Haunted Dungeons: Hyakki Castle aims to deliver a fast-paced, challenging, mysterious, and suspenseful single-player role-playing experience utilizing smart tactics and quick thinking to defeat enemies in real-time. Set during the Edo Period of Japan, Haunted Dungeons: Hyakki Castle is based on the eerie and terrifying Hyakki Island, a place where prisoners are sent to live in exile. A mysterious castle suddenly appears on the island bringing a slew of creepy monsters, such as the “Yokai”  (NOT THE CUTE NINTENDO ONES!) of ancient Japanese literature. The island imprisons a cunning rebel mastermind who seeks to overthrow the Shogun order and assassinate its leader. Players play as four special agents of the Shogun order, specializing in Yokai and monster slaying, to investigate the island’s mysterious Hyakki Castle, and to eliminate the rebel mastermind manipulating the Island and its inhabitants. Featuring a unique approach to the traditional real-time dungeon RPG genre, Haunted Dungeons: Hyakki Castle encourages players to split their party with its exclusive 2-party system, a feature not yet seen in real-time dungeon RPGs on consoles, making strategic fights easier. Players must use unique skills and move-sets in destroying monsters with distinctive attacks and behavior, while executing pincer attacks, flanks and more as you progress upward in the mysteries castle to defeat the rebel mastermind causing the extraordinary events on the island.


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Review: State of Mind (Xbox One)

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  • Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
  • Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One, releases August 15th, 2018
  • Also playable on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & PC

Note: The review embargo for State of Mind is today, Monday August 13th 2018 however the developer, due to State of Mind’s focus on narrative and storytelling, has asked that we hold any video footage after the game’s introduction until the game releases on the 15th. This post will be updated with more video content on Wednesday.

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Out this Wednesday is the latest point-and-click adventure game State of Mind from German developer & publisher Daedalic Entertainment. Daedalic, since it’s creation in 2007, has been making a name for itself as a standout in the narrative adventure & point and click genre with highlights such as the Edna & Harvey series, The Pillars of the Earth and the tactical turn-based RPG series Blackguards. Read More

Flipping Death: The PSVG Review

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Welcome to Flatwood Peaks, a small whimsical town with a problem – Death is on vacation. Play as Penny and help trapped ghosts with your trusted scythe. Flip the entire world around to solve puzzles on both the living and the dead side and slowly uncover the mystery surrounding your own demise.
Key Gameplay Features
● Unique mix of adventure and platforming set in a twisted, rich and colorful world
● Flip the entire world with the press of a single button!
● Possess the living and use them to solve puzzles
● Innovative physics combined with an immersive story told over several different chapters
● Spiritual successor to our previous well-received game Stick it To The Man!

Check out our Review Done Quick Here:

Release date: ​August 7, 2018. Price: ​$19.99 / €19.99
Platforms: ​Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam (PC)
Languages: ​English, French, Italian, German and Spanish
Developer and publisher: ​Zoink Games

You can also watch Donnie’s stream of the first hour if you want further details:

Switch Review: The Lion’s Song

  • Developer: Mi’pu’mi Games
  • Publisher: Mi’pu’mi Games
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch, released today July 10th, 2018
  • Also playable on: Google Play, Apple iOS, STEAM/PC

Final Verdict

I very much enjoyed my play through of The Lion’s Tale. At times the story is filled with moments that have impactful resonance and I think many players will find at least one or two themes they can latch onto. The artsy foundation melds well with the sound design, style, and storytelling to provide a mature, thought provoking experience.



Switch Review: Miles & Kilo

Jason has finished his review of Miles and Kilo, out now on Nintendo Switch. Looking for more information? Be sure to listen into this week’s Nintendo Shack episode with N64 Josh to hear more discussion for Miles and Kilo – Shack – N64 Josh

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I really, really want to like Legendary Eleven, the latest arcade soccer game from Spanish developer Eclipse Games. As you’ll discover below, the game just misses the mark, thanks to reliability issues the crop up nearly every game.

In Legendary Eleven, you choose from one of 36 countries to take through the World Cup, or one of a handful of smaller regional tournaments. The only modes in the game are the tournament mode or exhibition.

The game has a distinct look, with players looking like they would fit in with the 1970s, with their short shorts. The game also looks like it might fit in well on the PlayStation 2. There is little music in the game, and the only sounds during gameplay are occasion PA announcements, some crowd reaction and soccer-playing noises.

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The core gameplay is fun and easy to pick up-and-play. There is a button to pass, a button to shoot, a button for a special dribble and a sprint button. There’s an additional ability for a “pass through,” but I found it to be largely ineffective. As you make passes, you build a special meter; once that meter is full, you merely need to get into a shooting position and hit the right button combination in order to hit a special kick. This kick is unblockable and always goes in.

At face value, Legendary Eleven is a fun and competent arcade soccer game. And, if you were playing with another human player, it can be super competitive. But the wheels fall off when playing against the computer.

I’ll start with that special kick that always goes in. It’s great in-theory, but can get quite infuriating when the AI team gets multiple super kicks in a row. I also found the inputs required for the special kick to only work part of the time. For every kick that I pulled off flawlessly, I’d make two kicks with the same button press, only to see the ball soar over the net.

Once I got the hang of score goals without the special move, I became nearly unstoppable, scoring 6 and 7 goals per game. There is no adjustable difficulty.

Another complicating factor here, is that the AI players will occasionally just stop responding to you. I tested this in multiple games, where I would just stand still on my half of the pitch, and as long as I didn’t move, the other team never approached me. In two separate games, I stood still from the 20-minute mark, through to the end of the half at 45 minutes. (I’m not sure how long the halves actually are, but games do go pretty quickly.)

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Prior to starting the game, the developer informed me of a bug that crops up when players perform a lot of tackles in the game. After a number of tackles, the player-controlled team loses control, and the ball will listlessly roll away for the remainder of the half. The developer said they are working on a fix for this bug. Despite this warning, I figured things would be fine in the end. Yet, I have had many games with this bug popping up. Typically, the only way to get the ball away from the computer team is to tackle, which means that I frequently came up against games that essentially ended with this glitch.

One final glitch that popped up occasionally for me is when the opposing goalkeeper will sometimes kick the ball straight into the stands. I’m not sure why this happens.

Legendary Eleven has a few good things going for it. At its best, it could evoke my dorm-room couch gaming sessions of FIFA 06 that I look back on fondly. With the current build, however, it doesn’t reach its best very often. If the above-mentioned glitches get patched out, and if the AI will attack on defense a bit more, then it can be a perfectly serviceable arcade futbol game. Until then? Grab Soccer Slammers or stick with FIFA 18 for your footie fix.

Rating: 50/100

Legendary Eleven was reviewed using a code provided by the developer. 

Soccer Slammers Review for Nintendo Switch

Donnie had the opportunity to review Soccer Slammers, the latest game from Atooi, the developer behind Mutant Mudds, Chicken Wiggle and Xeodrifter. What did he think about this arcade button-smashing soccer game? Watch below to find out.

Also, if you’d like to watch Donnie and his son Jack check out the local coop, watch the let’s play video.

You can buy Soccer Slammers here on Nintendo’s website.

Follow the Atooi team to keep up with the latest on Chicken Wiggle and Treasurenauts.

Of the many questions Detroit: Become Human attempts to ask, the value of artificial life and how far you will go to protect it is perhaps the most poignant.

Repeatedly throughout the game, the player is put in the position to decide the fate of characters both human and android. Of course, as a game, all of these lives are artificial. The trick that Detroit — and, really, each of Quantic Dream’s games — tries to play is to make us sympathetic toward these characters. Are they really alive?

It’s a ruse that Detroit pulls off well enough to make the culmination of each main character’s story feel weighty. The final outcome of my personal Detroit story was sad, filled with ultimately needless sacrifice. Yet it was also hopeful, felt (mostly) earned, and felt consistent with my own versions of Connor, Markus and Kara.

Branching Paths

The branching paths of Detroit are intriguing and rather mind-blowing. By the end of the game, it became apparent that there were large chunks of story that I didn’t experience, largely due to choices I may have made earlier in the game.

A character that you save in an early chapter may show up later to help you in a confrontation; the decision of whether to attack or flee in hour three might have an impact on the ultimate fate of the Android “race” at the end. Your choices, successes and failures all have an impact on the story, even if it isn’t clear at the time.

