Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Friday » Tue Jun 30, 2020 5:08 pm

Thad wrote:
Friday wrote:Yeah, it doesn't really control like a Mario game. You've got a super different jump that lets you fly by paddling really hard, you swallow enemies, throw eggs, etc. I'm not saying there aren't similarities, but there's a reason this game spun off into it's own side games. If it is Mario, it's a very different flavor.

I can't stop holding down Y to run. My brain knows that it doesn't do anything, but try telling my muscle memory that.


I'm pretty sure I do the same thing. In rpgs that allow you to turn on auto run (making holding the button walk) I just leave it on default because my brain likes to hold down a button.
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Friday » Thu Jul 02, 2020 1:19 pm

25. Shadowrun (SNES)

Shadowrun has a very unique place in my heart. I cannot think of another game with such amazing potential for a FF7 style, from the ground up remake.

Shadowrun is a very, very flawed game. The combat is complete garbage. The keyword dialog system, while serving to immerse you into the world by giving you the ability to question NPCs, is boring and tedious because of how many keywords you accumulate and how long it takes to scroll through the menus to ask the next word. Occasionally they purge a bunch when you advance a chapter, but it's not enough; they should be forever removed from the list from that specific NPC after you ask once.

The Shadowrunners you can hire have shitty, suicidal AI, and you're better off without them for the most part. (Except the Dwarf, who is a bloodthirsty maniac with a machine gun and a ton of armor and HP, so the AI actually fits his character.) Encounters are too frequent. You are nearly constantly beset by assassins shooting you from windows and it gets tedious and annoying.

Here's the thing. These are real problems and they hold this game back from true greatness. But the other side of this game is sky high.

For those of you not familiar with the Shadowrun universe, think "Magic and Elves and Dwarves and Trolls and Dragons meets Cyberpunk" because that's exactly what Shadowrun is. You play as Jake Armitage, and are immediately gunned down by thugs in the game's opening. Then a fox runs up to you, turns into a sexy foxgirl, and saves your life with magic before running off. You then wake up in morgue, and scare the living shit out of the doctors.

Your memory is gone, fried. You follow a punk down an alley and an orc tries to kill you. You grab a gun, kill him and grab his jacket, and then a dog comes out of the shadows and this happens:

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Any further attempts to question the animal result in growling.

From there a film noir story unfolds with twists and turns and dark lighting and M O O D unlike anything anyone had ever seen for the fucking SUPER NINTENDO back in 1993. The Matrix, AI, Cortex Bombs, A Fighting Arena, Trolls with Machine Guns, Orc Gangs, Rat Shamans, A Sexy Foxgirl, the Darkblade Club, A Malevolent Jester Spirit who can only be defeated by learning his true name from a Vampire, Calling a Dragon just to troll him, and more. Shadowrun is a vibrant dystopian world filled with decay, corporate greed, magic, and insane dwarves. There's really nothing else like it.

The story unfolds slowly. As previously mentioned, you have to ask NPCs for clues based on keywords. Talk to one guy to learn a keyword that has to be repeated to the correct NPC to get your next clue. The game does not hold your hand at -all-. This is a really great concept and it really immerses you into the world, but it's a shame it was executed so poorly with slow menus and keywords sticking around after you ask them, forcing you to repeat keywords to NPCs when you're stuck and can't remember if you've asked this particular person this particular keyword.

I will always love this game. It's such a weird, flawed beast. But there's a reason it made top 8 back in the SNES poll.

Do I recommend this game:
Yes. But have a guide open for when you get stuck, because you will. Figuring out what to do on your own is too obtuse and unintuitive for today's standards.

Gameplay: 1. Utter trash. The combat is "move cursor with d-pad over enemy, press shoot repeatedly." There's no reloading, ammo management, dodging, cover, nothing. It's literally a fucking button masher. Later in the game you get access to invisibility, which makes the enemies ignore you (even when you're gunning them down). I normally don't use cheap overpowered abilities when I play games, but I abuse the fuck out of invis in this, because the combat is so shit. Also, the aforementioned problems with the keyword system. Fights are far too frequent and are irritating. The hacking minigame sucks and has the game's worst music track.

