I gave Bit.Trip Runner a try a few years ago, but I recently played through most of its sequel, Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, on Steam. There were things I liked about the sequel, including more elaborate graphics, checkpoints, more stages and bosses, and more varied music, and branching paths within stages and some unlockable character skins and costumes. But there were a few major things that annoyed me. The main one is that, as with the original, the backgrounds are so busy and distracting that they make it difficult to see the hazards of the stage itself, which seems like very poor design. A related issue is that in this game the camera zooms in and out at various points within the stages, which really throws off the rhythm of the game; I didn't get used to the camera even after hours of playing. The last big issue I had, and which I'm sure many other players would agree with, is that each stage ends with you having to shoot your character out of a cannon to a target, and the game records a perfect for a stage only if you collect every gold bar and hit the bullseye. It's completely pointless to have have to replay an entire stage multiple times just in order to get back to the end and try to hit the bullseye. Ugh!

The "try and die" gameplay of the original wasn't as big an issue for me in this game, mostly because levels have an optional checkpoint (you can jump past it if you want to go for a higher score). The game also offers three levels of difficulty, so if you get stuck you can always drop the difficulty down if you need to. For me this sequel was a mix of pluses and minuses, but overall the gameplay wore out its welcome. Even with additional mechanics all the stages just ended up feeling too same-y, and I got bored well before the end of the game. I really don't see myself playing the third game (released this past May), but I might go back to the first one at some point, after I've gotten through some of the other Bit.Trip games.

Jogging through these Runner2 links:
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Entry at Metacritic
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com

I've been playing the Nintendo mobile title Dragalia Lost since it released a few months ago, but I'm just getting around to collecting my thoughts on it. The game has been very successful in terms of money spent, especially given the fact it's Nintendo's first mobile game that isn't based on a familiar IP. Dragalia Lost is a touch-based action RPG, but there isn't much dungeon crawling involved. Stages are pretty straightforward and for the most part easy to barrel through if your team is at the recommended level. Boss battles can be a bit more challenging, but again, aren't that difficult if your team is levelled up.

The core combat may not be that compelling, but everything else about Dragalia Lost is pretty polished and enjoyable. The character models aren't the greatest, but that's understandable given that it's a mobile title and only really noticeable during the brief victory cutscenes after completing a stage. The character designs and story are good despite being mostly typical anime fare, and in general the settings are colorful and the overall tone is light. The game supplements the basic story with a lot of additional ways to get to know the characters better, including unlockable story segments and entertaining little comics. There are numerous systems at play: levelling up heroes and unlocking skills, equipping and levelling up weapons, buffs, and dragons that you can transform into, and a castle you can manage that will grant additional buffs. Managing these systems is straightforward for the most part, though, and doesn't require much thought.

Limited time events function as side stories that introduce new characters that you can keep permanently if you use them enough during the event. The game has gacha (e.g. lottery) systems in place for their various mechanics, including new playable characters, items, and dragons. Unlike Fire Emblem Heroes, I don't feel at all compelled to try to collect any specific heroes in the game since I don't have any previous attachment to them and the game provides enough freebies to still have flexibility in putting together a team of four (not to mention I'm nowhere near maxing out the characters I already have). But it seems like the game provides enough currency to pull for or promote a decent number of high-level characters if you wanted.

The game has a pretty decent co-op system where you can either join friends or play with strangers, which is nice and unique in terms of Nintendo's mobile offerings so far. One of the things I enjoyed most about it is the music, most of which is by a well-known Japanese pop singer named Daoko. I'm not sure how many other non-music video games have featured a single artist's music so extensively, but I've definitely become a fan of her music through this game, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

Overall this is a game that I don't mind spending the minimum amount of time on in order to collect daily bonuses and participate in limited events, but I'm also glad that it didn't suck me in since a big chunk of my gaming time is already taken up by Fire Emblem Heroes and more often than not, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as well. It doesn't look like Dragalia Lost is going anywhere anytime soon, and it'll be interesting to see how it continues to develop.

Find adventure with these Dragalia Lost links:
- Official site. Includes some cute "how to play the game" comics.
- There's a lot of good info at dragalialost.gamepedia.com, including a tier list
- Pre-release Nintendo Direct about the game
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Wikipedia

I can't think of the last time I encountered a game-breaking bug, but my playthrough of Final Fantasy Adventure on Game Boy was tragically cut short about halfway through due to a bug where you can get stuck in a dungeon in between two locked doors and no key drops or item shops anywhere to be seen. This was really too bad, because up to that point I'd been enjoying this first entry in the Mana series, and it had been a while since I'd finished an OG Game Boy game. But it was not to be.

