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Beating Games

4-So

Spicy
Finished the critical path (Jin's Journey) in Ghost of Tsushima. I didn't finish all of the tales, just Sensei Ishikawa's story, so I still have some clean up that I may or may not get back to. I also have the Aki Island stuff I could do and I haven't touched the Legends stuff at all. But the main game is complete and it was pretty great. Definitely the most engaging open world I've played in quite a long time.
 

Paul le Fou

Pickle Bus Owns Tulip Town
(He)
I finished the main story mode of Pikmin 3. I went through some of the extra side mission stuff; finished the first set of 4 and am currently working on the second one. Overall, I liked it, though the final area was annoying until I didn't finish on the first day, easy on the next day because of all the stuff I did the day before, but then the final boss was a pain too. Didn't help that I kept losing tons of pikmin, including like 50 at once when I let a cube roll over on top of me for some reason.

I ended up with over 50 days of juice and like 200+ of each kind of pikmin by the end. I guess I get the mechanics, but it seems like they were easy enough that few of them ended up mattering? I dunno if this is the kind of game I actually want to turn up the difficulty on, though.

After finishing the side missions, I suppose I could go back and get the rest of the fruit I haven't picked up yet, but it also seems like there's little point beyond saying I did. We'll see if I feel like it!
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
I fundamentally dislike the combination of real time strategy gameplay with a timer that is a constant worry in the back of your mind
 

Paul le Fou

Pickle Bus Owns Tulip Town
(He)
Yeah, it's a little screwy. I had a few moments where it was ticking down during a boss fight and I didn't know what would happen if it ran out. I think the answer is "Day immediately ends, cut to you strolling to your ship, all Pikmin not in your crew are lost."

I also think it's a little mitigated by a few things, though:
1. How easy it ultimately is to build a backlog of fruit juice - I can't imagine running out of juice (and therefore days) ever being a remotely serious threat as long as you're collecting even a fraction of what's available to you.
2. The state of the area is almost entirely preserved day to day, so you just go back again the next day and pick up with whatever you were doing. The only things that reset are small beneficial environmental objects like the flowers for spawning more pikmin.
3. You can always get more pikmin relatively easily.

But that also kind of raises the question, what is the limited-time-per-day mechanic for, anyway? In theory, the pressure of a time limit increases the stakes... but then it's so defanged it becomes pointless. Although, honestly, I guess it's functional but balanced for children or casual players. Which is fine. So... there's that, I guess?
 
It should be noted that the standard play through on Pikmin 3 deluxe has been "defanged" from the Wii U original. The harder difficulty that unlocks? after that (I forget) is the original Wii U settings.
 

karzac

(he/him)
The only Pikmin game where the time limit ever really felt like it made sense was the first one. In that game, ever moment of the day was important, because you only had so many days. You really had to plan your actions carefully.

However, both Pikmin 2 and Pikmin 3 have kickass multiplayer modes , so that's a point in their favour.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I finished the entire community center in Stardew Valley, have one of each major kind of building (and leveled up) and animal and did the initial dungeon and the one that gets me a new scythe. I feel like I'm good to stop here. Might return every so often (probably during whatever season the game is currently at).
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
I think I'm done with Griftlands. It's a GOAT!

I beat it with all 3 characters, and the only bad thing I can say about it is that all 3 stories are so engaging that I wanted to make them my single canonical playthroughs, so I'm not doing multiple runs to experiment with the deckbuilding, which feels like the design intent?

But those 3 stories were all great and took me 30 hours, so I'm happy with my experience. It looks great, and plays great, has a really fun and fascinating world with a lot of great world-building, and delightful stories told in that world. It's a shame they lead with the least interesting story, though. Sal is great, but her story is pretty standard fare. When I started the 2nd character, Rook, and quickly ended up neck-deep in a triple-cross spy scenario with shifting allegiances, I was hooked. And the 3rd character is just a cool fish alien drunk asshole bar-fighter who is a lot of fun.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
Finished replaying Freedom Planet, which, at this point, I might as well be honest with myself and say is one of my favorite Sonic the Hedgehog games. If not for Mania, it would *easily* be my favorite post-Genesis one, and it's still in my top three overall
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Freedom Planet is indeed fantastic. I don't cotton to Sonic as much as some people, but FP hit me in some critical weak points in the ways it diverged from "normal" Sonic. And it's definitely worth experiencing with all three playable characters.
 

zonetrope

(he/him)
Guacamelee 2: A lot of reviews pegged this as "more of the same" as the first game, but it felt a lot twitchier to me, and giving the chicken form its own distinct moveset and powers is a pretty significant expansion on the original formula, imo. I ended up enjoying this a lot.
 