At a base level, Detroit revolves around three player-controlled characters, and their actions during a pivotal five-day period in November 2038:

  • Connor is the latest and most-advanced Android model yet. As you’re introduced in a tense opening chapter, Connor was made to assist police in cases specifically involving deviant androids. He has a very black-and-white, follow-protocol attitude. It is his job to complete the mission, protecting humans along the way — unless that prevents him from completing the mission.
  • Kara is a maid android, bought to help clean the house and take care of all the household chores. As revealed in an earlier trailer, she is placed in the home of an abusive father and must decide whether to intervene in the situation. Will she break through her programming and become deviant?
  • Markus is the caretaker for a famous elderly painter, who encourages the android to think for himself. The painter, Carl, clearly cares for Markus and is forward-thinking in his views on technology. For his part, Markus loves his owner. While many androids in Detroit are stuck in abusive homes, Markus is actually in a good situation at the beginning of the game, and follows his owner’s orders explicitly.

After that common beginning, it is up to individual player choice as to how the characters change during the story. Does Connor stick to his mission at all costs, or will he develop empathy for his fellow androids? Will Kara rescue Alice? To what lengths will she go to protect the girl? How will Markus develop as a leader?

It’s ultimately up to the player. The great thing about Detroit — as opposed to your typical GTA or Uncharted — is that your character’s words and actions can more easily align. If you espouse a peaceful rhetoric vocally, your actions can follow that path even at a great cost. Want to be a violent revolutionary? The game adapts to that as well.


Intertwining Narratives

The three androids’ stories are separate up until the moment they become inexplicably intertwined. This allows for constant variety as you progress through the game.

Connor’s story becomes a buddy-cop movie with his human partner, Hank, who hates androids. There’s a lot of predictable interaction between the two, but the bond that grew between them in my playthrough kept me investion. Detroit’s ongoing question about the value of an artificial life is asked repeatedly throughout Connor’s story, culminating in an emotional ending.

Kara and Alice are forever on the run throughout Detroit, trying to escape the city and live where they can be free. As a parent, I was drawn to protect Alice from the beginning, and my Kara went to great lengths to keep her from harm. A narrative choice revealed late in the game threatens to undermine their entire narrative. But, again, the arc asks the player how much they value the life of these polygonal characters.

Markus’ story is the largest in scope, and I believe he is truly the lead character in the game. His choices have a far broader impact than those of Connor and Kara. One theme of the game is the fight for acceptance of androids, and a desire to be treated more nicely by humans. Markus can decide to be pacifist, anarchist or somewhere in-between. One thing that becomes clear throughout is that the consequences of any choice are dire, but if Markus stays true to his character, he is determined to accomplish his goal.

Themes and shortcomings

Quantic Dream’s games control oddly. That is a common element that carries forward from Heavy Rain through Detroit. Though the controls now are more streamlined, there are still times that a controller interaction felt unnatural.

At best, these times pull me from the game briefly. At worst? I can’t make the game recognize the input in time and the action fails, leaving my characters with the lasting consequences of the game not recognizing that I jerked the controller to the left.

The performances in the game are awesome, and among the best in gaming. The actors show emotion. I am truly blown away by how far games have come in this area. Detroit becomes less of a “video game” and more of a piece of interactive fiction, bolstered by strong voice actors and animation.

Problems with the story exist. For one, the 2038 setting seems a little far-fetched. I know that technology is progressing at an alarming rate, but the idea that in just 20 years, two-thirds of our military will be comprised of humanoid androids? Or that they will occupy so many of our jobs, and be used so widespread by the wealthy and the poor? It’s an ultimately small nitpick, but still stands out.

A certain narrative choice in the Kara-Alice story also stuck with me a bit wrongly. I saw it coming, and didn’t like it as I felt the reveal largely devalued their relationship. Yet, I still felt attached to both characters and worked to keep Alice safe.


Another nitpick relates to the androids as they become deviant. There’s a specific marking that identifies someone as an android, and that marking can relatively easily be hidden. But through to the end, many deviants just leave it alone. Why the heck wouldn’t every deviant remove the visual representation of their slavery?

This brings me to that word, slavery. The game purports to ask questions it deems important. There are clear references to racism and America’s history, but the moments come off merely as suggestions and general color to the world.

Androids ride in the back of the bus; the game evokes images both of Martin Luther King and of Michael Brown; the president is a celebrity, possibly compromised by her relationship to big business; there is a widening gap between rich and poor; technology dependency is ruining modern society; drug use is running rampant. These issues color the world, but largely go unexplored.

This is not exactly a complaint. A game should be judged based on what it is, rather than what it isn’t. Detroit is an accomplishment in player choice and adaptability. It’s a game about breaking the rules, and the consequences of those actions.


Detroit made me question how I approach the sanctity of life in a video game. The characters repeatedly have to choose whether an android’s “life” is worth saving. And, later, is taking one life worth it if you’re saving hundreds?

It’s the same question asked in Avengers: Infinity War and many other pieces of entertainment. Would you sacrifice one life to save many?

There’s a moment about two-thirds of the way through the game where I, as Markus, am tasked with either leaving a fellow android to its fate or taking matters into my own hands and shooting it. If I let it live, it might be forced to reveal where the deviants are hiding, but it might also live. If I shoot it, then our secret is safe for a little while longer.

I pulled the trigger. One life traded for many. Still, I’ve never felt worse about pressing “R2” in a video game.

That is the trick of Detroit, and why it is one of my favorite games of the generation. Connor, Markus and Kara are alive. Their story is real. It has consequences. And I am responsible for those consequences.

Review: MX vs. ATV All Out

In my current quest to play just about any game with vehicles racing around tracks, I decided to pick up my first motocross game since Excitebike in MX vs. ATV All Out.

At its core, All Out is an arcade moto racing game with decent customization, intuitive gameplay and a decent track variety. The single-player “career” mode is extensive, but lacks some personality as it is basically just multiple collections of races — not entirely unlike Mario Kart. While I prefer more traditional sports game career modes — see F1 2017, NASCAR Heat 2 — the collection of series offered in All Out provides plenty of content and incentive to play the game.

At the beginning of the game, you’re placed on a low-level bike and given free reign over the compound area, as you can motor around an open world and complete tutorials on each of the race types. These types include outdoor Nationals, indoor Supercross and Arenacross inspired tracks, point-to-point Opencross tracks and freestyle trick events. The career mode is filled with collections of each of those types of races, building up to the most powerful vehicles.

As you can probably tell from its name, ATVs are also available in the game. All Out also includes UTVs, which control poorly in my view. While it’s nice to have options, I definitely prefer just riding the bikes as they offer more control.

Racing against the AI is fun and challenging. You can race as little as 3 laps, all the way up to 30, and the game also lets you practice and qualify for the races. However, qualification is largely pointless as it merely decides the starting position for the main race and has no cuts.

Ruts begin to develop on the track for longer races, which do seem to impact the driving even slightly. While driving is a bit grippier than you might expect for an off-road game, it feels right at home in this arcade racer.

All Out’s customization offers quite a bit of variety between color schemes, designs and the tuning of the vehicles. However, I was also disappointed that none of the vehicles in the game are real-world, licensed bikes and ATVs. Each vehicle type has a couple of variants that you can buy, marketed just as THQ or Rainbow, after the publisher and developer. While I’m not a bike nut, I still appreciate using authentic vehicles in games. The licensed bikes are being offered as paid DLC at $2.99 each, which is a shame and, frankly, a bit of a ripoff.

The overall presentation of the game can also seem a bit staid and same-y. Some of the tracks stick out, but many of them are indistinguishable from each other. The game’s graphics are fine, but aren’t even in the same league as Monster Energy Supercross, which was released about 6 weeks earlier.

The largest issue with the game at the time of launch has been its performance. I’ve been playing on the PS4 Pro, and it runs mostly fine. I do notice occasional pop-in, frame stutters and screen tearing, but it is nothing gamebreaking. However, players on the base PS4 and Xbox One systems have apparently not been so lucky. The game has bordered on unplayable on those systems, according to online reactions.

Additionally, I have tried racing online just a few times. In the one time I was able to find a match, I raced against just one other opponent. It was a darned good and competitive race, but it is worrying for the overall longevity of the game. Considering that one of the trophies is for winning an online race with 15 people in it, I can’t imagine that there will be any Platinum trophies earned.

