkness is a better experience and retroactively makes this one obsolete, so you should probably just ignore this one altogether.
The original Resident Evil 4 is one of my all-time favorite games. It's not nostalgia. I played it for the first time in 2021. Even before I played RE4, I was of the belief that RE4 never needed a remake and I still stand by that. But Capcom's Resident Evil remakes of the past have been enjoyable, so while I think remaking RE4 is unnecessary, I was willing to bite.
By looking at my rating, I think you can easily guess that I didn't love this game. I won't get into all the specifics. A few of the most liked reviews on this site about this game go over what didn't click with me way better than I could ever have explained it but to summarize it, it just felt like it was missing that oomph. I don't know how else to describe it other than that I probably would have forgotten a lot of the major set pieces if this was my first ever run through of RE4. I don't know what tone the game is going for because the cutscenes are all played out very seriously, but then, in combat, Leon is making dumb (fun) one-liners.
I will mention a few things I did enjoy, like knife parrying. It's pretty rad! I liked that Luis was more present throughout the game and he made for a good AI partner. I really liked what they did with Ashley. She's great in both games, but here the relationship between her and Leon was fantastic. Also, shut up, her redesign is great! What really made me come away from this in a more positive light was whenever a Regenerador was on screen. They're pretty scary in the original but also lumbering to accommodate for your movement in that game. In the remake, however, they're even more terrifying. You have way more open movement, so the Regeneradores are faster; they squirm and jiggle all about. If they're writhing on the floor, they will jump at you. I dunno, I just really liked everything that had to do with the Regeneradores , so A+ there Capcom!
At the end of the day, the game was fine! If I ever need an RE4 fix, then I'll just stick with the original, but glad to see most people are enjoying it. Maybe I'm just jaded.
Recommended by FallenGrace as part of this list.
I may never gain the ability to be even halfway decent at shooters, but I think I can recognize a good one when I see one. Immediately, this game does something I found interesting in that you can do the first four levels in whatever order you feel like, similar to Mega Man in a way. I started with level three, which I actually found the hardest of the first four levels. Don't get it twisted though, just because I found this the hardest of the initial levels doesn't mean the others are a cakewalk. This game is quite challenging and some of the later levels felt like an endurance test.
I don't know if this is a common feature in a lot of other shooters, but unlike most of the ones I've played, picking up a powerup doesn't replace the one you're currently using, instead with the press of the C button you can switch between all your collected weapons, five in total! Although dying will result in you losing your currently equipped weapon, but don't fret, as it seemed like powerups were quite plentiful, at least for me. I don't know what I'd do without my beloved blade and hunter shots. You can press the A button to adjust your ship's speed by a multiple of 25 up to 100 speed and by holding the A button you can adjust it to a specific number of your liking (I mostly kept it at 80 speed).
Upon starting a level, you might notice that the screen can scroll vertically down. Most levels are like this and it's great as it gives you more of a chance to avoid oncoming projectiles. By the way, this game is gorgeous! That parallax scrolling used on the ocean in the first level looks so good! I do have to mention this though, the game suffers from quite a bit of slowdown, but this might be a blessing in disguise. The Saturn and the Sega Ages rerelease of the game remove most, if not all, of the slowdown, but in return, might make the game even more difficult for you. Lastly, before I close this off, I gotta mention the soundtrack; it rocks just like the rest of the game!
Recommended by Shinkiro as part of this list.
My only experience with the Goemon games before playing this were the N64 titles, so I have no idea if this game's story pickups immediately after its predecessor. Here's the story; a weeb general of an unspecified nationality wants to westernize Japan with his army of bunny men. Go to his castle and put a stop to his antics.
The game is an action sidescroller and my initial thoughts were that it felt great to play. Your attacks are quick and snappy. You can select from three different characters. They all have a standard melee attack which can be upgraded and a projectile attack. Goemon is your all-rounder. He swings around a pipe and tosses coins. Ebisumaru is the slowest of the group but hits the hardest and throws shurikens. Sasuke, as you can probably predict, is the most agile of the three but is also the weakest and has a bomb projectile. I honestly stuck with Goemon for my playthrough. It's not like I didn't want to try out the others, but you can only switch characters by saving your game, resetting, selecting your file and then you can choose another character. The other characters are not upgraded and have no money at all, you have to start from scratch, so I just stuck with Goemon.