I played GM2 earlier this year and for some reason the combat and the platforming clicked a lot better with me than the original... despite realizing that it had a definite difficulty spike over the original. I dunno. I really liked it.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I really enjoyed Guacamelee 2 myself, and was definitely a person that waited because of "more of the same". Lots of fun with it, and for some reason, the combo trials didn't give me nearly as much issue as the first game. Not sure if they were easier or if I've just gotten better. :p
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
Dark Devotion is a 2D side scrolling dark souls-em-up that I played on switch. The first two sessions I had with it I didn’t like it much, but I kept going and once I had a sense of how it worked I enjoyed it.

Things I didn’t like:
The tiny font - I had to play in handheld mode because I couldn’t read anything on screen from my couch.
Stick only controls - my personal pet peeve for games with digital only movement, I think a d-pad is just better for them. This game did use the direction buttons for other things, to be fair.
Opacity - the game doesn’t worry too much about whether you know how to play it. There’s a few bits of text at the start telling you how to do a few things, after that you’re pretty much on your own. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I like figuring things out, but for a long time I couldn’t figure out where on screen my hit points were.
Darkness - should have been a given from the title, but I felt the game leant a little heavily on not being able to see, especially in the early going. Also thematically I could have done without some of the grimness.

Anyways, once I had some idea what to do the game got a grip on me. The first big sticking point was the complete lack of a jump. I went into this thinking it was a metroidvania, so this was a surprise. It’s very much a 2D platformer, so no jump is pretty odd. Instead you are constantly moving downwards off edges which you can’t go back up (though there are ladders in places). When you die you respawn in a sort of hub at the start of the dungeon with entrances to the major sections of the map in it, and a teleporter back to the last statue you activated. There’s a lot of trial and error to the navigation, since you’re constantly choosing between two paths without knowing the first time you choose where they will lead and with no way back to try the other path. The paths eventually converge, so you can’t hit a dead end, and you die a lot (I did, at least), so there are opportunities to explore.

Besides randomish paths, you also have somewhat random equipment. Some of the gear you find can be replicated by the blacksmith at the hub, but not all, and each time you die you lose whatever you have and set off with whatever loadout you’ve set up at the smith again. Generally the drops are better than what you can start with, though I wound up using the same one handed sword I got from an early boss for most of the game, just because I got familiar with its moveset. You also get an increasing set of perks to choose from as the game goes on, one of which powers up your weapon as you move through the dungeon, so it makes sense to stick with the one you have. You can get very powerful on a good run, and there were a few bosses I beat on the first try because I reached them in good condition. Others were major sticking points, and you wind up choosing between activating the teleport outside their door so you can get back quickly for another shot, or taking longer runs through the dungeon to build power before taking them on. I tended to do the latter if I hadn’t fully explored yet, but it’s time consuming and you risk getting severely debuffed as well. There’s a system of curses, arising either from cursed equipment, enemy attacks, or player behaviour (going through a door during a fight can land you with cowardice, for example), which can spoil a good run in an instant. This was often very frustrating.

The core gameplay is fairly soulsy combat - you’ve got a stamina bar, dodge rolls, and weapons with wind-up time. I think you can also parry, but I couldn’t pull it off in the early going and gave up trying, relying entirely on rolls for defence (which made the curse that hurts you on rolling and the one that makes you drop stuff on rolling run-ending disasters if I got them and didn’t have some cure to hand). It’s pretty solid.

The hardest boss (aside from an early one I struggled with because I didn’t understand the game yet) was the last, which has the most attacks, most HP, and some tough patterns. It’s also at the end of a series of long empty corridors (which had been boss rooms), which makes going through the dungeon to power up a bit easy but dull. I wound up just learning its moves and beating it that way.
 
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Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
There isn't exactly an abundance of video game in there, but Steel Assault makes every minute you spend with the game count. It's a side-scrolling action game much (very, very much) inspired by Contra, but with an electric punch instead of a gun; and a lot of zip-line grappling, and it makes sure that every moment of every stage is just chock full of ways to keep you on your toes and relentless set-piece action sequences.

Difficulty is a lot more forgiving than Contra too; as you get a life bar (but only one life) and abundant checkpoints. Playing on the lower difficulties, I only ran into any kind of speed-bump in the final battle.

