12 Reviews liked by Semblance

vroom vrrom gets stuck in boss battle hahahah time to pull out... DA BUILD (does not work)

Is it too easy to say “for fans of the genre” and move on? Probably.
The pace here might be Final Vendetta’s greatest strength; I think it’s a stage too short (though that might be because at 6 stages, I’m just thinking on how it falls just shy of GoufyGoggs's list) but it puts other titles to shame by being something you can clear in 30 minutes. I imagine it’s a byproduct of having designed the game around the 1CC mentality, so it seems conscious of the fact that you'll be playing through the early stages a lot and that it shouldn’t be something you need to like, plan your day around.
Especially compared to something like Streets of Rage 4, where half-an-hour in you still feel like you’re warming up, this is a huge improvement. Some criticism just falls by the wayside when the game moves this fast; bosses are generally pretty weak, but they do their job as pace-breakers between the rapidly increasing complexity of the standard enemy encounters- really does get into the heart of the action with an appreciated speed.
And speaking of Streets of Rage 4, in looking over interviews with the developers, I haven’t seen any reference to it, but it seems like it was on the mind during development- the big hang-up when I go back to that game is how punitive the scoring system is, where one stray hit can negate your entire combo, and in a game where scoring and survival are so fundamentally linked, makes those innocuous failures seem all the more disastrous. Final Vendetta adopts a pretty similar system, but you’ll only lose your combo if you’re knocked down, making those stray hits far less annoying, and your failures feel more justified; the result of poor positioning or a bad read on your part.
There's a great interaction that capitalizes on this, where you have a dedicated button for attacking enemies on the ground, but those same enemies often have wake-up attacks that can knock you down in turn- so there’s always the temptation to push your luck and go for a bit of extra damage. It all comes together remarkably well, particularly love the mobility options you can use to cover the entire screen, though it did get me thinking more on some of the constraints of the genre.

This applies to beat ‘em ups/belt scrollers more broadly, but Final Vendetta is the most trouble I’ve had with gauging whether or not I was going to be hit by an enemy that was slightly above or below me- StrayCat noted that it could be an issue of layering, and it makes me think that your defensive options are more of a necessity than they might initially appear, giving you enough distance that you’ll unambiguously clear of an enemy attack. The weird lane system of Guardian Heroes also makes a great deal more sense after considering this more, giving you total clarity as to whether or not attacks will connect. The more I get into this genre, the more I become vividly aware of this as an issue: maybe that means we need more deviations like Guardian Heroes or Ninja Warriors, maybe that means that there’s some approach yet to be taken.
(I don’t know, maybe something akin to Natsuki Chronicle’s bullet-trail warnings would help to highlight the range of enemy attacks, though that might veer too much into “red light, green light” combat design.)
Anyway, that’s a lot to place on a single game: intensely scuffed, but the more time I’ve put into it, the more I see the intent and the passion behind it. If we live in a world where something can quietly release that’s this solid, then nature is healing.
Stray thoughts:
- Pixel art is nice, but disconnected, like you're fighting the spritesheets from 20 different ArtStation accounts. This is also one of many titles that would benefit hugely from taking place dusk or night- I can't totally get behind a game that's set at 1:00 in the afternoon.
- Enemies are also uncommonly versatile; wait around long enough and they'll toss out a surprise ranged attack or gap-closer. It's a good kit, but I wonder if does make them a little homogeneous with each other, like they all roughly require the same level of prioritization. More research required.

Star Fox has 1 game in their entire franchise above mid and somehow Nintendo got gaslight into thinking we care about Star Fox because of the amount of furries that still jack off to Krystal.
We don't need another copypaste of 64, try rebooting a series that people actually miss like F-Zero instead of these one-hit wonders

In a post-Elden Ring, post-Sekiro, and hell even a post-Devil May Cry 5 world, its hard to look at this game and really look forward to anything Platinum Games puts out next. This was the one where they werent working for anybody but themselves.

