Monthly Update: January 2015

danganronpa 2

These monthly updates are a collection of extremely brief thoughts on the latest video games that I’m currently playing or have played in the past month. Explanation of the game’s story/gameplay are foregone in favor of quick impressions – these entries assume you have some knowledge of what the game is about, and if you want more info you can follow the included wiki link. Games are usually fairly recent although I throw a few retro games into the mix. I’ll also occasionally throw in games that I’m still playing but which I didn’t start during the month in question – for example, games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. I’ll try to do that when something else new comes out for those games to maintain relevance.

These are meant to be quick general thoughts, and not a substitute for a review. I’ve started an “enjoyment meter” where I state how much I’m enjoying the game from 1 to 10 in intervals of 0.5 – again, this is not meant to be an indicator of game quality, but just how much I enjoyed it (which I ultimately feel is the most important part of any game). I also include the price that I paid (I often buy games on sale), for those who aren’t familiar with approximate prices for each title. Finally, I designate a “Game of the Month.”

Games covered this month:
Evil Within (PS4)
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Vita)
Super Metroid (Wii U VC)
Captain Toad (Wii U)
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (Wii U)
Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
NES Remix 2 (Wii U)
Electronic Super Joy (Wii U)

Game of the Month:
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Vita)

Evil Within ($25): 3

Read the full review.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair ($19): 9

Danganronpa Monokuma

The Danganronpa games are special. I didn’t expect that I’d enjoy reading that much text while playing a video game, and I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy spending time with some of the more annoying characters, but somehow it just all comes together to bring you a really enjoyable experience. The story immerses the player; I often found it hard to stop playing. From the occasionally sarcastic and witty banter to scouring the area for clues and connecting the dots, you play the role of a “normal high school student” detective. It’s an intriguing balance that makes you feel like you could be there, regardless of your age.

Monokuma is, well, Monokuma…if you didn’t like him in the first game, you won’t like him here. Personally, I enjoy him very much, definitely much more so than the bunny villain in Virtue’s Last Reward. He returns in all his glory but also brings his “sister,” whom I was initially fearful was going to be a really annoying character but came to enjoy. Gameplay is very similar to the prior entry with just enough alterations to keep it feeling fresh. To top it all off, there are a ton of extra things to do once you complete the main campaign, which clocks in somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 hours.

There are some annoying things about this game. I’m not particularly fond of several of the new “improved” minigames, but some of them are fun and none are deal breakers. I ended up using a walkthrough for the class trials, as I found the game was a bit more vague in what arrangement of statements it wanted as the “correct” answer than its previous entry (I often knew what answer the game wanted, but I couldn’t guess as to the “correct” phrase). That was frustrating, but again it’s such a small aspect of an otherwise phenomenal game that it just didn’t bother me. Definitely recommend this game.

Super Metroid ($0, club nintendo): 9.5

Super MetroidI picked up this game when Club Nintendo offered it for 200 coins, and played through it for the first time in about 15 years. And it’s just as glorious as I remembered it.

I’ve already written about this game on my list of favorite games, so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say that the game design is simply brilliant, the atmosphere is incredibly fitting, and the platforming is top-notch. In a true testament to the triviality of hardware power, this SNES classic was one of my funnest experiences in a long time.

Captain Toad ($30): 9

Captain ToadDespite a fairly simple concept, no story, and somewhat repetitive gameplay, this game is phenomenal. I generally am not a very big fan of puzzle games, so for me to fall in love with this one as much as I did, it truly needed to be something special. And it was.

Aside from my growing affinity for Toad, this game is the perfect distraction from the 20+ hour campaigns that seem constitute many AAA games today. Although, to be honest, I found it a struggle to put it down – I would carve out 15 minutes where I thought to myself, ok, I can play a quick level or two and then get back to work, but three hours later the gamepad’s blinking light (signifying a dying battery) shocked me back to reality.

I’m usually the antithesis of a completionist, but I found that for a game like this, it felt like getting the gems for each level was required before moving on to the next level. Otherwise you could plow through the game in no time, which wouldn’t have been much fun. But because there were only three in each level, it never felt overwhelming or annoying (like the completionist fetch quests commonly found in games).

Loved this game, and can’t wait to bust it out again when the new Toad amiibo arrives on March 20, 2015.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse ($20): 6.5

Shantae and Pirate's CurseI go back and forth on this game. Sometimes I love everything about it, and sometimes I hate everything about it. Let me explain.

