It's been more than ten years since I slogged my way through the original Ghosts 'n Goblins on NES, and, sad to say, my impression of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts for SNES didn't end up being much better. The game is very similar to the original in terms of the setup, but it's clearly superior for many reasons. The graphics are much better, and there's a lot more variety in the stages, but the bigger upgrade is that the weapons system has been enhanced. Like the original game, there's a variety of weapons you can make use of such as a spear-like lance weapon, a dagger, torch, and an axe, but in this game you also can gain bronze and gold armor which dramatically enhance your weapon. Much like the spread gun in the Contra games, the bow and arrows gives you double firepower and was an easy favorite for me, but the one-hit penalty that is the series' trademark and that causes you to lose your armor and the power-up is a major bummer. This unforgiving life system and the high level of difficulty which oftentimes just seems unfair end up really sucking out all the enjoyment from the game. The game does provide an options menu that lets you adjust the difficulty level and increase your number of lives as well as a level select cheat code, but even with limitless save states when playing it via Switch Online the game rarely felt more than just a pain to make any sort of progress through.

For its time I can see why it was well-received by some gamers, but from a modern standpoint there just seem to be so many better ways to spend my time than replaying the same stage over and over and over again just to make a tiny bit of progress. To top it all of, as with the original you have to beat the game twice to see the actual ending, and to add insult to injury you have to beat the final bosses with a powered down weapon. Ugh! This is a game that I really wanted to like, but in the end I have to lump it in with its predecessor as games that I'm glad I'll never have to play again. Too bad! Other games in the series have gotten good reviews, including the most recent release from February of this year, but as for me it's going to be quite some time before I feel compelled to face another dose of this particular brand of pain.

Yup, it's another indie release from the Switch eShop. I actually like having all these games that are only a few hours long but that offer unique experiences, and Gris was another one of those games that was on my radar because it looked interesting and had gotten generally really positive reviews. The game's title means "Gray" in Spanish (the developers are from Spain), and the tone actually reminds me of another recent indie Switch game I've played recently, The Gardens Between. That game was a puzzle game whereas this one is a light platformer, but both of them have a similarly melancholy atmosphere. It's a bit pointless and churlish to compare the two, but I have to say that even though The Gardens Between has more unique gameplay, I would have to give Gris the edge in terms of its overall impact: it has some of the absolutely best art and sound design I've seen in any video game, let alone an indie game (this is the game you should point to if anyone ever doubts that video games are art). But both are fun games and really memorable, and I would highly recommend both.

There were occasional moments in Gris where I wasn't sure which direction to go and there were some occasionally tricky jumps and some mechanics that were a little underused, but overall it's a great experience. Gris includes a few optional challenges which I mostly didn't bother with because I wanted to see more of the game, but those do add to the replayability. As with The Gardens Between, after playing Gris I'm left impatient for the next release from its developers, Nomada Studio. Hopefully we won't have to wait long!

 

I was thinking about Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a 3DS release, lately for several reasons. For one thing, some characters from the game were added to Fire Emblem Heroes recently, the first time in a long time that the game has gotten any recognition in that game. Also, as Nintendo's E3 presentation rapidly approaches, I'm still holding out hope for another Fire Emblem Echoes, i.e. another remake of a previously Japan-only Fire Emblem game. I've also been dipping into Fire Emblem DLC in general lately, and I was planning on checking out Shadows of Valentia's DLC next.

It looks like it's been about four years since the release and my playthrough of Shadows of Valentia. Getting back into it did take some adjustment. The sprites seem quite small, although the art style and presentation are still distinctive compared to the other 3DS Fire Emblem games (Awakening, and Fates). There's a focus on gaining weapon experience in order to unlock skills, although it's annoying that they're tied to the weapons and you can't easily determine which weapon you have to re-equip to re-enable any particular skill. I had to refresh my memory on what the various skills and weapons are and who the characters were, but pretty soon I was back into it.

There were several parts of the game that I had ignored the first time around. By this time I've bought the two Amiibo for the game, and they unlock pretty easy "dungeons" with five battles each which net you some unique but non-essential items. There's also an "Act 6", which is post-game content with a handful of more battles and a huge 10-level dungeon. I still have PTSD from the similarly lengthy marathon labyrinth from Sacred Stones, so I've left that aside for now (although in this game we have the benefit of the ability to rewind bad moves and also to exit the dungeon at any time). There were also a couple of useless awards (i.e. achievements) that I had missed on my previous playthrough that were easy to fill in.