In a few stages you'll find rideable mechs and, honestly, they're fine! I feel like they slow the pace of the game down but never to a point that they harm my overall enjoyment. At least they were optional for the most part and few and far between. Some levels have alternate exits but I'm not sure if I found any of them. I do know there is a secret boss fight with [Dracula] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pn4ZY39w8xE ) I didn't find. In-between a few of the platforming stages, you'll arrive in towns where you can save your game, heal up, buy temporary upgrades, play mini games to earn money or encounter one of the many references to other Konami games. The game is split up into 6 worlds and at the end of every world you get your tried and true boss fight, but every other boss fight you get an Impact boss fight. This is Impact's first appearance and is clearly inspired by Tokusatsu shows and films. In a later game, it even gets its own theme song! These fights are played in first person. You have a fast jab, a straight punch, a projectile attack, you can block with the L and R buttons and a literal pipe bomb with limited uses. During these fights you have an energy meter that's constantly going down, but before every Impact fight you get an auto scrolling destruction sequence. This is where you'll get energy for the boss fights. The energy you get for these boss fights is fully dependent on how much havoc you cause during these sequences, so don't be afraid to go ape shit! Causing enough destruction is also how you get pipe bombs.
There's not much else to say. It's just a very solid action platformer that doesn't overstay its welcome. You can finish this in about 2 hours and it's not too difficult. This and the rest of the Goemon games on Super Famicom got English fan translations in 2020. Even "The Legend of the Mystical Ninja" got a retranslation! I should probably play that before jumping into the other two, huh?
I played the original River City Girls around it's launch date, and while I know it's not a great game, I still found that some enjoyment could be wrung from it (playing with a friend most definitely helped). Everything is better with a friend. The sprite work is gorgeous and I liked a few bits of the soundtrack. The combat felt fine! Not bad, not great, just fine! This is due to enemies being complete damage sponges. That's about it, though. I remember a few things about the game, but its mostly faded from my puny monkey brain. Now onto River City Girls 2.
It's pretty much the same thing, huh? No, really, I have the same exact praises as I did for the first game. Except now that this is still somewhat fresh in my mind, I can mention a few things I didn't like! The writing is groan-worthy. I hope I'm not alone with wanting to roll my eyes when I hear a character in a game utter the word doggo or the phrase "bye Felicia".
Do you like going across the map to collect a macguffin then slowly bring it back to its destination, all the while tanky enemies bum-rush you from both sides? Do you like repeating this process for six to nine hours? Despite reaching the max level and nearly maxing out my attack stat (two points off) enemies still felt like they took a bit too much damage to fully take down. If my fading memory serves me right, a lot of the enemies that are present here are completely carried over from the first game. Even the map mostly feels the same!
I dunno, I think the game is just fine. I played this with the same friend that played RCG1 with me and we both agreed that it felt very samey. I can't help but think this games existence feels unnecessary. Like, sure, this game might be an overall better experience than the first game, but I don't care! Why was this made (aside from the obvious)? It felt like the same exact shit just longer. Besides the pixel art, I don't think it does anything inherently good or bad. It just kind of exists. Going forward, this might be my go-to example of a 5/10 game. Truly the worst fate any piece of art could succumb to, being completely forgettable.
Recommended by Vee as part of this list.
I'm going to be the odd one out and give this a full one-star rating! This game is part platformer and part fighting game, and on both ends this game fails to give us something that feels even remotely competent.
You start with a platforming stage. You have a dinky punch and a kick with some range. The C button does nothing for now. Your walk speed is about the slowest I've seen in a game, but not to worry, you can hold up to fly around for like three seconds. While in the air, you'll realize that you aren't able to attack. Back to the level, get past a laser, kick tiny robots, fly over some obstacles on the ground, and after about 10 seconds you get to the first boss. Every boss is fought like it's a 1v1 fighting game, but all you have for offensive options is your two basic attacks. You still can't attack while flying, but you are invincible while doing it. You can also duck to stay invincible, but again you can't attack, so really what's the point? The AI sure does love to fly around and duck just to waste your time all the while the timer slowly ticks down. This is also a fighting system with no blocking. I resorted to getting really close to the boss and spamming punch until they went down.
After defeating the boss, you get sent to another platforming level. While here you'll find a level up container. These give you moves for the 1v1 parts and with this one in particular you obtain the most vital move, the double arm throw, which can be activated by pressing B and forward. I didn't mention this earlier, but in these 1v1 fights you have a stamina bar, and you need stamina to perform these moves (the throw requires five stamina). Stamina goes down as you take damage and recovers slowly over time. If your stamina bar drops to three, you can no longer attack, and if it gets below that you can't do a single thing! Thought you could fly around or duck to regain stamina? Nope, tough shit idiot. I recommend spamming the double arm throw. Eventually the opponent will get down to below three stamina, allowing you to slowly walk up to them, pick them up from the ground, and do another throw. Just get them in a loop, who gives shit! In the next platforming level, the C button finally has a function. Pressing C while holding forward allows you to dash. Finally, good mobility! I actually found this to be more of a burden than anything as I kept dashing into enemies or dashing then initiating flight, then flying right into a bomb or laser.
