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Yikes, another smartphone game already. Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector (available on Android and iOS) is the second game now that I first heard about on The GamerCat, an online web comic that I like (the other was Cookie Clicker, haha).

Anyway, Neko Atsume is about as silly as Cookie Clicker, and similarly mindlessly enjoyable. In this game, you just have the simple objective of attracting cats to your yard with food and "goodies", i.e. cat toys such as a paper bag, toy mouse on a rod, and variously shaped and colored cat beds. Each cat has a distinct appearance and name, and you can take pictures of them. The cats leave behind currency in the form of silver and gold fish, which you can use to buy more goodies, to attract more cats, and so on. There are a number of "special cats" to attract with specific goodies, such as the suave Señor Don Gato, and you can expand your yard and also redecorate it in various styles.

Snapping pics of visiting cats is compulsive, and the game is free to play, and has been added to the list of games I check regularly but only for a minute at a time. I feel like I've seen most everything the game has to offer and I don't see myself spending any money on this, but this was definitely worth a download and I suspect I'm going to continue playing for a good while. Its super cute style (which feels distinctly Japanese) and lighthearted music is compelling, and all of its super cute parts sum up to a near-perfect relaxing time waster.

Live out your crazy cat lady fantasy with these Neko Atsume links:
-Official English site
- Entry on Wikipedia- A good walkthrough, although it's about the Japanese version, so the names of things it references aren't exactly the same as the English game
- Apparently there's a dog version also

Another Sega game? Yes, indeed, and I actually played it during the same gaming session as the game I played in my previous post, Golden Axe. I'm not that acquainted with Sega games in general, so I'd never heard of World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck for Sega Genesis, and had been only vaguely aware of its predecessor, Castle of Illusion. The game is a co-op platformer, and, as you'd expect, the animation is top-notch. It's geared for younger players so it has unlimited continues as well as a password system, but the game is enjoyable due to the great graphics and varied locales.

As was usual for these earlier video games, World of Illusion goes beyond just being a basic platformer using a licensed property as is expected nowadays. Along with solid gameplay and a decent number of stages, it provides different stages or variations on stages based on if you're playing with Mickey solo or Donald solo, or if you're playing co-op. The co-op isn't completely mindless and we did end up having to use some continues, and it was pretty much consistently fun. (Although the mechanic whereby one player gets propelled to a higher platform via a seesaw and then has to use a rope to pull the other player up slows things down and gets tedious.) Also, the boss fights tend to be over before they've really begun. There are a number of fun cameos from classic Disney films such as Alice in Wonderland, although I'm sure more obsessed Disney fans would be able to catch more than I did. All in all this was a pleasant surprise and quite enjoyable, so much so that I would actually rank it pretty high amongst the platformers that I've played in a good while. I'll have to replay it solo at some point to see how my first impression stands up, but playing this game does make me want to check out the other classic Disney video games, which I've mostly ignored up to now.

I finally got around to playing another Sega game! Golden Axe is a game I've seen widely praised as a beat 'em up classic, and I've been meaning to try it for a while. There are two versions available on the Wii Virtual Console, the original arcade version, which I played, and the port to their home console, the Sega Genesis.

On Virtual Console, the arcade version has an options menu where you can select the difficulty level and the number of continues. I played co-op with unlimited continues, and at 25 cents a play and on normal difficulty I probably spent a virtual four bucks or so. The game reminded me a fair amount of Altered Beast, which isn't surprising since it was created by the same designer and was released just a year prior. Although at its debut people were probably drawn to the game for its graphics, there wasn't much about the game that impressed me. The game expands on the gameplay of Altered Beast in that you can select from three different characters (who all pretty much function the same), ride beasts, use magic, execute dash attacks, and execute simple combos. I found the gameplay to be as stiff as Altered Beast, and overall I found the mechanics to be less fun than Altered Beast's shapeshifting mechanics. Beat 'em ups aren't my favorite genre in general, but this was an okay quick and mindless co-op experience.

Bronze-level Golden Axe links:
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Screenshots of the epic ending at

Somehow I got sucked into a playthrough of Fire Emblem: Awakening, even though it's not my favorite Fire Emblem game. The reason was because of the release of The Art of Fire Emblem: Awakening, which came out a few months ago after a long delay. The book isn't essential, but the full page character artwork, concept artwork, and all the support conversations is nice to have. Although I enjoyed Fire Emblem: Awakening overall when I played it four years ago, as a long-time Fire Emblem veteran there was a lot that seemed a little unbalanced and unrefined due to Intelligent Systems' efforts to make the game more casual overall

