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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 vgmuseum.com

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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

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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

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Ridiculous Fishing (I played the Android version) is another game that I pretty much finished last year, but I put in just a bit more time to actually get to the credits. The game was recommended by a friend of mine, and when I expressed my boredom with fishing games in general he told me that this game doesn't really have much to do with fishing at all. I was happy to see that he was right. The gameplay loop (as thoroughly explained on its Wikipedia entry), consists of three phases: 1) Drop your line and avoid catching any fish on the way down (this phase gives a Frogger sort of feel) and try to get as deep as you can, 2) Reel your line in and catch as many fish as possible (while avoiding the jellyfish, which subtract from your total), and 3) Shoot the fish as they get thrown into the air, and hit as many as you can before they fall to the ground (again, taking care to avoid the jellyfish).

The gameplay loop is expertly designed and the game is pretty fun and addictive overall. The motion controls work well, and the art and sound design is also high quality. The upgrades and items you can buy with in-game currency are for the most part worthwhile. Despite the high quality all around, as with most smartphone games, the game still feels pretty shallow and only really kept my interest for a relatively short amount of time. There are three fishing spots plus an endlessly deep spot, but once I got to the bottom of the first spot my interest in continuing tailed off pretty quickly. I was curious about the ending, which comes by getting to the bottom of the third fishing spot, so I kept going, but it turned out to not be worth the time. Still, I had fun overall, and this is definitely one of the more well designed smartphone games I've played.

Have some 3-in-1 fun with these Ridiculous Fishing links:
- Official site
- Developer's site
- Review at jayisgames.com
- Tips and tricks from Destructoid

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As I mentioned in my 2016 in review post from yesterday, I'd actually already spent quite a bit of time last year playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (on 3DS). I got to a stopping point yesterday, so this first post of 2017 will be about that game. I'd posted about my first Monster Hunter game, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, about six months ago. I'm not quite sure why I got the urge to dive into the series again, but a big draw for me was definitely all the crossover DLC, including costumes of such unlikely characters as Isabelle and Resetti from the Animal Crossing series and Samus and Zero Suit Samus from the Metroid series.

I found out pretty soon, however, that most of the DLC armor I wanted were limited to hunters at a pretty high rank. This was a bummer, but once again I got sucked into the addictive game loop of hunting, gathering resources, and crafting more-powerful weapons (although I didn't spend much time with armor this time around since it seems upgrading a single set of armor is about as worthwhile as crafting new sets). This time around since I didn't have to learn all the intricacies of the game mechanics I could focus on working my way through the story mode, and I also had fun trying out different weapons. In the end I focused on the hunting horn, which was different from the sword and shield weapons I used in the previous game (and much more fun actually). This time around you also get two AI-controlled helpers (the cats that in the MH world are known as Felynes), and it was fun to manage the roster of Felynes and upgrade their gear as well.

It was kind of a bummer to go from a big screen to the 3DS, although I used the New 3DS XL so it wasn't too bad. The game is much more optimized for the 3DS than the previous game was (i.e. the on-screen text is actually readable), and it's handy to have a lot of the info and shortcut buttons on the lower screen where they're easily accessible. The game felt noticeably easier than the previous game, and I don't think it's just because I had more experience this time around. The solo missions didn't get to feel that challenging until quite a ways into the game. Once again I didn't see the point of having the multiplayer missions being the same as the solo missions, other than to give you more opportunities to get the parts you need to craft specific weapons or armor. This time around I had an easier time finding people to play with online, and this time around I didn't mind having higher-ranked players carry me along to easy wins since my focus is mostly on the single player experience anyway. And smacking huge monsters in the face somehow never gets old. ;)

This edition replaces the awkward underwater combat from the previous game with an emphasis on "mount" attacks, whereby you jump onto the monster and hack at it to cause it to topple. This changes things up a bit, although it doesn't seem like it's as huge a change as what follows in Monster Hunter Generations. MH4U also replaces the static locale of the "free play" mode to a more worthwhile mode called "Expeditions" where you can gain rare loot, which was also a nice change. I appreciated that this game had more of a story and villages to wander around in than MH3U (and I probably would've stopped playing sooner if there hadn't been any story), but it seems like Generations once again doesn't have much of a story. MH4U also shoehorns in some awkward battles where you're confined to a ship, but fortunately those don't make up a huge percentage of the overall game time.

Much as I enjoyed my time with MH4U, once again I'm happy to set it aside well before I get to the highest rank. There were still a lot of intricacies and systems to learn about and read about, but despite all the tweaks the game feels essentially very much like its predecessor, and even though I enjoyed both I can't say that I'm that motivated to run out and try Monster Hunter Generations. If I had someone to play with on a semi-regular basis I could see myself spending more time with these games, but as it is I doubt this is something I'll pick up again until at least another six months passes. Which is just as well, because they suck up a ton of time!

Speak softly and carry these giant Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate links:
- Entry at monsterhunter.wikia.com, which is an essential reference
- Nintendo Minute feature on the game
- Review at NintendoLife
- And just for fun, here's Capcom's look back at the original Monster Hunter game on PS2

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