2469 Reviews liked by zeroesandones

Breath of the Wild never did really blow me away. I certainly enjoyed it, and it's approach to open-world exploration was well executed - even if the rewards for doing missed the mark. I did not grow up with the series, and I initially wasn't even going to pick up Tears of the Kingdom until the very final launch trailer pushed me to just enough interest - and man am I glad I did.
As a direct sequel to BotW, TotK set out to improve upon every single aspect of its predecessor in every conceivable way, and I will do my best to break down each one of those things with as little spoilers as possible.
First off, the absolute biggest factor for me here was the exploration and more specifically, the Depths. An entire unmapped underground section that matches the size of Hyrule that is shrouded in darkness. As you explore it, you will find light-roots that not only serve to light up the surrounding area, but fill in the map as well. You better believe I got every last one for the satisfaction of filling in my map completely. There's a lot of great rewards, creepy monsters, and fun encounters to be had down there as well so it's absolutely worth dedicating time to.
Similarly, a handful of sky islands were also added flying above the surface. While their total surface area would probably make up around ~10% of the game map, there's a lot of cool things to be found up there as well. For the main world, there are certainly some new changes since BotW, however I admit the 6 years since the game's release has helped it feel fresh in my own mind.
One other thing they did to really spice up exploration is via the Fuse ability I mentioned earlier. Fuse allows you to stick anything you want onto your melee weapon, your shield, or your next arrow. If you want to attach a silver Lynel horn to your weapon to ramp up the damage, or a spring to your shield to bounce enemies who attack you away, or Keese wings to your arrow to make it fly further, these are all new possibilities. This is REALLY important because it fixes one of the biggest exploration problems I had with BotW. Due to weapon durability, it very quickly never felt worth it attacking monster camps because your reward was inevitably just a new weapon to replace what you probably just broke. But now, killing the monsters is just as much of a reward because their parts aren't relegated to just cooking elixirs - they improve your weapons too.
Another big factor for me is the shrines, and by extension your new powers that can be used to solve them. Shrines were present in the first game, but you didn't really have very interesting abilities that you could use to solve them outside of stasis. In TotK, your Ultra Hand, Recall, and to a lesser extent Fuse and Ascend are an excellent set of tools to solve them. Outside of the handful of combat-focused shrines (which usually have more creative solutions in mind), the variety of puzzles is incredible and make use of the great physics engine in the game. The Ultrahand ability also lets you make all manner of crazy contraptions from vehicles to robots to traps. It's not too cumbersome, especially when it comes to recreating past contraptions being very streamlined.
The final key aspect I want to touch on here is the story. If you remember the BotW story, you'll have to remind me because there wasn't too much interesting going on (and a lot of it was obscured in easily missable cutscenes). TotK's plot is a massive leap forward in quality. There is a lot of mystery to it, and while there are collectible "memory cutscenes" here too, they are very easy to find and tell a pretty interesting tale that features a couple of wild ideas. Most of the boss fights also end up being pretty fun (save for one), and a final boss that I could see comfortably sitting among my all time favourites.
Now all that is to say, it is by no means without flaws. My biggest gripe is the sort function missing an alphabetical sort which makes sifting through your materials often difficult if you are looking for something specific. The other main gripe I have would be that this is a late-generation Switch game so performance struggles at times. Still, despite these flaws it is absolutely a game worth experiencing, I'd dare say even worth skipping BotW for if you haven't played it.
I could probably continue to go on about how much I enjoyed Tears of the Kingdom, but I will probably leave it here. Never could I imagine I would be nearly doubling my playtime from BotW just finishing the main story and obsessively exploring the world, and I'll likely do a bit more of that before I am truly done. At the time of writing this, I am not sure if FFXVI, Trails into Reverie, or Alan Wake 2 are going to sweep GOTY 2023 away from TotK for me - but they are going to have to REALLY work for it.

