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PostSubject: Final Thoughts (video game reviews)   Sun May 10, 2015 1:12 am

about Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts is the name of a series of posts made to my Tumblr blog where I reviewed video games I had been playing and completed recently (at posting), as a sort of companion series to my list-based First Impressions series (which was my reaction to a game after one play session of it). They consisted of basically running paragraphs with occasional images of the game with funny mouse-over text.

I'll be posting the three reviews I had already made here, with adjustments to account for BBcode and not HTML. Because of the conversion work, I'll only be putting one up every so often. If I ever post a new one to Tumblr, I'll mirror it here likely within a week. Lers, if you ever want to put these on the site, I got the original HTML along with all the images in case you want those hosted locally for some reason.

EDIT: Oh yeah, and because this was posted to my blog originally, there may be a little coarse language. Sorry 'bout that.

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PostSubject: Re: Final Thoughts (video game reviews)   Sun May 10, 2015 1:40 am

Final Thoughts on
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
3DS Retail

This was originally posted to my Tumblr blog on December 14th, 2012. The original post is here. The First Impressions mentioned within is here.

And so after several weeks of playing it between classes and not playing it on the bus due to the 3DS battery running out, I've finally beaten Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Not 100%, mind you, there's still the battle sticker side of the museum with slots left open, but I beat the final boss, it's enough for me, and incidentally the music room is lacking.

So while the experience is fresh in my mind, before I give the game back to my brother so he can probably finish and sell it or possibly lose interest and sell it, here's basically my review and analysis of this game.


That mushroom sticker has the stupidest base ever.

Online impressions of this game as I was starting immediately weren't positive. Terrence Marks, one of the creators of the webcomics Namir Deiter and You Say It First, expresses his dissatisfaction over it becoming an inventory management game and the complete lack of personality that NPCs in previous games in the series provided. Altermentality, creator of webcomic The Fourth and verified Paper Mario fangirl, was crushed by the apparent fact that Miyamoto's meddling removed many of the things that set the series apart from other Mario games. According to TV Tropes, some people use this game as evidence that Miyamoto should retire from game development altogether. All it tells me is that Miyamoto probably shouldn't do any actual writing and stick with working with gameplay.

That aside, many people have criticized the game's plot, or lack thereof. Well, let's break it down and get rid of the trimming. Peach is holding a festive event when Bowser charges in, gets pumped up on the latest superpowered flavor of the month, kidnaps Princess Peach, beats the crap out of Mario, and makes a mess of the place. After dealing with initial damage control, Mario is contacted by a being connected to the magical force Bowser harnessed and told to gather the elements necessary to defeat it, scattered all over the area within an eternal day's walking distance. Facing many challenges across many environments, which include a desert, a forest, a jungle with volcano, and an icy tundra, Mario eventually manages to make his way to Bowser's flying castle and confront the brute. Bowser supercharges in the final battle, making him near unbeatable, but thankfully an Eleventh-Hour Superpower unveils itself in time for Mario to defeat Bowser and nullify his new power source for good, rescuing the princess. They return to where the whole thing started and restart the party anew. Happy end.

...Sounds familiar.


Exhibit A.

You heard me right. Sticker Star basically has the same plot as the first Paper Mario game (hereafter referred to as Paper Mario 64 or PM64). Moreso than the other two games in the series. With the bar set, what is the problem? What makes Sticker Star worse than PM64? As stated before, the lack of character is the primary factor. With the exception of Wiggler, the only friendly NPCs are all Toads, in contrast to the large variety of species exhibited in previous games. To focus on the sticker-based gameplay, partners are removed altogether. Bowser, despite being rather talkative in previous games much to many a player's enjoyment, doesn't have a line of dialogue, making him basically the manifested force of antagonism he's become in all the 2D games, while Peach only has a little more dialogue than she does in Super Mario 3D Land and that's only at the end of the game, after the final boss. Arguably, the only new character in the game is Kersti, the sticker fairy that accompanies Mario throughout the game, kinda like Tippi from Super Paper Mario only less interesting, less helpful in her advice-giving, more uptight, sometimes abusive (at least at the beginning of the game), and not nearly interesting or memorable enough to carry all the character dialogue previous games have shown. Also, breaks the running gag of all of Mario's female partners giving him a kiss at least once. Her primary use is through "paperization" to attach stickers and other objects to the overworld to solve puzzles, and through use of the Battle Spinner in battle to possibly increase the number of stickers you can use in one turn. But more on that later. Kersti serves only to act as a voice to move the plot along and does not prove to be nearly as interesting as previous games' cast.


See here: your average everyday Toad in his average everyday situation.

The game's visual style goes all out on the papercraft angle that the series has been using since Thousand-Year Door. Keep in mind that PM64 was known in Japan as Mario Story, so the flat-characters-in-3D-world was just an art style made to justify flat sprites walking around. In fact, the Japanese commercial for the game doesn't make use of it at all. Thousand-Year Door was called Paper Mario RPG in Japan, and it was the first game to make use of paper mechanics, such as the paper boat and airplane "curses." Sticker Star takes this to the logical extreme: everything is made of either paper or cardboard. Seriously. Freakin' everything. At the start of the game, some of the havoc Bowser caused was "burritoing" the central plaza of Decalburg (the quintessential central town) by flattening the buildings and rolling up the ground. Many passages are blocked due to Bowser-brand tape that you have to peel off. Further examples of everyone actually being living paper continues to show throughout the game, including a giant cardboard purple Cheep-Cheep (so named because of all the cheap shots it makes), and status effects in battle such as crumpled, soaked, and stapled. It's almost like a variation of Flanderization for the series as a whole rather than just a character. But it's a very cool looking Flanderization, especially when 3D is enabled.

Sounds effects didn't stand out too much to me either way, which, considering they're sound effects, is probably a good thing. The music has a nice jazzy feel to it that's different but not entirely unwelcome. My favorite tracks are the three associated with the final boss.


Sadly, there are no giants.

Instead of being separated into chapters, the game is divided up into a large world map a la Super Mario World. At the end of most levels is a Comet Piece, which when collected ends the level and unlocks the next. Some levels (shown by having a yellow space instead of blue after being cleared) have more than one Comet Piece, which you will have to invariably find in order to progress the game eventually. I read somewhere while researching this that this was done so the game could be played in chunks at a time, which is a good idea when your system can't go on for more than four to six hours at once without recharging the battery (yes, I'm gonna rag on that a lot).


Thankfully, shininess is not reflective.