Fuck it, I'm bumping it up to a 4½. Loved pretty much every moment of this and my Village of Shadows playthrough was a ton of fun. Even the mercenaries side mode was great. I loved going for the S ranks on that and the DLC allowing you to play as different characters just allowed it to avoid becoming stale at any points. Probably my 2nd favourite RE game now tbh.

Having not played this in more than decade I'm now somewhat at peace with this game. It's a classic and for good reason, but it does show its age.
It translates almost everything from previous Zelda games perfectly well into 3D (as well as laying foundations for 3D gaming for the coming decades) and actually establishes Zelda lore that stays relevant to this day. Playing it is not always fun though.
Not so much on a technical standpoint (at least concerning this remake), here everything works reasonably well, it's just that some of the pacing and dungeon design is really not so fun.
I kinda hate that grown-up Link's first three dungeon are thematically repeats of the first three dungeons. Forest, Fire and Water... Again (it's not like we don't see these three in every Zelda anyways). As Hyrule has been overrun by Ganondorf and his monsters everything is kinda... empty. Up until that point when you visit a place it's really exciting to get to know the quirky people and maybe discover the place, but not so much for the Forest, Fire and Water Temple. Right after with the Shadow and Spirit Temple this becomes really good again, but for a good third of the game it feels a bit like a mindless dungeon run. I mean, we love Zelda puzzles but we also love imaginative places and eccentric characters. The dungeons themselves aren't even too bad (except the Water Temple: too many locked doors and thus backtracking if you missed a single key) it's just the way to get there misses a sense of wonder and adventure.
The world design especially of the Hyrule Steppe is nothing but empty plains and the day and night cycle is incredibly short, which can get annoying if you wanna go somewhere or need a special time of the day to enter a place for example.
All that said, yeah this was a part of my childhood (mostly by seeing it at friends places. I didn't have a N64 but only a SNES back in the day) and back then I thought this is the greatest game of all time. Consequently it really defined my taste in games. Later when I revisited it after playing Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and a couple of Final Fantasy games, it just felt hollow and "not as sophisticated" concerning it's story as well as it's mechanics
(and all the cool side quests I "remembered" from watching a friend were actually in Majora's Mask, so that's probably why I like that one still more).
Now with a bit of distance I can enjoy it again, but I still think it's not the best 3D Zelda game by a long shot. But it's still good. Pretty good.