My original post on the game goes through my catalogue of complaints in gory detail, but time and familiarity has reduced my adverse initial reaction in many cases. My main issue this time around is that the Dual Support mechanics are pretty overpowered. In my first playthrough I didn't pair up units much because I thought it was sort of a waste. This time around I played on hard classic mode, and pairing up becomes pretty essential. Pairing up units makes them more powerful and able to withstand waves of enemy attacks, but at the expense of giving more experience to the main unit and not getting to use the supporting unit very much. In the best cases you can pair up two powerful units and switch back and forth between them, but in most cases I had a weak unit supporting a powerful unit in order to build up supports, and then the weak unit never had a chance to go solo. There was generally no reason to separate units once they were paired up, and often separating them meant certain death for the supporting unit. These mechanics were really refined and improved in Awakening's immediate follow-up, Fire Emblem Fates, which separates out the advantages for fighting separately but adjacent (a Dual Strike), and pairing up to defend together (Dual Guard, which requires a meter to build up before activating rather than activating randomly).

Despite this, I enjoyed the game overall. The first time I played through the game I blitzed through it on a fairly easy setting in order to get through the story. This time I used almost entirely different characters (possible because the cast is so big) and a more difficult setting, which made the game more interesting overall, although even on that setting the game wasn't that hard. As with many games in the series, you can restrict yourself to make the game more difficult and interesting (for example, don't grind for experience with the optional maps, spend as little gold as possible, etc.). I'd completely forgotten the story, and it wasn't that bad. Some characters definitely pale compared to others (for example, Stahl continues to be entirely forgettable), and on the higher difficulty there is still little reason to use the children characters since you're only able to recruit them relatively late in the game. [Once again I have to give a shout-out to my MVPs this playthrough, who were Chrom (as usual), Panne/Lon'qu, Kellam, and Say'ri/Anna/Tiki.]

Fire Emblem geek that I am I've already started planning out my playthrough on the next, "lunatic", difficulty setting, although that's probably going to be a while unless I get sucked into the game again for a particular reason. In any case, I'll probably play through the DLC first before tackling another playthrough. Despite not being among my favorites in the series, I'm happy that this game brought on a new era of Fire Emblem games due to the number of new Fire Emblem fans it drew in, and I'm super psyched for all the Fire Emblem games announced last week in Nintendo's Nintendo Direct. It's a great time to be a Fire Emblem fan, and it's really looking like this year is going to be the best year for Fire Emblem yet.

Revisit these Fire Emblem: Awakening links:
- As usual, Serenes Forest is an essential resource
- Entry on Miiverse
- Review at NintendoLife
- Review at Game Informer

It's been about six months since I posted about Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, so it was about time to post about the next game, Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2. At its core DDR Extreme 2 is still the same DDR we all know and love, but there were some noteworthy improvements. The big change to the game was that it added online vs. play and leaderboards, although of course those features have become obsolete. The songlist seems noticeably better overall, featuring covers of pop hits as well as the typically rousing Konami EDM tracks. The game still supports the EyeToy mode of its predecessors (although without the lame mini-games), as well as the usual training, free play, marathon modes, etc.

The biggest change and what made me feel it was worth devoting a blog post to the game, is that the mission mode has been greatly enhanced. The previous game had a basic mission mode where you just picked a square on a grid with a challenge to tackle. In DDR Extreme 2 the mission mode is a huge map where you start off in the center, but then have the choice at each node of usually two options of challenges to pick from. As you progress you may unlock hidden nodes, and you can go back and tackle challenges you skipped at any time. As with the previous game, a lot of the challenges are just of the "don't mess up more than 4 times" type, but some of the challenges are incredibly pointless (e.g. "don't step on the down arrow at all"). The board is divided up into areas, and if you get to the end of a route (i.e. sequence of nodes), you earn a trophy. The first two areas are pretty straightforward and feature mostly Easy and Normal-level challenges, whereas the other sections feature much more difficult challenges.

Because of the better songlist and the much more fun mission mode, I would actually rank this as one of my favorite DDR games so far. One minor complaint I have is that to unlock even one character's alternate costume you have to accumulate a huge number of points (earned every time you play through a song), which is annoying. The only major thing marring my DDR experience is that my dancepads have gotten worn out really quickly. I've tried two different official dancepad types, and both of them started getting flaky pretty soon after I started using them. At the rate I'm going through dancepads, I may have to more seriously look into metal options, although it's such a big investment that I'm still not quite ready to make the leap.

Anyway, the next game in the series is Dance Dance Revolution Supernova, but from my short time with it, it looks like a big step back. I may skip around a bit instead, and check out some of the older or newer games instead. We'll see!

Dance dance dance with these Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 links:
- FAQ at GameFAQs
- Video of the complete songlist
- Entry on Wikipedia