Experience: 10. Absolutely unique and amazing. I cannot stress enough how good this game's fucking atmosphere is.
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Thad » Thu Jul 02, 2020 2:16 pm

I hear the Genesis game is completely different but pretty good too. (I tried it once, tried to talk to a guy, hit the Shoot button instead of the Talk button and killed him, and quit. Maybe I'll give it another shot one of these days.)

I played Shadowrun Returns. It was interesting. Good use of setting, rather better gameplay than what you're describing (it's a grid-based, turn-based tactical RPG, and IIRC you have control over the party members you hire). Story a little simple, ending pretty obvious. I have the two followups (think I got them in a bundle) but haven't played them.

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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Friday » Thu Jul 02, 2020 2:33 pm

I've never played the Genesis game, but the consensus seems to be that it has the far better hacking mini-game, and a few other highlights too, but is overall slightly inferior to the SNES game.

I heard Returns actually has Jake in it and continues the story a bit. Maybe Drake finally makes good on his post-game promise to meet him again.
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Mazian » Thu Jul 02, 2020 3:43 pm

Thad wrote:I played Shadowrun Returns. It was interesting. Good use of setting, rather better gameplay than what you're describing (it's a grid-based, turn-based tactical RPG, and IIRC you have control over the party members you hire). Story a little simple, ending pretty obvious. I have the two followups (think I got them in a bundle) but haven't played them.

Dragonfall is a major improvement. Returns feels like the tech demo to Dragonfall's full-fledged game.

I still haven't played Hong Kong, but it's on the to-do list.

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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Mongrel » Thu Jul 02, 2020 4:44 pm

They're not bad games and I had fun, but they all felt a bit thin to me. Like, other than your persona gear/skill setup, there's not much in the way of alternate plots/choices that make replaying them worthwhile at all.
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Friday » Fri Jul 03, 2020 12:40 pm

24. Dragon Warrior 3 (NES)

If I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, this game shouldn't be as high on this list as it is. My nostalgia is elevating it.

But let's not pretend this is a bad game kept afloat by rose tinted glasses. DQ3 is a seminal masterpiece of early JRPG design, a massive and unprecedented leap forward in what a JRPG could be. It's got a job system, a grand sweeping story and world, puzzles, amazing artwork (Toriyama at his best) and a great soundtrack.

The combat is basic, but unlike many boring hit/heal snoozefests, there's a degree of strategy due to the nature of the buff/debuff system and the straight up difficulty that requires you to actually think about what resources you're going to commit to the fight, three floors deep into a dungeon, with your MP reserves running dry. This kind of tension is completely ruined by the modern prevalence of save points with their auto full restores or tents. I'm not saying "save points full restoring you is bad", but if you do that and don't add anything else to the typical JRPG combat system, then the fights become just speed bumps that you mash through (after all, why bother with strategy or resource management when you know the next save point is right around the corner and you're carrying 54 tents) on your way to the boss.

But here's the thing I've noticed: People prefer their JRPG fights to be just speed bumps to the old DQ style.

I'm not saying Speed Bumps are the best system. The best system full restores you after every single fight, and each fight is a real threat. Hi, how are you, Final Fantasy Tactics. I'm saying between the old DQ system and speed bumps, most people seem to prefer speed bumps.

That's fine, to each their own. Some people play games to relax, not to be constantly under the stress of "shit, can I afford to cast a big nuke here? I need to save MP for the boss". Which is why modern JRPGs have gone the way they have, with all the actual strategy reserved for boss fights. If even that.

I prefer the old way. Surprise! Friday likes challenge and being killed.