Final Fantasy Adventure has similar gameplay to the top-down Zelda games, and what it lacks in refinement and character it makes up for with some novel game mechanics. The path is pretty linear and you steadily accrue more powerful weapons and armor. Specific weapons are needed to progress past certain obstacles (for example, an axe can cut down certain trees, which open up new pathways). Switching between them is somewhat of a chore, but to be expected given the Game Boy's limited controls. Oftentimes you'll have a companion keeping you company on your adventure, and companions have unique skills, such as being able to restore your health. You accrue experience points as you defeat enemies, and there's a basic progression where you can choose how to allocate your skill points to various categories (magic vs. strength vs. defense, etc.). Nothing too earth-shattering, but novel enough for the time. The save anywhere feature is a great boon, especially given that the game is on Game Boy, but proves to be the game's downfall as it can lead to being trapped as happened to me.

The game isn't related to the mainline Final Fantasy series much at all, and shares its name no doubt simply to capitalize on that series' success (Final Fantasy Legend, which preceded it by a couple of years, included the Final Fantasy name only in its English release, but FF Adventure included Final Fantasy in both its Japanese and English names). In any case, although the game is very basic by today's standards, it includes a variety of enemies, locales, items, and spells, and a plot that throws the occasional curve ball. The inventory is far too small and you'll end up spending a lot of time going into your menu in order to throw away items, but aside from the game-breaking bug overall this was a pretty decent little early action RPG. I'm disappointed I wasn't able to finish it, but I'm probably going to go on and check out its sequel, the highly regarded Secret of Mana on SNES, rather than retread hours of this game.

Some bug-free Final Fantasy Adventure links:
- Some notes on the game-breaking bug. Basically, be sure to always keep a large stash of keys so you don't get permanently stuck like I did!
- Entry at finalfantasy.wikia.com
- Some maps at GameFAQs
- A look back at the game at gamespite.net (includes spoilers)

This is a quickie review of Astro Bears Party, a random Switch eShop game I picked up on as a reco from an acquaintance. The recommendation came with the caveat that the game is primarily a multiplayer experience and that you should only pick it up when it's on sale; it's listed at $4.49 but is often on sale for a couple of bucks.

Anyway, I picked it up somewhat on a whim, and although the game is severely limited, I found it enjoyable nonetheless. The game takes at its base the central mechanic of Super Mario Galaxy, namely, running and hovering around the surface of a planetoid sphere. This game combined that with a Snake-like mechanic where your character's path appears as a solid line that you and your opponent have to avoid. In the single player mode you collect objects and try to survive as long as possible, whereas in the multiplayer mode (of up to four players) you try to outlast your opponents. The game includes four different bears, each with slightly different stats (bear run speed, turn speed, hover speed, and hover recharge speed).

The single player mode is okay, but the multiplayer mode is actually pretty fun. It's very "bear"-bones and the overall package basically feels more like an extended mini-game than a full experience. What content there is, however, is quite polished, and it's an easy to pick up and play multiplayer experience. This would be worth firing up as a warm-up to deeper multiplayer experiences during gaming sessions with friends. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to others, but I don't regret spending a couple of bucks on it either.

With the return of colder weather I've gotten back into some dancing video games, and I've been spending a fair amount of time with Just Dance 3 on Wii. I'd revisited Just Dance 2 a couple of years ago, but I guess it's been a while since I've written about a different Just Dance game.

Just Dance 3 doesn't stray from the tried and true formula too much, but there are some nice additions. The main one for me is that there are now unlockables. These are earned from accruing stars after playing through a song (one through five depending on how well you did). The unlockables include some new songs, as well as some medleys that splice together different moves from variousĀ songs, including songs from the previous two games in the series. It was fun to see these throwbacks to the previous games, and having alternate choreographies to a song is a nice way to add a little more gameplay to the package. The game also adds 4-player choreographies, "Hold My Hand" choreographies in which players literally hold the same controller, and some basic achievements. As is par for the course some of the achievements are downright tedious and a lot of them revolve around the multi-player dances, but for gamers like me it's a nice minor addition.

I don't know if it's just me, but I found the game to recognize my movements pretty well in general. It may be that the movement detection is either better or more lenient, although I suppose it's possible that I've just learned how to match my movements to what the game wants. I got a 5-star ranking (the highest possible) on a decent number of songs, although the songlist itself was pretty similar to the previous two games. It would be nice if they shook things up a bit with other genres, such as classic alternative rock or folk music. Still, the extra features probably gives this the edge over Just Dance 2, but the differences are pretty minor. I don't expect subsequent sequels to evolve much either, but it should come as no surprise that I'm planning on dancing my way through them anyway.

Keep the beat going with these Just Dance 3 links:
- Entertaining video of the Just Dance 2018 Championships. These geeks have got moves! ;)
- Entry at justdance.wikia.com
- Some interesting stats of the game after two months from the now-defunct Nintendo Channel and a look at the most-played Just Dance game on Wii as of October 2012.
- Review at NintendoLife