All in all, an excellent game about attacking aggressively.
 

DemoWeasel

Workin' real hard to make internet cash.
(He/Him)
If you want a real challenge when playing Pikmin 3 for the first time, just go with the Ultra-Spicy difficulty you can get early by playing through the demo and using the save data from that on the main game.

Shorter days, 60 pikmin on field max, half as much juice from fruits, and water drowns pikmin much faster.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Beat Spyro 3, and with that, the whole Reignited Trilogy. I still need to collect everything in 3, but the Sorceress is defeated.

With all three games now beaten, I know that my favourite is the first one. It's just this simple, clear plattformer, where you just have these nice levels to look through and search every inch of, including a handful of really hard charging challenges. I just like the simplicity of it, together with the pretty non-linear level design, with the enemies mainly being speedbumps, and fun things to kill, instead of actual challenges. A shame that the trilogy made the thieves super easy to defeat, I always had fun with those, as a kid.

Least favourite is the second game. But it's still a very fun, enjoyable game, I just prefer the openness of the first and the way the third one acts like it is more open - the illusion there works a bit better for me, and there isn't a clear goal in each level. Less structure, I like that in my collectatons.

Interestingly, I didn't mind the different playable characters in the third game, I had fun with them. Well most of the time. I also did the god-awful minigame, where you play the yeti and have to whack some moles. Which wouldn't be too bad, but you also can't whack these idiots that run around and aren't moles, and the always run into your hits, or just bump out of the ground. Also, the whole thing has a very strict time limit, a big area without a good way of getting an overview of the area and randomly spawning creatures, which makes the whole thing a big game of luck. Plus, if you are very close to a mole, you can't hit it, because your it's beyond your club at this point, which added to the frustration.

I know, I don't need to do everything, but I want to beat all three games completely, at least one time, and I already made it through the other two. And they are all doable, plus I haven't found anything else that was horribly obnoxious (haven't found Yeti boxing yet, I heard that that was pretty bad, too). On the contrary, I enjoyed the parts where I played the Kangaroo, including the sidescroller, and I liked the shooting level, where you move automatically and can just focus on the shooting. Dunno, they aren't very deep, but as long as they are easy, I enjoy them.

Really a great trilogy of games, with the bosses getting more interesting every game. I mean, even the sorceress isn't deep in any way, but she is just nicely designed, and fun to see, being an evil jerk. Glad to have finally played the second and third game.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
Just beat Alwa’s Awakening. I got 97% of the map, 90% of items, 83/99 orbs, and died 207 times. I think the item I missed must have been an upgrade for the lightning, and one of the few rooms I didn’t find must have been the last warp. I actually made an effort to fill in the map before taking on the last area, but after getting annoyed at too many failures trying to reach one of the two places on the map with unexplored exits I looked at the other, contemplated going all the way down there and having to come all the way back out, and said “nah”. Now I realise there was probably a warp, maybe I should have tried. On the other hand, I’ve always had an issue with trying to 100% this sort of game. I’d like to break the habit, so if I can build on this that’s a good thing.

I really liked this game, but to some extent I also hated it. There’s a lot of it that’s just too hard, particularly navigation. I would have liked a lot more warps, wells in places where you might actually need to fill the flask (an almost completely useless item, because you can only fill it on the surface, and you only need it deep in the dungeons), and generally less time wasted redoing things. That said, on a screen-by-screen level it’s very good. The mechanics are solid, some of the puzzles are very good, I never got stuck to the point of looking up answers. Plus the graphics are quite nice. I had a look at the preview video for the sequel, and I think I like this game’s look better, even if the other one is flashier.

I wound up turning on assist mode during the final dungeon, I think on the third level of it. Just the assist that lets you start from the screen where you died. I actually might have turned it on sooner except I forgot it was an option. My biggest frustration in this game was reaching a tricky screen, dying, and then having to redo the half dozen screens before it that I’d already figured out over and over while I figured out the new one. Sometimes I’m in to that kind of thing - I’ve had very good times with shmups playing through the early stages to get to the harder later ones - but in this game by the end I just found it frustrating. Some of the rooms in the last dungeon are just ridiculous, and to get through them after a dozen attempts, only to immediately die in the next room, was no fun. I wound up turning assist off before long though: the last level of the dungeon seems designed to troll players with it on, since you drop to the level below if you aren’t careful. Without assist, when you die it’s back to the higher level. With assist, you’re stuck where you fell.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
And speaking of wrapping up Troids, I got the credits rolling on Ori and the Blind Forest, which I liked a lot more than I did the last time I tried playing through it. Combat still never really ever felt great, even by the end of the game, but the game was such a delight just exploring the world and the focus was more on platforming like a champ that it never felt like that big of a deterrent.

