R-Type Review

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The Sega Master System is a vastly underrated console that helped launch some amazing franchises. R-Type was released in the arcades before being ported in 1988 to the console. Space shooters are a dime a dozen but R-Type seemed to be ahead of the pack. Developed by Irem. Corp and published by Sega, R-Type was received very well. In this R-Type review, I’m taking control of the R-9 and looking to destroy the Bydo Empire.

R-Type Plot:

Let’s turn to the manual and back cover for the plot of this R-Type review.

“The galaxy is in deep peril: foul creatures from the evil Bydo Empire have warped across space to invade and conquer our planet! There is only one hope for victory. The Earth Defense League has chosen you to pilot R-9, a nuclear-powered space fighter that can cut through invading aliens faster than a light saber through butter. (Interesting that they use the term light saber as an example from another franchise)

Fly R-9 through eight exciting levels of high-powered action. Use your plasma gun to rip through armies of nasty creatures and their deadly machines. And when the going gets really tough, pick up Droid Units to make your ship even harder hitting.

You’ll be up against creatures so mean and ugly they’ll make your hair stand on end. But Earth is depending on you. So strap yourself in the cockpit, put your fingers on the triggers, and blast ’em out of the skies!”

Okay, so that should shed some light on this R-Type review for the plot, but does the manual say anything different? Let’s inspect it.

“They came from a dimensional plane clear across the galaxy, wreaking havoc and chaos from star system to star system. With an evil that smothers all resistance with fear and terror, the horrid creatures of the Bydo Empire are knocking on Earth’s front door.

The Earth defense league has one ray of hope to stop the wave of terror: R-9, a supersecret spacecraft capable of striking the enemy in their own dimensional plane. When flown by a hot pilot like you, the R-9 can rip through bug-eyed monsters faster than a light saber through butter. (There it is again) But the horrendous creatures of the Bydo Empire are more than claws and pointy teety; they’ve got some pretty impressive hardware, too, so stay frosty! Earth’s future depends on you!”

All in all, both the manual and back cover spew the same plot. It’s up to you to defeat the Bydo Empire as they make their way across the galaxy. Pilot your fancy ship, the R-9, and send the aliens packing.

R-Type Gameplay:

My R-Type review got off to a slow start quite literally because your ship, the R-9 crawls at a snail’s pace before picking up power-ups. Speed is key in this space shooter and you’ll want to pick up the pace quickly if you have any hopes of surviving. Picking up any power-up that comes your way is crucial before facing the first boss. I hate when games do this but it was quite common in the 80s. If you don’t defeat a boss quick enough, he’ll close in on you. R-Type’s first boss does this and it took me a few times to defeat him due to his vicious nature of going after you.

I love games that go the extra mile when it comes to details. In the 80s with the NES and SMS, I always applaud games that created detailed backgrounds. The Mega Man franchise continued to improve the background on each release, and Submarine Attack on the SMS did a great job making the visuals stand out in the background. R-Type is another example of providing detailed backgrounds which makes it stand out against all the other space shooters. There are plenty of flashing lights and different textures as you make your way in and out of bases and space. The music is also top-notch in R-Type. It comes across as intense but not overpowering, a great balance that will help you get into the zone.

Compared to another SMS space shooter that I reviewed in Astro Warrior, R-Type will kick your ass. It’s a very tough game that you’ll have to learn before proceeding toward the end. Enemies come at all speeds from the top, bottom, left, and right as you scroll through the level. To help with this is the movable mounted cannon on your ship that you can detach and rearrange. It’s awesome to see this and quite innovative. Positioning your cannon to best suit your needs will help in defeating enemies during a tough spot.

I love boss fights and R-Type doesn’t disappoint. The second level boss was a long snake that flows through a beating heart. It was easier than the first boss, but I’m not complaining. What makes R-Type so good is the variety of gameplay. No level is the same and the third level was a giant ship battle in which you destroyed guns and armor off it as you zoomed by. From all the weapons, the position of your cannon, and unique bosses, R-Type keeps it fresh.

For my R-Type review, if I was having issues with a boss, I’d look up what to do in a guide. While reading a guide, I learned of a secret level in R-Type. It blew my mind that R-Type offered this and I’m sure gamers who found it back in 1988 were left with their jaws to the floor. If you exit through the roof of an area in the fourth level, you will be transported to a secret level with enemies not mentioned in the manual. It’s a treat and a very nice touch.

R-Type’s bosses are unique in every sense of the word. Each one is a different fight from stationary foes to ones like the fourth-level boss who takes pieces of his body and sends them at you while zooming around the screen. It was a tough fight but I appreciated all the different variables that R-Type offers with the gameplay. The final boss is a tough one but if you know the trick to beating him, it’s manageable. Again, it comes down to different strategies for each boss but the finale has quite the defensive setup. There’s an opening with its mouth that opens and closes from time to time. If you launch your detachable cannon into the mouth it will stay there bypassing all defenses of the monster. Your cannon will blast away at it while you avoid the monster’s offensive attacks. R-Type does a phenomenal job of making a 30-minute game stretch into a game that requires many runs to figure out the strategy of the bosses. You won’t just blast your way through enemies. R-Type gives you the power to defeat the bosses but it’s up to you to figure out how to use it.

Memories:
I never played R-Type growing up and didn’t know too much about it before researching the Sega Master System and discovering that it’s one of the better games on the console. I purchased it during a heavy collecting period. I loved the cover art but the gameplay blew me away.

R-Type Review Score:

From start to finish, R-Type dazzles gamers with the soundtrack, innovative gameplay, and strategic boss fights. Each level is unique, each boss requires trial and error, and there’s even a secret level! For any Sega Master System owner, R-Type is a must-own. It sits atop the list of space shooters from the 80s.

R-Type scores a 9 out of 10.

What would you write in your R-Type review? What was your favorite boss fight? Did you discover the secret level? How did you use the detachable cannon? Let me know your thoughts and comments on R-Type, I’d love to read them.

Gran Turismo Review

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Racing enthusiasts were introduced to perhaps the greatest racing simulation series in video game history when Gran Turismo was released in North America in 1998 for the PlayStation. Developed by Pols Entertainment and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, gamers got behind the wheel in the most realistic racing simulator on the market. We’re earning our license in this Gran Turismo review!

Gran Turismo Plot:

No silly plots or storylines in my Gran Turismo review, just pure speed, handling, and lots of revving!

Gran Turismo Gameplay:

Let’s talk about what makes Gran Turismo special right away. At the time in 1998, gamers were blown away by the attention to detail, visually stunning graphics, accurate sound effects, and the sheer amount of cars to choose from when Gran Turismo hit shelves. It’s a beautiful game on the PS1. Polygons aren’t always gorgeous but with Gran Turismo, they tuned every one of them into a near-perfect assembly of power and beauty for each car model.

The opening intro in my Gran Turismo review blew me away, even over 20 years after its release. It’s just a glimpse of what’s to come in the game but it showcases all the best aspects from the soundtrack, cars, tracks, and graphics. If you played the intro to any gamer in 1998, I have a hard time believing they’d be able to refuse playing Gran Turismo.

Gran Turismo offers two different modes with simulation and arcade. The arcade mode is not typical of other arcade racers, where you would find boosts, turbo, or anything unrealistic, but it essentially offers a “race now” mode. It gives you some tracks and some cars to race with if you are too impatient to work your way through the career mode in simulation. It’s nice to have this option because simulation mode is brutally difficult. I almost think of Gran Turismo as the “Souls” driving simulator. It’s so realistic that most gamers won’t be very good at first. I sucked, and I was surprised because I used to love playing Gran Turismo 3 in middle school. During my Gran Turismo review, I had to really learn the track and car. Just knowing when to break wasn’t enough. You had to know the weight of the car, if it was front or rear-wheel steering, how quickly it accelerates, and the texture of the track. It’s a lot to take in and won’t be mastered quickly.

There were some surprises for me as I competed in my Gran Turismo review. First, there are no parts to buy to increase speed, acceleration, handling, or any other specifics of your car. In Gran Turismo 3, I was used to buying parts to make my cars faster. No such thing in the original version. Sunday Speedway was a Godsend in Gran Turismo 3 or maybe it was 5? I forget as they blur together but I would always race on it to earn cash. It was an easy option to get better cars but Gran Turismo doesn’t offer any “easy” tracks. There are beginner tracks but it’s anything but a guarantee to win.

