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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright — Rise From the Ashes (2005)

Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel | Players: 1 | Developer: Capcom

Rise From the Ashes exists canonically as the fifth trial of the first Ace Attorney game. It was added retroactively for the DS port, as it incorporates a number of touch-screen dependent elements centering around forensic investigation. This new feature is tightly tied to the debuting companion character, Ema Skye. In the game of archetypes that is Ace Attorney, Ema excels, as she manages to soar past simply being another Maya, even if that was the base intent. Her humor can be similar at times and she is working to prove her sister’s innocence. However, that specific similarity is a table that’s been resoundingly turned and her enthusiasm for her limited area of expertise is adorably infectious and starkly contrasts the gravity surrounding Maya’s gifts.

Ema goes on to appear in Apollo Justice’s game and this raises the most important question regarding this outing: When should you tackle it? I personally choose to play it after completing the Phoenix Arc, as a prequel to Apollo Justice. Ema exists as a perfect link between the two protagonists and arcs. Further, Rise From the Ashes delivers both subtle and blatant references to past cases and to ones yet to come within the Phoenix arc. If you want to appreciate them all, you’ll have to have seen the main thrust of Phoenix’s story to completion. Or, give this a second playthrough, once you have.

If you do wish to experience this case in proper chronological order, I would highly recommend taking a break after case 1-4, as this is equally as lengthy and you’ll be sitting through three long-winded trials in a row, if you drive straight on.

Outside of the new forensic activities (which are easy, but enjoyable) the gameplay, story-elements, and characters are exactly the same in terms of execution and quality compared to the game to which this trial is usually appended. It should be noted that this case saw an individual release as Wii Ware in both Japan and the US, thus justifying a stand-alone nut. Therefore, I’ll argue it’s worth your time regardless of HOW you choose to acquire it, or WHEN you choose to play it.

NOTE: This trial is NOT included in the Japanese PC release as that utilized the original GBA assets.

4 Treacherous Swimming Lessons out of 5

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992)

Genre: Action, Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Nintendo EAD

A Link to the Past is the game that moved the Zelda franchise beyond the blind experimentation of the original and the mindless back and forth of its sequel. The upgrades in graphics and gameplay work in unison to finally crystalize what became the series’ keystones: exploration and puzzle-solving. It’s presented from a top-down perspective, like the first game, but secrets are marked clearly in both the overworld and dungeons. Emphasis is instead often placed on finding alternate entrances once one has been tantalized and stymied by what lies behind the easily visible ones. Also, navigating complex cave systems in order to mine them of all their treasures. Dungeons are composed of visually distinct wings and floors and maps make a return. Puzzles that span multiple floors replace exhaustive marches to elevators.

This is also the game that introduces the basic framework of the series: three dungeon items, Master Sword, more dungeon items, light arrows, Ganon(dorf). Though, the arrows are still silver, here. While it may have appeared in other games prior, for me LttP is the origin of the mechanic whereby one moves between two worlds in order to solve puzzles and progress. This went on to appear in Silent Hill Origins and the Constantine licensed game.

The second part of the game takes place primarily in the Dark World where you must retrieve nameless maidens from each of the dungeons before rescuing Zelda and scaling Ganon’s Tower. A Link Between Worlds replaces these maidens with a new generation of sages who are actually given dialogue and interactions with Link prior to them being kidnapped. This is the one true weakness of LttP, in my opinion. There’s a serviceable amount of lore on display, but there is virtually nothing in the way of character and story. I'm content with the level present in the 3D Zelda games, so I don't need MUCH, but I need SOME. Look, I don’t need or want story in Mega Man games, so you have my empathy and respect, even if I don’t have yours in this particular case.

If all you're looking for is solid 2D gameplay, though, you won't find much better on the SNES, or anywhere else, really.

Buyer’s Guide: Originally an SNES game, it’s also available on Game Boy Advance, the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles, and the SNES mini. The viewable area is somewhat cropped on GBA, however, so I’d recommend not seeking out that version unless it’s truly your only viable option. Several altered versions of the game were broadcast on Satellaview, but just wiki that yourself or check out Clan of the Grey Wolf’s retrospective if you’re curious from a historical perspective.

3 Catfishes 4x weak to Grass out of 5

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fahrenheit 451 (1984)

Genre: Text Input / Strategy  |  Players: 1  |  Developers: Byron Preiss Video Productions, Inc / Trillium Corp.

Some games are too damn hard. It makes conquering them all the sweeter, but sometimes the elevated difficulty is in place simply to give the illusion of longevity. Fahrenheit 451 is difficult for a different reason. It's a text-based adventure/strategy game that puts you in the shoes of someone from Ray Bradbury’s novel (1953) of the same name. Now an established member of the underground, returned to the city five years after the novel's end, you must circumvent the book-burning populace as you try to set right past wrongs.

Being set after the novel means if you've not read it prior to playing then you'll have a portion of it spoiled for you, so a reading is advised. I'd encourage every fan of sci-fi to read the actual book regardless of whether or not they’ll ever play the game because it's a classic of the genre. If you need more convincing I've a review of the novel HERE on a sister site that's free of plot spoilers.

In-game you’ll be reading text (ironic, isn't it?) and responding by typing instructions, such as ‘S’ when you want to go South. However, the instructions must be VERY specific. If it tells you there’s an item in front of you, e.g. a lighter, what do you instruct the game to do? Lift lighter? Pick up lighter? Take lighter? Obtain lighter? No; after an agonisingly high number of tries I discovered that ‘Get lighter’ is the one that works. That’s an early and easy example. It gets more gruelling as you get deeper into the game. Every puzzle halts progress until you eliminate all other logical options before stumbling upon the accepted one. (I'm guessing such actions were explained in the game's inlay or manual, but it's now 30+ years after it was released and I don't have the luxury of owning such a thing.)

That's infuriating enough, but speaking to people is pure hell. The game needs to know that you aren't issuing a simple command, so dialogue must be set within quotation marks. So far so good; it's 1984 after all. But unless you tell people exactly what they want to hear then you might as well be talking to a wall, while repeatedly being wrong is like banging your head against one.

YES or NO responses are fine, but you need to also use literary quotations at opportune times, which means you'll have to have found them and recorded them verbatim. It's an interesting mechanic and very in keeping with how the fictional society is split, but it's a pain in the ass in a practical sense.

Bradbury fans will of course be curious to try it for themselves, but be prepared to reach levels of frustration that you may not have hitherto known existed.

2 burned eyes out of 5