Some of these issues are things that can be improved upon throughout the coming months, and the developers have already released a few patches for consoles.

MX vs. ATV All Out is far from a perfect game. But it is a fun game, and I hope it really gains an audience on console once it gets past early hiccups.

WedNESday: Blaster Master (1988): A Very (Very) Quick Review

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It’s been difficult for me to find time to write an NES article lately but I felt I needed to get something online.  I decided on writing a very quick review of Sunsoft’s Blaster Master a Metroidvania action platformer released in 1988.  I’ve discussed Blaster Master before and have a certain nostalgia for the game as I think it was one of the first games of its kind that I actually beat, and I was absolutely captured by the seamless melding of genres: A platformer in the overworld, a top-down shooter in the dungeons.

In the game you play a kid driving a tank around a strange world.  Leaving the tank outside you are vulnerable, but you must enter dungeons to find upgrades and face each level’s boss, after which you will obtain an upgrade that allows you to traverse deeper into the world.  Each level contains distinct obstacles that require new abilities to overcome and the game uses difficulty progression quite well. The player is also forced to backtrack at times, with level entrances located inside of areas from previous stages that were inaccessible without specific abilities; a core staple of the Metroidvania genre.  The dungeons are short top-down action segments in which you control the hero as you collect gun upgrades to power yourself up before facing off with the level bosses.

I wouldn’t exactly call Blaster Master hard.  It is a lot like other titles such as Simon’s Quest and Rygar.  Once you know where to go, the game is actually quite direct and simple.  What saves it from mediocrity is that it is a well-crafted action game and it easily ranks among the best titles on the NES.  I believe one of the challenges a game like this faces at its age of nearly 30 years is falling into obscurity. Fortunately, Blaster Master Zero does exist for the 3DS and it is effectively a remake of the original, with a few improvements to the world to made the game longer and add some more exploration and depth and just add some necessary modernization.For collectors, Blaster Master is a pretty easy find.  It typically doesn’t run more than $10 and is certainly worth adding to any NES collection.  Chances are if you’re already collecting, you either have this one or it’s on your list. For everyone else, the original game is definitely worth checking out on its own, even if you already have played through the remake.

Review: The Long Reach

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The Long Reach Review Discussion from last week’s Nintendo Shack Podcast.


Subsurface Circular [Switch] Review

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The game — really a visual novel with light puzzle-solving elements through text — was released recently on the Switch, after coming out last year on Steam. It’s a short story from Mike Bithell, the creator behind Thomas Was Alone and Volume.

Bithell is one of my favorite indie creators, and Subsurface Circular fits in well with his previous work, despite being a functionally different game. The story is immediately engaging, moves fast and doesn’t get bogged down by things that don’t matter.

The player’s bot — known as James in my playthrough, though there are other choices — is a detective that begins investigating an off-the-grid case proposed to him by a fellow traveller, who is sad because a friend has disappeared.

During the ride you come into contact with a robot nanny, priest, soldier and more, as the story fills in the gaps on just how robots are used in this future society. There are easter eggs for fans of Bithell’s prior work, as well as some other current pop culture references.

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The tale comes to a satisfying conclusion, with an interesting take on the future of artificial intelligence and its role in society.

My only detraction in the game is that the text would sometimes pause during the flow of conversation. While this makes sense in the narrative, it felt at times like the pauses were simply padding the length of this brief game.

Subsurface Circular comes with a couple extras, such as director commentary and artwork examples. The music, too, is unobtrusive but fits in the game world.

I wholeheartedly recommend Subsurface Circular to fans of Bithell’s previous games, as well as science fiction and visual novels. It’s wholly text-based, so may not appeal to some, but if you give it a shot, I think you’ll find a thoughtful story worth experiencing.


Bayonetta [Switch] Review

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Considering that this game came out in 2009 for the PlayStation 3 originally, I wasn’t going to make that distant leap to review what technically is a nine-year-old game. This game is older than most of the PSVG’s children, for goodness sakes. However, after being asked about it by PSVG’s Amanda and then snoring about halfway through my explanation, I felt that I had no choice but to release onto the masses about what it was like for me to experience Sega’s wonky adventure on the Switch platform.

Before I continue, however, I do want to warn that this article will contain adult themes. Children, shield your eyes and run to your parents. Adults, turn away from your work computers and wait til the dark of night. It’s not going to be vulgar (despite it being one of the most swear friendly games since Conker’s Bad Fur Day) but there will be some special snowflake-unfriendly topics that will discuss sexualization specifically. Please, if you’re not in the mood for that kind of talk- run, run far away, Simba, and never return to this review again.

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So for those in a similar boat as myself, Bayonetta is one of Sega’s cult classic games that went unappreciated by most but not all, captivating a fairly decent cliche of people who were lured by the charm of this game. As such, Sega tries to recapture this about once every four years to cash in on some free money, and now that the cycle continues on the Nintendo Switch I took the chance to see what the heck is going on.

Having seen Bayonetta only on Super Smash Brothers and mentioned only in closeted conversation, I had no idea what to expect. Some friend (who I don’t even remember the name of but clearly isn’t a friend any more thanks to this scenario) had mentioned that I would LOVE this game and that it was about empowering women by having a strong protagonist lady take the stage and mess up anyone she damn pleases. While this is loosely correct, I feel like the person had done what I did and simply stared at the game art and said “Wowee! This girl kicks butt!”


And then I played the game, and now I understand what Bayonetta is.

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Bayonetta is a masterful artwork that has so many gaping holes in the painting that it is nearly impossible to get the appreciation it should deserve if it actually spent more time developing the story than creating more detailed dancing scenes and porting the freaking game. When the game shines, it shines like the brightest flame of WTFness that I have seen in a very long time, but it is quickly bogged down by horrifying moments of lagging gameplay and story progression.

Let’s take it from the top and work our way down though, shall we? It starts off with a wild epic moment where you’re testing out the chaotic fighting nature of the game where our heroine is duking out with another character amongst a small plethora of angelic enemies, where your weaponry consist of guns, gun equipped heels, and both hair, suit, and shadow based demonic entities shaped in things like fists and high heel boots. You’ve seen the pictures, people; she’s fighting like a lethal acrobat where every blow is deliberate from her head to her toes, with hell at her fingertips and bullets coming any which way she pleases. Oh, there was some serious story plot of foreshadowing that I didn’t get to take in because of intense fighting and low narrator volume. Immediately afterward, we get a five-minute slapstick comedy scene introducing the initial characters meant to be the cool guy, the comic relief, and the superstar all in one swoop. All in contract with the forces of hell in some shape or form, they really love killing the game’s equivalent of angel bad-guys and trying to find out why Bayonetta has plot-convenient amnesia.

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The entire plot of the story? Figure out Bayonetta’s past (and if you ever heard of the Sega’s other amnesia driven game, Shadow the Hedgehog, you would cringe at the thought that this is the premise) as well as figure out why everyone wants her dead (or alive specifically). She doesn’t show much stress about her predicament, given she doesn’t show a negative emotion beyond annoyance for most of the game and she appears content murdering anything with a halo on it.

Seriously though, that is the plot. This goes on for hours with loosely tied characters saying “heh heh you’ll understand later in the game” and she responds with “lol ok I’m just going to travel the world and kill stuff until someone says otherwise” and it is infuriating. The first “Bayonetta” game and “developed storyline” cannot be contained truthfully in a single sentence without losing journalistic integrity and it was a major blow to my hopes for this game when people talked so great about it.

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What helps redeem it, however, is the combat and the different methods of execution given to me for both waves of enemies and bosses alike. Having to learn how to slow time to a crawl by perfect dodging a vicious attack and memorizing the right button to mash when pulling off a finisher on a particular enemy left me satisfied. While often sadistic in her methods of taking out angels, she is comical about the way she fancies each and every creature’s demise. One enemy can be finished by the wooden horse torture rig fitted with steel, spikes, and chains, whereas another can be kicked into an iron maiden. Hell, sometimes it feels like she’s toying with a boss during the actual fight before she does some overly intricate dance and using her suit/hair to create a demonic aberration to finish off the foe. Her method of dispatching the final boss was so hilarious that it made me forgive the past hour of annoying platforming and tedious dialogue.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that the combat is perfect, either. More often than not I was left dumbfounded because, after ten minutes of uninterrupted cutscene, I am suddenly tasked with a button prompt that I swiftly fail and instantly die. It’ll happen in the most random moments of discussion or battle that immediately ends the battle no matter how well I was doing and it was hair rippingly bad. What made things worse was the icon to show the button prompt would show the direction and button to push (for example, up and B) but the picture of the controller would show a different button on the controller to press (Up and X). Combined with the need to be precise on the timing, it would take me several times to figure what the heck I was doing wrong. The game is kind enough to tally your deaths up to five times on the game over screen, and the most often phrase heard in the game is some old granny seer shouting “The Shadow Remains Cast!” every time I select to continue. It sucked.