To advance in Gran Turismo you must continually earn new licenses to compete on different tracks, and championship cups. I struggled the most in earning new licenses. It’s a skills challenge for a variety of cars. To earn a license you’ll have to complete challenges like braking the car into a specific zone or crossing the finish line in a certain time. It sounds easy, but it’s not. This is where mastering the car and course comes into play. I had to replay some challenges 20-30 times to get it down. You’ll need to complete multiple tests to earn a license before competing. I couldn’t master them all and didn’t have the patience to master them. Gran Turismo truly means the car simulation game and any car enthusiast would love it.

In 1998, Gran Turismo overloaded gamers with 140 cars to earn and race with. That’s a huge number even today, as most of it would now come as DLC. Gross, another reason why modern gaming sucks. There are 11 tracks to race on and they can be reversed for a total of 22 unique racing experiences. That’s a great amount of content and Gran Turismo made sure that anyone willing to put the time in to master it, was rewarded. Gran Turismo was extremely hard to develop and it took the dev team 5 years to complete it. It was all worth it in the end as it earned the title it set out to claim as the world’s best racing simulator.

Memories:
I briefly played Gran Turismo as a kid in elementary school. I had two friends that had it but we didn’t spend a lot of time playing it as it was too hard and not arcade enough for our simple minds. I asked my dad for Gran Turismo 3, and later 5 which I have a lot of fond memories of playing. Gran Turismo is stunning and I couldn’t believe that the PS1 was able to handle it. I tried my best to give Gran Turismo a fair shot and I played it for a week, over and over trying to earn licenses and win courses but it didn’t hook me as 3 and 5 did. If I had an easy course to race on or some clear way of getting better, I would have stuck with it more but damn, Gran Turismo isn’t for the faint of heart.

Gran Turismo Review Score:

From start to finish Gran Turismo will blow you away at every turn with the graphics, soundtrack, car models, and sound effects. The amount of content and gameplay is special but due to the tough nature of the game, most racers will fail to cross the finish line in first place.

Gran Turismo scores an 8.8 out of 10.

What would you write in your Gran Turismo review? What was your favorite car to drive? Did you have trouble earning licenses? Did you play Gran Turismo when it first came out? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Gran Turismo, I’d love to read them.

The Legend of Zelda NES Review

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One of the most influential video game franchises came to life on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. The Legend of Zelda was both developed and published by Nintendo and helped launch the career of Shigeru Miyamoto as well as the popularity of the NES. It’s one of the most iconic adventure games filled with secrets, lore, and dungeons and this is the first time I played a Legend of Zelda game. What magic will you find in my version of The Legend of Zelda NES review? Keep scrolling to discover the fun!

The Legend of Zelda NES Plot:

Let’s check out the plot for my Legend of Zelda NES review from the best source possible… the manual!

“A long, long time ago the world was in an age of chaos.

In the midst of this chaos, in a little kingdom in the land of Hyrule, a legend was being handed down from generation to generation, the legend of the “Triforce”; golden triangles possessing mystical powers. One day, an evil army attacked this peaceful little kingdom and stole the Triforce of Power. This army was led by Ganon, the powerful Prince of Darkness who sought to plunge the world into fear and darkness under his rule. Fearing his wicked rule, Zelda, the princess of this kingdom, split up the Triforce of Wisdom, into eight fragments and hid them throughout the realm to save the last remaining Triforce from the clutches of the evil Ganon. At the same time, she commanded her most trustworthy nursemaid, Impa, to secretly escape into the land and go find a man with enough courage to destroy the evil Ganon. Upon hearing this, Ganon grew angry, imprisoned the princess, and sent out a party in search of Impa.

Braving forests and mountains, Impa fled for her life from her pursuers. As she reached the very limit of her energy she found herself surrounded by Ganon’s evil henchmen. Cornered! What could she do? But wait! All was not lost. A young lad appeared. He skillfully drove off Ganon’s henchmen and saved Impa from a fate worse than death.

His name was Link. During his travels, he had come across Impa and Ganon’s henchmen. Impa told Link the whole story of the princess Zelda and the evil Ganon. Burning with a sense of justice, Link resolved to save Zelda, but Ganon was a powerful opponent. He held the Triforce of Power. And so, in order to fight off Ganon, Link had to bring the scattered eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom together to rebuild the mystical triangle. If he couldn’t do this, there would be no chance Link could fight his way into Death Mountain where Ganon lived.

Can Link really destroy Gannon and save princess Zelda?”

The Legend of Zelda NES Gameplay:

During my Legend of Zelda NES Review, I was blown away by the size of the game. In 1986, this must have been mind-blowing to so many gamers who found secret after secret. As Link, you’re free to roam the vast land of Hyrule screen by screen in an overhead adventure view. Enemies will randomly materialize on screen after a second and you can either run away to avoid them or engage in combat.

Combat is fair and fun. You come equipped with a wooden sword but can upgrade its power of it throughout your run. If you have full health you can shoot your sword toward opponents making combat much easier. When you aren’t swinging a sword or shooting it, you have a shield equipped that will block most attacks if you face them head-on. It’s important to learn the fine balance of being aggressive but not reckless to survive hordes of enemies.

While I was blown away by the combat during my Legend of Zelda NES review, I loved the wonderful music that was paired for my adventure. Sound effects were spot on from finding secrets, killing enemies, and finding segments of the Triforce. Every action had its charm.

Using a guide during my Legend of Zelda NES review was needed. I used a video one to better illustrate the dungeons but if you’re planning on playing it without a written or video guide, GodSpeed. Secrets are everywhere in this game and it can become overwhelming. I often wondered how anyone found these secrets without just throwing bombs at random trees and walls. Some secrets aren’t required while some are to progress. You’ll need time and patience to unveil all of them which I didn’t so I used a video guide.

The main goal of The Legend of Zelda is to find segments of the Triforce before facing Ganon. These segments are tucked away in dungeons that are spread out across Hyrule. Every dungeon will take skill and patience but are generally fun. Enemies are a bit harder and bosses will be at the end of dungeons ranging from Triceratops to Dragons. You’ll need to figure out the pattern or weakness but most take a few good blasts from your sword.

My only real complaint about The Legend of Zelda is needing the silver arrow to defeat Ganon. I didn’t have it and faced him numerous times wondering why I couldn’t damage him. It was only after I turned to the guide I realized I had missed something. It was annoying to redo the dungeon to get the required weapon but I suppose that is how it goes for retro games.

You won’t find a better adventure game on the NES and it stands the test of time being a phenomenal experience but do yourself a favor and use a guide. My Legend of Zelda NES review was a treat from the combat, and vast land of Hyrule, to the pleasures of listening to the music. It’s all wrapped up in a wonderful package.

Memories:
Can you believe that I didn’t play a single Zelda game until 2022? It’s true but because of my OCD, I had to start at the very beginning. What a wonderful adventure it was. I used a video guide for most of the games due to time constraints, I only have so many video games to play in one lifetime! But it was so special to play this game. I did complete the final dungeon by myself without help but at a cost. I faced Ganon three times before quitting due to not being able to damage him. Why was this? I needed the Silver Arrow and I didn’t have it. After learning that I went back and got it and finished Ganon off. What an adventure! I envy those who played The Legend of Zelda when it first came out. How special those nostalgic memories must be.

The Legend of Zelda NES Review Score:

This is one of the most iconic video games in history and rightfully so. It’s an adventure that everyone should take on whether they go in blind or use a guide. There are so many secrets, dungeons, and enemies to fill your imagination with. Gamers of all ages will share a love for The Legend of Zelda. My Legend of Zelda NES Review was a long time coming and I couldn’t have been more blown away by the adventure, combat, music, and addictive nature of finding the next part of the Triforce. If only I didn’t miss that silver arrow at the end! The Legend of Zelda is near perfect.

The Legend of Zelda NES scores a 9.9 out of 10.

What would you write in your Legend of Zelda NES review? What was your favorite secret? Did you use a guide during your playthrough or did you discover all the magic yourself? What was the hardest part of the game? Let me know your thoughts and comments on The Legend of Zelda NES, I’d love to read them.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron Review

Star Wars was untouchable in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, anything that was released in the franchise was an instant hit whether it was a movie (save for Episode I), novel, or video game. In 1998, developer Factor5 teamed up with LucasArts to release Star Wars Rogue Squadron for the Nintendo 64. The flight combat simulator put you in the cockpit of our favorite space fighters to take down the Empire. Along with a robust selection of missions, Star Wars Rogue Squadron offered bonus plots and backstories for some of our favorite pilots. We’re watching our six, in this Star Wars Rogue Squadron review!