Nintendo attempted to bring back old fans of the series by reinstating turn-based battles after the platform antics of Super Paper Mario. Sadly, they tried too hard to also attract new fans at the same time, resulting in a battle system that's even simpler than previous games, if that was even possible. There's no more target selection; you pick what stickers you want to use and that's it. Stickers are all over the place; you peel them off the walls, find them in ? Blocks, and are sometimes given them. You start by targeting the front of the pack, then you go to the next back if you have more slots (which you can get by using the Battle Spinner). While this removes the traditional tactics choice between Jump and Hammer, it opens a new one; Jump does more damage, but requires a steady rhythm of button presses to get that much and of course you can't jump on spikes (except with an Iron Jump), while Hammers do a little less damage but only require one button press for a solid strike. Action commands are back, but like Mario & Luigi, they only use one button. Everything has an action command now, even healing mushroom stickers where the command can boost how much you heal. The limit breaks are provided by Thing stickers, converted from Things, real-life objects found in the paper world such as a pair of scissors, an electric fan, and a goat figurine. These have action commands too, though good luck finding out when to press without a guide. There have been complaints about running out of stickers and having to flee battle; I never had that problem, and once you get the fourth album page from beating the first boss, the only excuse for running out is sucking at action commands.


In a world of paper, is the globe really flat?

Incidentally, I don't care what Nintendo says, this game is not an RPG. I touched on this in my First Impressions, but I'd like to go into more detail here. An RPG has character growth and development as a primary gameplay mechanic. As you play through the game, the power of your character(s) grow. I'm not much of an RPG guy; in fact, the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi games are pretty much the only RPGs I can bring myself to play all the way. I think it's the action commands; I'm more of an action game guy myself and like how the games reward good timing. Sticker Star, however, does nothing like an RPG. There is no experience point system of any sort. Successfully blocking an attack cuts the damage by half, and only by that amount. Attack power is determined by what stickers you use. Max HP can increase, but only by finding HP-Up Hearts which are basically Heart Containers, and no one calls Legend of Zelda or Cave Story an RPG. If I had to give this a genre, I'd describe it as an action-adventure game that just so happens to use turn-based battles. I think someone somewhere described it as a kind of Metroidvania.

So if there's no experience, what's the point of battling?


Money, dear boy.

It's the primary way of getting coins. If you defeat a whole encounter on your first turn, you get a Perfect Bonus and get showered with anything from a few to a handful of coins. Enemies can also drop coins when defeated, sometimes quite a few in the late game. Also, the more battles you engage in when you reach a Comet Piece (but not first-strike auto-defeats), the more coins you're showered with as an end-of-level bonus (though this resets if you leave the level through the world-map entrance; hint, bring a Vacuum sticker to 5-1). If you don't want to plunge levels to get Things again, you'll have to get a lot of coins to buy them and other stickers, especially if you're trying to open all the secret doors, and you also need to pay coins to use the Battle Spinner except at the beginning of some boss battles. You can also sell stickers to shops, but the most you can hope for in most cases is 20 a pop for Things and leaves.

Also, Wiggler is annoying. Third-person people are not funny.


Let's face it, if you had to deal with a giant poisonous squid, you'd be angry too.

Conclusion: It's not a bad Mario game, but it's a bad Paper Mario game. The "paper" part of the title has been taken to the logical extreme, pushing out many of the treads we came to expect from the series. The graphics are good, and the music is decent and overall catchy. Battles take some getting used to with the new system but you should be good by the time you face the first boss. While it is possible to have fun with this game, you have to go in with an open mind.

Final Rating: 3/5 Infinijump Stickers

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PostSubject: Re: Final Thoughts (video game reviews)   Wed May 20, 2015 7:50 pm

Final Thoughts on
Dust: An Elysian Tail
PC

This was originally posted to my Tumblr blog on December 20th, 2013. The original post is here. This post has been edited for (rightfully) extreme language.

I purchased Dust: An Elysian Tail while it was on sale two months ago or so, actually selling off one of my DS games in order to afford it. This was because I've seen some footage of the early game, namely of Fidget, and on friend recommendation. If you'll recall my first impression of the game, my first session wasn't all that hot, but as I got used to the game (and reconfigured my controls into something I could actually work with), the experience improved greatly. The primary features includes memorable characters (mostly), a plot that at least attempts to be epic, and gameplay that just barely manages to avoid being monotonous.

I took a break for most of November and half of December before finally finishing it off tonight, so let's put that soul to rest with my final thoughts on this game. This will likely contain spoilers because I don't know how to keep my mouth shut, so be wary.


I'm not sure what the oriental text is saying, but my best guess is "Badass."

From what I understand, Dust started as a game on the XBox Live Arcade. Apparently, it's customary for some of such games to get ported to PC, and from what I heard, those usually tend to suck. Not Dust. According to TotalBiscuit the Cynical Brit in his review show WTF Is...?, the PC port of dust utterly humiliates its original release. It was also upped to 1080p from the Xbox's 720p. If you were someone like me, you'd never even guess it was made for consoles. It's capable of seemless transitions between using the mouse and keyboard, which is good if your mouse's left button is unreliable. It happens.


Pictured: the most adorable thing you will see this decade.

The story of the game centers on Dust, a turquoise fox-guy with a hat he can apparently see through and loads of kickass. He's also lost his memory, and so we feature the standard plot of trying to find who we are. Accompanying him is Fidget, pictured above, a flying little fox fairy known as a nimbat. People either love or hate her depending on whether or not her meta and snarky sense of humor outweighs the annoying voice. She got a little annoying at some points, but she won me over in the end. Also, the sword talks, but he's not interesting at all aside from being conspicuous CGI.


Run for your lives, wildlife, here comes an amnesiac badass!

The graphics are absolutely beautiful. Seriously, it is literally against this site's rules to express just how gorgeous it all looks. Would you believe one guy drew the entire game? And programmed it on top of that? The environment also has changing weather, including rainstorms and lightning. Pretty much the only count on which Cave Story beats this thing is that Pixel did his own music while two other guys did Dust's soundtrack, not that that keeps that from being phenomenal in its own right. The animated cutscenes late in the game are a step down in comparison, but it's forgivable.

Oh yeah, and the whole thing's voice-acted. This game is a real treat for the senses.


Also, I'm not entirely sure he's wearing pants.

The gameplay is a combination of Metroidvania and beat-em-up with 2D platforming and RPG elements. You explore a number of different locales, none quite like the others; through exploration rewards you with magic chests and the keys to open them, which contain useful loot such as cash, food items, and equipment like magic rings and weapon augments. At certain points you'll even find new abilities like a slide and the ability to climb certain walls.

