Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (1998)

Genre: Platformer | Players: 1 | Developer: Namco

An underrated little game about an anthropomorphic... something named Klonoa who uses a magic ring to fight and traverse the many levels of the land of Phantomile; A land made of the very dreams people have at night. A dark wizard named Ghadius wants to destroy the land by replacing the dreams that fuel Phantomile's existence with nightmares and it's up to Klonoa to stop him.

Klonoa moves in a two dimensional plane, but the levels are rendered in 3 dimensions. One of the many games of the time that used this "2.5D" perspective, it allows the levels to be a little more expansive and for Klonoa to actually engage with things outside of his 2D path even if he remains fixed to it. The perspective gives the platforming a little addition of puzzle solving that is already part of the gameplay because traversing the levels must be done with Klonoa's limited moveset. His ring can be used to capture enemies from which he can shoot them at other enemies or use them to perform a double jump. He can also float momentarily by flapping his ears. That's it. Those 3 moves are all players are given for the entire game, but that is by no means a bad thing. Using them in increasingly new and challenging ways is what makes each encounter with it more akin to solving a puzzle.

The aesthetics are full of bright colors and simple designs. The simple designs could be intentional or just a limit of the hardware, but they have aged better than other 3D designs of the time. The simple aesthetic and gameplay make it a suitable game for kids, but easily enjoyable by older players as well. Simple but solid execution. Decent little soundtrack too.

Buyer's Guide:
Used copies of the Playstation original are somewhat hard to come by, but there is also a remake made for the Wii with new graphics and voice acting. The unaltered original is also now available for download on PSN.

4 Traditional 3-phase boss out of 5

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Castlevania IV (1991)

Genre: Platformer | Players: 1 | Developer: Konami

I refuse to call a Nintendo game by the obligatory console moniker if it’s numbered. Deal. 

To cut straight to the quick: If you find Castlevania 1 and 3 too hard and you want the warm and fuzzies of being able to say you beat a classic entry in the series, this is the game for you. You can reverse your jumps in mid-air (to a slight degree) and your whip is OP as all fuck. You can attack in the eight cardinal directions and, yes, Egoraptor was (mostly) right. You don’t need the sub-weapons, aside from one critical instance. You’ll remember I had a similar issue with Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Despite the ego boost, there is something lacking. This is my least favorite “classic” Castlevania. Maybe there is something to getting your ass kicked by the more iconic entries, after all. Plus, the levels don’t grab me or manifest as much atmosphere as the ones comprising the NES games. This is very contrary to the norm for me, and I am rather perplexed by it.

The free rotate tool....I mean, Mode 7 is used in a small stretch but does little to impress in 2013. I know from a historical stand point that this game made a big impression as a fairly early SNES title, and I’m usually pretty fanboy-ish when it comes to the system. Still, this has never had much in the way of staying power in Negland, obligatory hard mode, or not.

Buyer’s Guide: It’s an SNES game. It’s on the Virtual Console and the SNES mini.

3 STS Logos of Future-Past out of 5

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dirge of Cerberus (2006)

Genre: 3rd-Person Shooter, Action, RPG | Players: 1
Developer: Square Enix Product Development Division 1

This is a steaming pile of shit in the most vital way: the gameplay. Movement is stiff, you can only jump off ledges when the designers want you to, and most heinous of all, you’re going to be told you suck on your first playthrough. This was actually intended to be played over and over. Hence, your likely only pass is going to be riddled with disappointment, ad nauseum presses of R1, and most of the bad-assery being left to fight-ending cinematics. Not that I really mind that SO much, considering QTEs are nowhere to be found. Silver linings can be absolutely microscopic, sometimes.

The enemy team Squeenix cooked up has a purpose, in the long run, but are ultimately there to provide Vinny with boss fights other than military hardware. Even still, he’s got a huge beef with helicopters if this game is any indication. The main conflict works within the world’s mythos, at least. We could probably debate whether that’s good or bad.

As I drove on, I again found myself getting caught up in it; It’s a numb feeling akin to being stuck on the side of a Katamari ball, I suppose. Near the end, Vincent seems to realize he’s in a video game and most people are going to find the culmination to ring a bit sour because of it. There really isn’t that much revealed in terms of his character’s arc. It is nice to see stuff from VII play out in 3D cutscenes, though. Yuffie is presented well and her interactions with Vincent are very pleasant, if predictable. Reeve, however, shines by far the brightest before the game finally realizes who’s on the box cover.

If you like Vincent and have a high tolerance for shit, this will likely be the guiltiest of pleasures. If he didn’t spark your interest with his appearance in the main game, avoid at all costs.

I feel like I should start shopping at Hot Topic for liking this at all.

Buyer's Guide: PS2 exclusive. Wiki says it's on PSN. They lie, thankfully. There was a tie-in on mobile phones. I'm sure it's lost to the digital aether, now.

1½ 'I had enough things to be guilty about, as it was' out of 5

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Genre: Action, Platformer, RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: KCET

This is the game that redefined its franchise’s legacy to the point that a significant amount of the subsequent games were modeled directly after its gameplay. It was the birth of the sub-hybrid-genre Metroidvania: Power-up driven exploration wrapped in the comfortably quaint trappings of everyone’s favorite, overexposed (but thankfully not sparkly) vampire lord.

In a time when 3D games were finding their stride, SOTN instead provided sex-tight 2D hack-and-slash platforming at its finest. It’s still every bit as buttery-smooth today, I’m proud to say. Regardless of what this says for the rest of the franchise, it at least means you won’t be disappointed in tracking it down on its quest to be ported to every platform in existence.

The power-ups feel appropriate given the lineage of the main protagonist and are outnumbered only by the multitude of weapons, which bank on combo-specific moves just waiting to be discovered through simple trial and error. A tight list of spells and familiars are also at your disposal assuming you’re willing to tour the castle and experiment enough. Covering the castle’s map is the central focus and it is incredibly satisfying. Even if you are backtracking, you’ll usually have new toys to try on the monsters you’ll be taking out countless times during each pass.

The castle is one continuous area, separated only by short loading zones masquerading as hallways roughly the size of Mega Man boss corridors; literally nothing to worry over, on the PS1/PSN release, at any rate.

The voice acting is SUPREMELY cheesy, I’ll admit, but it is so iconic that I’d question your sanity if you weren’t quoting it for the rest of your life. And, you’ll easily remember this game for that long, as it’s rounded out by, what is in pragmatic terms, the biggest easter egg a video game could ever hold without wearing out its welcome on players.

You will not regret trying this game if you are a fan of the genres and setting at play. You won’t.

Buyer’s Guide: Available on PS1, PSN, and XBLA, most easily. It is an unlockable extra in the PSP game Dracula X Chronicles and available as Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight on the Sega Saturn. The Saturn version has extra modes not available in any other release, but longer loading times, regrettably. It is also noteworthy that the XBLA version is said to eliminate a good degree of the lag.

5 Miserable Little Piles of Secrets out of 5