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Thank you @Eggsandwhich for recommending I play this after my month of NieR. Also a shoutout to @ptcremisi cuz he loves this game too. I'm happy to say, despite some issues I had that do hold it back from me rating it higher, I really enjoyed this game a lot.
Though tbh, at first I wasn't really enjoying it all too much. The beginning cutscene really got me interested but by the time I got to the first level in the game, I started noticing issues I had. First off, I don't think the first level is that great of an introduction. I found the level design to be too simple and it's definitely my least favorite stage in the game. That plus some other issues I had while playing, really didn't help my engagement. I found the combat just okay, it got the job done but it wasn't great. The platforming too could be a little wonky. I found the ledge grab really inconsistent (tho I got used to it later on). The figments were hard to see a lot of the time and they seemed like they'd be quite annoying. It also didn't help that I played this on my PS2 and it ran poorly a lot of the time and even rarely slowed to a crawl. That combination of things, plus the poor intro level, it just wasn't doing it for me. Also later on, you start to fight bosses. While it's cool to find out how to beat them, they're often not that fun mechanically because of the clunky combat and are usually too easy on top of that.
As I played on tho, a lot of these issues were lessened a bunch cuz I blew them out of proportion. Because of this, I learned to really love the fantastic things in this game. Probably my absolutely favorite aspect would be just the game concept as a whole. Going into people's minds is just so awesome, and they really utilize it to it's fullest. Your collectibles are absolutely brilliant. Figments of your imagination, emotional baggage, cobwebs (in your head). It's just all so good and really makes the world feel so well thought out. Like the health pickups are literally called mental health, that's amazing!
The other best thing this game has going for it are the quirky/funny moments and it's memorable cast. I couldn't even count just how many times this game made me chuckle, it's so weird and I love it. It really felt like a Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon show from the early 2000's which is great because that's the era I grew up with. Feels like the love child of Billy and Mandy and Invader Zim if I'm being real. As for the cast of characters, most of kids were whatever (tho I did like Dogen and Lili) but the main cast of Psychonauts were all great. I do wish they had more screen time, because in the 2nd half due to certain events they're mostly absent, but what we do get is great. Also, a shoutout to Raz himself, what a great protagonist. He's so quirky and sassy yet likeable.
At first I was a bit iffy on the camp setting but once I explored the overworld, I really enjoyed it. It feels a bit nostalgic for some reason, and I never even went to camp as a kid. I also think the overworld had overall better level design than the actual levels. The levels are cooler and more out there than the camp setting but the level design is more linear, while the camp is more open and explorable which is fun.
Another thing I enjoyed were the Psi badges. While I wouldn't say most of them were super fun to actually use, a lot of them were used on puzzles throughout the game and are just cool conceptually. I will say though, levitation is an absolute blast and is easily the best badge in the game. Glad you get it early on because from then on, I used it all the time.
Idk why I thought this was a kids game all this time (I probably would've loved this as a teenager) but it definitely isn't considering they cuss throughout the game and the game can get pretty dark. Seriously, some of the mental illness stuff can get pretty realistic even if there is a goofy undertone, but it's still handled with tact. The vaults are another collectable in the game and they hold some of the darkest shit I swear. Milla's hidden vault 😢. But I really love how they flesh out each character even more.
I said the figments were annoying because they're hard to see, and while that is still a criticism of mine, they weren't annoying enough to the extent I didn't want to get them all. So I went and 100%ed the game and that was mostly hassle free. Some stray figments here and there and some of the milkman's conspiracy gave me trouble but that's about it.
So overall, while the actual gameplay is usually just acceptable to subpar, the charm this game has with it's cast of characters, it's quirky humor and just the awesome concept of going into people's minds won me over. This game is flawed but really enjoyable. I'm giving this a 7.5 rn only because the sequel seems to fix the gameplay issues I had. From what I've heard, 2 starts off right where 1 ended and that's just so cool I can't wait. Anyways, on to my Secret Santa game next...Metroid Prime 2!
After my month of NieR, I decided I wanted to play something short and sweet recommended by my good friend @Ptcremisi. I'm glad I did, because this was a fun time.
This game is pretty simple, it's basically wall tennis but it has this really awesome minimalistic Y2K aesthetic. It was originally an arcade game, so it can be beaten really quickly but there's multiple routes you can go through and so it has a decent amount of replayability to it. I decided to go through every level and yeah it was pretty rad. I will say though, it can get somewhat tedious going through the exact same 7 or so levels if you're trying to play them all.