There are a large variety of different enemies to beat the crud out of with your sword, some of which require a little more strategy than button-mashing; though combat can get a little droning after a while, putting in the effort to make spectacular attacks ramps up the fun a little. Defeating enemies gains experience which leads to levels which lead to increased abilities; maintaining a chain of hits without taking damage yourself rewards bonus experience. Frequent shops scattered throughout the game are willing to buy and sell, and there is a blacksmith that can create equipment from blueprints for you. There are also two town areas where you can take on and complete sidequests.


Pictured: nothing that makes in-universe sense.

Of course, the game's not perfect. One of my main problems is with the Friends. These are twelve characters that are hidden in the game in cages that use up four keys to open, and reward you with a 5% boost to your total HP over what your stats would normally give you. This is a perfectly welcome bonus, but... who are half of these things? Apparently, these are other characters from other indie games that made it on XBox Live Arcade. That's probably great if you have an XBox 360, but I don't even remember holding one of that system's controllers for playing a game at any point in my life. I only recognized Meat Boy, Tim from Braid, and the guy from Fez (which I've been meaning to get) among the characters I found, and I'm pretty sure I guessed the archaeologist guy was from Spleunky by complete accident. It's apparently cross-promotional, but some of these titles aren't on PC; and it sorta breaks the reality of the world a little, at least moreso than birthday cake, pretzels, and what I'm pretty sure is a Japanese dish as useable food items. It's not really so much a fault of the game, it just bugs me.

This game can also be a bit glitchy. Position-sensitive events like shops and save points don't always notice you're there, keeping you from interacting with them. Twice early on, I went into a boss without being able to save first. During my playtime just now, I actually saved the game in front of a shop, and found myself in an empty Minus World when I reloaded the save to undo a purchase; thank god for the autosave.


It's ALWAYS bleepin' undead.

The Sorrowing Meadow in the middle of the game is the absolute worst. One, nobody gives a damn about zombies anymore. Two, backtracking galore. Three, freakin' wizards; they're the only enemies in the game you can't hit with melee and they keep spawning more freakin' zombies. Including ones that explode! To top it off? The boss here is the easiest in the game.

Bosses are also sorta schizophrenic here. The first wasn't much of a challenge, the second was a pain, the third mentioned above was laughably easy, and the last was epic tempered only by mooks coming in and getting in the way.

Finally, there is no quick way to full-heal. Would it have killed to have had an inn or something?!


Dust is too badass for inns, apparently.

Conclusion: While it does have its faults, Dust is overall epic as far as indie games go. The storyline is above-average, the characters are memorable, the gameplay never really feels old, and the challenge feels appropriately scaled. Were there only more one-person teams that could pour this much passion into one creation.

Final Rating: 4/5 Nimbat Dolls

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PostSubject: Re: Final Thoughts (video game reviews)   Thu May 21, 2015 12:16 pm

Final Thoughts on
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
3DS Download

This was originally posted to my Tumblr blog on October 27th, 2014. The original post is here.

I don't believe words can describe how long I've been waiting for this game. Like, seriously, since before the 3DS was even heard of. Pretty much as soon as Risky's Revenge was finished, I waited for this thing to come out. I've never played the original Shantae past the second dungeon, but heck if I didn't want the next entry for years anyway.

And it's finally here, on the month its sequel, Half-Genie Hero, was originally set to release. And now that I've finished it, it's time to see if it lives up to the hype.

Be warned, this may contain light spoilers. As well, by its very nature as a direct continuation, the ending of Risky's Revenge is spoiled the heck out.


Good to know there's a general design philosophy to these things.

The Shantae series is known primarily as WayForward Technologies's most prominent original franchise, which has had three installments since the original Game Boy Color title in 2002, though the concept exists as far back as the SNES. The titular character, Shantae, is perhaps the most notable female action game protagonist in recent history, beating out Metroid's Samus on how no one's heard from Ms. Aran in her own series since Other M. The half-genie guardian of the sea port of Scuttle Town, Shantae's story consists of her fighting her nemesis, the pirate queen Risky Boots, with her two main abilities; her whip-like ponytail hair, and her magical ability to transform into different animal forms by using special dances.

...Usually.


It's a testament to good writing when you can establish a pattern with just two instances.

The story picks up where the last game, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, left off. Shantae, now completely human after having to literally kick her magic's butt, is fired from her job as Guardian Genie after attacking the militant Ammo Baron, since he's the actual mayor of town due to the last mayor being really bad with funds (but hey, we finally get to take on that guy in a boss fight!). That night, she's roped into adventure when who else but Risky drops in demanding answers. As it turns out, there's a powerful entity known as the Pirate Master who was sealed away by the genies, but is now breaking out and unleashing a curse on Risky's Tinkerbat crew, infusing them with dark magic and transforming them into nasty Cacklebats. In order to keep the Pirate Master from breaking loose, Shantae and Risky team up to sail to different islands in search of the dens of evil he's drawing power from and neutralize them.


And then they made out.

The game is split across several islands, each with its own climate and theme. Since Shantae doesn't have her transformations, they're replaced with Pirate Tools, Risky's gear that's been swiped by her mutinous crew. These are assigned to buttons when collected, making the whole game more like Metroid than the other games. Examples of these tools include the Pistol, which can hit enemies and activate switches from a distance, and the Hat, which acts as a parachute for gliding and for riding on wind currents. Each does something unique, and mastering all five is essential to completing the game.

There are three other primary collectables: Dark Magic from Cacklebats, Heart Squids, and weapon and item upgrades. There are 20 of the first, and getting them all is essential to the best ending. Heart Squids are melted 4 at a time to make new Heart Holders, so they're Pieces of Heart by a different name. The last are purchased from the shop, which increase the power or speed of one of Shantae's attacks or gives her a new move.


I don't care what anyone says, she's headbutting that dragon.

Like with any other Shantae game, exploration is the name of the game (besides Shantae and the Pirate's Curse). Each island is divided into an overworld section and a dungeon, each of which presents its own unique challenges. The overworld segment features NPCs to talk to, key items to fetch, and puzzles to solve to open the way to the dungeon. Dungeons consist of door-and-key puzzles, plenty of switches to flip and enemies to fight, and a usually-not-that-hard boss at the end. Although the pattern is set, it never feels boring, and there's plenty of hidden collectables to provide variety. The controls are for the most part just as good as the last game if not better, though it'd be nice if it was mentioned earlier that you didn't have to hold down the Y button for the dash attack once it started (and if jumping was the A button like a normal game).


