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Beating Games

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Tell me more
Heh, I think it's the only attack-all ring that actually hits her. At the level you're at without grinding (and assuming you have been finding most of the Magirocks), you can literally take her out with nine Elec Rings. She won't even get a chance to move. Just make sure to wait until she's actually vulnerable. I think I was like Level 22 and each of my Elec Ring uses did 50-60 damage. I think she's only got like 400 HP. Even if you're doing a little less (I was initially at Level 20), the Elec Rings will make the fight significantly easier even if they don't kill.

Also, if you're underleveled, swap out to the Light Rod. It will at least do 2-3 damage, as opposed to the 1 of everything else.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Wrapped up two games today!

Infernax is a very good Simons Quest em up that I liked quit a bit, and will be revisiting as I got a mediocre ending.

The Ruined King is a follow up to the same studios earlier Battlechasers, but based on a different property (League of Legends instead of a largely forgotten 90s indie comic) and also generally improved in nearly every capacity. Easy to recommend, even if it was starting to feel long in the tooth before the credits rolled.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
I played Landstalker via emulator maybe 20 years ago, but never finished it. My memory is I got to a point where I opened the wrong door first and the key I needed for the second door was behind that second door, leaving me stuck (also my memory of why I never finished Link to the Past). Having just beat it, I’m not sure where in the game that could have happened. Still, if I was playing it on a keyboard the diagonal only controls were probably enough grounds for quitting. This time I played off a cart on my Mega SG, meaning no access to save states but I was using a d-pad so the movement was, while still not great, much better.

There’s a lot I really liked about Landstalker, but also a lot of things that were frustrating. I wound up looking up guides for a few puzzles and usually didn’t regret it - this is not a game that respects your time, and in the later dungeons one wrong step can send you back half a dozen rooms or more. Some rooms will be permanently solved once you clear them once, in others you’ll have to sort of the enemies or put the block on the switch each and every time you go through them.

Quite often the main puzzle is figuring out where exactly a floating platform is - the game is viewed from a 45 degree downward angle which allows it to place items on a 3D grid, but there’s no vanishing point so a block that’s close to the camera is the same size as one further away, meaning if you can see one floating in space over a chasm (as you often do), there are multiple places in the 3D space where it might actually be. Sometimes you can look at the room and figure out that if the platform is going to help you there’s only one place it can be. Other times you just have to take a leap to where it might be and hope you aren’t going to miss it completely and have to redo five rooms before taking another guess.

Despite my whingeing, I mostly enjoyed the game. It looks very nice, and when the perspective does work it works well. I just wish you didn’t spend so much time redoing things you’ve already done. Also the puzzle right at the end where you have to use your head as a bridge for a golem to cross several small gaps, running to get from each gap to the next before the golem does, is ridiculous and awful. Thank goodness I beat the end boss gauntlet first time and didn’t have to redo that after I got it once.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Beat Telling Lies and it is a great followup to Herstory, using just enough of the gameplay to clearly be related while streamlining things (clicking on words in subtitles to search, yay!) and having a very different overall story arc and structure.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Those are fair criticisms of Landstalker. Despite those flaws, I really enjoyed it overall. The timing-based puzzles were my least favorite, because man is the timing rough on a few of them.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
I finally, finally finished an Etrian Odyssey post-game. Over my history with this series, I always go in intending to do the post-game dungeons, but then get bored or busy and walk away, as it always just feels like it makes things go on a little too long without enough novelty and with little to no narrative to pull me through and I'm ready to move on to something else. It's not the challenge that's at issue: I love a good challenge. The worst was EO3, where I literally cleared the post-game stratum up to the final post-game boss the night before leaving on a two-week vacation and then never got back to it. (Once I put a game down for too long I can't pick it back up-- it's a me thing.)