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Sometimes Platinum Games (which I would honestly give full credit to as the developers as they made the damn game) would decide that the combat was getting too tedious and they needed to buffer the gameplay length with… extra activities. Mostly arcade driving simulators, whether it be cars, motorbikes, or rockets. Just fifteen minute long drives of the same track of the level where your goal is to not die and shoot the same enemies over and over again. My personal least favorite, however, is Angel Attack. Oh man, I love how just hearing that title makes me grit my teeth. Who would have thought a ten-second game you’re forced to play after every single level could be so annoying? Being told to shoot at targets for prizes that are crap, for over a dozen times, made me blow all my shots in a second or quit the game so I can get on with my life.

I think there are only about five memorable songs in this whole game, but they’re placed at the most opportune times and I quickly dismiss the repetition and enjoy the atmosphere it creates.

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Lastly, I wanted to express concern about Bayonetta’s taste in… style. As someone who might want to remain anonymous has told me, this game is ‘a Japanese boy’s wet dream’. Our woman Bayo wears a skin-tight suit that often evaporates to become the super demon thing, leaving her as exposed as the Mature rating can allow. She portrays her attacks in cutscenes often by crop shots of her pubic region or bosom colliding with an enemy before she gratifies herself while defeating foes. She does things to a strawberry flavored sucker that would make your local church pastor drop his jaw. She does not give two craps how sexual she acts during her time in the game and amazingly enough, only one person seems to act perverted towards her. Perhaps due to the lack of characters, the developers can create a separate, perfect reality where what she does is perfectly acceptable and it is shameful of me to express distaste. However, this game is not a real alternative world and I’ll be damned if a Japanese video game company, under the jurisdiction of the same publisher that made Yakuza no less, can convince me that they made a next level empowered feminist and I should ignore that she is mentally pleasure humping three-quarters of the bad guys in this game.

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Unfortunately, if I kept writing about my love-hate relationship with Bayonetta it would be on course for a book with more detail than the whole game’s plot, and so I’m going to call it here with another summary of some sort. Did I like the game? Definitely, but I felt I spent more time playing in hopes of finding something fun than actually taking in the game itself. Beating it felt like a sigh of relief rather than a triumphant victory screech, but I respect that the game offers wonderful entertainment when it wants to. As I have just started Bayonetta 2, I sincerely hope they improve on how they deliver the entirety of the game to us (again, considering it came out years ago on the Wii U) and I hope to one day understand why people love this game.


Also, I technically got this for free with Bayonetta 2 so my opinions are freely based on this. If I had paid sixty dollars for a port of this, I would be just a taaaaaaad more aggressive. Just a tad.


WedNESday – Rockin’ Kats (1991)

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The NES has no shortage of quality action platformers.  Contra, Ghosts n’ Goblins, the Castlevania and Mega Man series, all while being among the most well-known action entries on the 8-bit behemoth, only scratch the surface of the assemblage of titles that are really worth playing.  There are a host of lesser-known classics available that deserve their time in the spotlight.  So, let’s start with a simple-but-fun title developed by Atlus in 1991 named Rockin’ Kats, released on the Famicom as the cringingly-titled N.Y. Nyankies.

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In Rockin’ Kats, you play as Willy, who is pushing pavement trying to rescue his girlfriend from a brutal mobster.  Armed with a spring-loaded cartoon fist, Willy can punch bad guys, pound the ground to bounce higher into the air and grapple and swing from ledges ala Bionic Commando, although the feel of the swinging is more akin to Ristar.  You select your stage at the start by choosing from a list of TV channels, and then you begin your adventure.  The levels are mostly standard platforming fare, but there are a few auto-scrollers, and we all know how great those are…

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In terms of overall quality, Rockin’ Kats fits squarely in the fun-but-quaint category.  There was obvious effort put into this game but it does show its age a little more than something like Mega Man 2, with it never really taking any risks but still succeeding in providing a fun platforming experience that keeps me coming back.  It is the sort of retro game that naturally encourages you to improve your skill over time.  Some platformers, by the nature of their design, are more successful at this than others.  What makes Kats interesting is the grappling mechanic, which adds a layer of technicality that requires some skill to master and can open the door for some swift tricks to speed through levels and skip sections of each stage.

There are some notable differences between the NES and Famicom versions of Kats and it really just comes down to performance.  To me, the Famicom cart seems to play a little better.  This isn’t uncommon for faster games or games that require a lot of timing as the Japanese versions can occasionally have slightly differing framerates and controller latency.  Emulation can often mask this, but if you play a Famicom and NES copy of Super Mario Bros. back-to-back, on-hardware, the difference is subtle, but it’s definitely there.  The Famicom option is certainly worth going for here anyways considering the cost hurdle for the North American release.

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For collectors, the NES cart of Rockin’ Kats remains in the gap between “very uncommon” and “rare”.  It’s a subtle place for games that aren’t exactly hard-to-find on the market, but still fetch a high price due to demand (see: Fire n’ Ice).  This game is sought-after and regularly brings with it a hefty $100+ price tag but you can generally find several on sale on marketplaces like eBay.  The Famicom cart is significantly-cheaper, though, provided you have the necessary hardware to support it, so for most serious collectors who focus on simply being able to play the game on original hardware over their collection’s total monetary value, the import is probably the way to go  This is generally the case with very uncommon or rare games from Japan due to a lot of these imported games having been either shipped to North America in limited quantities (as was the case with Rockin’ Kats) or ported very late in the NES’s cycle after a majority of the gaming market had since migrated to contemporary 16-bit platforms.


WedNESday: Winter Games

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Do you have Olympic Fever?  I have Olympic Fever (two vaccines later and all I have is a rash at the injection site).  I enjoy the overblown bombast and moments of individual triumph that permeate the games.  However, after nearly six decades of video games, and about 10 winter games events since the start of the golden age of gaming in the late 70’s, we have yet to see one title that actually captures the event well.  There were a few that landed and were good enough to sell well, however.  One such game was Winter Games from Epyx, released in 1985 on the Commodore 64.  It received fairly high praise for its graphics and quality, with multiple game modes and eight events.  So, a few years later, the NES saw a port of the hit title published by Acclaim.

The NES release of Winter Games wasn’t good. It isn’t the worst sports title on the NES, but as is usually the case with these sorts of sports games, it is very hard to really nail down the controls, and honestly, how do you simulate figure skating with two buttons and a D-pad?  Even excluding the limited control options, the port on Nintendo’s titanic console was inferior in graphical and sound quality due to hardware limitations and also featured only four of the original’s eight events. It was almost literally half the game! The controls are occasionally bizarre and often counter-intuitive.  Instead of having one button that executes tricks, for-instance, these are done by pressing and holding one of eight directions on the D-pad while in the air or on the ice.  This doesn’t work!  This style of limited control options has never worked!  Without a button to execute the trick (ala, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater), just pressing a direction feels off and the game fails to consistently register the directions when they’re pressed.  At the time it was released Winter Games on the NES was bad, but not insufferable because at least it tried to do a few things differently on consoles by giving the player freedom to execute big tricks offering a sort of risk-versus-reward design.  Still, not only has Winter Games not aged well, it really is mostly just boring.  These sorts of sports games have evolved so much that a title like this feels like a college student’s first software programming project.

Figure Skating is frustrating, with most button presses feeling as though they aren’t doing anything and once you finally do hit the air it’s almost as though you have no control over what is happening.  While it is possible to land a successful trick, good luck trying to master this thing!  Speed skating is dull, ultimately amounting to pressing left and right back and forth in rhythm to keep up your speed and even then it just too frustrating and inconsistent to be really fun.  Bobsledding is the most intuitive entry but it falls flat for being boring.  The only one of the four events I actually really enjoy is Hot Dog Aerials, a ski jump game that is honestly pretty addictive.  This is due to the controls being far more intuitive and things just feeling like they make more sense when you are playing.  Press ‘A’ to take off, hit the air and use the D-pad to chain together a few tricks before you have to land safely.  Not too bad and, honestly, fun for a few go-’rounds to try and beat your best score (those judges are jerks!).