To me, Katamari Damacy is the margherita pizza of video games. It's one of the simplest yet most innately fulfilling concepts in the medium: roll up things with your ball to become big to roll up more things. While this description is accurate however, it doesn't do justice to the game's underlying complexity. Committal tank controls combined with the seemingly strewn about yet carefully placed objects of varying sizes means that Katamari forces players to consider both the micro and macro design which the game effortlessly excels at. The player must weave in and out of clusters of increasingly large objects, building up their sphere while also mapping out the optimal paths (snagging relevant objects while keeping in mind how their shapes, once collected, will alter the roll) and keeping in mind how larger objects must be avoided at first and later consumed in the growing mass as the world appears to shrinks around you. For this reason, I think it's not just a simple power fantasy, and instead more closely resembles pure obstacle escalation. Katamari Damacy really drills in the sense of player progression from how the world unfolds from sense of scale (which is why it manages to get away with only three distinct stages) and even seemingly inverts its own concepts with side stages that force you to avoid smaller themed objects just to get your katamari to the perfect size for the ultimate outcome: the reward is made that much more valuable with just a bit of restraint.
This all works seamlessly because Katamari is the king of player feedback. It can certainly be frustrating at first, getting tossed around like fireworks by these moving objects that dwarf you, but the game knows exactly how to communicate your inherent progress. As your ball exponentially swells, these moving objects go from sending you flying, to lacking any significant impact upon contact, to eventually spotting the player and running away from the growing catastrophe. There's nothing more viscerally satisfying than coming back to mobile obstacles that were pushing you around and flattening them, hearing their cry as they too become stuck in the jumbled mess of rolling flotsam while the King of the Cosmos quips in the background. Simply put, the concept never outstays its welcome.
Going back to the opening metaphor, it requires much finesse to make all these different concepts sing together with little friction in a video game, this fusion of audio-visual presentation and player input. That said, to successfully disguise its intricate design and depth beneath its far-reaching artistic vision and simple yet realized gameplay mechanics takes a master's touch. Katamari Damacy does not try to explain why it works or how it succeeds, because it simply is, and and it just does. Perhaps I've moved onto greater and grander things since that have built off of this, but I have to admit that sometimes, you just can't beat the basics in life. It's always worth going back for a slice or two every now and then, just to remind yourself that this is why video games exist in the first place: because underneath all this talk of focus and cohesion, video games are just goddamn fun.
Also, it's fantastic hangover food for you and your buddies after a long night, when they come calling you for content and suddenly it's 3 AM in a packed Discord call where everyone is wailing "YOU'REEEEE LONNEEELLLY ROLLING STARRRR" as this growing, screaming ball of flailing limbs bounces helplessly about for yet another awry creation. Good times.

Though it doesn't do a whole lot with it, this game has such a unique style.

I hope Daisy pegged him after this

This is the kind of spinoff Nintendo needs to do more. Take a side character and make a completely unrelated game with them as the star. Luigi vacuuming ghosts & hoarding cash turned out so well, we should get back to this style of weird juxtaposition.
Let's have Waluigi as a detective.
Put Tingle in a survival horror game.
Make Ridley a chef.

I passed up a lot of great games for stupid reasons, even slept on them when they hit rock bottom on the secondhand market. Luigi's Mansion is a fine example of this, by the time I got my Gamecube it was already pretty cheap for a brand new copy, and yet I just... never bothered. I mean, a game starring Luigi?? That could never work!
Of course I know now that Luigi's Mansion is a certifiable classic, and thankfully emulation for the sixth generation consoles is in a good enough place that it doesn't take too much effort to get this game up and running. I even went the extra mile and picked up a USB Gamecube controller to play it with, though I would argue that should be a pre-requisite for playing any Gamecube game on the PC. Its brightly colored and unconventionally shaped buttons, bizarro form factor, useless D-pad, and massive triggers... Bop-it ass controller, looks like it's made for toddlers. And yet, I can't imagine playing Luigi's Mansion with anything else. Nintendo first party games were designed around it, after all, and in the case of Luigi's Mansion the directive to use every part of the buffalo meant having a dedicated button for shouting "Marrrioooo...!"
Gameplay is fairly straightforward, but structured in a way that makes its core loop feel incredibly satisfying. Each ghost you hunt down is its own little puzzle to solve, resulting in some very fun and inventive boss battles. It helps that solution to each encounter is fairly intuitive, and the game controls well enough that it never feels like you're fighting against it. The pacing is damn near perfect, and the size of the mansion is large enough to pack away its share of secrets without being so huge that it overstays its welcome (like Luigi's Mansion 3's high-rise hotel.)
The only area where I feel the game really falters is boo hunting. Having an especially wily one get away from you can be annoying, but the mansion is easy enough to navigate that chasing a squirrely boo between rooms is never more than an inconvenience. While this gimmick certainly could have been improved upon, I never found it too frustrating. A small blemish on what I think is otherwise one of the better games on the system.
I think the Gamecube might just be the last truly great system Nintendo put out. Its library is solid and unencumbered by silly system gimmicks, even if its controller looks like it was designed by a highly skilled team of clowns. It may not have outclassed Sony or Microsoft in terms of hardware performance, but its software never felt held back for it either. And they launched it all with a Luigi game. It's a little weird to think about now, but then so was the scene where Luigi gets his shit sucked by a ghost, what's up with that