Of course, the DQ games take that into account. Being killed, I mean. You keep your exp, but lose half your gold. So dying isn't a kick all the way back to the last time you saved, but merely a setback. Dying still sucks, of course, don't get me wrong. Personally I think it should only have made you lose maybe 10-20% of your gold. Half is a bit much.

The job system is basic, but surprisingly robust. You've got quick unarmed fighters, slow tanky soldiers, frail wizards with offensive magic, pilgrims who heal and can fight at a decent level, merchants who bring some special skills and level up quickly, and the goof-off, who is a joke class with a secret. That alone would be pretty basic, but where the game's job system shines is the ability to class change everyone into other classes, letting them keep their spells (and half their stat values) but returning to level 1 in their new class. So you could level a wizard, get Bikill, then turn him/her into a pilgrim for another healer (and someone not so frail) for the endgame. Or level a fighter to high agility and then turn them into a soldier for the endgame gear. Early game merchant into the secret class, sage. Or or or. There's a lot of possible things you can do, and it's all valid. Hell, you don't have to class change at all. You can take the recommended party (soldier/pilgrim/wizard) all the way to the end.

The story is "go kill the archfiend" in traditional early DQ style, but along the way you'll visit various places with DQ's classic vignettes. Get a king's stolen crown back and become king yourself because the old king just wants to fuck off and gamble. Reunite dead lovers. A cat tells you you're going to fucking die. Standard but cute stuff. And there's a twist coming that might catch you off guard.

Do I recommend this game:
Double no. No, first, because you should play the remakes, which are better balanced and updated. No, second, because DQ is not for everyone. There's a lot of grinding. This isn't the type of JRPG where you just keep moving forward. You are required to grind enemies to level up and buy better gear. DQ games are hard to recommend in general because pretty much everyone who likes them has already played them, and there are a lot better and friendlier RPGs out there for someone who hasn't played an RPG before. But if you're looking for an oldschool quality JRPG with required grinding, look no further than DQ3.

Gameplay: 7. Yep, I'm saying this game has combat on par with CT. CT is fun because techs are fun. The combat itself is mindless and piss easy. DQ actually demands your attention and tactics. And the buff/debuff system actually adds something to the basic hit/heal combat.

Experience: 8. Again, tied with CT. This is my nostalgia though. I love early graphics and chiptunes and world design. CT is objectively better in this category, though I will defend my gameplay ratings.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Francois' excellent LP of the game (and 1, 2, and 4) on these boards. If you haven't read yet, I highly recommend them.
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Friday » Fri Jul 03, 2020 12:54 pm

It's weird actually giving numbers to these games now because I'm torn between giving my personal feelings (which is what this list is about) and a more objective assessment. I guess I will mentioned that without my nostalgia boosting it, DQ3 is probably like a 5. I dunno. It's a lot harder to be objective in rating stuff, because you have to compare it to like everything ever made in it's genre.
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Thad » Fri Jul 03, 2020 12:58 pm

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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Friday » Fri Jul 03, 2020 1:07 pm

you're right i forgot to include that and it was a failing
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Thad » Fri Jul 03, 2020 1:17 pm

Friday wrote:It's weird actually giving numbers to these games now because I'm torn between giving my personal feelings (which is what this list is about) and a more objective assessment. I guess I will mentioned that without my nostalgia boosting it, DQ3 is probably like a 5. I dunno. It's a lot harder to be objective in rating stuff, because you have to compare it to like everything ever made in it's genre.

I don't think there's really a way to review a game purely objectively, only different kinds of subjectivity.

Do you compare DQ3 to the entire history of JRPGs? Then okay yeah maybe it's a 5. Do you compare it to JRPGs of its era? Then it's a 10; it's the absolute pinnacle of what we'd gotten up to that point.

There's a bit in the MST3K of Laserblast where they go through Leonard Maltin's book and make fun of how he rated Laserblast compared to other movies -- Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, stone-cold classics that he gave similar scores to what he gave Laserblast. It's a good gag but it's something of a category error. Saying a movie got 3 stars or whatever is not the same thing as saying it's exactly as good as all the other movies the same reviewer gave 3 stars to.