Winter Games is comparable to other, similar “multi-sports” titles like California Games, Gold Medal, Caveman Games and the significantly-superior Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge.  The NES port isn’t unplayable; it just isn’t all that fun outside of the aerials.  I have always felt that being bland is far worse than being dreadful because at least I often remember playing a truly terrible game.  Winter Games is little more than an afterthought.  Still, I don’t hate it in its complete form released on other platforms and I have a fondness for the aerials minigame that just makes me want to pick it up and try again (I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything above about an 8.6); It’s simple-yet-satisfying.  Even the worst of these multi-game event titles seem to have a few segments that are at least a little enjoyable.  If you are going to get this one, I’d say try to find a copy of the Commodore 64 release because it is significantly better, and if you are an NES collector like myself, chances are you already have this cart, but if not, it’s a scrap; pick it up.  It really won’t cost you much and the aerials are more fun than your average mobile game distraction, assuming you can get a handle on the still-clunky gameplay.

Monster Hunter World: Review in Transit

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It has been awhile since I dusted my keyboard off for something that wasn’t the OT or my special piece (listen to the podcast for more info). However, after a lot of conversation it just felt like it was time to pull up to the desk, grab a cup of coffee, and talk to you the amazing people who come to PSVG. Thank you so much for your time and I hope you find this fun and informative.

I had already pre-ordered the collectors edition of Monster Hunter World a few months ago. I was more or less excited for it I mean you know me, collectibles are kind of my thing! I was also lucky enough to get a two-fer! Dragon Ball Z Fighters also came out same day and I had pre-ordered the collectors of that.

The collectors edition was not up to my standards and was kind of upsetting just from the stand point of what I got but that is a topic for another story. So on launch day I opened up the box, put the game in, and began downloading. A few minutes later (thank you Spectrum and Xbox) I was in game running around searching for meaning.

25 hours later I am comfortable giving my initial impressions and a score that will change as I get farther in game. Lets dive into the Good, Bad, and the Ugly.


The things this game do well are numerous. Character customization is top tier and something I am still blown away. Being able to design your character but also your Palico is just fantastic but it goes even further. You can also design your player card in game and share it with people you come across in game. The level of detail this game goes into is just incredible and I find myself spending time at the hubs just looking at the menus and seeing what all I can do.

The story was a weakness for me in some areas, but what I do like is that it doesn’t try to be something its not. So far no crazy love story or journey of redemption. You are a hunter who is sent to hunt. Easy right. You meet some good characters, no great ones yet, but they are good and I find the whole story arc to be intriguing so far.

The game play is fluid which is huge for a game like this. Being able to attack the target you choice with the push of button, scroll between enemies quickly, and craft/scavenge to get new stronger gear is an excellent added incentive for these maps.

The Monsters are numerous and diverse. You can’t go into every fight the same or you will find them harder and harder to conquer. Paying attention to what gear you have and what its strengths and weaknesses are vs your current prey is huge.

No Map feels the same. They are diverse, unique, and numerous. I have had more fun getting lost on these levels trying to find certain craft able materials then I had in exploring the last three open world games I played.



I feel like I may be in the small portion of gamers who feels this, but having a silent protagonist just drives me nuts. Give me dialogue options in game. The story is good, I just want to be able to take part in it by saying, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t do that?” or “I love you!” By giving my character who does almost all of the work the ability to say something, is huge to me.

The SOS system needs a way to track player skill. Not level mind you, skill. I have sent SOS in game where I am calling for help vs certain Monsters. Some of these people help me and we enjoy the gear. More often than not though, I have had people join me who die repeatedly and cost me the 30 min or more I have been fighting this monster and I have to restart the quest.

The Lore is hard to find. A kin to Destiny one, there is a huge back story to these games. I just need to be able to find it better instead of getting pieces here in cut scenes. I am a story fanatic and I just want more of it.


THE UGLY: (The raw feeling I have at the end)

This game changed once I was willing to put in the work. Learning different attacks, finding the best set of armor for my play style, and using my Palico to help me in battle. Using my attack lock became a must and I am so grateful that I had some great people to play with. This game is a community driven experience. I am sure you can play alone and find some joy in but there is nothing like tackling a huge monster together and the absolute euphoria after you capture or defeat them.


If you need some one to play with you can hit me up on Xbox at The CoachHulk and I would love to help you through the game. This is end of my initial impressions. More to come as I get farther into the game. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope even more to see you on the battlefield together. Thank you and have fun gamer.

PSVG Tyler Reviews: Wulverblade (PS4)


Greetings, fellow humanoids! Today I give you a look at the quality of the PS4 port of WulverBlade from Darkwind Media with a video review. Check it out below for the breakdown!

WedNESday: Tiger-Heli

Less than a year after its release, the Nintendo Entertainment System was a hot ticket item in the US.  Finally it appeared there was a savior for the dying games industry, which by 1985 had lost roughly 95% of all market value since its 1983 revenue peak!  After Nintendo almost single-handedly revitalized the gaming market by labeling the NES as an “entertainment system”, not a “video game system” (hence the famous “toaster” model not having a top-slot), more and more companies were encouraged to fill up the NES library.  For many publishers, ports of popular arcade titles seemed a safe bet.  Even during the games market collapse titles like Dig Dug, Pac-Man and Galaga were doing well on home PC electronics such as the Tandy machines and later the Commodore 64.  So, naturally the big brands who were limping along in Arcades sought to get as much of their software NES-ready as quickly as possible.  The question was, “How do we get all of these games ready for the NES by next Christmas?!”  Outsourcing, of course!  By 1986 (less than a year after the NES’s North American launch) there were dozens of ports of classic arcade games on the console, many developed by unnamed, third-party contractors.  Some were reworked from Famicom ports of arcade cabs that either had very limited releases in the US from Japan but others were pretty solid 1-to-1 ports of the most internationally-popular arcade games of the time; as best as the NES could manage anyway, due to the obvious hardware limitations of the console versus its arcade contemporaries.  Still, weaknesses of the console hardware aside, many of these arcade ports were very, very well done.

Taito’s 1985 arcade classic Tiger-Heli received its NES port (redesigned by the short-lived Micronics) this very same year.  Micronics is an interesting company, having done NES and SNES ports of arcade games not only from Taito but Capcom, SNK and Activision.  They were not originally credited for their ports but Kazzo Yagi, the principal software engineer for Micronics, was open about the company’s involvement.  Nintendo, as well as a few of the major brands such as Capcom, felt that having the copyright owner’s label on the game (despite not actually developing the NES port) would help the game sell as many of the games they published from Japanese arcades actually did not receive a wide US release.

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Tiger-Heli is a very simplistic vertical shooter in the vein of Capcom’s 1942 (another Micronics port from the same period) in which you pilot a tiny helicopter through very long gauntlets of bullets and waves of enemies.  That said, I  believe Tiger-Heli is harder than 1942.  In fact, this is a prime example of “Nintendo-hard”.  Tiger-Heli’s difficulty stems from the slow-moving chopper you have to negotiate through scattering bullets and a global timer that often has all enemies on screen firing at the same time.  In terms of bullet hell games, this might seem like something that would make things easier, but not here.  You just do not move fast enough sometimes to get through the waves of bullets and your chopper’s hitbox is pretty large compared to that of other NES SHMUP’s.  

There are a few things to help you, though.  Your tiger doesn’t go “splat” on a single hit.  You have three health per life and when you are struck, bombs scatter around the place you were damaged, hitting enemies in a radius near where you were hit.  Powerups are also plentiful and include health pickups and support choppers who fly by your side firing either upward, expanding the width of your shots, or sideways to support taking out enemies who creep from the left or right.  Tiger-Heli also has destructible environments, so you can enjoy the comedy of flying over an unnamed suburban landscape and mindlessly blowing up all the denizens’ cars that are parked haphazardly in the grass near their tiny, 8-bit homes!