As I mentioned, though, my main focus was checking out the DLC (completist that I am, of course I bought all of them). As with the DLC sets for the other games, there are some maps that get you experience, coins (used for upgrading weapons), or rare items and equipment. There's also a four-part prologue involving the Deliverance characters, and amongst other entertaining story elements we also get more insight into the character of Fernand and his relationship with the others. Apparently this also adds some support conversations amongst those characters, which I haven't unlocked yet. There are also two maps that unlock four brand new characters (from Fire Emblem Cipher, the sadly now-cancelled trading card game), each of whom has a unique weapon and some support conversations. A big chunk of the DLC is devoted to "overclasses", which are classes your characters can promote to if they've reached the maximum level of the previously highest classes in the game. My characters were generally not even close to being at high enough levels since I hadn't grinded at all during my original playthrough, and although the game has an auto-battle feature that wouldn't make it too hard to grind for experience on the DLC maps, it just didn't seem worth the time and effort. I suppose I'll do that at some point for at least a few characters and then tackle the marathon labyrinth.

Overall the DLC is a fun little perk, although not as extensive as the previous 3DS games, and it's too bad I wasn't able to play around with the overclasses (they really do seem pretty useless unless you plan on doing a lot of grinding). Now that I've gone through all of it, I'll be able to integrate some of it (like the Cipher characters) into my next playthrough of the whole game. I have a lot of gaps I need to fill in other entries in the series, though, so I'll be leaving this game and DLC in general aside for the near future.

I picked up the game Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition pretty much on a whim when it was on sale on the Switch eShop. I was intrigued by its use of video and its reputation as being something of a cult classic, so I decided to check it out despite its mixed reception.

I didn't really know anything about the game other than a little bit about how it stirred up a lot of controversy on its release, apparently for "promoting gratuitous violence and sexual aggression against women". It turns out the game is a campy take on a horror B movie and features nubile teenage girls looking forward to a fun weekend in a house with many secrets. The gameplay itself is very similar to the Five Nights at Freddy's game in that you're tasked with monitoring an array of video cameras and you have to press a button at the right time to trap baddies who pop up all around the house. I found the game to be good fun, and from today's perspective everything is so cheesy and the violence is so cartoony that it's hard to imagine how it could have traumatized any video game playing children of the time of its release in 1992 on Sega CD. In terms of beating the game you basically have to memorize (or take notes about) which locations baddies appear at and at which times, and there are certain key moments you have to catch where the characters converse about changing the active color code of the alarm system.

Apparently there are quite a few endings, and this special edition has an array of unlockables based on getting all the endings and triggering other specific events in the game. I didn't bother with any of that, and completing the game will take you at least several playthroughs. A full playthrough only takes about half an hour, and beating the game should only take you a few hours. You'll get a game over if you let too many baddies slip by or if you fail to save any of the characters, but the game has a handy restart system if you get about halfway through. Since you're only catching snatches of dialogue here and there, even when you're forced to restart the experience is a little different every time since you're focusing your attention on different parts of the house all the time.

Overall I actually enjoyed the game, although the "young teenage girls as victims" trope is somewhat problematic in this day and age (although to be fair, there are a couple of male victims thrown in the mix as well, and we're left to assume that the majority of the baddies you're tasked with defeating are male). The gameplay is novel and the story has some funny twists, and the game doesn't overstay its welcome (it also features a banger of a theme song, haha). I kind of like campy B movie stuff and don't mind simplistic gameplay, but more demanding gamers will probably want to skip this one.

It looks like I was a slacker and didn't blog about a Dance Dance Revolution game in 2020. In the past few years I've been skipping around the series and after playing 2005's Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 I'd skipped ahead to the 2007 release, Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party on Wii and two September 2008 releases, Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 (also on Wii) and Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Channel Edition. This time around I went back to the game after DDR Extreme 2, which was Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova, on PS2.

As usual, the differences to the core gameplay are minor to all but the most diehard DDR players. The mission mode has a different setup than in the DDR Extreme games. Rather than select missions to tackle, instead you navigate through a series of planets. On each planet you're given a set of songs and a set of missions that you can tackle in any order (e.g. "Complete 4 songs on the Beginner difficulty level with an A or higher"), some of which overlap. After you complete a certain number of them you unlock the "Showdown", a series of four or five short challenges, of which you have to pass a certain number of them to receive a "VIP Card". A VIP Card will unlock the next planet, and the mode continues in the same way. There also EX Showdowns and Diamond EX Showdowns that are unlocked when you complete more missions on a particular planet. I didn't spend much time trying to be a completist in this mode and have pretty much just done the minimum required to progress to the next planet. The tracklisting is pretty much par for the course, and when you encounter songs in this mode you unlock the opportunity to buy them in the in-game shop with points you earn playing through songs. This shop also includes other miscellaneous aesthetic bonuses, such as characters and differently shaped arrows.

It's a bit sad to think I'm starting to run out of DDR games to play, especially considering that it's been a decade since they've released a new version for consoles. Still, I'm not sure I'd ever be able to be skilled and athletic enough to 100% any single entry anyway, so I'm sure there's plenty more gameplay to be had from DDR games I've already played. As for what I'll tackle next, I'll probably go back to one of the Wii games I haven't played through yet before coming back to DDR SuperNova 2.