Star Wars Rogue Squadron Plot:

The game begins like any classic Star Wars movie or game with a classic crawl of text to inform you what’s going on. Rogue Squadron takes place right after episode VI so the majority of the game is cleaning up what’s left of the Empire and destroying any plans of rebuilding. Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles formed Rogue Squadron to keep the Empire at bay. You’ll play as or interact with the following characters for the rebels: Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, Dack Ralter, Wes Janson, Zev Senesca, Derek “Hobbie” Klivian, and Carlist Rieekan. What’s cool about Rogue Squadron is that all the characters have appeared in the original trilogy.

The story of Rogue Squadron is divided into four chapters. Let’s take a look at the plot in this Star Wars Rogue Squadron review. The game takes place six months after The Battle of Yavin. Crix Madine is an Imperial Officer who wants to defect and join the Rebels. The Empire knows where he is hiding on Corellia so they begin to bomb the planet in hopes of killing him. Rogue Squadron swoops in to protect Corellia and escorts Madine to safety to learn more about future Imperial plans.

With Madine now guiding his own unit of Y-Wings, Rogue Squadron and Madine team up to help provide Gerrard V (a planet) freedom from the Empire. During the battle, an Imperial officer named Kasan Moor is disabled. She is taken prisoner but decided to deflect from the Empire and join the rebels and with her help, the rebels launch attacks throughout Imperial Stations.

Rogue Squadron then puts all its efforts into stopping Moff Kohl Seerdon, a powerful Imperial figure who plans to use the power of healing bacta to his advantage on the planet Thyferra. To free Thyferra from the grasp of Moff Kohl Seerdon, Rogue Squadron shows up protecting the bacta facilities and its citizens while destroying the Imperial fleet and killing Moff Kohl Seerdon. There’s a bonus mission afterward that involves Wedge Antilles continuing to fight the dying Empire but it’s not connected to the main story.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron Gameplay:

In 1998 on home consoles, Star Wars Rogue Squadron was one of the closest ways you could get to piloting in our favorite galaxy, far, far away. It’s amazing for its time but some small complaints need to be acknowledged in this Star Wars Rogue Squadron review. First, I did experience quite a bit of slow down in later missions. Early missions are mostly smooth, but the more action on screen, the slower the game runs. Later missions will increase in difficulty, so it makes sense that there’s more action on the screen which will drop the frame rate.

I can’t remember if there is a difficulty setting, so whatever I played on during my Star Wars Rogue Squadron review was the “normal” difficulty but my goodness, it’s quite difficult. I played the majority of missions 2 or 3 times to beat it but there were a few that required 10 – 15 times to beat. In particular, the missions of “Raid on Sullust” and “Moff Seerdon’s Revenge” were brutal. I died so many times trying to beat those missions. One of the good things was at least the missions were addicting. Sure, I may have died or failed but it kept me coming back.

Each mission will award you a medal for certain accomplishments. There are time limits, collectibles, destruction bonuses, and other side quests to complete during your missions. I’ll be honest and had a hard enough time just finishing the missions for me to worry about the medals. You can change your view depending on how you want to play. Playing in the cockpit may sound the coolest but I preferred to stay outside the ship to better see my enemies. A radar screen is provided but I didn’t use it much unless it was directing me toward my next objective.

In my Star Wars Rouge Squadron review I fly a variety of different ships including the classic X-Wing. You also get to fly the more nimble and quick A-Wing, the slow but powerful bomber, the Y-Wing, and my personal favorite the Airspeeder. For someone anyone who loved Star Wars in the mid-90s this must have been such a treat. Each ship has different weapons and uses depending on your mission. The X-Wing is the jack of all trades, as it provides good offense, defense, and speed.

You’ll be destroying plenty of familiar ships from the empire along with some new ones. It was very satisfying watching them crash and burn to the ground or explode as you flew through the debris. The hardest enemies were the guided missile turrets that surrounded key aspects of missions. If you flew near them, your ship was most likely getting hit. You had to zoom by them and bomb them out before proceeding to your target.

Memories:
This was the first game I beat on my N64. I hadn’t played an N64 since I was a kid and when I received one for Christmas I was excited to play some games that I had missed out on. Star Wars Rogue Squadron was one that I’d heard so much about but never played. I spent a weekend playing through it and for the most part, it was very enjoyable. All the sounds from the galaxy far far away immersed me in that cockpit. This was also before Disney destroyed and ruined the franchise so it was nice to play a game that didn’t include the terrible writing or casting of Disney. Thankfully, my Star Wars Rogue Squadron review didn’t have to deal with that crap.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron Review Score:

You’ll need to have quick reflexes and a happy trigger finger when it comes to piloting for Rogue Squadron. Missions are difficult but they are rewarding when you complete them. Later missions suffer from slow-down with all the action on the screen but when you’re flying your favorite ship and learning about pilots from the movies, you forget about the negatives. Rogue Squadron isn’t for the weak, but if you’re up for a challenge this is one of the best flight simulators, especially on the N64.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron scores an 8.4 out of 10.

What would you write in your Star Wars Rogue Squadron review? What was your favorite mission? What was your favorite ship to fly in Star Wars Rogue Squadron? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Star Wars Rogue Squadron, I’d love to read them.

Demon Gaze Review

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The PS Vita is one of Sony’s biggest “what ifs”. What if Sony had given the handheld more support? More marketing? More exclusives? Who knows, but the forgotten handheld is dead and only God knows if Sony will create another handheld. The Vita was perfect for so many weird and obscure games. In 2014, developer Kadokawa Games teamed up with publisher NIS America to release Demon Gaze, a dungeon crawler filled with cute girls but a tough challenge. In the first Vita game I’ve ever played I’m tackling this Demon Gaze review.

Demon Gaze Plot:

This Demon Gaze review starts out with plot, and it’s a fun word to use here as there are different meanings for it. Sure, I’m going to share the story of Demon Gaze but many of the girls in this story are curvy and show plenty of skin, or act in naughty manners. You’re Oz, a demon gazer who has a rare gift of the demon eye. With this demon eye, Oz can seal away demons into another dimension and keep the land safe from them.

The plot revolves around yourself and your mysterious past. It turns out that you are a demon and a powerful one at that! Lorna was a demon gazer who had the power to seal demons away. Oz and Lorna battled a while back and she was able to seal Oz’s demon power away giving him amnesia and reducing his power. Instead of killing you, Lorna and Fran decide to use you to hunt the other demons and seal them away with your eye. Lorna was critically wounded in her battle against you so she is on the mend and isn’t able to go demon hunting. She acts as your guide and trains you to fight demons.

Lulu is a mercenary that stays at the inn, she despises you and it turns out she is a demon too. Her goal is to unleash the ultimate Demon God called “Sol”. She keeps her identity hidden from others. One night she accidentally sets you off and turns you back into a demon. Unable to control your actions you kill Lorna before falling back into your amnesia state.

The cast of Demon Gaze with Fran and Oz in front.

The keeper of the Inn is Fran, and she is a bit of a mystery herself. It’s revealed that she is descended from the Dragon King and has strange dragon features from time to time. As the game progresses, Fran begins to fall in love with Oz and if completed, the ending will have Fran and Oz in a relationship living together.

One character worth mentioning in my Demon Gaze review is Kukure who is flaming gay. I couldn’t help but laugh during scenes with him as he is every stereotype of gay men. He’s a hairdresser at the inn and way over the top. His writing was hilarious and I’m glad they created him the way they did. Another character who is as weird as it gets is Prometh. She hangs out in the basement and loves the dead. She sleeps in a coffin and wanders around in her sleep nearly nude. When someone dies she will help revive them with a cost.

In the final battle against Lulu and Sol, Oz defeats them but is critically injured. Prometh is able to revive Oz but his demon essence and immortality are gone. Oz decides to stay at the Inn and help run it with Fran as they live “happily ever after”.

Demon Gaze Gameplay:

Demon Gaze is full of customization for your character and class. You’ll be able to select from tons of skins and aesthetics on choosing your character but don’t worry, if you end up not liking how you or your partners look you can later change them at the hub world. During my Demon Gaze review, I made sure to choose the most slutty and skin-showing girls for my team. There are different races and classes to choose from, each with its own perks.