AND THEN THERE'S THIS SCENE.

The game's graphics are beautiful, especially the panoramic backgrounds. Even similar-looking backgrounds aren't identical enough to feel cut-and-pasted. The spritework is also good, but suffers from some inconsistent animations (most uses of Pirate Tools materialize that adorable head kerchief out of nowhere) and looks borrowed straight from Risky's Revenge. The true beauty of the visuals comes out in 3D, including the speaking portraits gaining a 3D bevel effect which really gives them depth. The upcoming Wii U version has quite a bit of compensating to do.


Even pouting, she's goddamn adorable.

Jake Kaufman returns as composer from Risky's Revenge, and the soundtrack is as marvelous as the rest of his work. Now even each dungeon has its own theme, as opposed to the single theme of Risky's Revenge. My personal favorite is the new mix of the boss theme, but right behind that is the music of the fifth dungeon, the Abandoned Factory, and the Spiderweb Island overworld theme. But hey, don't take my word for it. The sound effects are good, but like the sprites they sound borrowed from Risky's Revenge. Shantae's voice clips also show up from time to time (now voiced by Cristina Vee, taking over from last game's Meagan Glaser), and while the in-game sounds are immersive, the suddenly-spoken words (usually character names) during dialogue just bug me.


And then Squid Baron was Két.

Speaking of dialogue, the writing is probably the best part.


Honestly, I have no joke. They covered every base here.

I mean, just look at this doofus. He shows up about halfway through the game, and if you get the reference, golly gee you're a little old to be playing video games aren't ya grandpa?


Did the Joker ever weaponize the elderly? Such a wasted opportunity.

I'm not even kidding ya. This game is $20, and the dialogue through the whole thing is worth every goddamn penny.


You lie, image! Mimic doesn't do anything resembling skydiving in the actual game!

Conclusion: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse has plenty to offer and should be a must-have for every action game enthusiast. It has great gameplay, it has clever but not magical-hair-pulling puzzles, it has fan service, it has witty dialogue, it has awesome music, it has something for everyone. If you don't have a 3DS for some dumb reason, grab the Wii U version coming out this holiday, or, y'know, get a 3DS. You won't regret this Sequin Land romp.

Final Rating: 5/5 Heart Squids (more than enough for a new Heart Holder)

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PostSubject: Re: Final Thoughts (video game reviews)   Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:27 pm

Final Thoughts on
SteamWorld Dig
3DS Download

A noticeable subgenre of platform and/or adventure gaming that has arisen in the last decade or so is the mining game. Codified by the procedurally-generated Minecraft and further popularized by titles like Terraria and Starbound, mining games are all about exploration, but instead of scenic environments, you dig into the Earth to explore below, in search of precious minerals and other treasures of the deep. Of course, you're not alone in the underground; there's often caves or other structures inhabited by monsters and other hazards that make getting in and out with the treasure a tense challenge that gets fiercer the further down you dig. And then there's usually an element of resource management to ensure you come up for air every once in awhile, such as a hunger or oxygen meter.

Most mining games have a big thing in common, mostly because Minecraft had it: optional - and often-preferred - multiplayer in a massive randomly-generated world. But what about if you tighten the scale to a single large filled-in mineshaft and only one player?

When HumbleBundle.com announced the Humbie Nindie Bundle, which provided cheap charity-supporting copies of several downloadable titles for Wii U and 3DS, I noticed some titles I wanted on it immediately - Guacamelee! (which I had seen previously on a PS3 demo some years ago) and The Fall (which I had wanted on friend recommendation and my love for AI in science fiction). There was also Gunman Clive, which I had caught my interest some time ago. I may or may not get to those eventually, but right now I'm going to talk about the game from that bundle that I finished last night.

Fill up your water tank, Steambots; we're about to get dirty.


You can SMELL the Western influence already, can't you?

Created by Image & Form, a developer based in Sweden, SteamWorld Dig was first released for the Nintendo 3DS download service in August 2013, surfacing in the States a day after its European release. It came up in the three major operating systems for personal computers in December, the eighth-gen Sony systems in March the next year, Wii U the following August, and the Xbone just last June. The Steambots have proven quite prolific, digging their way into all the systems (as many indie games tend to do) as well as the hearts of critics, most reviews giving 90%.

(Due to this proliferation of versions, it's possible any screenshots of the game here are from other versions. I'll try my best to get 3DS ones only, but I can't guarentee anything.)

Image & Form have been working on this universe - where steam-powered robots simply known as Steambots are the dominant species - for quite some time, as it turns out, as Dig is only the second game set in the SteamWorld series, the first being Tower Defense for DSiWare back in 2010 - which I had never even heard of. The next entry, the side-view turn-based strategy game Heist, is slotted to debut on all of Dig's platforms and more in fall this year. It's clear this series is darling to the company, and the love they've shown in developing it is probably a large factor in its appeal.


OK, I'll hold back on the digging wordplay. Maybe.

The game stars Rusty (not the Boy Robot), who has inherited the mine belonging to his late uncle Joe that runs under the scarcely-populated desert town Tumbleton. The town's on its last legs and needs the materials from the mine to get itself back together somehow, and after a little side cave provides a tutorial and gets Rusty his pickaxe, it's up to him to mine out all the precious material he can find - and maybe discover what exactly his uncle was up to all the way down there.

It's not that much more complex a plot than a standard Mario game, but it does have its charm. It makes good use of a limited cast, with the town starting out with only three residents - with more gained as the town grows - each of which has its own unique design, voice mumbles, and manner of dialogue that gives each of them their own distinctive personality. Also, they react as the player gains upgrades through the game - more on that in a bit - which gives the feeling of a little narrative weight to the concept of upgrade progression that's rarely been seen since the days of Metroid.


Either the town's randomly-generated too, or promo art lies again.

The gameplay consists of digging into the Earth and seeing what you find. According to most of the sources I found while researching this, the layout of the mine is randomly generated each game, putting treasures, enemies, traps, caves, and other landmarks in different places. The main goal is finding mineral deposits, which you can exchange for cash in Tumbleton. Cash is then used to purchase upgrades to equipment, such as improvements to your pickaxe so it can dig faster and through harder ground, increases to maximum health and inventory size so you can carry more materials at once, and one-use items like ladders and lamps. Also, swapping in enough materials for a set amount of cash unlocks new purchasable upgrades as the town makes use of what you've brought up to rebuild.