I guess the real lesson the game has to teach us is "don't take it personally when magical lightning incinerates your entire family"
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I took down one of my great white whales yesterday, if by white whale we mean revenge-obsessed ninja master. The game was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES, a game I've owned since childhood. Heck my copy is the one we bought from our down-the-street local rental shop, and it still has the plastic clamshell case with the shop's sticker on the back. As a kid I almost exclusively played difficult games with cheats on, and if I didn't use cheats, I had a guide next to me the whole time. I was allergic to challenges.

When I got into my teen years I started going back to these older games and approaching them on their own terms. Up to this point I've been able to go back and beat many of these games that were too tough for me as a kid - all the Ninja Gaidens, the Castlevanias, the Mega Mans, heck, even the Zeldas and Marios.

But TMNT was one shell I couldn't crack. A number of years ago I gave it my first real attempt. Many who grew up in The Era remember the game for "that damn water level," but that's actually the easy part. The game starts to show its teeth only afterward. Stages three, four, and five all have steep challenges, from the manic battle with Mecha Turtle in stage three to the instant-death traps of stage four to the blistering fight with the Technodrome in stage five. But all of these challenges can be overcome with patience and planning.

It's stage six where the game delivered a fatal blow. The stage has no overworld section, it's just a maze of enemies that ends with one of the most harrowing hallways in all of 8-bit history. The first time I attempted this stage, I managed to reach Shredder, but only lasted a few seconds as his instant-death gun took out my turtle immediately and I was forced into a spiraling death loop as all my other turtles died in the halls leading up to the boss battle. Then the stage chewed through my continues, and it was back to the title screen. I was so thoroughly demoralized that I gave up on completing the game for years.

This week I finally came back to give the game another fair shake, this time with an excellent video walkthrough at my side to help me with some of the hairier moments. I managed to get through stage six with three out of four turtles intact. My hands were shaking by the time I got to Shredder, but with the right tactic he's a simple boss to defeat.

Completing this game gives me a wonderful sense of closure. I still have a few white whales (a legit clear of Blaster Master is one), but this was the big one.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Congratulations! I had a similar phase where I went back to finish Ninja Gaiden 1/2 and Zelda 2. I finished Blaster Master once using limited save states and honestly, that was still hard enough that I consider it a legit win. Blaster Master doesn't play fair, and neither should you.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Congratulations Drac! TMNT NES is a brutally hard game (you almost have to be an actual teenage mutant ninja in order to beat it). It's telling that the NES sequel which is based on a quarter-munching arcade beat-em-up still feels drastically fairer than the first game.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Congratulations! I had a similar phase where I went back to finish Ninja Gaiden 1/2 and Zelda 2. I finished Blaster Master once using limited save states and honestly, that was still hard enough that I consider it a legit win. Blaster Master doesn't play fair, and neither should you.

Congratulations Drac! TMNT NES is a brutally hard game (you almost have to be an actual teenage mutant ninja in order to beat it). It's telling that the NES sequel which is based on a quarter-munching arcade beat-em-up still feels drastically fairer than the first game.

Thanks!! Yeah I was able to beat the other Konami TMNT games before this one, although it wasn't until...this year, I think? That I was able to beat TMNT III for the first time.

It's true that Blaster Master doesn't play fair. The combination of a very long, Metroid-style game with no saves/passwords and limited continues is very frustrating. I was able to beat the game on Switch emulation, but there's a small part of me that still wants to do it on original hardware just because.
 

RT-55J

definitely not a robot
(He/Him)
Blaster Master is a very punishing game, but I'd argue that (length aside) it's perfectly fair and manageable up to Area 8, where all your hopes and dreams go to die.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Haha, YUP, that is where my attempts have always ended. Well, that, and the crab boss that shoots bubbles. He seems impossible without a fully powered gun...but only because it took me like 20 years to realize you could strafe.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Well done. TMNT is a beast, and that last hallway is no joke.

Agree Blaster Master gets rough, although more of the difficulty in Area 8 revolves around managing to not run your tank right off into a spike pit because of the wall cling ability. It's absolutely terrifying, and a case where I wish you could turn certain power-ups off.
 
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