Races include humans, dwarfs, elves, ney, and migmys. From these races, you may pick a class of character. Classes include assassins, demon gazers, fighters, healers, paladins, rangers, samurai, and wizards. Most of these classes are self-explanatory. Demon Gaze despite its cutesy aesthetics is extremely tactical. You’ll need to have an optimized party that is evenly distributed with classes, and weapons, and you’ll need to put them into a proper formation. Some classes can’t attack from the back so those characters will need to be in front. It can become frustrating when the demons you face switch the places of your partners around. This was a big reason why I kept losing in some demon boss fights.

During my Demon Gaze review, I had a routine of heavy grinding between new dungeons. This worked for a while and was able to defeat demons through sheer force but eventually, my lack of proper optimization held me back and I couldn’t defeat one of the demon bosses near the end of the game. Between grinding I would rest up at the inn. Fran, the Inn Keeper would charge you money for staying there but rewards you for paying rent on time if you do it for a few weeks in a row. She’ll give you a little gift. I never was late with rent so I’m not sure what she’d do if you were missing money but she was quite angry with the other renters from time to time so I wouldn’t want to find out.

One of the best elements of gameplay was the automapping of the dungeons. Dungeons during my Demon Gaze review were huge. Once you map the dungeon out, it became much easier as you could switch to auto movement. You can pick a location in the dungeon and set a course and watch as your character made their way to that spot. It didn’t stop battles from occurring but it was much easier to navigate.

Dungeons are filled with monsters that have both random encounters and required encounters. Some are marked with symbols on the map giving you time to prepare while others are a surprise. During each dungeon, you’ll have to clear out a few symbols that may contain the boss demon. If you run into the boss demon they will battle you or talk with you before leaving to go to another boss symbol. Once you corner them they will be required to fight you. When you defeat these high-profile demons they will join your team and you can summon them into fights for major advantages. Each demon has different perks like boosting your defense, attack, or magic. Knowing what demon to use against other demons is critical in making huge fights easier.

When you aren’t slaughtering demons or exploring dungeons in a first-person view, you’ll be staying at the Inn. The characters are all voiced and I thought the acting was pretty solid. Speaking of audio, the music in Demon Gaze is quite good. The opening menu music will put you in a trance-like state with its harmonized singing. There are a few missions and sidequests to pick up here and it’s a good way to level up. You’ll have the ability to talk to other characters and sometimes depending on the choices you make and the quests you do you’ll come across some steamy scenes. I didn’t personally see any nudity but it’s as close as you can get in some situations. The girls will be positioned in very seductive manners with their underwear barely clinging onto their skin. One particularly hot situation, no pun intended was when Fran was overheated and you needed to take care of her in bed.

Demon Gaze follows the basic RPG elements in fights. You can summon demons to help you during a battle but you can’t control what they do. Sometimes they might attack your enemy or heal you, it’s just up to what they want to do but they won’t ever attack you. You’ll select the actions of each of your party members from items, attacking, defending, running away, or magic. The battle graphics are nothing special as your enemy will just appear in front of you in a first-person view. At least the girls and enemies look good!

Memories:
I purchased Vita after a friend messaged me about selling his. It was a wonderful deal and I jumped at the chance to own a piece in Sony’s history. Another friend messaged me and asked if she could send a package of Vita games. I happily accepted her gift and in just a few days I had two Vita games in my collection. Demon Gaze looked very interesting from the cute girls to the dungeon crawling mechanics. I played it for about three weeks straight before getting my butt kicked by one of the bosses. It was such a tough game when I didn’t properly optimize my equipment and skills. I wasn’t able to fully beat the game but I got pretty far.

Demon Gaze Review Score:

Demon Gaze is an excellent game for lovers of dungeon crawlers. It will have you grinding throughout various atmospheres each with its own fierce enemies. Gamers who are new to dungeon crawlers like I was will enjoy the character dialogue and cute girls but be warned this isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll have to master the combat and skills much better than I did if you have any hopes of beating the game. A solid experience overall.

Demon Gaze scores a 7.6 out of 10.

What would you write in your Demon Gaze review? What are some other hidden gem games on the PS Vita that I should play? Who was your favorite boss in Demon Gaze? What about your favorite girl? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Demon Gaze, I’d love to read them.

Valfaris Review

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Indie games are typically low risk, high reward in terms of return on what you spend. The best indie games give an unforgettable experience that you can’t help but share with others by word of mouth. Bad indie games are forgettable and typically a dime a dozen. In 2019, developers Steel Mantis and Stage Clear Studios teamed up with publishers Big Sugar and Merge Games to release Valfaris for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. This love letter to 80s metal, gore, and platforming is one of the best games released in the last ten years. We’re head banging in this Valfaris review!

Valfaris Plot:

“After mysteriously vanishing from galactic charts, the fortress of Valfaris has suddenly reappeared in the orbit of a dying sun. Once a self-contained paradise, the grandiose citadel now plays host to an ever-growing darkness. Therion, a fearless and proud son of Valfaris, returns to his home to uncover the truth of its doomed fate and to challenge the arcane evil at its very heart.”

My Valfaris review starts with a crash landing. Therion is our hero in this game but he’s not alone. He has a helpful A.I. partner that appears digitally at save points and gives insight. After the crash on Valfaris, Therion learns that his home planet is rotting from the inside out. As the son of King Vroll, leader of Valfaris he is concerned with the current state of the planet. He decides to venture deeper into the planet and find the source of this corrupt power. Therion enters power chamber factories that were once used to harness the power of the nearby sun but it’s become overrun with alien creatures, and evil soldiers. He learns that two leaders are running the factories still and decides to meet them to discover what’s going on.

Therion defeats the two leaders of the factory but has learned that his father betrayed the planet of Valfaris and started the infection that is rotting the planet and its habitants of it. Therion disturbs the crypt of his brother Itnan and it’s revealed that the two have long had bad blood. King Vroll felt threatened by his own son, Itnan, and had him exiled deep within the planet. Itnan tells Therion that King Vroll is no more and that Therion should not have come back to Valfaris before attacking him. The two brothers battle it out with Therion killing Itnan.

Realizing that Valfaris is a lost cause, Therion decides to travel back to the surface. Fighting through giant worm tunnels, the infectious bacteria that has ruined Valfaris is everywhere. At the surface, Therion meets Furrok, King Vroll’s most trusted General. He reveals that King Vroll’s obsession with draining the sun of energy pulled Valfaris into a void that caused the bacteria to infect the planet. While Therion curses his father and labels him a dishonorable man, Furrok says that he now serves the new king of Valfaris and that he has ordered Furrok to kill Therion. Therion defeats Furrok and confronts the new king who is severely corrupted by the bacteria.

The new king transforms into a multi-headed dragon and Therion defeats him. Begging to be slain to set him free, Therion grants the king his wish and decapitates him. With Valfaris a lost cause, Therion flies away toward the void. He asks his A.I. partner to start scanning for traces of King Vroll. The A.I. responds she has found his trace on nine different planets and Therion begins plotting courses.

I liked that during my Valfaris review, there was a light plot that wasn’t too complicated or overdone. With a game that features such great gameplay, you don’t need a heavy plot. Valfaris adds just enough story and characters to keep you interested but the attraction to Valfaris is its incredible gameplay.

Valfaris Gameplay:

My Valafaris review wasn’t a long one, my run through the game took about 10 hours. Let’s first go over one of the best things about Valfaris, the soundtrack. It’s nothing but headbanging metal and it fits the entire game perfectly. One of the best things during my Valfaris review was when you obtained a new weapon. Therion would start headbanging in excitement and the music got cranked up.

Right from the beginning, Valfaris felt like a video game. I need this, I need to be distracted from how terrible this world is and I love games that do this. Most of the time I prefer to play a game that is fantastical or full of demons. I don’t need to be reminded of how crappy our world is and Valfaris for 10 hours took me to another world and a kick-ass world at that.

Valfaris’s combat is quick and deadly. You’ll kill your enemies quickly but they will kill you just as fast. Most of the game is run-and-gun action like an old-school Contra but some enemies require a bit more thought than pointing a gun and shooting at them. There’s wildlife that will jump around or charge at you. Soldiers may have shields while others are drones coming from a small base nearby that needs to be destroyed. All enemies are crafted with thought and all explode into guts and blood when killed.