The default time setting I found kinda brutal so I set it to max this time around, just so I could at least experience every level. If I replayed it again, I'd lower the time to add some stakes to my playthrough. I'd try to get a much higher score than I did this time around because clearly there's strats to do so. I got like 660,000 something points as my top score but you can do things like timing your charge attacks (which cant be spammed if you want a good score because they drastically reduce time) correctly so you beat stages fast and without losing your ball.
Anyways, Cosmic Smash is a real good time and my 2nd Dreamcast I've played... I'm definitely enjoying the game selection it has so far.
We Love Cosmic Smash
The day after Christmas 2016, I got my PS4. A couple months prior, I finally got back into Playstation gaming after strictly being a Nintendo Fanboy for years. With my PS4, I got the Uncharted Collection, Uncharted 4, Skyrim, Little Big Planet 3 and Final Fantasy XV. I couldn't wait to dive into all these games I wouldn't have even given a chance years before. Fast forward to early April, I decided on a whim to pick up Persona 5 only a day after it came out. I knew almost nothing about Persona besides my one friend always recommending the series so I took a chance, and ended up loving it. Fast forward to May 2017, I pick up NieR Automata. That one friend who recommended the Persona series, would also show me gameplay of the original NieR. At this time I was still in the middle of playing Persona 5, but knowing I took a chance on that and was loving it, I took a chance on Automata as well. I didn't start it until June and didn't beat it until August of that year, but from my memories of 6 years ago I remember absolutely loving it. Fast forward to today and I decided I wanted to replay this game finally. I was wondering all this time if I'd love this game as much as I did back then, because 2017 was my absolute favorite year ever...at least that timespan of like April-August and it could have clouded my judgement. Well my thoughts are complicated but as you can see by my score, I do indeed still love this game overall.
When I first started this, I decided to replay it on hard. It had been 6 years since I played it but I figured I could do it. After dying 10 times in the super long intro, I decided to bump it down to normal. It might be a skill issue but I didn't find it fun to die in 2 or sometimes even 1 hit. I played the entire game on normal and I don't feel bad, I just wanted to have fun. Though tbh, on my first playthrough through Route A...halfway into it I kinda wasn't having much fun. My main issue was, I kept comparing every little thing to Gestalt which is the consequence of playing this immediately after that. I kept missing the main cast of that game and just wasn't digging Automata's cast much. By the end of route A, I was disappointed in the game...and disappointed in myself for feeling this way. I absolutely adored this back in 2017...did I change? Was I too cynical now or something?
My main reason for being disappointed was because my favorite aspect of Gestalt, the cast, was not even comparable in this game I felt. My favorite character was 9S and his best scenes don't even happen until the later routes. The cast of this game is solid I'd say but doesn't come close at all to Gestalt's main cast, at least for me. That was my main hangup during route A, and is still even now the biggest downgrade this game has compared to Gestalt.
During route A, even though I was disappointed by the end of it, there were still plenty of things I liked about the game and several improvements compared to Gestalt. The combat for one is definitely improved overall. Yes the combat is not on par with something like Bayonetta or DMC, but it's still flashy enough so that it feels good. You have two weapons at once and it feels good to switch between both. You also have these Pods that act as the Weiss of this game. You can switch abilities with them, and some of the abilities are straight up ones from Gestalt which was cool. Same with the weapons, some of them were ones from Gestalt so you know I had to use my beloved Beastbain. I also really loved the movement in this game compared to Gestalt, dashing around this post-apocalyptic world...especially in mid-air on top of buildings, god it feels good.
Speaking of the post-apocalyptic world..this a bit of a running gag in my discord server that I have a major hard on for it. And that's correct, I still absolutely adore the world in Automata. The world is not as fleshed out as actual open worlds, but that's partly why I love it. I think the world is the absolutely perfect size for a gaming world. It's small enough where I don't find getting around to be a chore, even if you can fast travel...and big enough where it's fun to actually explore and take in the amazing locales. Goddamn I love the aesthetic this world provides. The starting area is a ruined city overgrown with plant life and that aesthetic is like my #1 aesthetic now thanks to this game. You also have a massive desert with a whole city half buried in the sand at the end of it. You have an abandoned amusement park full celebrating machines. There's more ruined buildings on the coastline. There's a forest area that leads to a grassy castle. Right before that area, you go through a little shopping center that's full of overgrowth. There is no area I dislike going to because every single one has such a cool aesthetic which really does it for me. The world/setting of the game was my absolute favorite aspect when I first played (besides the OST) and even now it's still probably my favorite aspect. If there's any single one thing that this game destroys Gestalt on, it's definitely its world.