That's about all there is to this game. Shitty platforming with either a molasses-paced walking speed or a dash that's way too fast. Then it's one of the worst feeling fighters out there where the best option is to just spam throw. Double arm throw to be precise, because the enemy can counter your single arm throw. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you probably shut it off due to pure frustration and agony. There are technically no redeeming factors here; it plays like shit and looks like shit (music was fine) but the reason this is a whopping one-star instead of half is because I did have a few laughs. Any game that can make me laugh doesn't deserve a half-star. Those are reserved for pure, unadulterated time vampires.
Photosensitive epilepsy warning this game has quite a few instances of quick flashing lights.
I'm always fascinated by games that combine two genres that normally wouldn't mix. In this instance its pinball and lite RPG mechanics. There are three tables where you can play a classic game of pinball on (I didn't bother with these) and an RPG mode where you, a cute ball thing, have to rescue a princess from "Beezelbub".
The goal is simple; each table has a boss, so defeat them and move onto the next table. As expected of the time, the ball physics aren't great. The ball just bounces all over the place and I found making accurate shots to be a bit troublesome. In between tables you can purchase upgrades at a shop. You can buy stoppers which cover those lanes to the left and right of the flippers. There are also two sets of flipper upgrades that increase how much damage you deal to enemies. You can also increase your attack by simply destroying monsters on the table. Your attack power is indicated by a meter on the bottom left. If you're feeling a bit saucy, you can steal from the shop. Winning results in you walking away with a random selection of items. Lose, and you'll be leaving with a crutch and half your gold missing.
Each table is bigger than a single screen, but there's only one set of flippers, so how can I possibly progress? Well, the flippers are detachable, by pressing up or down on the d-pad it'll send them to the corresponding button press. Every now and then I would forget to send the flippers back down to the bottom of the table, resulting in my ball falling back to the previous table. Luckily you don't have to defeat the bosses again, but trying to get back to the next level is still a pain. Falling back to a previous table will also cut your attack meter by half!
Half frustrating and half charming. It's cute, but the ball physics stink. It sure is a novel concept though! The ending did leave me a bit befuddled. You save the princess, both of them do a funny dance then a hole suddenly appears sucking both of them in causing them to fall on a big magnet creature floating in a dark space that is never mentioned before and destroying it.
I've seen a few reviews on here that claim Katamari Damacy has terrible controls. In Katamari you need both analog sticks to move; move both sticks up to roll forward, down for backwards, hold the left stick up and the right stick down to quickly move the Prince to the left, and vice versa. Rapidly move the analog sticks up and down for a few seconds to perform a dash and you can press both sticks in to do a 180-degree turn. I personally think these controls are perfect; sure, it may take a while to get used to them, but just because they're weird or different doesn't mean they're bad. I kind of see it like tank controls, except I see more people bitch about that. Katamari NEEDS two analog sticks to work! So, what do you get when you put Katamari on a console with only one analog nub? You get one scuffed Katamari game, probably the worst in the series! Everything the right analog stick used to do is now on the four face buttons. Triangle replaces holding up on the right stick and x replaces holding down. For the dash you need to press the nub up and the triangle button alternatively, and for the quick turn press left on the nub and the circle button twice in quick succession. Just like with other Katamari games, you can get used to them eventually (remapping the face buttons to the right analog stick helps) but there are issues beyond the controls here.
This is the third game in the series and is the first game made without the involvement of series creator Keita Takahashi and it shows. Each level plays out the exact same way. Roll up to this amount, then get transported to a new map, timer resets and roll around again. Now repeat this for about 4 and a half hours. This may sound like a normal Katamari game, but the problem is that every level is the god damn same thing every single time. Rollable objects are always in the same position; the size number you need to achieve is the same, and the order the maps appear in is the same; they could have at least randomized them! I didn't count how many maps are in the game, but there's really not too many. Your objective is always the same, just roll and get bigger; it gets mind-numbing real quick. We Love Katamari introduced a lot of stage variety like rolling a sumo wrestler around so he can eat and get bigger for an upcoming sumo match. A boy got caught up with studying and didn't pay his electricity bill; now go roll up fireflies so he can continue his studies. There's a stage where you enter a race and now your Katamari will automatically accelerate. This game offers nothing of that caliber. There's a few levels off to the side that amount to rolling up as much as you can for a few minutes with no real way to fail.
I saw a comment somewhere that the described this game as soulless and that's completely accurate. I can't even complement the music as most of the soundtrack is ripped from the first two games.
You can go fast in Pizza Tower. Like really fast! I guess not fast enough because my warped little brain wanted to go even faster. I found myself instinctively holding the left or right button on the d-pad with an iron grip so tight my thumb started to hurt. All in the vain attempt to gain more speed.