To kill my enemies in my Valfaris review, I had numerous weapons at my disposal. There was a pistol weapon that I used most of the time because of the infinite ammo. Once I sighted it with a laser it was my favorite weapon to use. You’ll be able to collect various pistols that each do their own unique attacks like honing bullets, flames, or longer range. The next weapon is the power attack. These range from big missiles to huge bullets but the catch is that whenever you use the power attacks it drains your energy bar. The energy bar is attached to your shield. You can throw up your shield whenever you wish to absorb bullets and if you time it just right you can launch attacks back at your enemies. If you have no energy you won’t be able to use your shield or use your power attacks.

The last weapon in my Valfaris review is the melee attack. These are swords, axes, and limbs. Yes, you read that right, you eventually tear off a monster limb and use it to beat others senselessly or poison them. There are little tokens throughout your playthrough that will level up the weapons. Collecting tokens and finding which weapons suit you best is key for advancing through challenging levels.

Speaking of challenges, Valfaris set out checkpoints perfectly. You won’t go two or three minutes without running into one and while that seems short, you’ll need them as Valfaris can crank up the difficulty. It’s nice to know you’re never too far away from a checkpoint, especially when facing deadly swarms of enemies.

Graphically, Valfaris looks like it comes from the 16-bit era. I loved the retro feel of this run-and-gun game. Games don’t need to look realistic or have the best graphics to be fun. Valfaris sets the bar for indie games in terms of maximizing what you’re working with.

Another huge perk to my Valfaris review was all the boss fights. They are unique, challenging, addicting, and fun. There’s a strategy best suited for each boss and sometimes I learned it right away and other times I had to fight them five or six times before learning what to do. I didn’t mind dying because the fights were so fun and I knew I’d be able to win eventually. The final boss I must have fought close to 60 times. It took me two hours of straight respawning right before the fight to figure him out. I came so close numerous times and when I finally pulled it off it was so satisfying. The final boss is a perfect example of fun and addicting gameplay, dying was part of the fun and learning process.

Memories:
I’m not really sure how I discovered Valfaris but I had been eyeing it for a while. Once it arrived at my doorstep it didn’t take long for me to play as opposed to other games in my collection. I beat it within a week. It was so great and I remember thinking “whoa” almost the entire time from the headbanging music, and gnarly gore, to the tough bosses. What a ride!

Valfaris Review Score:

Right from the start of the game, Valfaris is special. From the incredible heavy metal to the boss fights that are challenging and addicting, to the small details to Therion headbanging when he finds a new weapon. Valfaris isn’t only a hidden gem, it’s a masterpiece. Pick this up as soon as possible and see for yourself.

Valfaris scores a 10 out of 10.

What would you write in your Valfaris review? What are some other hidden gem indie games? Who was your favorite boss in Valfaris? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Valfaris, I’d love to read them.

Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Review

The original Onimusha trilogy is held in high regard by almost every gamer. It combined horror, Japanese history, and beautiful combat to complete a unique and addicting series. In 2006, Capcom developed and published Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, a continuation of the universe but set 15 years later after Onimusha 3. Onimusha is one of my favorite series, but Dawn of Dreams felt different from the start. Would it be the best game in the series or would it cause the series to crash? Read my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review to find out!

Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Plot:

It’s been 15 years since the defeat of Nobunaga at the hands of Samanosuki. Japan has been united briefly under the leadership of a man named Hideyoshi who was previously a commander for Nobunaga. Genma begins to reappear ending peace as a giant star approaches Earth. This star is known as the “Omen Star” and it has caused natural disasters to ravage Asia. Hideyoshi becomes consumed by the Omen Star’s power but his son, Soki, refuses to be part of the Genma army and rebels against his father.

Hideyoshi begins to plant Genma trees across the land. These trees give birth to Genma allowing Hideyoshi’s army to grow and capture more cities. Soki does his best to burn these mammoth trees down but he can’t keep up. He teams up with a very strange creature that I can only describe as a “man baby”. If you’ve played previous entries in the Onimusha series, this is the same creature that allows you to enter the demon realm as they hang upside down in certain areas. Anyway, this man baby named Minokichi is very annoying and comes off more like a baby than a helpful companion. He constantly whines or cries and says very awkward things during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review. Sometimes he even pisses himself.

Soki recruits the help of Jubei. (No, not that one from Onimusha 2) Jubei is the granddaughter of Jubei from Onimusha 2 and has taken the family name up in defeating the new Genma threat. She has a demon eye and is quite the nimble ninja. She is set on defeating a traitor from her clan after her grandfather instructs her to complete the mission.

After discovering the source of the Genma trees, Soki runs into his childhood friend and crush, Ohatsu. She’s a gun-wielding woman who clearly has feelings for Soki but was forced into a marriage to another man. She reveals some secrets to Soki about the Genma invasion but is forced to abide by Munenori who was the Jubei Clan’s traitor. It turns out he has poisoned her with the Genma and holds her life at his whim if she doesn’t obey his orders. Ohatsu under the influence of the Genma tries to fight Soki where he defeats her in battle but the poison courses through her veins. Soki goes into the demon realm to find the cure and barely escapes with his own life. Once Ohatsu is cured, she joins Soki and Jubei in the fight against the Genma. Jubei and Ohatsu both have crushes on Soki and sometimes they both flirt with Soki when he chats with them or makes jealous comments about each other.

Soki and his crew run into a white-haired mysterious monk who has been searching for the Black Oni for quite some time. This Black Oni is actually Soki as he has demon powers and has been prophesized as the one who will bring down the Omen Star. This monk named “Nankobo” joins up with Soki and the rest as his goal is to save the land from the Genma. The group runs into a man named Roberto Frois, who is a heavy hitter with his fists of steel. I’ll pause for a second in this Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review to recognize that Roberto Frois is a Christian missionary. Most Christians portrayed in video games are those who are involved in cults are extreme groups, Roberto was crafted as a well-rounded and humble man, a rarity to see Christian characters designed like that in games. It was refreshing to not see the “crazy Christian trope”.

Roberto is stubborn at first as he wants revenge on a former friend who has turned to the Genma but decides to help serve Soki and the others after he is rescued by them. The team discovers that there is a “dark stone” that is powering Hideyoshi and sets out to destroy it. With the powerful fists of Roberto, the stone is destroyed while the others encounter Claidus, a powerful Genma who tells them that the Omen Star will revive the Genma God once it reaches Earth and set a new era of Genma upon the land. After destroying the second dark stone that is power the Genma, the group has six days to reach Kyoto before the Star arrives which is an impossible task. Minokichi does perhaps the only useful thing in the game and transports the group closer to Kyoto to save the world but the process kills Minokichi. His sacrifice allows them to continue toward their mission of stopping the Genma.

As Soki and the group close in on Hideyoshi, each member of the group splits off to face their personal plot point in the game. Soki reaches Hideyoshi who is planning to be the vessel for the Genma God. Defeating his father, Hideyoshi has the Genma seed ripped from his body killing him in the process. The seed goes around like a hot potato before it finally is used releasing Fortinbras, the Genma God. Recognizing that this is Soki’s fight, Nankobo, gives him his Oni Gauntlet and confirms what everyone already thought, Nankobo is Samanoske from the original trilogy! Soki goes into an epic battle against Fortinbras and after defeating him, sacrifices himself to destroy the remaining Genma trees around the world.

In the credits, characters from the group are seen living normal lives again.

Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Gameplay:

During my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review, I was surprised at some of the aspects of the gameplay. There was a formula for the first three in the series and this formula worked. Onimusha Dawn of Dreams veers off this path and offers something different. Instead of giving the player the ability to explore areas on their own, the game pushes the player in a more linear path through chapters that are levels. These levels last anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes and the formula is a simple one. Kill all the enemies in the area, rescue a person or solve a puzzle, make your way through the area picking up useful items, and fight the boss at the end of the stage. It’s a familiar formula in gaming, but the previous entries allowed the player to explore more on their own and discover what the next move was. Onimusha Dawn of Dreams pushes the player in the direction they need to go instead of a natural progression.

Despite Onimusha Dawn of Dreams being the fourth game in the series, it arguably looks the worst. It feels cheap from the graphics, character design, and how the story is told. There are a few cut scenes, but the majority of the dialogue is told through cheap interactions with characters. When the characters speak their mouths don’t even move. I was disappointed at this cheap feeling during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review. There were also the extremely enthusiastic movements of body parts during these interactions which led to very comical moments.

The camera angle is another gripe I have. Maybe I’m in the minority but I prefer fixed camera angles in my Capcom games. You get full control of the camera but it became more of a hassle to adjust it, especially during combat. You are constantly spinning the camera to view your surroundings whereas earlier entries had an overhead single camera angle that gave players a view of the area.