But not here! Etrian Odyssey 4's post-game dungeon was a super neat tonal shift that was just the carrot I needed to pull me through, I guess. So the curse has been lifted! Huzzah! (Also, I had some mechanics questions after finishing that I was curious about, so I checked a FAQ, and the recommended level for the final post game boss was a full 22 levels higher than my party. Never change, FAQ authors.)
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Unsighted is 90% of a top-shelf Legend of Zeld-em-up.

The other 10% comes from the fact that the end of the game starts making heavy use of the wall jumps, which isn't even a technique I knew were possible up until then and the timing is incredibly frustratingly difficult.

I also had not even one instant of regret at turning off the character timers.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I completed Rushing Beat (AKA "Rival Turf!") on Super Famicom.

Jaleco's quirky brawler series has its fans but not many of them are willing to go to bat for the first game in the series. I'll step up to the plate. I like this game a lot! Beat 'em ups tend to be criticized for their repetitive, same-y nature. And in most ways Rushing Beat doesn't break loose of the mold. You walk to the right, beat up a series of repeating enemy types, and break barrels to free the delicious chicken thighs inside. There's a city street, a bridge, an elevator, a penthouse, etc. You take control of one of two street fightin' men, one who is balanced and another who is slow and powerful.

Rival Turfers might remember these fightin' dudes as JACK FLACK and OOZIE NELSON, but in Japan they were the comparatively more subdued Rick Norton and Douglas Bild. In both regions, one guy looks like Terry Bogard and the other guy looks like M. Bison, though our Bison-alike has a blue palette swap in Rival Turf!, for some reason.

At any rate, you get your typical beat 'em up control scheme with either fella. There's a standard mash-Y to smack, a couple of different knockdown jump attacks, an area-of-effect special attack that costs resources, and several grappling moves that activate depending on which direction you face when you grab an enemy and what buttons you press afterward. Rick tends to hurl foes over his shoulder while Doug usually power-slams them into the ground.

There are six stages with a boss fight at the end of each; a high-flying Indiana Jones-like map sequence between each; and maybe around a dozen enemy types (biker dude, tall punk, fat guy, short karate man, tall karate man, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc., although curiously missing from the mix is Whip Girl).

Now with same-y-ness established, let's talk about rhythms and iterations.

Iterations


Genre trappings alone don't make or break a game. Games like Double Dragon and Final Fight set the foundations for an iterative genre, one which frequently presents the same or very similar elements, but with small iterations on the concepts that are fun to discover. Sometimes these are mechanical, sometimes they're aesthetic. In Rushing Beat's case, we have a few mechanical iterations.

First is the dash. By holding a shoulder button, Rick and Doug can zip around the screen much faster than most other enemy types. While dashing, either fighter has an attack that knocks an enemy down (dealing very little damage). Plenty of brawlers have dashing, but I've played few that iterate it in the way this game does.

The special attack, activated with the A button, also has a minor iteration on the concept. Rushing Beat has an unusual scoring system - instead of accruing points, the game tracks number of enemy KOs, represented by a row of little faces above the life meter. Every time you use your A-special, the game docks you five KO points. I love this - even by 1992, scoring systems were mostly vestigial, so appropriating it as currency feels a little ahead of its time. You still enter your name into a leaderboard upon game over, though.

Finally there's the game's biggest iteration, the Ikari Mode (accurately localized as ANGRY MODE in Rival Turf!.). This is a special player state that activates when you take a certain amount of damage. The character stops, raises a fist, and beings to flash white. The life meter transforms into a timer. Until it runs down, Rick or Doug are invincible, and two of their attacks transform:

  • The dash move now sends Rick or Doug flying across the screen at incredible speed.
  • The forward throw becomes overclocked: Rick vaults an enemy ahead, sending them tumbling head-over-toe like a sandbag; Doug does a midair suplex that shakes the screen and knocks enemies down around him.
My favorite thing about Ikari Mode is how the character's portrait icon next to their life meter changes to animate like they're yelling. It's cute.

Of note is the Ikari Mode can be switched off in the options mode, and for some reason, Rival Turf! defaults to it being off. If you play that version of the game, please turn it on.