I think it's Nathan Rabin who said that when he assigned a movie a rating, he tried to compare it to the ideal version of that movie, not to other movies. If you give, say, Pulp Fiction a perfect score, that doesn't mean you're saying that Pulp Fiction is exactly as good a movie as Citizen Kane or Vertigo or Casablanca or whatever your list of the all-time greats is. What you're saying is that Pulp Fiction is the best possible version of itself; the movie can't be improved on.

Course, there's a difference in how games age compared to how movies do, too. Certainly my seeing Psycho or Soylent Green or Empire Strikes Back was different from somebody who saw them in the theater without knowing about the twist ending. I read an interview with Matt Groening once where he commented that young Simpsons fans are going to be surprised the first time they see Citizen Kane because Simpsons has parodied pretty much every scene in the movie, and that's true; I can respect and admire Citizen Kane as a brilliant piece of cinema but I experience it as someone who saw all the bits on The Simpsons first, not as someone living in a time when Hearst is still alive and still powerful and mad as hell that this movie got made.

But still and all, I'm not watching those movies and thinking about their technical flaws. I may think about their backward politics (Psycho's depiction of mental illness and gender, On the Waterfront as basically a pro-McCarthy propaganda piece), but I don't find myself thinking "boy, this movie would be so much better in 3D IMAX" or whatever. OTOH, I really can't go back to the NES Dragon Quests because selecting "Talk" from a menu is some fucking bullshit, and I'm hard-pressed to even want to replay the remakes because my patience for random encounters wore out some time in my twenties. Enjoying old games can come with some real technical speed bumps that enjoying old movies doesn't. Even before you get into stuff like my frankly over-the-top efforts to run old games on original hardware and/or an FPGA, hooked up to a CRT TV via YPbPr, because playing them on an emulator or in HD just isn't the same, maaaaaan.

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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Thad » Fri Jul 03, 2020 1:33 pm

Another thought about viewing games in the context of their time:

DQ3 may seem grindy and punishing compared to the games that followed, but keep in mind the context of what had come before. Its direct antecedent was Wizardry, a game that didn't just expect you to draw a map with graph paper as you went, but where the cost-benefit analysis included factors like "Okay, I'm almost dead; do I try to walk back to the exit with the knowledge that I could get killed along the way, or do I risk a Teleport spell knowing that there's a chance it could fail, permakill my entire party, and autosave?" And where you could do class changes but they aged your characters so you had to be careful not to do them so often it started hurting their stats and eventually killing them.

DQ3 looked a lot different in 1988 (or as DW3 in 1992 in the US) than it does in 2020. Hell, it seemed downright cuddly in those days.

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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Friday » Fri Jul 03, 2020 2:35 pm

I think it's Nathan Rabin who said that when he assigned a movie a rating, he tried to compare it to the ideal version of that movie, not to other movies. If you give, say, Pulp Fiction a perfect score, that doesn't mean you're saying that Pulp Fiction is exactly as good a movie as Citizen Kane or Vertigo or Casablanca or whatever your list of the all-time greats is. What you're saying is that Pulp Fiction is the best possible version of itself; the movie can't be improved on.


Yeah, I think I agree with this philosophy.

Anyway, I started rating games with numbers (which I had avoided up till this point on purpose) because it forced me to think about why I liked the games I did, and splitting the ratings into gameplay/experience shows that to both myself and anyone reading.

For the record, the ratings are on a semi-log scale, meaning that even though the games in this tier have mostly been around a combined 15, Shadowrun being an 11 seems weaker, but that 10 in experience makes up for it.
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Re: Friday's Ultimate Vanity Project: 100 Games, 100 Reviews

Postby Thad » Fri Jul 03, 2020 2:57 pm

(Also corrected a part where I said "DQ7". Obviously I meant 3. 7, while a great game, already felt pretty long in the tooth compared to its contemporaries when it was released.)

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