Ah right, remember when I mentioned that mining games have a resource management element to make sure you don't stay underground all the time? Here, that's light. A shining halo of light around the player reveals what's in the immediate vicinity so you're not digging completely blind. As time passes, the light shrinks until you're left in the dark, greatly increasing your chances of running headlong into something that'll kill you (and it costs half your on-hand money to revive back at Tumbleton if that happens). You can purchase stronger lights that last a little longer, as well as postable lamps, though I found the latter fairly useless, especially since you can only carry four at a time.


What're YOU looking at, punk?

The bottom screen contains a mini-map, perhaps one of the most useful things in the game (especially when you get a certain upgrade), and your collected minerals. The only touch aspect of the game is in the menus and by dragging out minerals you want to drop. Since minerals never disappear like pickups from defeated enemies, I opted to just deliver what I had up at the surface and come back the one time I ran out of space. Everything is perfectly operable with the buttons, so the touch controls were likely simply for the convenience of players that really prefer doing it that way. To each his own. Or her own. Whatever.

Rusty controls very well, even with the Circle Pad, probably due to the lack of ducking motion. I'm quite certain I never once felt like the controls weren't responsive, or at least that the times I edged too far and fell out felt like no one's fault but mine. Rusty comes with a Mega Man X-like wall jump from the start, which you'll find invaluable on return trips and is delightfully easy to use. As you progress, you'll find caves - pre-set puzzle maps that reset except gathered resources when you leave or die - that half the time contain a Metroidvania-like upgrade like the ability to run to get a little more jump height, make a large crouch-jump, or swap the pickaxe out for a steam-powered drill. Many of these are powered by steam and so run on water, the "mana" of the game, which are replenished by taking a dip in watering holes you dig up. Many of the purchasable upgrades are just augments on the upgrades you find down in the mine.


"Thirsty? HAVE A DRINK!" *evil witch cackle*

An important part of playing a mining game is knowing how to backtrack - to get back to the surface after you're done spelunking so you can replenish yourself for the next trip, serving the purpose of adding a layer of strategy to the adventure genre. There is one important aspect to the controls that makes a world of difference in this regard: you can't attack - and therefore can't dig - unless you're standing on solid ground. As well, you can only dig at tiles cardinally adjacent to you, with the exception of standing on an edge to dig across a gap. This means it's impossible to dig upwards, even at an angle. This adds a whole layer of strategy to the game that most other mining games (probably) don't have, as this affects not just getting back up to the surface, but how you progress going downwards; digging straight down is never a good idea in these games, but in this case it's not because you can't get back up (because you can wall-jump). If you don't take the time to make a nook before going down even one square, you'll need a ladder in order to dig at that spot if you found something beyond it; and when more open areas become a thing in the last leg of the game and the gems are embedded in the ceiling, a lot of creative ingenuity can be used to figure out how to get up there without just building a massive ladder, which burns money better spent on the permanent upgrades. As a whole, being unable to perform something as simple as digging diagonally (while you get a projectile you can fire diagonally mid-game, it's not easy to aim that way) gives the player a level of challenge that I greatly appreciate; I certainly felt smart for figuring out how to get to out-of-the-way treasures with minimal item usage.


Now you're playing with power!

I don't want to say much more; most of the fun in a game to me is discovering things, and I don't want to spoil more than the first third or so. Image & Form don't have any qualms about mentioning digging into the buried human world and encountering the troglodytes humanity has become, and honestly, the human enemies are probably my least-favorite part of the game if only because the armed ones are annoying and very health-costly to fight. The game also boasts some music that teeters on the edge between the melody-strong tracks of the NES days and the more atmospheric background music of modern games, with music for the human world being delightfully haunting. The visuals are crisp and vibrant in spite of the setting, and indicate what they are and what they'll do very clearly, which is all I can ask from a game.


~We dig-dig-dig-dig-dig-dig-dig from early morn til night! We dig-dig-dig-dig-dig-dig-dig up everything in sight!~

Conclusion: I've left out a few things in my eagerness to explain the stuff that really stood out to me. While it's probably not for the player looking for mindless fun, SteamWorld Dig is nonetheless a unique adventure that executes its premise very well. It's no endless sandbox like most mining games, having a definitive end, but it wasn't made to be one. It was made to be its own thing, an adventure to see how far down the rabbit hole goes, and it does that with lovely visuals, precision sound, and engaging strategic platforming gameplay. Break the ground and pick it up when you've got the cash on hand, instead of buying another stupid lamp.

Final Rating: 4/5 Dark Matter Deposits

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PostSubject: Re: Final Thoughts (video game reviews)   Thu Aug 27, 2015 12:32 am

Final Thoughts on
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
3DS Download

This game. I've pretty much been wanting it since it was announced; after all, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is one of my favorite games of all time. I liked the demos, both on 3DS and in stores, and it was on every birthday and Christmas list since, but I have been denied. Until now.

During my last birthday on July 24th (2015, if you're in the future currently), my relatives got me a decent chunk of birthday money. I picked up a used copy at GameStop ASAP and started playing it that evening. I couldn't put it down. I would leave it running on my 3DS while in sleep mode so I didn't have to wait to get back to it, with 3D on all the way.

And now that I finished it (evening of August 6th, 2015; sorry for the abomidable delay with all the other things I've been doing), it's time for my opinion on this sucker. Pull up a Pi'illo, 'cause this game is no sleeper hit.


In Japan, it's probably called Mario & Luigi RPG 4ZZZZ.

Released in the States on August 11th, 2013 as part of the Year of Luigi promotional campaign, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is the fourth entry of developer AlphaDream's Mario & Luigi RPG spinoff series of the Mario platform games. It was released a couple months before the tenth anniversary of the first game in the series, Superstar Saga in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance. In-between were two Nintendo DS entries, Partners in Time in 2005, and Bowser's Inside Story in 2009. This is all important to know, because Dream Team is stuffed with callbacks to these titles, as well as plenty more to the Mario series in general.


A resort based around sleep? Now that's marketing!