Once you complete a level, you are typically transported to a HUB area where you can save, talk to other characters, craft items, and enter the demon realm for training or treasure hunting. I didn’t mind this aspect during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review. I liked the ability to talk to other characters and discuss why they were fighting the demons, their history, and their input on our adventure.

The soundtrack choice didn’t seem to fit in the game either. Usually, I only notice the soundtrack if it’s extremely well-done or poor choices. Unfortunately for my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review, it was a poor choice. It was weird techno mixes for some parts of the game that really pulled me away from the feeling of the ancient Japanese environments.

Combat is unique compared to the other Onimusha games where you will almost always have a partner. You can choose your partner before you play the level but there are areas where you will have to choose a certain person who has a special ability. There are doors that need to be destroyed, explosions that need to be set off, and little entryways that are too small for others, that require you to bring a specific character along to get passed the area. I think in that aspect, the game did a good job of forcing you to use all your partners. You can play as either Soki or your partner and you can command the other by inputting a simple style of play. You can have your partner be aggressive, mimick your movements, defend themselves or hang back while you take care of the enemy. There were instances where I chose all four styles but mainly had them mimic my movements. You can level them up with experience but you’ll gain experience with them regardless of whether you use them or not which was welcomed. I didn’t want to have someone sitting on the sidelines and then bring them out for five minutes and have them be completely useless in combat. I was able to accumulate experience with them whether they fought or not.

Upgrading weapons are not as important in this entry of the Onimusha series. Before, you’d find three to four weapons and slowly upgrade the power and magic behind them. In Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, the focus is on skills and combos. You’ll be able to upgrade a forceful kick or a certain type of sword attacks like a swing or counter. It will also unlock combo moves when you put the experience into an attack. All the characters have a unique style of fighting and it’s best to master all the styles because of the ending.

Do you like bosses? Great. You’re going to play a ridiculous amount at the end of the game. I love boss fights and even I thought the end was ridiculous. The team makes their way toward the final confrontation and slowly split off on their own. One member will stay behind and fight their final boss. This all sounds cool, and it is to a degree but it is tiresome. Soki needs to get to the final battle against Hideyoshi and the Genma so your team will do everything in their power to get Soki there. This means branching off and defeating large bosses who are attacking the group. For each character, you’ll need to master their combat. I saved up tons and tons of medicine and magic power-ups for the final battle and it really helped when I needed it.

Once Soki finally reaches the end, he will face NINE bosses in a row. You read that correctly. It was an insane amount of combat and I was frustrated by all the false endings. After defeating numerous bosses, the game will act like you did it and beat the finale just for the boss to regrow or some dumb revival where they are even more powerful. It took me two or three times to defeat the nine bosses. When I finally defeated him, I could barely believe it. Sometimes, the end of a game doesn’t need to be that complicated and Onimusha Dawn of Dreams pushed it.

Overall, while the combat and gameplay during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams were adequate, the whole vibe of the game just felt “off” compared to the rest of the series. If the title of Onimusha wasn’t attached, I may have enjoyed it more. I think the game does some good things but it veered off the path a little too much for my taste and it did this all cheaply.

Memories:
This was the first Onimusha game that I didn’t play right away after its release. I didn’t know Capcom released another Onimusha game until a few years after Dawn of Dreams was released, probably due to poor marketing and low budget. I really wanted it after loving the trilogy, so I sought it out, but it was always a little too pricey for me. My wife ended up buying it for me as a Christmas gift, and I was very thankful.

It certainly didn’t click like the other Onimusha games, but it was a solid experience and one that I’m happy that I was able to finally play. My curiosity has been satisfied.

Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Review Score:

From start to finish, my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review felt like a budget playthrough. If the name Onimusha wasn’t attached to this game, it would have scored higher but certain franchises are held to high standards, and Onimusha is one of them. Dawn of Dreams feels cheap in just about every way. Besides the outdated graphics used, poor character dialogue, and annoying camera angles, there’s also the ridiculous ending that sees you defeating almost every character in the game. There is still plenty of good to Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, including some likable characters, unique enemies, and fun exploration. Titled something else, it would have a higher score but with Onimusha attached, it’s a longshot from the original trilogy.

Onimusha Dawn of Dreams scores a 6.9 out of 10.

What would you write in your Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review? Where does it rank for you in the Onimusha series? Who was your favorite character from it? Did you enjoy it more than I did? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, I’d love to read them.

Stranded Sails Review

Underrated Nintendo Switch games are a dime a dozen. Casual farming games? They have oversaturated the market as gaming has become mainstream for everyone. In 2019, developer Alchemist Interactive and publisher Merge Games worked together to put out Stranded Sails, a survival farming game on the Nintendo Switch. Would we find a paradise of farming and exploration? Keep reading this Stranded Sails review to find out!

Stranded Sails Plot:

Stranded Sails starts at a dock, as a crew of about 10 people are leaving port soon. You play as the Captain’s son and quickly are tasked with various missions to get the boat ready for sea. The people aboard the ship are leaving town for good in search of a better life. Sounds like the pilgrims, but the timeframe seems more like the 1800s.

Once at sea and midway through the journey, a huge storm comes and ravages the ship destroying it. Everyone is washed up upon a few islands that are scattered close by. As the protagonist, it’s your job to round up everyone and look for the survivors. When you find your father, he looks to be in grave danger. He’s badly wounded and needs to be transported to a cabin that was washed ashore.

After turning some of the islands into farm lands and building shelters for the crew, you start to unravel the mystery behind the islands. Running into the Ghost Pirate Captain, you learn he put a curse around the islands that crash any ships that try and sail by. By appeasing him and doing errands for him, he lifts the curse for you and the crew to safely leave the islands after rebuilding your ship.

Stranded Sails Gameplay:

At 20 hours to complete the game, this Stranded Sails review was perfect for my wife who loves casual gaming. It’s a mix of exploration, farming, and some very light combat. Let’s dive a little bit further into this Stranded Sails review for gameplay.

Farming: This aspect of the game is one of the most popular subgenres of gaming. Lovers of Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, or Stardew Valley will feel right at home turning some of the islands in Stranded Sails into production fields for the crew. You’ll be able to grow many different crops by finding seeds throughout the islands and you’ll need to water them to keep them growing. Once the food is ripe, you can make stews with it to power yourself up.

Exploring: This is key to progressing the story. There are various islands to explore each with some secrets or objects for you to do. You can find other crew mates that have washed ashore or find valuable objects to help build shelters. There are also fishing spots and plenty of treasures to find by exploring every corner of the island. Sometimes you’ll run into a monkey and will need to corner it to get a valuable item, other times you may find a crypt where there are ghost pirates which leads to my next aspect of this Stranded Sails review.

Combat: There’s a light element of battling enemies in Stranded Sails. Combat is not challenging and if you know how to move a joystick and swing the sword, you’ll be able to defeat the Ghost Pirates and other enemies. Ghost Pirates can shoot objects at you or attack you in hand-to-hand combat but it’s easy to see their attacks coming and you can restore your health by carrying food around. You will need to defeat pirate ghosts in certain areas to complete an objective or find a key item.

The gameplay for Stranded Sails is as casual as it gets and you’ll be able to progress the story at your pace. If you want to farm the land for 100 hours you’re free to do so but whenever you want to advance the plot you’ll have that option. There’s also a strange decorating aspect to Stranded Sails that involves customizing the shelters for the crewmates. You can pick up hammocks or dressers by building them with the pieces of wood, rope, and other items you find scattered throughout the island.

Stranded Sails looks fine but it’s not going to blow any players away. The style of graphics reminds me a bit of Windwaker but a little more polished. I’m just so used to seeing these types of aesthetics that they’ve lost their touch on me and I associate this style with children’s games. Stranded Sails isn’t a children’s game, but it’s close.

Memories:
A few years ago, I was researching games to buy my wife for Christmas. She loves her Nintendo Switch and also loves farming games. She’s beaten a handful of Harvest Moon games, but I try and get her outside her comfort zone with other farming simulators. Stranded Sails popped up and I looked into it. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just for kids and that there was some substance to the experience. It didn’t review the best but I know my wife doesn’t care about reviews, so I thought I’d give it a shot and buy it for her.

After Christmas was over, she picked Stranded Sails to play first out of the handful of games that I bought her. She ended up beating it in a week as she couldn’t put it down. She really seemed to enjoy herself, and I was delightedly surprised.