I've been following this game on and off since 2019 and I'm so glad it turned out as great as it did. I played Wario Land 4 in preparation for this game and boy, its influences are very apparent. The most obvious one being the rush mechanic. In Wario Land 4, jumping on a frog switch activates a timer and you have to race back to the level's starting point. What this also does is change the level's environment; paths originally closed off by blocks are now open, and vice versa. In Pizza Tower this activates after attacking Pillar John and is known as Pizza Time. Just like in Wario Land 4, it's a race to the beginning, but along the way you can do some backtracking for collectables or secrets that you might have missed on the initial run through, the clock is always ticking though! The whole thing is quite exhilarating; making it back to the beginning with just a few seconds to spare is so gratifying.
To aid you in achieving breakneck speed you have a pretty sizable move set, a lot of these pretty much taken from Wario Land. You have the continuous dash, grab, ground pound, and all that fun stuff, but unlike Wario, you have a super jump which can be performed by holding up while in a continuous dash state at max speed. You can do a sick ass piledriver by pressing down in midair while you're holding onto an enemy. Wario doesn't have that (he has a piledriver in Wario World)! Defeating an enemy starts a combo which is maintained by defeating more enemies and collecting toppings scattered around the levels. Defeating enemies also raises your heat meter which increases the points given out; additionally, this makes enemies more aggressive, so make sure you don't drop your combo! Oh wait, you have this taunt which is totally useless right? Well, this totally useless taunt can turn into a screen wipe after accumulating enough points, indicated by you having an electric aura around you. The taunt can act as a parry for enemy attacks and projectiles as well.
This game is just fun and that's really all I can say about it. It's a video game ass video game and I'm all here for it. Side note for anyone playing, after the animated intro sequence, you see Peppino sitting in a dark room. Let this idle for about 40 seconds for a cool reward!
A fantasy RPG mixed with a trivia board game? What could possibly go wrong? Well, for one, this game was released in 1992 and I was born in 1999. Meaning a lot of the trivia here is completely out of my wheelhouse. Some are still probably bullshit even if you're the "appropriate" age for this (the sports questions in particular).
In the land of Capconia there is a Knowledge Tree which grants infinite knowledge (go figure) but this evil guy, Gordian, takes a few seeds from the tree so he can plant his own Knowledge Tree. He also gave a few seeds to some of the dragons of the land. The king of Capconia sends out four warriors to stop Gordian and his minions, but really, he only sent one, the ninja. Each character has a skill that could randomly activate during the trivia battles and the ninja's ability so happens to be the best one. The ninja does double damage meaning less questions you have to answer correctly.
Before you can challenge Gordian's minions, you are given a predetermined dice roll. In order to defeat a monster you must meet the correct answer requirement, and this starts off small enough. In the first chapter or two you only need to correctly answer two to four questions per enemy, but as the game goes on this quickly goes up to six, then eventually eight. This is where my main problem with this game comes in; it's too long. The game has seven stages, and by the fourth one I wanted this slog to end. To make things a bit worse, about halfway through you get rematches with the boss dragons on the board and they're not skippable if you happen to walk by them and you will. There's even a boss rush as you're approaching Gordian. Not all hope is lost however, as there are friendly spaces you can land on. You just have to pray to the predetermined dice gods you land on them. But you thought you could just get an easy heal by landing on an inn space or a helpful item when landing on an elf space? You still have to correctly answer a question. Losing all your HP on these "friendly" spaces still results in a game over.
Update: As I was writing this, I found out that Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 2 has a version of this game that's all Capcom trivia. Wish I knew about this beforehand!
On one hand, the combat is satisfying and getting past that one section or boss after being stonewalled is extremely gratifying. On the other hand, I find the camera to be absolutely vile at times (usually during bosses). It likes to get stuck behind pillars and rubble. The camera also has a hard time keeping up with the action at times. I also think most of the bosses are completely uninteresting. In character action games (I despise this term) the bosses are usually a big highlight, but here you get an electric worm, then two electric worms, then a fire worm, two tanks, a helicopter and a tentacle monster you fight multiple times. This game also commits one of my personal pet peeves and that is boss fights with added trash mobs. Off the top of my head two bosses on normal are like this, but on harder difficulties way more do this, like most of the bosses. I didn't find the lack of a lock-on to be a problem, but this seems to vary from person to person. I did enjoy a few of the bosses like Murai, the first Doku fight and the final boss!
I find these two points to be detrimental to my overall enjoyment, so I sadly can't say this is an all-time favorite for me, but it's still a solid action title that isn't afraid to kick your ass. So give it a shot! Maybe you won't have issues with these things and remember to keep trying! If I can do it, then so can you.