For example, the plot kicks off similarly to Super Mario Sunshine, as Princess Peach and the Mario Bros are invited to vacation on Pi'illo Island by curator and sleep researcher Dr. Snoozemore (who does next to nothing over the course of the entire game), although this time they manage to actually land safely before everything goes to hell (although Luigi dreams otherwise). Pi'illo Island is a place with a strange vibe that makes sleeping easier and more relaxing - which is probably why it's in the process of being archaeologically researched, restored, and turned into a resort - and was originally populated by a grand kingdom of creatures known as Pi'illo folk, capable of traveling to and from the world of dreams, before they all suddenly disappeared. Naturally, you find out exactly how this came to be, especially after the great force of nightmares known as Antasma the Bat King that they locked in the dream world - but not before he turned them all into stone - kidnaps Peach. As it turns out, Luigi's sleep wavelength is very similar to that of the Pi'illo and so by sleeping on their petrified pillow forms, he opens a portal to the dream world that Mario can enter, and traverse the surreal environment accompanied by his brother's dream version of himself known as Dreamy Luigi; and the strange stone pillow found deep in the ruined castle on the island turns out to be their leader Prince Dreambert, who joins the team as an exposition fairy along with returning character Starlow from the last game. These bros and their friends then set out to revive the thought-extinct Pi'illo folk across the island, defeat Antasma, and Rescue the Princess. And then Bowser gets involved and the stakes get even higher.

Unlike the previous 3DS Mario "RPG," the plot holds up to the standards of its sub-franchise. Expect eccentric characters, hilarious dialogue, and pounding blasts of awesome, garnished with gratuitous nods to previous games in the series such as returning fan favorite characters that seem to serve mainly to delight long-time fans of the series (though I don't think it'll cause any continuity lock-out for those that are playing in this series for the first time).



Rock on, LarryBoy- I mean Mario!

Some changes from the previous entry include the following: Special Points become Bros Points again (since there isn't a playable character that's not a Bro this time); each bro gets different Bro Attacks for the first time since Superstar Saga, although you're still collecting ten Attack Pieces in each area to get them (though you occasionally get them from NPCs over the course of the story); badges are expanded with effects that can be stockpiled until necessary; there are now items for use in battle that do stuff besides heal you (although I almost never used them, out of habit); boots and hammers as gear that have variable strength and effects in addition to the pants, gloves, and accessories of previous games; and gaining a new rank allows you to select what sort of bonus effect you get from a list for the rest of the playthrough instead of pre-set ones. Oh yeah, and battles can now involve going into and out of the screen (with terrain acting like a cylinder, similarly to portable Animal Crossing games), and enemies can appear in and attack from the background. All of these help step up the brothers' battling from Bowser's Inside Story, adding a little bit more strategy to the reflexive timed-hits gameplay and the potential for ridiculous attacks that would be simply impossible in previous titles, especially from bosses.


Gheeze, how high up IS this mountain?!

The big new gameplay mechanic is the dream world, accessed by Luigi sleeping on a Pi'illo in its pillow shape in select locations - either on a petrified Pi'illo or on Dreambert at a special glowing dreampoint - to allow Mario in via portal. These areas are played in 2D, similarly to the inside of Bowser's body in BIS, and Mario is accompanied by Dreamy Luigi since Luigi is in the real world dreaming things up in the first place. Since Dreamy Luigi lacks normal Luigi's ability to do field moves, he is instead capable of possessing parts of the environment known as Luiginary Works, which allow you to control the environment by manipulating Luigi's sleeping form with the stylus - mostly his moustache and nose - with each Work doing something unique but usually intuitive - and if they're not intuitive, Dreambert is good with tutorials. Luiginary Works can fling Mario, change gravity, speed up movement, and summon a swarm of Luiginoids - dream duplicates of Luigi that Dreamy Luigi can create - to smash through obstacle and cross wide gaps. All well and good, and for once I don't have much to complain about in a DS or 3DS game that expects the stylus and buttons to be used at the same time, but while strange, the dream world is rarely the level of weird you would expect from a dream in fiction, and only gets really trippy and unsettling in about two places. The dream world seems more like a place accessed by sleeping people than a creation of subconscious thoughts, reminding me of the "Dream Girl" episode of Archie's Weird Mysteries.


No stopping for this hammer time.

As well, battles in the dream world are very different from the real world, with Dreamy Luigi possessing Mario to power him up to allow the red-clad plumber to take on swarms of enemies by himself, thanks to the Luiginoids. These 'Noids allow basic attacks to strike a range of enemies at once, and also fuel Luiginary Attacks that substitute for the Bros Attacks, spectacular moves that can involve near a hundred Luiginoids at once, which hit more or harder. As well, when enemies attack, Mario's dodging options are expanded, adding the Circle Pad to move around along with jumping and hammer in all four cardinal directions. The dream battles are indisputably one of the best parts of the game, making you take careful consideration of each enemy's relative position to each other to maximize your carnage, and Luiginary Attacks are massive fun to pull off. My only gripe is the inability to move while in midair from a jump, a muscle memory from Mario platform games.

Speaking of massive, and then giant battles.


Pretty sure this has something to do with Luigi's fear of dentists. And his mother, somehow.

These make a return from BIS, using a supersized Dreamy Luigi instead of Giant Bowser, and make up about half of the dream world boss fights. These turn the 3DS sideways, but unlike BIS, it turns in whatever direction is better for your dominant hand to use the touch screen, which is very considerate of the developers. These are fully rendered in probably some of the best polygonal graphics on the 3DS. The available attacks involve jumping and hammer-swinging, which can knock the opponent backwards or even into the background in order to take further advantage of the environment. As well, the still-normal-sized Mario rides Luigi's hat and can help in Bros Moves that heal Luigi with mushrooms or perform a more powerful stomp, though acting with the giants wears him out for a few turns afterward.

Apparently giant battles are hit-or-miss with some people. For me, it's mostly a hit, probably because I loved them in BIS, and putting them in 3D greatly improved them. My main issues were with a gyro-based segment in the last of them which resulted in my constant death twice, which could maybe be blamed on my room's office chair tilting? I dunno. I didn't have issues with it during a similarly-controlled segment in a previous battle. I'm also not crazy about the inclusion of a specific finishing move instead of just seeing the opponent's health bar go all the way to 0; guess they felt Giant Bowser fights didn't end climatically enough. Oh and they also yield no experience points, even though they are definitely an experience.


"We've been over this at LEAST six times already!"

The game's graphics are excellent. For its first leap into polygonal graphics, Dream Team uses 2D sprites for characters and enemies, but they're done so well that it's easy to mistake them for being as 3D as the background, at least on the field. The giant battles are all 3D, as previously mentioned, and Luigi especially looks just like his 2D sprite given life, not a blocky seam to be found. And it all runs with a perfectly smooth framerate that seems to waiver only during one of the final boss's most intense attacks, and I had 3D viewing on the entire way. Everything pretty much looks beautiful, and easily stands up to the rest of the series while still being distinct. Animations are also smooth - the field Luiginary Stacks definitely show some attention to physics - although there's one animation of Bowser that just creeps me out because he looks so hunched over.