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Graphically Tiger-Heli doesn’t do much to impress.  It’s certainly more impressive than the endless waters of 1942 or the grey, black and blue anti-landscapes of Xevious, though.  There are just far more varied environments and slightly more detail to parts of the world.  This doesn’t stop things from getting repetitive, however.  Still, the game looks fine compared to its arcade counterpart.  In fact, the objects have an almost vector-style to them, a visual theme that was common in arcades at the time, but no so much on consoles.  The sound is also fine, but I hope you like the music you hear, because there are four songs you will hear in every stage, over and over again, and that’s it!  In terms of the sound, we are definitely not talking Konami-levels of audio variety and quality here.

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I would call Tiger-Heli a fun “score attack” game.  Pick it up and see how far you make it and see if you can improve upon your score.  There are two sequels as well.  The first, Twin Cobra, received an NES port but the third title, Twin Cobra II, did not.  In fact, the only port the final entry in the series ever saw was for the Sega Saturn in Japan that today ranks among the rarest and most valuable games on the system, and for the Saturn that is saying something!  Tiger-Heli on the NES though is a very, very common game.  You can typically find these lying in piles for a few bucks and, honestly, if you do not have it and you do see it, pick it up!  It’s certainly worth owning and is one of the better deals in terms of challenge and replayability in the “very-common” category.


WedNESday- The Simpsons: Bart vs. The Space Mutants

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1991 was an excellent year for quality video games.  We got Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and the Simpsons arcade game!  Also released in 1991 was The Simpsons: Bart vs. The Space Mutants, a lackluster platformer from Imagineering and Arc Developments and released on the NES by Acclaim, who was primarily known for localizing mediocre imports and aggressively acquiring otherwise-talented developers such as Iguana (NBA Jam and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter).  They closed down in 2004 after shifting the focus of operations primarily to sports games, a fight it obviously lost to EA, and one it probably shouldn’t have ever picked in the first place.

As for Bart vs. the Space Mutants on the NES, Acclaim’s title of “First Company to License and Release a Simpsons Game” didn’t last very long as Konami’s aforementioned Simpsons arcade game was released months later and made Space Mutants look like Space Invaders by comparison.  Bart vs. The Space Mutants is a fairly traditional platformer for the time, and while it showed promise with its idea, the execution left much to be desired.

Aliens have invaded Springfield and it is up to Bart to rescue his family and thwart the interstellar aggressors’ very, very stupid plans.  Each stage is a collectathon with a quota and once that number is achieved, you walk right for a very long time, and fight a boss.  It’s simple on paper, but playing it is another story.  This game is hard; very, very hard.  Bart’s hitbox is insanely big given some of the obstacles with moving objects lined up so perfectly you can barely fit under them and jumps that are clumsy and easily misjudged.  Getting items is also a crapshoot as they are often hidden in strange places.  Good luck ever beating this game without a guide.  Possibly with some trial and error you could figure parts of the game out, but it is designed with no clarity as to what you have to do much of the time.

The worst of all of the stages is the very first one.  The mission laid out for you is to get rid of all of the purple objects in the world.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, Iguana decided to be jerks, adding special items to use to clear certain objects out.  For instance, an unreachable bird in a tree can only be scared off by using a bottle rocket that you have to buy from a store using coins you collect in the world.  You have to prank call Moe from a payphone and you have to walk across clothes lines to drop hanging sheets over purple toys in backyards.  It all resembles a point and click adventure game at times, and while I would say that is a good thing, it just doesn’t fit with the style of game that frames the concept.  To make matters worse, the first stage is really the only level like this as the rest of the levels are just straightforward collect quests with objects you have to pick up strewn clearly throughout each stage.  The decision to make a cryptic puzzle platformer for only one stage is baffling to me.

Other problems exist as well, such as wonky, floaty controls that simply do not feel right.  Jumping can cause you to feel like Bart is drifting to the side at times, which is frustrating when you are trying do dodge projectiles or land precision jumps.  Also, it is not uncommon to come across platforms that seem like they shouldn’t be platforms at all, such as the top of a small door window or the base of a sign.  Other nonsensical design decisions include sentient ballet slippers that flutter up and down and a character resembling Principal Skinner riding inside of a giant boot!  Even the plans make little sense.  Aliens do not stop at randomly placing purple objects in the world.  No, they also place horrific monstrosities such as hats and balloons!  The people of Springfield will never know what hit ‘em…

Bart vs. the Space Mutants is bad.  It has a few good ideas that could have worked in the right hands, but what we got was a frustratingly-difficult platformer that is overlong and repetitive.  There is no excuse for an NES platformer like this to be this long, but the trek to the end of the stage after collecting all of the items seems like an eternity.  Making matters worse are repetitive visuals that do recreate the world of Springfield but still do not convey any form of interesting game design.  It just doesn’t work as a platformer.  The controls are off and the missions are just too vague.

For collectors this game is a scrap.  Bart vs. the Space Mutants will run you around $5 if you buy it at value.  Even then, there’s a good chance you’ll see this one for as low as $2-3 online at times.  It’s a perennial dust-collector at retro games outlets, and it is regarded by those of us who grew up at the time as one of the most villainous NES titles ever released as it taunted you to try to beat it, but for most of us this just wasn’t going to happen…


Nightmare Boy [Switch] Review

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Looks like the next S2S title for PSVG to take a look at is The Vanir’s Project’s latest work, Nightmare Boy. As per the usual, Nightmare Boy has been out for a while on the PC platform, giving the developers a healthy chance to fix bugs and smoothly port over to the Nintendo console.

Also per the usual, it’s one of those games I never heard of thanks to Valve’s horrifying game representation system and with that frame of mind, I can assume that being a single player platformer, the game is at risk of not being well known by the masses. I am here to fix that, for better or worse. Check it out!

So, the game starts with some well put music and hand-drawn animation as Billy, our game’s protagonist is reading some obscured book when his own pillow, teeth jutting out from the side, turns into some nightmarish demon and decides that our boy is the perfect candidate for a wild scheme in some fantasy world called Donoruk. Some nasty funk happened with the king and his now-dead son, who strikes a remarkable resemblance to the newly transformed Billy. Having not  a darn clue as to why he’s in the new world and what he needs to do, Billy is forced to traverse a Metroidvania-esque realm riddled with monsters, trippy bosses, and an assortment of interesting character who are more than happy to assist- and hinder- Billy’s progress to get back home.Once I’m left to my own device to battle through the B-cast of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, I immediately realized that I didn’t know the controls and there wasn’t any tutorial, although to be fair the inputs are simple enough, if not awkwardly positioned on the joycons. I did not find any way to reconfigure them, unfortunately, forcing me to deal with how to jump and attack.


Playing it mostly in handheld mode, I also noticed that it suffered the same quality as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in that it began to chug and drop frame rates more often than anyone would prefer. The music is ambient and fluid as you ramble about, and the dialogue is decent with occasional moments of ingenuity. I was kind of upset with the relationship with Death though, as it’s a lowkey save station with little to no dialogue. The dude is Death. Give him some personality, not some secretary job with the same twelve words to say every time he charges me (increasingly) to save your progress. That being said, it did feel like the characters important to the plot were shallow at best, and one-noted at worst, and left the dialogue desperately needing more depth in the beginning. That’s a personal squabble, however, and if you feel a deeper plot is not as important as the gameplay in a Metroidvania, then more power to you; you might like this game after all.


All in all, it’s your standard game with collectibles, difficult maneuvering, and some above average boss battles. It didn’t hype me into wanting to play extensively, but I can see where this will appeal to certain groups of players. For ten bucks on the eShop, this is a decent game to try out if you have some gift cards laying around and don’t know what to blow it on. Don’t expect greatness, but if you can settle with it being an indie title, you’ll have a good time.

WedNESday: Takeshi’s Challenge

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The Famicom was full of excellent games that never got a proper North American release including Parodius (a portmanteau of ‘parody’ and ‘Gradius’; a game that pokes fun of the classic shooter with funny references while maintaining the tight gameplay), Getsu Fuma Den (An Adventures of Link-esque adventure/platformer known for its excessive difficulty), and Moon Crystal (An ultra-rare classic I may cover in the future).  However, one Famicom title that has been the subject of fascination for decades is   ‘Takeshi no Chōsenjō’ (たけしの挑戦状), or ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ as it’s known in the US.