This was the equivalent of seeing a tweet from 2013 from your favorite celebrity.
I'm only exaggerating of course, Hungry Knight isn't as disgusting as a famous person's twitter feed, but it was still pretty painful if you ask me.
But don't be mistaken, the games does have certain value, especially when seen as a historical piece of sorts. It's kinda cute and even cool to play a kind of ''preview'' of what would eventually be one of the most popular indie games and even Metroidvanias of the past decade, and it a lot of ways there already showings of mechanics that we would see on the final product: both the base attack and dash, a round shape meter that fills when you kill enemies, the 2D animation style, the enemy design and the bug-like features, even the three Dreamers masks!.. seeing all these elements in a flash game with music that at this point has been ingrained into my memory after playing so many flash games is kinda surreal.
It's also really funny to me that the Knight, later to be a stoic and void of emotion protagonist, is just really fucking hungry on this one, and in retrospect it makes me wonder if when he encounters food in Hollow Knight he's just thinking this.
Aaaaaaaaand... that's where the good stuff and the funny pretty much end. The premise is kind of cool, having to defeat three big enemies while making sure you hunger bar doesn't deplete, but this task is performed in a barren wasteland with only three types of enemies, with a really unresponsive dash that seems to let you decide if you can attack or not at random and with hitboxes that seem to be different depending the way you look at.
But I mean, of course is not that good, it's just a quick, simple flash game that was made for a game jam and wasn't given that much thought or polish, by all accounts it should only be a mediocre game with not much to tell and show...
It's amazing how such a simple change, reducing the amount of time you have before the hunger bar depletes from 10 seconds to 5, can make the problems even more prominent, showing just how barren the stage is, how clunky the hitboxes and collission are and how the big enemy spawn being random is just so ANNOYING. This mode does make the experience harder, but only artificially, and it just results its flaws being left open for everyone to see. I really do mus hate myself for subjecting myself at these 20 minutes of pure nothingess, I have no clue why this was added, but it only helps at making the whole thing even worse... at least I can say I mastered.

The fact this is just as boring and bland as it is makes what would come later even more interesting all things considered; now, would I recommend it?... no, not unless you are really curious or LOVE Hollow Knight as much as I do, and you want to see from where it came. As I said, it has interesting stuff on its bones, and the meat and skin would come later, 'cause this... this is only a skeleton...
Speaking of that the final game should have had skeleton bugs, that's the only aspect where this one shines over its successor .

Insatiable longing for Silksong can lead a person to some desperate choices

The game is surprisingly fun, and the controls work very well. Has no right working as well as it does but it's well worth checking out if you enjoy the series, though the art style might be a bit of a deterrent.

There are some strange rare design choices that cause minor moments of frustration, like one song constantly switching on and off between off-beat hits and another song that can overwhelm you with a flurry of notes right after an in-song cutscene, but in general, this game absolutely rules. It does a great job translating the song's lyrics and major beats into a firmly telegraphed form with the overlapping circles + lines that have to be traced as held notes, and they're all placed carefully in order to keep the chart and the player in-tune with the beat, perfect for the compact DS touchscreen. Admittingly it's not ideal relying on sheer score accrual over individual stage rankings to unlock the bonus stages, but it at least provides another incentive to master more difficult stages and the hardest settings when the thresholds are set that high. Either way, the game's charm is absolutely infectious and it never gets old watching three guys in suits and sunglasses dance away everyone's problems, no matter how minor they may be. Without a doubt, I can see myself coming back to push through the highest difficulty after clearing this on normal, so it's an easy recommendation despite some low points. I saw this advertised all over the place as a kid and can't believe it took me this long to finally try it out: hands down one of the best titles on the DS, and it's a real shame we don't see anything from iNiS anymore.