It's a tough one. For the record, I have not played the original, so this touches on elements of the original and the remake at the same time.
+ Some really lovely work on fictionalizing this just enough that those familiar with the details of the real-life people and places will be left on their toes. I think this comes together really nicely in the last third despite the game practically screaming the Big Reveal at you as it's being set up - that's not really where the thrill lies.
+ Additionally, it's nice to have an RGG game that goes super hard on political intrigue. Previous games touch on politics, of course, but it always has the texture of interpersonal drama among the Important Involved People - factions are typically extensions of their leaders and footsoldiers are very rarely granted any agency in the narratives of these games. You see shades of that here as well, but the political turmoil, the calculus, the maneuvering involved means these factions come closer to being groups of people instead of one big hive mind.
+ Using the facescans/voice actors from the main series for this spinoff is generally quite nice. Characters like Mine getting more time in the spotlight is always welcome, and the big stars are basically just the same characters from the mainline games, so fans of Saejima or Goda that want more will get it. You could certainly be more ambitious with these - I kind of wish Not-Kiryu would give up on the "no killing" thing, but I get it - it's Bakumatsu fanfic with Yakuza characters, might as well ham it up.
+ The Yakuza series is so good with soundtracks that it feels like it's not even worth mentioning that the soundtrack is good, but I'm going to do it anyway: The soundtrack is good.
+ Swords and guns are nice mostly for the heat moves. There are only so many ways you can do a big punch, but the heat moves for these weapons are as heinously violent as you would expect and they're a breath of fresh air. The gun is especially fun in this context.
= Very strange to return to the older mechanics after five Dragon Engine games. A good thing in that combat possesses the weight of the older games, a bad one in that I lose more health to the camera facing the wrong way mid-fight. Wild Dancer is especially prone to this given that the style is based almost entirely around twirling around and between opponents.
= The slice of life... minigame(?) is nice! Unfortunately, being segmented off by a boat ride on the edge of the map means you're never just going to stop in because you're nearby. You've got to consciously decide to go make room to pick radishes in between deciding the fate of Japan. I guess this is how Yakuza works, tonally, but there's just too much separation here and it seems like THIS is the point where this kind of thing becomes jarring for me personally.
- Crafting is a straight-up mistake. There's too much going on here, it's too hard to get parts and too hard to get smithing experience unless you spend unfathomable resources crafting shit you don't need. The weapons aren't distinct enough to warrant this Monster Hunter-style equipment progression and the fact that you're not really actively pushed to engage with it makes it worse, not better. The components are everywhere, too, so I'm stuck reflecting on how many resources I'm losing out on by choosing to pursue the plot instead of opening a pot every ten meters during the climax. Perhaps related...
- ...the Yakuza series is generally good at indulging the fantasy of the duel, something I think there's a pretty good appetite for especially when adding samurai to the mix. For me, that samurai fantasy does not include a boss interrupting the fight every six seconds to un-stagger-ably shoot fire from his hands for three seconds. Every ability like this also does insane damage, but I'm open to being told I didn't craft good enough armor or whatever. It's probably true.
- The way they chose to fictionalize this story means that there is a LOT of focus on espionage, and RGG writes not-Kiryu as the least believable spy on the planet. Almost constantly people are saying things like "it is time to kill The Bad Guy" and Kiryu visibly freaks the fuck out, to which the other person will say "what was that about? do you know The Bad Guy" and he goes "absolutely not. I Have Never Heard Of Him" and the plot just continues on like nothing happened
- I'm generally quite tired of the franchise moving in a direction where we pretend that Y0 and Y7 are the only games that exist. The recasting of characters is mostly fine, given that some of the facescans in the original are relative nobodies, but it REALLY leaves a sour fuckin' taste in my mouth to see every one of the Yakuza 0 lieutenants represented among the Shinsengumi captains while characters like Baba and Hamazaki get replaced with Zhao and Kuze. There's still a captain that doesn't have a main series counterpart! He even gets time in the spotlight! Come on man.

I think it's fitting I finished this a day before my birthday. Still can't tell if this is a masterpiece or dogshit. This is a game where Conan O'Brien appears as a character who does nothing but give you an otter suit and I still cried at the end of it all. Despite everything I enjoyed my time with it a lot.

Very solid platforming mechanics and level design, if ever so slightly marred by the somewhat floaty feeling of inertia in your movement. Otherwise, the aesthetic and music are an outstanding pastiche of 32-bit era 3D platformers, and a loving homage to an interesting heyday of the genre that is perhaps now more fondly viewed though the lens of nostalgia.

Part of the appeal of the classic Castlevania games that was sadly lost in the transition to the newer games focused on exploration - commonly called Igavanias - was the difficulty.
While the exploration aspect of Igavanias is fun, what I most enjoy about them remains the same thing I love about the classic Castlevanias - the music, the combat and the atmosphere.
For me to enjoy a combat system to its fullest there has to be some sort of challenge in which I can measure my improvement so that's where the Igavanias I have played before fail for me... and why I played Order of Ecclesia before the other games as I heard this was the hardest Igavania.
Order of Ecclesia takes a more linear approach to level design but it still incorporates exploration to smaller degrees which works better for playing in short bursts - perfect for a portable console.
The benefit of the game being more linear is that the combat is better balanced and some bosses can pose a genuine threat to your patience. Speaking of which, I found all of the bosses to be creatively designed and fun to fight against; the enemy variety was also good.
Even without taking the difficulty into account, I really enjoy the combat with the glyph system which lets you experiment with two different weapons/spells- or two of the same - and rewards you for attacking with one and then the other; this adds a small layer of mechanical complexity.
Because Shanoa is going to all sorts of different places saving villagers the atmosphere doesn't have to limit itself to "Dracula's Castle" and while I don't think this is necessarily better, it is interesting to see something different and it was perfectly executed.
Gamer moment but it's also easy to enjoy this when the soundtrack is this good and Shanoa is hot.

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