On its surface, ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ seems pretty straightforward.  It’s your standard side-scrolling beat-em-up on the level of something like Bad Dudes mixing action and adventure elements.  The twist is this challenge takes place in the ‘real world’.  The game was the brainchild of one Takeshi Kitano, a famous Japanese comedian, actor and filmmaker who wanted to try his hand at game design.  You may know him from ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ (‘MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge’ in the US) and over-the-top exploitation flick ‘Battle Royale’.  The following is a study in what happens if the crazed teacher from the aforementioned bloodbath of a movie gets to make a video game…

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You play an office worker who is bored with his life so he decides to seek a treasure hidden on a remote island.  That’s all the setup.  However, what follows is one of the most baffling and strange adventures you will ever play on a game console.  It’s best to think of ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ as an amalgamation of an action platformer (you can beat up Yakuza and literally every other character in the game if you want to) and a late-80’s adventure title like Monkey Island or the previously-covered Maniac Mansion.

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There are several steps you have to take to actually beat ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ and for most of them you are offered no hint or even a prompt, so you have to either know what to do, or approach the game as trial-and-error.  Some of the steps even seem entirely superfluous until you see them from the game’s perspective and include, but are not limited to:  Getting drunk at a bar, learning how to play the guitar, divorcing your wife, finding a treasure map… There’s even a step that requires you to ‘sing’ into the 2nd controller’s microphone (yes, the Famicom had very primitive voice support that was later discontinued) to win a karaoke competition.

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All steps must be completed in the correct order, the correct way, otherwise it’s game over!  The worst part is, Game Over is actually the death of your character in the story, so you have to start the entire game from scratch, repeating all necessary steps again without making a mistake in order to see the ‘true ending’.  For this reason alone, as well as its famously cryptic missions, ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ has become infamous as one of the cruelest, most punishing games ever released.

Controversy surrounded this title at the time of its release with Kitano receiving criticism for intentionally trying to manipulate kids into buying his game that was far too difficult for them by leveraging his fame to endorse it.  As such, for a time it was considered one of the worst video games ever made by some Japanese outlets.  However, the game has since become somewhat of a cult classic as it was innovative in its design, implementing story elements and interactivity at a level that was nearly unheard of at the time, with the only series possibly coming close being a few of the ongoing RPG franchises on PC’s such as the Ultima games.

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Of course, this is a Famicom game, so in order to play it in the US, you either need a Famicom console and a compatible TV, or a much-cheaper pin adapter to play it on your own NES.  The great news is this game is dirt cheap!  It typically runs under $10 online for a loose cart and I would say is worth picking up for collectors.  It’s such a unique and fascinating attempt at creating a pseudo-sophisticated game blended with a level of trolling that only Kitano could achieve.  It is hard to deny the evidence that ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ was really a massive marketing prank played on Japanese consumers in the early years of the Famicom’s run and there were actually fears that the game may mar the reputation of Nintendo and its publisher Taito, who demanded some effort be made to make the game even remotely possible for consumers to beat, so Kitano agreed by using the games’ various advertisements as hints on what to do to complete it, a meta game that was far beyond what consumers were expecting in 1986.  Accessibility is key here and this was released at a time where most people were blown away by the impressive sound quality of Castlevania, having no idea that a game like ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’ could even exist.  It is a testament to the forward-thinking Kitano’s personality that today titles like this not only could exist but do in various ways.  However, before all of these ultra-interactive games from Deus Ex to Shenmue to GTA: Vice City to Yakuza, there was an utterly bizarre Famicom game from from the mid-80’s that laid the groundwork.


Batman: The Telltale Series [Switch] Review

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Welcome back to the gaming world, people of 2018! Flushed with eShop money and no idea what to spend it on, I decide to make the jump into Telltale Games’ work, having never seen or played one before. With their slow introductory on the Switch, I perused all of the two titles I could find; Minecraft and Batman. Having told myself I was a fan of Batman for many years (often disheartedly as I leave movie theatres), I decide to let this be the very first TTG game. I didn’t know what to expect given that the only thing I knew was “there was going to be some tough choices to make”. Little did I know that choices and split decisions were the cruces of the game, and with it being dished on Bruce Wayne’s plate, left me begging for season two.

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For those who are in the same boat as me, the season one that I played introduces many of the iconic Batman character (sans Robin) you can imagine, often with a new spin or re-imagining of the character. The Danny Devito-esque villain, the Penguin, has been etched in my mind thanks to Tim Burton, yet what I got instead was surprising and left me in loops of trying to reestablish what I remember characters as. Harvey Dent, who many will know as the eventual Two-Face, makes a strong left turn on how he’s handled in both his relationship with Bruce Wayne and with the world. I suppose writing a whole paragraph on why I was shocked to re-organize my thoughts on the Batman world as told by Telltale is a bit silly, but it’s a blessed forewarning; don’t expect the same old story.

Though yes, the pearls do break and hit the floor at some point in this game.

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The controls of the game vary from scene to scene, though what you can do is tied thematically to the situation of the scene. Combat scenes clear you of moving but instead preps you to be ready for a fast-paced button prompt to dodge a punch or send a knee into a face. Conversations focus almost entirely on dialog choices, running down a ladder of decisions that will affect people’s friendship with you or how people begin to look at Batman. Investigations leave you to rummage the area and investigate clue pieces, occasionally linking evidence area to form a bigger picture of the nightmares that unfolded there. By design, it felt like every choice I made had an impact on the game, even if there are times it didn’t matter and it was smoke and mirrors.

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Spread across five episodes, each part usually introduces a new titular character or plot point, giving a fresh slap of paint to a building art piece. In addition, there’s usually a game-changing decision to make that decides the fate of the chapter’s end. I had to decide between taking on two separate villains in different parts of town, both of which were trying to ruin you at the same time. Stop one saves me in some fashion, while the other devastates your future. It was almost traumatizing to pick because I knew I was screwed either way and I had to calculate which was least damaging. I had to pick between saving two people very important to me. I regret my pick, but I know I would regret it if I picked the other person, too

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There are some hardships that come with this game, with one, in particular, that would dissuade me personally from buying the game for the Switch in the first place. Namely, I was stricken with memory save issues that were so bad that if I chose to leave after a checkpoint anywhere in an episode, even if the icon clearly showed it saved the game for me, I would have to start the entire chapter over. We’re talking up to an hour and a half of lost game time, folks. Even after beating the episode it would save my choices but then claim that I never played the episode and prompt me to do so. Essentially I was forced to play in 1.5-hour chunks or risk losing a ton of progress and choices I made. That aside, there are a lot of jenky scene transitions of models and foliage loading in a bit too late to escape my eagle eyes, leaving me annoyed that they miscalculated the load time that the Switch takes compared to the console or PC counterparts.

The music was decent and the voice acting,  and although occasionally corny (I’m looking at you, Selina Kyles), Telltale did an amazing job with the voice acting on everything. I can only imagine how much work is put into the voice work, considering the one playthrough I only reflected one of the four choices of dialogue that was presented to me, making me curious to retry and play the scenario differently. With credits in tow for the last time, however, I’m ready to let this game sit for a bit until I give it another go.

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WedNESday: My Favorite NES Boss Battles – A New Year “Special”, Part 2

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5. Jagger Froid – Super C

Big bosses are an iconic trope in gaming.  The bigger, the badder, the better!  Jagger Froid (a truly odd name) is one of those legendary 8-bit bosses whose face you’ve seen time and again on box art and in reference to other creatures in the Contra series.  In Contra III, his horrific visage was the inspiration for the first phase of the final bout with the “vile Red Falcon”.  The multi-faced array of the first phase to the (I would call it ‘goofy’) sub-boss theme leads into a rumble followed by the tense boss theme as Jagger’s face emerges from a gaping hole.  It’s not a tough boss for being so late in the game, but it is a memorable fight with a pretty intimidating lead in for its time.

4. Jaquio – Ninja Gaiden

Like the Castlevania games, Ninja Gaiden is far more well-known for the difficulty of its stages rather than its bosses, but the final boss rush of the first title in the series will certainly test you.  This multiphase fight consists of a few simple engagements followed by a creepy alien beast that seems like it’s out of an entirely different game.  The fight is straightforward, but dodging Jaquio’s barrage of fireballs is quite the task, even for a seasoned gamer.

