It's been a few years since I last played a Shin Megami Tensei game (in particular, IV), so I was thinking about getting back to my playthrough of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne on PS2 even before the out-of-left-field announcement that a remake, called Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster, would be hitting Switch next spring.

I'm not a huge fan of the grind of RPGs, so I was happy to play the first third of Shin Megami Tensei III and call it a day. The game has the same art style as all the SMT games (which even in my limited experience of the series seems like a big missed opportunity for some variety), a similarly apocalyptic setting, and a similar war between "Chaos" and "Reason", although you can also choose a "Neutral" route in this game. Now that I'm more used to the series' conventions the fact you're recruiting and fusing a whole stable of demons rather than sticking with a small set doesn't bother me as much. The game introduced the "Press Turn" system that I'd already seen in later games in the series whereby you're rewarded for using type advantages and penalized for not using them, and the auto-battle feature was much appreciated. Dungeons are reasonably twisty and entertaining but not particularly memorable, and likewise the story of warring demon factions didn't particularly grab me.

It really doesn't look like the dark, gothic aesthetic of the Shin Megami Tensei series is going to ever make me a super fan, but I'm happy to dip into the series every once in a while. At this point I think I'll probably return to my playthrough of Persona IV before returning to my playthrough of the SMT/Fire Emblem crossover.

I've been jumping around a lot with the Dynasty Warriors series, but after playing Dynasty Warriors 2 a few years ago I'd been wanting to make more progress working my way through other titles in the series, so I spent some time with Dynasty Warriors 3 (also on PS2).

I'd found Dynasty Warriors 2 to be pretty stiff and slow, but Dynasty Warriors 3 has a lot of changes that overall make it much more recognizable as a Warriors title. The same trademark "one against thousands" gameplay is present, but the gameplay is much smoother. The special moves feel more like other Warriors games I've played, and battles feel faster paced. Once again health-restoring items are limited and I ended up having to waste a lot of time backtracking to find items, which is annoying, but they added a "save anywhere" bookmarking system which is a vast improvement over the limited saves from the original game. There's also a basic equipment system where you can collect and equip items that give minor bonuses, a new (albeit pretty minor) ability to ride elephants in some stages, and also a new recovery move you can activate when you're getting knocked down. I hadn't really explored the character roster in the previous game, but the number of characters increased significantly in Dynasty Warriors 3 (40 vs. 28) and there seems to be more variety as well.

I played through the seven-stage story mode of one character and did a couple of free play stages, but I didn't quite feel compelled to play through much more than that. I'm guessing all the Warriors games are going to be pretty similar from here on out, and since it's easy to pick up cheap copies of the older games I'm planning on dipping into the other games in the series without spending too much time on any individual one. I've kind of been getting the urge to go back and play more of Fire Emblem Warriors, but we'll have to see about that, especially since the follow-up to Hyrule Warriors is coming out in just a month and a half.

I don't remember where I first heard about the indie game NightSky, but I'm guessing one of the reasons it caught my attention was because the 3DS version got a rare 10 out of 10 on NintendoLife (for whatever that's worth). I may have first heard about it because of its original intended (but unrealized) release on as a WiiWare title, but in any case, I ended up playing the Steam version (and made my second mediocre Let's Play series, w00t!).

I didn't really know much about the game, other than its distinctive art style. Other games have used a similar silhouette approach since, but NightSky does still feel pretty unique. The game is a physics-based platformer where you play as a ball that spins through many stages, making use of several abilities along the way. The way that abilities are incorporated is a little off-putting. Rather than giving you an arsenal of abilities to choose from or having you collect them or something like that, the abilities available to you simply changes without warning according to the current puzzle. The main abilities are a grip/brake type of mechanic and a speed up mechanic, but some levels also require you to make use of gadgets in the level that require pressing a button to trigger.

I'm not a big fan of the trial and error that physics-based games require, but for the most part I was able to make good progress. The puzzles are usually not that hard in terms of figuring out what you're supposed to do, but succeeding takes many (at times very many) attempts. While over time I did gain a better feel for how the ball would move, I was never quite able to wrap my head around spinning to the left vs. to the right, but that's probably just due to my general slight problems with things involving left and right. There are also a number of hidden white star exits in every area, which add to the replayability. The special abilities definitely help expand the gameplay, but even so about two third of the way through I felt I'd seen everything and I decided to set it aside. It's a genial game overall, but not one I felt particularly drawn to, but I can see how it would appeal for others.

Sweden really seems to be a fertile ground for indie developers, and developer Nifflas has continued to release games that have been well-received. I'm sure I'll be playing through more of his works again at some point in the future.

Whoops, I accidentally forgot to write about this game. Pilotwings, for Super Nintendo, has been on my list of games to play for a long time. It's often mentioned when looking back at launch titles, and it seems to evoke a lot of nostalgia for people who grew up with it. It's also gotten sequels on N64 and 3DS (launch titles for both of those systems as well), and it's also gotten a lot of recognition in the recent Super Smash Bros. games in the form of stages, music, etc.

This blog has a thorough look at all the different modes of the game, but basically the game is divided into two halves each consisting of five levels, a "normal" mode in clear skies and a "hard" mode that introduces adverse weather conditions. The four different types of flight are light plane, skydiving, hang gliding, and rocket belt, and even almost 20 years later it's still impressive what Nintendo was able to achieve in terms of 3D effects on a16-bit machine. The game successfully conveys the sense of flying, and as with many Nintendo games it's fun to just spend time flying or gliding around without even trying to accomplish the actual goal.

When it comes to actually buckling down and attempting to get through all the challenges, though, there's definitely potential for a lot of frustration. There's a big gray area between blind trial and error and actually developing skills, and it often feels like with this game the balance leans much more towards the former than the latter, particularly in the skydiving and hang gliding modes and in landing in general. Of the four the plane flying was the most fun for me, and then the rocket belt, and skydiving just felt like a chore since it doesn't feel like you have much control at all. In the end I was able to get through all of the normal mode, but by that time I had had my fill and didn't have any interest in tackling the harder levels. Overall I had fun with this game and I was happy to get to know this bit of Nintendo history, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the sequels compare.

Wow, has it really been almost a decade since I've played a Dreamcast game?? I'm glad I finally dusted off the ol' dream machine in order to check out Crazy Taxi, one of the platform's biggest hits.

The game predated the Grand Theft Auto games, but they have a similar feel. You drive around a fictionalized US city at breakneck speeds causing mayhem with traffic and causing pedestrians to dive desperately out of the way. In this game you're collecting fares, and the constant pressure of the clock threw me off at first. Coming in with few preconceptions I was surprised that the game was so arcade-y, although it makes sense since the game actually did start life in the arcade. Playthroughs are pretty short, although with enough experience and skill you can collect fares continuously, as successfully completed fares refill your time slightly. The city is pretty big, and its hills and streetcars clearly bring San Francisco to mind. It's fun to just drive around and careen through the roads and down hills, but it's only through trial and error that you'll get higher scores as knowing the town's geography, where the best fares are, and what the fastest way to get from one point to another are essential.

The game has two maps for you to tackle and a mission mode. The mission mode teaches you some moves that apparently are essential for getting high scores, but despite practicing them a decent amount I never really mastered them. Even though I never got very good at the game, it's the kind of game that is good in short bursts for more-casual players. The amount of product placement is a funny sign of the times, and the licensed music from Bad Religion and The Offspring (unusual for the time) also definitely help make the game more memorable. Overall this was a nice bit of history and it's easy to see why it was such a hit back in the day, although I don't think I feel any need to pick up any of its sequels.