Stranded Sails Review Score:

My wife was able to complete her playthrough of Stranded Sails in 20 hours. The game allows you to move at your own pace giving you the option to play through how you want. There are plenty of small quests for farming, collecting, and building but if you want to advance the plot you’ll need to get into the light combat. It’s a casual game that offers a little bit of everything. It’s a good game for players who just want a chill experience without stress.

Stranded Sails scores a 7.5 out of 10.

What would you write in your Stranded Sails review? What other great farming simulators are out there besides Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and Stardew Valley? Is there another game that has a perfect mix of different genres? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Stranded Sails, I’d love to read them.

Brave Story New Traveler Review

The PlayStation Portable was one of the most underrated handheld gaming systems. Released in 2005, Sony’s handheld featured so many iconic and hidden gems. One hidden gem, is Brave Story New Traveler, a JRPG released in North America in 2007. Developed by Game Republic and published by XSeed Games, players controlled the adventure of a young boy who is whisked away to another dimension to help save his deathly ill friend. Do our dreams come true in this Brave Story New Traveler review?

Brave Story New Traveler Plot:

Doing a little research for my Brave Story New Traveler review, I discovered that this game was actually a book first! It’s based on the novel Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe. While there are some characters from the book, most of the characters in the PSP game are unique and were created for the game adaptation.

Tatsuya

The story begins with a boy (maybe 11?) and a girl sitting on a bench outside. Miki is gossiping to Tatsuya who is too busy to listen as he plays his PSP. She grows annoyed with Tatsuya and walks away. A few minutes later, Miki’s dog starts barking and grabs the attention of Tatsuya. He makes his way to where the dog is barking and discovers Miki is passed out near lifeless. Miki goes to the hospital and is put into a bed where the doctors are having a hard time figuring out what’s wrong with her. Tatsuya leaves her room and goes to the roof of the hospital where he hears a voice speaking to him. The voice tells Tatsuya that he can save his friend by entering another dimension in which large doors appear out of thin air. Tatsuya who is a silent protagonist walks into the entry and is transported to another dimension.

In order to have his wish granted, Tatsuya must find the five gems scattered throughout the land for the sword that was gifted to him upon entry to this new dimension. The land around him is magical and filled with creatures of all kinds including monsters. It’s a stark difference from the busy city that Tatsuya left in the real world. During my Brave Story New Traveler review, I encountered many unique and fun characters who helped me on my journey to retrieve the gems. Tatsuya is special as he’s hailed as a “traveler” but he isn’t the only traveler searching for the gems. Others have entered the land to have their wishes granted too.

Let’s take a look at some of the characters from my Brave Story New Traveler review.

Yuno

Yuno: She’s a kitten, well, a cute girl with cat ears and a tail. She’s flirty, emotional, and tries to be very encouraging and helpful. I really found her refreshing as a female character and thought she was a great addition to the team with her bows and arrows. She develops a crush on Tatsuya and is a bit jealous that he’s better friends with Miki. She decides to help Tatsuya after he rescues her in a forest when being outnumbered by monsters.

Sogreth: He’s a large gator humanoid who is overprotective of his son. After Tatsuya helps rescue his son from trouble, Sogreth decides to tag along on the adventure. He is a very powerful ax wielder, but he doesn’t fall into the troupe of overlarge dumb characters, he has input in conversations and can even make a joke every now and then.

Sogreth

Meladee: She’s a Highlander Cheif who commands the respect of her unit. Tatsuya and Yuno want to join the Highlanders, a group of adventures who go on quests but are perceived to be too young. Meladee and her unit are found lost in an underground cavern surrounded by monsters where Tatsuya saves them. To thank him, she joins his quest and makes them true Highlanders. She wields double blades.

Ropple: He’s a super-genius magic user who only stands 3’9. He’s all about logic and science and the others continue to convince him to look at the world in others ways which is the typical “friends make us stronger” troupe. I probably used him the least amount but his magic was helpful during battles. He joins Tatsuya after his professor tells him he needs to better understand people.

Meladee

Leynart – He’s a Beastkin which means he is part beast. He has large horns and his skin is gray. Leynart patrols the borders and makes sure that travelers are abiding by the laws. At first, he believes Yuno and Sogreth as thieves but after a side quest, they help bring down the real thieves to prove their innocence. He has a large shield and lance and joins the team to help fight.

Now that you know the characters from my Brave Story New Traveler review, let’s discuss what happens!

Ropple

Once Tatsuya learns the rules of the other dimension called Vision, he is set free to find the five gems to fit into his sword. With his sword, he can summon the Goddess of Destiny and reverse Miki becoming sick. Picking up the forementioned characters in his travels, Tatsuya is also in a fight against Rei, who I would describe as a dick. He’s out to mess up your journey and make sure you don’t complete your wish. On occasion, Tatsuya has the ability to transport back to the real world to see Miki after he collects a gem. Later on, Rei begins to taunt Tatsuya and shows up in the real world threatening to kill Miki. The two battle on occasion before Tatsuya defeats him.

Leynart

Near the end of the game, things aren’t adding up. There are multiple travelers who are hoping to have their wishes granted but Tatsuya doesn’t fit the mold of the typical traveler. He reaches the tower that is home to the Goddess of Destiny but she refuses to open the doors because he isn’t a true traveler. Instead, Tatsuya is greeted by a young girl who asks to have his sword. He refuses, as the girl grows increasingly angry trying to tempt Tatsuya by pretending to be Miki. He continues to refuse and the girl transforms into a giant toad named Onba. Onba lured Tatsuya to Vision with the hope of saving his friend but she is powerless to do so. It was all a trapt so he’d collect the gems and give her the sword to overthrow the Goddess of Destiny.

Together with the help of his friends, Tatsuya defeats Onba. The Goddess of Destiny invites Tatsuya to meet but he must leave his friends behind forever. He leaves the group and meets with the Goddess who informs him she cannot grant his wish as he isn’t a traveler. However, since Onba was the one who put the curse on Miki and since Tatsuya defeated Onba, his wish will come true regardless. The game ends with Tatsuya returning to the real world and talking to Miki about a dream she had that involved a giant toad with Tatsuya rescuing her.

Brave Story New Traveler Gameplay:

There are a few things that I love about JRPGs and Brave Story checks the box on a few of them. First, Brave Story’s gameplay for battles is random encounters. During battles, you’ll be able to pull up a menu with the commands of attack, defend, items, bravura, unity, and escape. Four of those commands are self-explanatory. Bravura are special moves that deal more damage. These special moves are available as long as you have some Bravura points which you accumulate after every regular attack. I almost never ran out of BP unless it was a boss fight in which I had to drink some BP restoration potions. Almost every battle you can fill the BP meter so it’s a big part of the game. Unity allows active characters in your party to combine attacks for mega damage. It was fun to earn new unity moves as my characters leveled up and they deal a great deal of damage. Like Pokemon, there are some weaknesses, and strengths with move sets. It doesn’t play a huge role, but some bosses and enemies are easier when you discover what they are weak against.

There’s a world map that you can travel on foot, wagon or dragon. Once you get the dragon, it’s very easy to transverse the area and clear out any dungeons you missed. For the most part, you won’t get lost or stuck. The story is very intuitive and missions move along at a nice pace. You’ll be able to upgrade your weapons and armor as each character has a specific weapon that they command. Yuno has a bow, Meladee has the twin blades, Sogreth has the ax, etc…

Some JRPGs are nothing but serious interactions and dialogue, I have to admit there were a few times when I laughed out loud with Brave Story. One particular moment was when Tatsuya falls into a hole and someone finds him and guesses his name as it was written on his sleeve. They retort to him “What type of doofus writes his name on his sleeve”. The writing is clever in most circumstances and having a laugh or two is always appreciated. There was also a bee joke that I found funny but I can’t recall it. While this was comical, I think it would be better to have it fixed but when Tatsuya runs it looks like he has to crap his pants and he’s running to the bathroom.

You can save the game only by reaching save points that are scattered throughout the land. This is one of the rare instances in which I was very frustrated with my Brave Story New Traveler review. I had just finished slogging through a quest that took nearly three hours but I didn’t see any save points. A cut scene occurred and I was transported back to a city where we could rest and heal. For some reason, I thought the game auto-saved and so I shut my PSP off. Unfortunately, it only saves at save points so I lost three hours of work. Needless to say, I was pissed.