3. Gamma – Mega Man III

The first time I faced Gamma as a kid I swore it was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in a video game.  This massive mech that marks the final challenge of the Blue Bomber’s third outing is one memorable engagement.  The only reason he’s not higher is, despite its size and presentation, there really isn’t much to him!  The first phase has you quickly dispatching a weak small robot resting on the lower half of Gamma’s head, and when it’s dead, the massive mech’s horned helm drops revealing the full, brutish face of Wily’s new prized creation.  Watch out for its spiked fist, jump up the platforms and give a few Hard Punches and that’s all she wrote.

2. Tutankhamunattack – Life Force

I’m no Egyptologist, but I would hazard a guess it isn’t written that somewhere inside the body of a remote interdimensional alien planet-sized organism in space lies an Egyptian temple with a massive Tutankhamun head!  That’s okay though, because Life Force rocks and after a pretty tough fifth stage (with epic theme music), the famous boss beat kicks in as you slow down and find yourself at a dead end against a wall.  Tut’s lifeless face protrudes from the wall when suddenly the entire room begins to quake.  The boss music intensifies as the walls and ceiling begin to crumble brick-by-brick, forcing you to think fast and dodge the deadly falling objects and after the wall is gone and it is only your ship and Tut’s head against the blackness of space, color returns to the gilded monstrosity and as his eyes open a ring of floating orbs spin wildly around him, blocking your attacks as he spits clusters of bullets towards you.  This is an NES boss!  The build-up, the execution and the challenge are all there and it all works so well… and speaking of build-up…

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1. Mecha Dragon – Mega Man 2

You’ve successfully shut down Dr. Wily’s eight robot masters and you are ready to face him in his menacing mechanical domicile but before that, you get two things: The greatest theme music on the NES and arguably the greatest boss battle on the platform, too.  When you finally get indoors inside a dark hangar, you leap across platforms to find the pace shifts.  You are no longer in control as the screen slows into an auto-scroller and from below a giant robot dragon shatters the sparse blocks behind you and proceeds to chase you across a row of isolated platforms until you reach the end of the line; three small, floating blocks separate you from instant death and the merciless Mecha Dragon begins his barrage of fireballs that are as big as you.  Fortunately, refuge lies at the top block, where knock back sends you safely to the block below and it puts you in prime position to get the most out of the boss’s ultimate weakness: Boomerangs!!!  I remember vividly my first encounter with Mecha Dragon and it remains one of my fondest gaming recollections, as such this fight tops my list of favorite NES boss battles

This concludes this series!  I will have another review next week of an obscure title that will likely be more confusing than anything.  In the meantime, thanks for reading.  What are your favorite NES boss memories?  Please share them as I would love to hear what you think.  Until then, Happy New Year!

Review: The Coma Recut on Nintendo Switch

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You know – Back when we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do, we had this little thing on YouTube called ‘Reviews Done Quick’ – At its best it was a 60-90 second take on a video game aimed at helping people know what they needed to know without wasting their time. At its worst – It was selfish excuse to not write 18 paragraphs describing our reactions and impressions to a video game 🙂

The jokes on us, it took way longer to edit those videos than writing 18 paragraphs lol. But due to my lack of time this holiday season, I thought you know what really need the “RDQ” treatment? Our ACTUAL written reviews. So with that intro, please let me provide to you my “Review Done Quick” attempt using one of my favorite indie releases on Nintendo Switch – The Coma Recut.

What Do You Need To Know?

The Coma Recut is a horror-adventure game that has just arrived on Switch but has been available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms since September. ACTUALLY the game actually released back in 2015 on Mac/Windows as The Coma: Cutting Class but has been updated quite a bit to make up today’s console version.

In a lot of ways its not very different from an Oxenfree in design – You explore environments in a 2D space that visually, is wonderfully created  in the style of a comic strip. The game looks great, both in portable and on the dock on that Nintendo Switch of yours.

While you’ll see the word ‘survival’ if you look this game up, I can’t back up that claim. Resources are plentiful as is money AND the enemies are easy enough to run away from / avoid. That said – The enemies do their job of adding to the tension, blocking areas you shouldn’t be in, etc.

There’s quite a bit of back tracking to find new clues, items, people / dialog that when found in the right pattern will open up new corridors or access to other areas to advance your story. That’s pretty much the gameplay – Very much like a TellTale game, walk around, click on the objects read and react. The dialogue and stories you find though more than make up for the effort and it’s ultimately a sit down once or twice and beat game, so if you’re weekends free, there’s a lot to find here.

My only real con is that the game didn’t do as much as I would have liked developing the secondary characters. This narrative, especially with it’s great writing, could have done so much to invest more in the narrative but I do suppose the original design was to be a shorter-ish game so it’s understandable – I JUST WANTED MORE MEATY DIAGLOG!

Bottom Line – What I really want to say is if you were ever a fan of Clock Tower on PS2 or even Resident Evil Nemesis, I think you would enjoy playing The Coma Recut on Switch, PC, PS4 or XB1. The tension of being hunted while uncovering this mysterious high school is compelling and the slight Persona vibes in style and setting are a treat. I do think the Switch price of entry ($20) might be a bit on the high side given that the game is available for cheaper elsewhere and the the overall amount of game is easily less than 7-8 hours (many have done the campaign in less than 5).

WedNESday: My Favorite NES Boss Battles – A Year-End “Special”, Part 1

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December has been a crazy month for me so I apologize for the lack of articles.  I had planned a year-end special to be published after Christmas but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.  I landed on a simple list of some of my favorite boss fights to be published in two parts.  I wouldn’t call this a “definitive” list.  Rather, it’s some of the best boss fights I feel are the most intimidating, creative or memorably on the NES.  I could easily expand this list in the future as well with more options from a variety of other games.

Now, just a quick note before I begin:  It’s important to keep in mind that when I was a kid playing NES games regularly, there wasn’t a lot out there to really spoil these fights for me, so nearly all of them were experienced for the first time by playing the game, so I will try my best to convey just how I remember the moment I first encountered these fights.

Without further ado, here are the first five entries in my year end list!


Robot Squares – Blaster Master

The unceremoniously-named “Robot Squares” from the classic NES masterpiece Blaster Master is one of the most interesting bosses, especially fighting this baddie as a kid, I was captivated by its design.  The fight starts simple enough, with the square-shaped robot sliding around the room evasively, but then it clones itself, .leaving a deactivated shell of itself on the ground!  This continues several times with each spawn of the boss leaving another husk and moving faster and faster as the active, killable husks shift between each other and move around the screen.  For a first-time fight, it can feel a little frenetic and kind of insane but the mechanics and design lend themselves well to Sunsoft’s signature top-down game design.


King Koopa – Super Mario Bros. 3

The final battle in Super Mario Bros. 3 is somewhat of a staple moment in Nintendo’s games long history of memorable gaming scenes.  It isn’t as downright terrifying as the final fights from Yoshi’s Island or Majora’s Mask, or as explosive and intense as the final duel from Star Fox, but it does leave its mark.


Nyudo Monster – Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu

The elusive Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu is a surprisingly-fun little action platformer and while it is short on the boss fights, The Nyudo Monster, a giant purple cloud beast is certainly a memorable terror.  I have an affinity for big bosses and this cyclops is titanic.  The fight isn’t too difficult, but this beast left an impact on me.  


Shadow Beast Entrance – Contra

This towering icon of the 8-bit era is a fight I worked on perfecting for a long time.  Contra is one of my favorite NES games and this fight is easily my favorite boss in terms of design and scale.  The sneering xenomorph grin, the shifting tentacles, the constant threat of getting a ring of fire to the face makes this fight a pivotal memory from my gaming youth.


Dracula – Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

The multiphase final duel of the legendary Castlevania III is not only one of the greatest final bosses from the NES era, but it’s also comprised of some truly creepy monster designs.  The first phase is pretty straightforward and reminiscent of the final fight from the classic first title in the series.  From there, things take a turn for the disturbing when a now-decapitated Dracula’s head joins a floating mass of purple flesh that hovers to the left and right sporting five faces, each individually destroyed with well-placed axes leaving only lifeless skulls in their places.  The final phase finds the Prince of Darkness taking the form of friggin’ Pazuzu shifting the floor blocks around the room while firing lasers from his eyes!  I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself when I finally made it past Death, but when I found this gauntlet waiting for me at the end, I didn’t really know what to think.  I was understandably shocked by this fight considering the previous final battles in the series were not exactly epic.