It’s time for our weekly roundup of what is trending in our own personal zeitgeist as the 25YL gaming team discusses what we’ve been playing lately. It’s what we call We’re Just Playing…
I’m not a big Sega guy. Never have been. I think Sonic is clunky; I find games like Golden Axe boring and derivative; I think their platformers are often poorly controlled disasters; their RPGs half baked. And yet, I bought the Sega Genesis Classics collection on Switch because the sale price was too hard to resist.
I recalled owning was a Sega collection where you could unlock the original Shinobi (the arcade version), and that game was my jam back in the day. I thought it would be nice to have Shinobi on my Switch, so I could play it anywhere.
Sure, Shinobi is available as a standalone game on the Switch, but with the Genesis collection on sale for only a few bucks more, I went ahead and bought that instead, thinking I was cleverly cheating the system. However, I don’t think this version has Shinobi as an unlockable game. Drag.
Soooo…I decided to boot up my WiiU and browse the OG Wii Channel. I saw all kinds of games I had forgotten I purchased on the old Wii Shop Channel, but I didn’t find the one I was looking for. So I clicked on the SD card and saw a few more games that gave me warm happy feelings.
The first one was Contra ReBirth, which I couldn’t remember much about. I clicked on it and the WiiU generated an error message I could not back out of. I had to hold the power button on the console until it shut down (which the WiiU scolded me for doing once it booted back up).
You see, the SD card has corrupt data blocks, meaning some of the games are now unplayable, while others are fine. My WiiU also has corrupt blocks on the console hard drive as well, which means many of my WiiU virtual console games don’t work anymore either. On top of that, several disc based games such as Mario Kart 8 crap out when you choose certain tracks. Again, more corruption than Metroid Prime 3. Yet, my original NES is still kicking.
So yeah, my beloved WiiU is dying, and it sucks because I use it to play many old Wii games. I just played Super Mario Galaxy 2 (and 1) on it. Nevertheless, there were two games on the old Wii Channel that did still work.
One was Bubble Bobble Plus, a remake of the old Taito classic, which I was always a fan of as a kid. I would play the old NES game with my mom, and we even beat the game proper (Happy End!). For the Wii-make (which SquareSoft had a hand in) there were added game modes, improved graphics and sound, and online leaderboards.
I was so obsessed with this remake that I climbed pretty high in the rankings for all-time high score, and even held the world record for the fastest game completion time—until the servers shut down. I always regret not taking a picture of that. I happily played the game for about a half hour before quitting. The game is fun, but it really is a two player experience. Besides, I had the other game to play.
Shinobi, the Sega arcade hit, was on my SD card, buried in the Wii Channel, that was itself buried in the WiiU menu. And it worked! Not only that, I quickly remembered that you could assign yourself 256 lives right out the gate, which I did.
I don’t know what it is about the game specifically that I love so much, but I always have. It’s an arcade game, so there are plenty of “gotcha” moments, designed to siphon quarters (which it did), and eventually you got better at the game strictly through repetition and pattern recognition. I’m not here to gush about the game in any specific way, it’s just one of those games I like, that I really wanted to play again. And, like most other games lately, I got bored with it after an hour and moved on to something else.
So I went back to the Sega Genesis collection. So far, I’ve played through a few games (luckily, there is a rewind feature, so the lousy controls of several games are salvaged by this) and some I even really like. Some control so poorly that I doubt the game would be challenging at all if your character didn’t slip and slide everywhere he went. Looking at you, Kid Chameleon. Still, it was nice to play Gunstar Heroes (especially since my downloaded copy on the WiiU is one of the ones that no longer works).
Anyway, my dive in the collection will wait for another day. I think there’s a lot to talk about, and I’m curious to see if my preconceived notions about Sega Genesis games will be confirmed (I tend to think they’re sub par and clunky compared to Nintendo games) or subverted.
As the resident lapsed gamer at 25YL, I didn’t purchase the Final Fantasy VII remake. I played the original and enjoyed it, but it’s not even in my top 3 Final Fantasy games. Quarantined life has forced me to be conservative with my budget and focus on games that I own. I’ve been cruising through my backlog in the past two weeks.
I completed Uncharted: Golden Abyss on Vita. It felt like the typical Naughty Dog experience (which I approve of). The banter between Nathan Drake and the other characters is top notch dialogue work. As an audio editor, I appreciate the attention to detail Naughty Dog delivers. This was my introduction to the Uncharted series. With Sony recently offering the Nathan Drake Collection for free, this was perfect timing for me to explore the franchise.
The fine folks at Four Horses sent me a review copy of Miles & Kilo on Vita, which I recently reviewed. I forgot how much I love simple platformers, and it was a nice change of pace following Uncharted. The game has a simple story with minimal dialogue, no tutorials, and only a few hours of playtime. I’m one trophy short for the platinum and it looks like I’ll fall short once again. You must complete the game without dying more than 10 times. The final level alone I need 15 attempts.
I finished Zelda: Breath of the Wild and to be honest, I didn’t enjoy the second half of my playthrough. The disparity in difficulty level for the boss fights was annoying. The final battle didn’t give me much trouble while the Thunderblight Ganon battle was arduous. Other gamers have praised this game as one of the best of all time, but it didn’t reach that high watermark for me. Maybe open world games aren’t for me? We will see when I start The Witcher 3 in the near feature.
As always, I’ve been struggling to focus on different games, but I think I’ve found a groove with Persona 5 Royal. God of War just was not doing it for me. I liked the combat, but as I mentioned last week, something about the way the game is paced was struggling to keep my attention. On the other hand, Persona 5 Royal is something special. At only a few hours in, it’s already grabbed me, and even though the overall pacing is quite slow, the visuals, voice acting, and writing help those hours fly by. I can already tell it’s going to be one of those games that eats up a lot of my free time.