Not sure who Mario's sleeping on, but I'm betting Bedsmith is jealous.

The music is also amazing, one of the best soundtracks in the whole series. The battle music is especially catchy, with the boss and dream world battle music being near-impossible to get out of your head. Like most Mario RPG soundtracks, there's nary one I disagree with; and the jukebox unlocked after beating the game allows you to peruse it at your leisure, a most welcome first for this series. My favorite tracks outside of battles are for Somnom Woods and its dream world counterpart, which are both beautiful and haunting. The final boss theme, however, is good, but... honestly, reading about how people compare it to the final boss music of BIS just reminds me that BIS's engrained its awesomeness on the inside of my skull from the get-go, while I don't remember a note of Dream Team's. No part of it seized me, really caught my attention, in the way BIS's or even Paper Mario's or Super Paper Mario's did. I actually prefer the penultimate boss's theme in comparison.

One big thing I need to point out, though, is that this game is a big step up in difficulty, at least from BIS. I make a policy of fighting every enemy encounter on the field in these games, and even then I struggled with the final boss for hours - even with gratuitous use of Bros Attacks - before backing out and using all the Beans I dug up over the course of the game, something I didn't have to do in BIS since they were little more than a friendly reminder. Which is probably why I don't remember the music, I just grew to hate this boss and his cheap-ass healing. And some of the other bosses in the final area just felt like wars, and not the fun kind, the war of attrition that Elder Princess Shroob was. To be fair, the designers attempt to alleviate this with the ability to restart a battle from what you entered with if you die, as well as provide a block of hints as to tactics to employ against the present enemies on those retries, instead of just going back to your last save - and speaking of saving, you can now do that anywhere like it's a Pokémon game or something. Can't knock those; they're especially welcome options for a game on a platform notorious for not having the best of battery lives.


I vant to suck your dreams, bla.

As well, while villain Antasma seems deliberately designed to invoke memories of every previous Mario & Luigi major villain at once, as well as being the closest the Mario games have come to having a vampire, he ultimately doesn't do much. Like, two steps above Onox from The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons - who, if you didn't play that, showed up only for the prologue and the final boss while doing nothing in the middle. He hooks up with Bowser about a third of the way into the game, and from there pretty much acts as a supporter and lackey for him, hoping that boosting up Bowser will help him further his own goals by proxy, and as a result he has such a small presence. Only two enemies invoke his image, both of which are in the final area, and he's just generally not that notable. This seems to be building up to the late-game plot twist which makes the guy look worse than Cackletta ever did, and while I still love Bowser, I would've liked to see Antasma do more as a character.

Lastly, there's no point at which Mario and Luigi split up after the opening, unlike some occasions in the other games. This means that, because he gets a decent amount of alone experience at the start, Mario will occasionally be a level above Luigi. Nitpicky? Perhaps, but I like to keep the bros of an even level, and Luigi is never given the chance to catch up that doesn't involve knocking Mario out.


MAKIN' MY WAY DOWNTOWN

Conclusion: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is one of my favorite video games of all time. Is Mario & Luigi: Dream Team better than that? Of course not. But it's still a great game, and well worth the time to seek out. What else is there to say about a game that kept me enthralled nearly the whole way even though I spoiled the hell out of the plot for myself? It looks amazing, it sounds great, its story is intriguing, its humor is above par for a Mario RPG, and above all, it's massively engaging to play at pretty much every level, especially with the refinement of previous battle systems and the new dream battles. If nothing else, it'll definitely wash the taste of sticker out of every 3DS owner's mouth.[/p]

Final Rating: 5/5 1-Up Deluxes

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PostSubject: Re: Final Thoughts (video game reviews)   Sun Sep 06, 2015 6:59 pm

Final Thoughts on
For the Frog the Bell Tolls
Game Boy

Released in the United States in August of 1993 for the Game Boy, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was a standout title in the Zelda franchise for several reasons. The main things were the omission of several common Zelda elements of the time, such as Hyrule, the Triforce, and Zelda herself. But due to the free-wheeling way it was developed, it also included several cameos of characters from other games, such as Mario, Kirby, and the SNES version of SimCity.

But there was also another cameo. A prince named Richard was driven out of his own castle by his servants gone mad, and holes up in his villa filled with a load of frogs; he has you rescue his golden leaves from the place and gives you access to the key to the next dungeon in return.

You could probably be forgiven for thinking he was just another out-there Zelda character, given the likes of the Postman and the Happy Mask Salesman. That's because the game he cameoed in was never released outside Japan, even though this game used the same engine as Awakening.

Well, I've finished playing that game. Well, a fan translation patched version of it. This is Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, or as we English folk tend to call it, For the Frog the Bell Tolls.


Ask not for whom the bell tolls; we just told you. Pay attention already.

Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (Japanese titles are real mouthfuls, aren't they) was released in Japan on September 4th, 1992 for the original Game Boy. In September in 2012, it was rereleased for the 3DS Virtual Console. Also there were tales of a Game Boy Color remake in the works, probably along the lines of Link's Awakening DX, but it never materialized. It has a good pedigree of not-Miyamoto Nintendo devs heading it, including being written by Yoshio Sakamoto, co-creator of the Metroid series.


Three times the logo, three times the fun. Or something.

As an aside, Link's Awakening isn't the only time this game has been referenced in Nintendo history. I was first introduced to it through the recurring cameo of one of its characters in Wario Land 4. The Frogog in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is called Richādo in Japan, referencing Prince Richard. More recently, the main character himself has appeared as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros for Wii U / 3DS.

The plot of the game focuses on two princes, Prince Richard of Custard and Prince <insert 4-letter name here> of Sable. The two are childhood friends and rivals, though Richard tends to always be ahead by at least a little. One day, after the Prince of Sable loses at fencing for like the umpteenth time, news comes in that the Mille-Feuille Kingdom has been overrun by the evil King Delarin and his Croakian army, and Princess Tiramisu - of legendary beauty and great holy power - has been kidnapped by them so she and the King can get married. Since the two of them also want to marry the princess, they rush to compete to see who can save her, with Richard of course taking an early lead. Then they and Richard's army get turned into frogs by a witch wearing glasses and that's where things start getting really crazy.