I’m not an expert in JRPGs, I enjoy them and I can switch out equipment and grind to level up but once you get into expansive tactics and gameplay elements I tend to zone those out and just go for raw power. Brave Story New Traveler was on the easier side of JRPGs. I beat it within 25 hours and I only died twice in battle. Once from a random encounter in which I got lazy, and the other time was facing the final boss the first time. The final boss battle is a doozy and I thought it’d take me a few times to beat it but I ended up winning my second try although it’s lengthy at about 30 minutes.

One aspect that I didn’t get into during my Brave Story New Traveler review was Goalfinche battling. It’s a mini-game where you battle opponents with Goalfinches, a super cute fluffy breed of bird. They have different colors and you can hunt them in certain areas. You hunt them by capturing them in a net so it’s all pleasant and non-violent. Once you have a few you can challenge other Goalfinche hunters. I only played a few times but I can tell that it could get addicting. As I wanted to play on with my Brave Story New Traveler review, I knew I wouldn’t have time to master this but it was a fun mini-game to play while taking a break from the story.

Something very cool that I did not know during my Brave Story New Traveler review was that once you beat the game you can unlock the “Epilogue” which allows the player to unlock characters from the story. These side characters of Meena, Kee Keema, Wataru, Mitsuru, and Kutz are all available for you to insert into your party at your leisure. They all come at level 60+ with good equipment and abilities.

Memories:
This was one of the first “big” spenders in my retro gaming collection which is laughable now after all the money I’ve spent. When I was just starting to collect, I would allow myself to spend $30 a week on retro video games. That quickly went out the window after a few months but during that time, I went to a retro video game store where I saw Brave Story New Traveler CIB for $35. Now, that was over my spending limit for the week, but I had never heard of or seen it in person and it looked really cool. The cover art is sideways so it drew me to it and the characters looked appealing. I ended up buying it and I’m thankful I did because I haven’t seen it since.

I played Brave Story New Traveler a year later and it was such a delight. I loved the characters and their interactions. It was such a refreshing JRPG with the character designs and troupes. I spent a lot of time in bed at night playing through it.

Brave Story New Traveler Review Score:

This really was a treat to play as it hit the sweet spot for many elements. It was a great length at 25 hours, not too short but not overwhelming as a grind fest. The characters were charming, refreshing, and weren’t afraid to have traditional roles and personalities. There’s plenty to do after the game ends and it looks great on the PSP.

Brave Story New Traveler scores a 9 out of 10.

What would you write in your Brave Story New Traveler review? Are there other great JRPGs out for the PSP? Who was your favorite character in Brave Story New Traveler? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Brave Story New Traveler, I’d love to read them.

Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron Review

Shoot ’em ups were in a renaissance in the late 2010s. It seemed like indie, and small-time developers had found a niche market for old-school lovers of the shmup genre. In 2018, Handy-Games GmbH developed and published Aces of the Luftwaffe for the Xbox One. This Shmup would combine nazis, futuristic technology, and a cast of pilots. Would the combination fly high or would it be shot down before getting off the ground? Hop in that cockpit, we’re flying into this Aces of the Luftwaffe review.

Aces of the Luftwaffe Plot:

In my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review, I was able to take control of two different squadrons each with a set of different characters. On one side are the Nazi pilots, while the other side has the Allies. There isn’t a ton of plot to this shmup, and that’s okay I wasn’t expecting one. Most Shmups are judged on the gameplay with plots being a bonus. Here’s a brief blurb on the plot for my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review.

“Every end is a new beginning! When Europe seemed to be freed, a secret German commando called The Aces of the Luftwaffe took their chance to strike back and invade the USA! It’s your duty to restore peace and liberty by climbing aboard deadly wings of steel and fight against their fearsome war machines in bombastic air battles!”

Each squad has different character tropes with a leader commanding the way, two personality-driven characters, and then one really strange character who is silent, crazy, or stupid. I didn’t care much for the characters, not because they didn’t connect with me, but because they came off as… well not important.

Aces of the Luftwaffe Gameplay:

Aces of the Luftwaffe is a totally forgettable experience and that’s a good thing so I can erase this mess from my head. Booting up the game will take you back to 1995 PlayStation era loading times. I couldn’t believe how long it takes to load a level. At first, I made note of it, and then another 30 seconds went by so I wrote again how long it took, and then another minute goes by and I had time to write more notes on just how long it takes for missions to boot up. I have no idea why, the graphics are as plain jane as it gets and the action isn’t anything mind-blowing.

God bless the Aces of Luftwaffe marketing team for trying to hype this game up. Here’s what the marketing materials say paired with my thoughts from my Aces of the Luftwaffe review.

Action-packed Shoot ’em up with explosive special effects. (I saw zero special effects during both runs of my campaigns)

Captivating storyline with fully voiced characters. (The absolute worst voice acting I’ve heard in my gaming history. It could have been anyone that they pulled off the street and said “hey, do a cowboy accent”.

Epic co-op multiplayer for up to 4 players. (This may have been fun just to experience how bad this was together with friends but I didn’t try out multiplayer)

25 new levels and exciting missions. (More crap for you to slog through)

6 Brand New spectacular boss fights (I’ll give credit where credit is due. I enjoyed the boss fights)

Skill trees with individual abilities for each wingman (I didn’t see much difference in the improving my fighters but I’m sure it helped a little bit)

Challenging achievement system (I would win an achievement if I played the game on mute)

Creative Hapotics for gameplay and cut scenes (cut scenes? What cut scenes?)

Epic movie-like orchestral soundtrack (I don’t recall the music or soundtrack which isn’t a good thing)


So while the marketing was trying to push an epic game, that’s not what I received (and that’s okay) Here’s what I did like from my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review.

Boss fights were really fun. For the most part, I could beat them in a try or two with a few of them ranging from medium to challenging. Bosses like The Professor, The Lokfuehrer, and the Terror Twins would more on the easier side. I liked that each boss taunted you and had a personality before taking them out. One boss who kicked my ass a ton was The Alchemist. He had a scorpion-shaped ship that spread poison everywhere. These gas clouds would fill the screen giving you only a few spaces of safe haven. Eventually, the entire screen would be filled with gas if you didn’t kill him quick enough. That fight took me 20-30 times but my issue was that I simply wasn’t powered up enough to deal credible amounts of damage before his poison spread everywhere.

There is an upgrade system where you can receive small perks and bonuses but I didn’t feel like it impacted my play style. On the big bosses there are small sections where you make a run at their ship (think Star Wars heading toward the vent hole) and these vary between difficult and almost pointless. Many times I’d make the run over and over and feel like I wasn’t doing any damage on the ship. It was frustrating to deal with all the enemies and then make a run for no payoff.

Some other frustration was the lack of control from my squadron. Whether you play as the good or bad guys, each one will have a character who goes “crazy” on some levels. They will fly off on their own and you’ll either have to stay close to their plane to protect them or avoid their gunfire. I understand the concept, it just wasn’t fun. Each level also comes with a “side mission” that are little bonus objection for you. These are simple things like collecting enough boxes or bombing a certain number of bases.

I don’t fault the creators for the lack of polish or shine on the game. There’s plenty of fun to be had in small-budget shmups, but they tried to implement their own recipe and it just didn’t work. I applaud them for trying something new but in the end, I need fun and I didn’t get that in my Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review. It felt slow, the characters incredibly stupid with terrible voice acting, and an upgrade system that didn’t see benefits. They have the bosses down, those worked great and were fun for the most part. If the levels were tweaked and received some attention this could creep into the “average” game category but it doesn’t do that.

Memories:
Aces of Luftwaffe was one of the games that I picked up at CEX during my vacation to Ireland. It was such a fun time and my wife surprised me with the trip during my birthday week. We were able to explore all over Ireland and visit many CEX stores. Aces of the Luftwaffe were one of the games that I snagged on one of those visits.

Aces of the Luftwaffe Review Score:

I can understand that small dev teams don’t always have the budget to bring incredible graphics and gameplay to their creations. What I do expect is for the major pain points of a game to be addressed before being released. The voice acting is some of the worst I have heard in gaming and the load times will have you sitting for five minutes before losing interest. It’s a very average shooter at best but coupled with those complaints this is a game that should be avoided.

Aces of the Luftwaffe scores a 4.9 out of 10.

What would you write in your Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron review? What game has the worst voice acting that you’ve played? What modern shmups do you enjoy? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Aces of the Luftwaffe, I’d love to read them.