This is my first entry in the Persona series, although I’ve played other Shin Megami Tensei games (IV and Devil Survivor Overclocked, both on the 3DS, the former of which I enjoyed immensely as an M rated Pokemon, and the latter of which I enjoy but suck big-time at). So far, it’s grabbed me. For those that don’t know, this particular entry follows a group of teens known as the Phantom Thieves, as they go into a cognitive realm to stop people (with nasty secrets) from doing any more harm to anyone. It’s a cool premise, and the school sections are honestly just as gripping as the dungeon one, thanks to the strength of the script and the game’s production values. I’ll be reporting back in the next week, hopefully with a bit more progress under my belt.
I also downloaded a game called Blazing Chrome on my Switch. It was on sale so I figured why not? Apparently it is to Contra what Mighty No. 9 was to the Mega Man franchise, except Blazing Chrome is actually really good. I’ll admit to not having much experience with Contra aside from getting my butt handed to me on the first level of Contra 3: The Alien Wars, so Blazing Chrome was a nice change of pace for me.
The plot is about destroying a core so a human resistance can fight against their robot overlords (or something). Like many old school games, the story is just an excuse to hang the gameplay on, although the pixelated cut scenes are gorgeous. Also like many old school games, it’s short but sweet, with a high difficulty even on Easy, which mercifully gives you plenty of lives and generous check points. You’ll need those lives to dodge all the robots shooting at you as you run from one end of the level to the other, and you die in one hit from anything. The short length of the game helps keep the momentum and fast pace of the gameplay going, with levels that are relentless, and tough boss fights that feel rewarding to beat. And despite the short length, the game does a great job of keeping things interesting. You’ll have elevator sequences, bike chases to catch a train, fights against helicopters, on rail shooting sequences like Star Fox 64, and more, sometimes all in the same level.
The game gives you two more characters to unlock when you beat it, which, coupled with the multiple difficulty levels, offers some replayability. Blazing Chrome is definitely a case of quality over quantity. It’s short, but positively packed to the brim with challenging and explosive action. I got it on sale for ten bucks, which is a little steep considering my first play through lasted about an hour and a half, but it absolutely delivers on its promise of throwback action, while still remaining accessible thanks to its multiple difficulty levels.
Johnny, your corrupted WiiU fills me with dread about the future of my own. Like you, I have a great selection of games on there that aren’t available anywhere else. Contra ReBirth is fantastic, as is Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. I have my own sentimental arcade classic on there too in Data East’s Spinmaster. Sadly with the Wii Shop having now closed, when the console dies they die with it.
It’s why, where possible, I remain an avid collector of physical media—and last week, I was especially thankful for that fact. Physical pre-orders for Final Fantasy VII Remake were shipped well in advance to ensure they could be delivered in time by the strained couriers and postal services. Mine arrived a couple of days ahead of release and gave me a brief window of gloating time, and a chance to get a head start. Sadly, gloating was about as far as I got—I didn’t actually manage to start playing the game until the night before launch. I was cursing my tardiness whilst frantically writing my Day 1 Review. Thankfully, it turned out well enough and, another 5 hours on from my initial thoughts, I still feel much the same way about the game.
Also on PS4, I started playing Ride 3—a motorbike racing sim in the vein of Gran Turismo. Those with an interest in the (admittedly niche) genre will fondly remember Polyphony Digital’s own motorbike racing sim: Tourist Trophy for the PS2. Tourist Trophy has long been the best attempt to bring realistic bike physics to a video-game. Ride 3 comes close but is ultimately brought down by a slight lack of polish. Content-wise, it’s generous to say the least—230 bikes and 30 tracks with tonnes of customisation options. The blemishes come in the form of some inconsistent physics and a yo-yo like difficulty curve. In Tourist Trophy, chasing lap-times involved memorising the circuits and finding the perfect lines and braking points. In Ride 3, it involves heavily exploiting the track limits and liberal use of the rewind function. Nevertheless, I’m finding it a thoroughly addictive experience and it’s giving me my first taste of achievement hunting. I have over 50% of the trophies already, and I’m getting the itch to go for platinum.
On Switch I picked up Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. I’m a huge fan of Nintendo-era Rare, and so Playtonic (being mostly staffed by ex-Rare employees) are one of the indie studios I watch with a keen interest. That being said, my relationship with the developer got off to a rocky start. I was a backer for the original Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter and giddy with excitement about the game coming to WiiU—I was then subsequently gutted when that version was unceremoniously cancelled. I didn’t own any of the other available platforms at the time and opted for a refund and ended up in a bit of a huff about it.
Since then I’ve 100% completed the game on Switch and loved it. This Donkey Kong Country style sequel is proving to be equally lovable, though I’m surprised it reviewed quite as well as it did. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it (aside from an annoyingly long initial load time) but, for me, it’s not quite hitting the highs of the DKC trilogy, or indeed, it’s modern counterparts in Returns and Tropical Freeze. I’m still fairly early on in my playthrough though (and I’ve been banging on for a while now) so maybe I’ll save some of my thoughts on it for next week…
I had the some trepidation playing Yooka Laylee & the Impossible Lair, but it was because I found the original Banjo Kazooie homage Yooka Laylee to be a little unfulfilling. There were only a few different worlds, and they sacrificed variety for levels that were, to me, over-sized and confusing. I wrote a review on The Impossible Lair a while back and never returned to the game afterwards despite reviewing it positively. I did find it to be vastly superior to the original game, and a fitting homage to the other Rare series, the DKC games from the SNES (and also the Retro and Nintendo soft reboots for Wii and WiiU). I need to go back to it, because it really restored my faith in what Playtonic is doing with their “original” franchise.