Speaking of the OST, it is still fantastic 6 years later. While personally, I do prefer Gestalt's OST by a fair margin...Automata's is still awesome. Back then my favorite themes were all the area themes and while they're still great, I really like a lot of the battle themes now. Grandma Destruction and Emil Despair, obviously because they're remixes of Gestalt songs but A Beautiful Song may be my favorite totally originally Automata song now, it's fantastic. The OST is indeed objectively amazing but I think the reason why I don't like it as much as Gestalt's now is because the songs have way more going on in them while Gestalt's are more simple. Automata's songs are also generally more epic and fast paced vs Gestalt's more elegant sounding songs. I still do love Automata's OST tho and it's definitely one of my favorites ever. Honestly tho I think Gestalt might have my favorite OST ever in any game, at least as of now so ofc that would be hard to top but Automata certainly isn't that far off.
Something I definitely loved this time around was the Gestalt connections I wouldn't have ever gotten when I first played. Like certain lines reminiscent of Gestalt, or really obvious things nowadays like how the desert machines all wear Facade-like clothing. There's a quest in the desert that even has you finding hidden items that were all connected to Facade which was amazing to discover. Speaking of quests, I honestly think they were a lot better in this game compared to Gestalt. Sure, you don't have the amazing banter between NieR and Weiss. However as a whole, I found there to be less fetch quests and more memorable quests that felt somewhat impactful towards the worldbuilding. Obviously, the single best quests are the Emil ones for me just cuz they connect to Gestalt so heavily but that was gonna be a given. Oh yeah, Emil is back...his side quests were awesome as stated before but besides that he's only really here as a shopkeeper which is okay I guess. If he didn't have either of the side quests, he would have been a big disappointment but those salvage his appearance I'd say. Also up to the end of Route A, I'd say the bosses were solid overall but none of them really wowed me besides Simone who was amazing. That's partly because A Beautiful Song plays during it but still. Also Also, I forgot to mention I did do every side quest and of course upgraded all weapons to max. For what you get from doing that, which is some of the best content in the game imo, I think it's worth it.
Anyways, a lot of things have been improved from Gestalt but the big downgrade being the cast hampered my enjoyment of the 2nd half of Route A cuz I kept comparing the two games the entire time. I established this before, so you'd think Route B would be even worse because it's pretty much a retread of Route A except with small changes here and there, kinda like Route B in Gestalt except not nearly as good. Well here's the weird thing, I honestly enjoyed myself more with Route B than A. That's weird because usually people hate Route B from what I've seen but idk I digged it. Maybe it's because I was playing as 9S who I enjoyed a lot more than 2B. Or maybe it was the addition of hacking which I honestly quite enjoy even tho I know many others don't. Idk but once I beat route B, I was definitely enjoying myself more than I did at the end of route A. So I don't get when people say Route B is bad, it's different enough that it's fun to play through again. Then Route C is next and that's where the story has it's peaks...and where the game definitely won me over again.
Route C is totally different from A and B and that's a huge change from route C in Gestalt. There it was the exact same as Route B except with two new endings so Route C in Automata is definitely a big improvement. There's tons of twists, reveals and heartbreak and it's 100% the best route no question. I still don't think the story elements or character interactions come close to gestalt in its ending, but they're definitely very good. I think story-wise, I like it less overall then Gestalt's just because of the inferior cast but it has some really emotional singular moments and so I like to think I love the moments in this game more than the entirety of its story which is opposite of Gestalt. Going into those moments though, and they both happened in Route C, they were the final super boss that you access by getting every weapon to max...and ending E.
The final super boss I knew would get me because of its connection to Gestalt, and they are huge connections, but I didn't think the waterworks would flow as hard as they did. Even more surprising was ending E. I still remembered what happened but idk man it really got me. When that certain part happens and you hear the choir, I broke down. This is THE moment I'm giving this game a 10 for now. I was contemplating whether to actually drop it to a 9, and I still might eventually who knows, but the fact I cried to something that had no connection to Gestalt really...that made me realize I do still love this game even without the Gestalt shit.
I may not be in love with the game's story or cast, and I think the OST is somewhat of a downgrade..however. The combat being improved, the still wonderful OST, my favorite world in any game and the worldbuilding and connections to Gestalt I do love. And so as of now I'm going to keep this at a 10, again I might drop it down eventually but Ending E won me over for now. I do definitely love Gestalt more now as you already know, which is so weird because I once had this at a 10 and Gestalt at an 8 lol. Funny how things change.