This is a rather lighthearted game with a plot that doesn't take itself all that seriously. Pretty much the entire cast is made up of quirky personalities that do a good job of endearing themselves to you whether through their humor, their troubles, or their awesome feats. It's also very linear, perhaps one of the most linear games I've ever played; while there are hidden items, there are no side quests of any sort - and you'll probably need the hidden items to beat the bosses anyway. I tend to follow breadcrumbs myself, so I didn't mind much at all, but if you want the freedom to make your own story your own way, this probably isn't for you.


Hi-ho, Kermit the Frog here!

Gameplay is fairly straightforward. Sort of like its spirtual descendent, Frogs alternates between top-down overworld traversal and side-view platforming challenges. The main seperator is that there's nothing like a traditional Zelda dungeon, instead having all the dungeon areas be side-view platforming areas. The main draw of the game is, thanks to magic potion shenanigans, the Prince of Sable's ability to transform into a frog - capable of large jumps but are sitting ducks in combat - and a snake - who can crawl through tight passages and turn weak enemies into blocks that can be used for platforming but can barely jump at all - and back to a human at will by using items and the environment. All the forms are put to use in clever puzzles, as all three have to be mastered for their strengths to cover their weaknesses. Although the primary weapon is an increasingly strong series of swords, there's also the options of other holdable weapon-like items such as saws for use in tasks like sawing down certain trees and fighting Evil Trees - no, seriously - to progress the plot and find hidden items.


That is a very good question, actually.

There are a couple of things that make this game really stand out, even amongst today's hi-def selection. The most noticible one is that, for once in this genre, the protagonist of the game talks.


When was the last time a video game hero had a personality?

Like, seriously. There is actually a Nintendo first-party protagonist that has both audience-audible speaking ability and player control at the same time. The only other instance of that I can think of off the top of my head is one scene - one scene - in Metroid Fusion. OK, and Star Fox, but give me a break here. It was a pleasent surprise to notice that my own player character was talking and participating in the plot for once instead of just quietly being another player stand-in, with his own quirky personality involving a lack of an understanding of the real value of money (you start the game with like a million gold, Sable is freakin' loaded) that helps him fit in with the rest of the cast and not seem like a total stranger just hoping that if he keeps smiling and nodding, he'll get to go back to bed soon.


This is totally a screenshot. Totally.

The other big noticible thing is the game's combat system. Touching an enemy results in a ball o' violence as the two parties automatically swap blows without input from the player, with how much damage done each turn determined pretty much solely by stats. Pressing the B button can give you the chance to escape or use an item from your inventory, such as downing some wine - no, seriously - to restore health, and this is the only input you get. Defeating enemies often results in drops, such as money, hearts for healing, and transformation items. If you lose, though, don't worry - you'll instantly respawn at the last hospital you visited instead of having to click your way through a game over screen. If that's too far for you, use of a Diary item in your inventory lets you save anytime, allowing for useful save scumming if you don't want to go through everything again.


And one for Jenny and the wimp!

The simplicity of the combat system makes it clear that the platforming, puzzles, and story were the main priorities for challenge in this game, and also has an interesting possible psychological effect. Most action game enemies that are dreaded are mostly for their difficulty or how annoying they are to fight. You will learn to fear Frogs's strong enemies because defeating them is straight-out impossible, requiring the player to either seek out hidden powerups such as life-extending Life Stones, power-boosting Strength Stones, and the very rare more-attacks Speed Stone to make them stronger - not to mention occasinally upgrading your shield at shops to increase your defense - or find another way to circumvent the enemies altogether. For example, about halfway through the game, the path leading out from the exit of a cave to the next town is filled with hard-to-avoid enemies that hit really hard for this far in; attempting to go through as a human and fighting your way to the end is pretty much guarenteed to fail because you just don't have enough max possible health (or at least because you can't figure out how to de-equip the saw). However, they're all bugs, which the frog can eat and defeat in one hit while restoring health, requiring the player to find and use a pool of cool water - the catalyst for the frog transformation - inside the cave in order to get past the area.


BRO DO U EVEN PUMP

When did Super Mario Land come out again? 1989? Amazing what sort of graphical achievement can be made in three years, because this game looks really good. Par, I suppose, with other high-end Game Boy titles, but all very distinct, with some notable setpieces like the drawbridge pistons seen above an a large woolly mammoth in the last half. The recurring dungeon, Eclair Castle, also does a magnificent job of giving a different feel to each of the sections you traverse during each visit, expanding as more keys and abilities are gained.

The sound is good, and if you're big into chiptunes I think you'll find it notable. None of the tracks really stood out to be outside of the title theme and the overworld theme, but there's certainly nothing bad about it. The sound effects are also good, with some of them later being used for Link's Awakening.


No, don't worry, it's not crazy enough to ALSO be a dating sim.

Gameplay-wise, my least favorite part probably involves the controls. Most of it was because, since this was an early '90s game back when the manual being included with the game wasn't an unreasonable assumption, not many of the more unique controls were explained in the actual game. I learned how to escape and use items in battle pretty much by accident, and I really wish I knew I could put items away with B before I died multiple times from trying to fight enemies that weren't trees with just a saw. The rest of it was most likely because I was playing it with an emulator on a smartphone resulted in having less precision than granted by actual buttons, and sometimes buttons got pressed when they really shouldn't have and stopped me in midair while making jumps just because the up and down buttons extend their range to the left and right for no reason. It's things like that that made one of the last areas in the game far more brutal than it should have been.

Some of the things you have to do to progress the plot can also get a bit hard to figure out. I personally had some trouble in the last town, which requires a series of actions that could probably be figured out as "talk to everyone twice."

To top things off, I think the final boss is handled especially well for a game that minimizes combat so much. It feels more cinematic and like a real teamwork effort between the two princes than I think most modern games try to pull off by imitating movies and failing. It's really quite glorious to watch.

While I'm here, a shout out to ryanbgstl, the guy who created the fan translation I used. I have pretty much no issue with any of the game's text. There's pretty much no point where I wasn't "This is ridiculous and I love it." It's amazing how much story you can feel just by hearing what the protagonist is actually saying.


Just in case you were worried there wasn't actually a bell in this game.

Conclusion: While certainly a fairly easy game, For the Frog the Bell Tolls takes pride not in its difficulty, but its narrative. It presents a tongue-in-cheek fairy tale of a plot, filled with interesting and loveable characters. The platforming is tight, and the challenges are what's to be expected from a Game Boy title. I heartily recommend this game to any fan of RPGs that needs a break from the more hardcore stuff like Final Fantasy, if you're willing to look past how simple the combat is. And if you disagree, I'll turn you into a snake.

Final Rating: 4/5 Work Gloves ("It's NOT a Work Glove, dagnabbit!")

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