First off, this is a pretty solid platformer. Nothing unusual there, but it does have some unconventional mechanics such as using your hair as a weapon. On the one hand, the environment and atmosphere are charming and completely unique – from ecclectic music that fits the mood perfectly to the repetitive enemy design necessary for the arcade feel of this title, the strengths combine with weaknesses in a way that works.

At the same time, it is because of some of these unique attributes that I found it difficult to enjoy at times. The odd music gets annoying after hearing it long enough. The enemy design is boring and monotonous. The witty banter from the main character is charming at times but often had me rolling my eyes.

I haven’t finished this yet so the verdict’s not final, but so far I’m enjoying this title enough to keep playing and give it a decent score. Worth the $20? I’d wait for a sale.

Persona 4 Golden ($12): 8.5

Persona 4 GoldenI did NOT think that I’d like this game. After watching some reviews and a few gameplay clips on Youtube, I decided it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Plus I haven’t been into RPGs until recently, and even then I’m just experimenting with them. But I happened to be chatting with a friend of mine about doing an upcoming podcast, and she said she was playing it and loving it. So I decided to give it a shot. And wow was I glad that I did.

I’m 20 hours in thus far, and I’m really having a blast. The characters are charming without being annoying, which can be a difficult achievement when trying to portray high school characters. I’m engaged in the story, and am finding it difficult to put down, which is truly the mark of a great game.

Being fairly new to RPGs (despite playing games for 25 years, I never really got into them in the past), I had to learn a few lessons the hard way, but for the most part the game explains things well. There’s a lot going on at multiple levels, but not to the point of being overwhelmed – it’s ok not to be following every aspect of what’s going on. At least, it’s ok on normal difficulty; if you want to turn up the heat, then you’ll need to be on the top of your game.

While I can’t compare the battle system to a bunch of other RPGs due to my limited experience with them, I can say that it makes sense to a newcomer and is extremely enjoyable. Just like with some of the characters voices (ahem, Chie), I figured I would start to get annoyed at some actions that occur during the battle sequences, but (just like Chie) that hasn’t happened yet. The exception would be Teddie – his ever-present voice in the dungeons had me occasionally muting my Vita.

NES Remix 2 ($15): 6

NES Remix 2I was really excited to finally buy this; since it was released, I had been waiting for there to be a sale on a package deal of NES Remix 1 and 2. That didn’t come by the end of the year, and since I was keen to cash in on Nintendo’s Deluxe Digital Promotion, I bought this version near the last day of 2014.

My first reaction was one of frustration. I had bought this game to play remixed NES games, so imagine my surprise when only a few remixed versions of games are ready to play from the start! It turns out you have to unlock just about everything by playing little mini challenges from a host of NES classics.

The problem here is that I’ve played through those NES classics…many times. With so many great games in my backlog, the last thing I wanted to do was to go and replay little snippets of old NES games, complete in their original form. I wanted the cool remixes, you know, Link bashing Mario blocks, things like that.

Instead, I’m forced to play annoying little mini challenges that don’t excite me in just about any way. I played this game for about two hours before I put it down. The only reason I kept playing was to unlock more remix levels, but those remix levels end up being really short so it basically equated to playing 1 remix level for every 3 regular levels. Since I have no desire to spend 75% of my time with a game playing things I don’t want to play, I gave up on this one. Really cool idea, poor execution.

Electronic Super Joy (Wii U) ($5): 7.5

Electronic Super JoyI’m a huge fan of techno music, or trance, or whatever you call the stuff that they have in this game (no, I don’t know my musical genres), so when I first saw some gameplay I was hooked. I really enjoy these little platforming games where you can pick up and play in bite-sized amounts, and this is a gem. It’s a shame that some people won’t experience just because of sexual sound effects that accompany each respawn.

Yes, for some god unknown reason the developers decided to have an emphatic sensual sound (male AND female – no bias here!) erupt every time the player comes back to life, which, in this type of game, is going to occur. You’re going to die. A lot. For those who just don’t want it to be there, the game has a super easy-to-access “PG” mode which turns off the moans. But, I confess I left it on during my play through for novelty purposes.

The art style is just incredibly pleasing to look at, even though it couldn’t be simpler: White, black, and one main color at a time. That’s it! And it just works beautifully. The levels get to be hard as nails (I even died on the first levels, which are supposed to be the easy tutorial ones), but it doesn’t feel unfair. The game says look, we’re going to throw some crazy shit at you, and you can platform the hell out of it, or you can go crying to your mamma. I respect a good challenge, and this game is perfect in that regard.

It’s not super long, but it will take you awhile to master what’s there. At $5, if you enjoy the type of music in this game, you simply can’t go wrong.

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