In terms of aesthetics, things are mostly where you expect them to be, but there's still plenty of fun variations that keep the stages flavorful - baddies bust out of windows or lockers or cower in the background, and there's one particular Fat Guy whose role seems to be cheering on the final boss.

Rhythms


This is where the key lies to enjoying middling beaters like Rushing Beat. Everything it brings to the table is more or less expected, but the fun of it is in figuring out how to dance with its game system. You can't take the exact same strategies you use in Streets of Rage or Final Fight and win at Rushing Beat.

The game graciously gives you five continues, but just mashing "Y" at every enemy that approaches you will earn you a quick ticket to the game over screen. Only the lowest level goons are vulnerable to simple button-tapping. The tall guys have a kick that will sometimes break out of your combo. The Fat Guys will jump on you. The short karate guys jump-kick out of your attack, and if you try to throw them, they sometimes counter with their own throw.

Learning the timing and behavior of each enemy type is the fun of Rushing Beat. My biggest A-Ha! moment in this game was when I learned that you can grapple an enemy right after they've been knocked down. The trick then became learning which enemies could be safely grappled without a knockdown (basic goons, tall guys, fat guys, tall karate guys) and which needed to be knocked down first (Arnolds, short karate guys, bosses). The dash helps you get to an enemy quickly after you've knocked them down, creating a puzzle when multiple enemy types are on the screen at once: Who do I grapple first? Who can I safely attack? Who can I knock down and where so I can throw one enemy into several others?

I'm still uncertain if this knockdown > throw combo was intended by the developers. It feels janky in the same way the rest of the game feels a bit janky. That's why I like it, though! No other beat 'em up I've played has this exact same rhythm and it makes me want to return to it.

At any rate, once I had this dance down, I was able to outsmart every encounter the game threw at me, and it was rewarding to discover that the last couple of boss fights had moments where you couldn't just spam dash attack to knockdown. It felt right on the cusp of being intentional on the part of the devs.

Speaking of the devs, one of my very favorite parts of this game was the credits sequence. Every individual creator has their own little pixelated portrait next to their name - which is pretty rad considering the memory constraints of the time.

In conclusion, Rushing Beat is no Streets of Rage. Heck, it ain't even a Burning Fight. But it has its own rhythm, and I encourage you to try dancing to it. It's also easy to get to this game - it's been on the Switch SNES service for ages. Give it a go.
 

Lokii

Administrator
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Douglass Bild is an all time classic street man name. Once again localization has robbed us of the original's depth.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
A few days ago I beat Crest of Wolf (AKA "Riot Zone") on the PC Engine.

Surprisingly despite the PCE's reputation for high-quality arcade conversions, large sprites, and vibrant colors, there really aren't that many beat 'em ups on the platform. To my knowledge, Crest of Wolf is really the only belt-scroller for the console, with the rest being less typical examples like Vigilante or Splatterhouse.

Where Rushing Beat had a few fun iterations on the brawler genre, Crest of Wolf has almost none. You take control of the fast-fighting Cody Clone "Hawk" or the methodical break-dancer "Tony" and bust chops through various familiar settings like city streets, rooftops, elevators, arenas, casinos, and penthouses. Each fighter has a nearly identical set of moves, including a basic melee combo, a slightly different combo that activates at close range, a throw, two jumping attacks, and a two-button special that strikes every enemy on screen. Mechanical differences between Hawk and Tony are very minor, with the main one being that Tony can hit enemies on both sides with his stationary jumping attack.

The enemies are taken from the Final Fight handbook of mooks. You'll see the likes of Guys, Fat Guys, Ninja Guys, Sliding Guys, Girl Guys, Old Guys, Dashing Guys, and so on. A defeated Guy occasionally drops a health or score pickup, but there are weapon pickups or even barrels to break. Bosses are also pretty rote in design and most can be defeated with repeated jump kicks or by tossing enemies into them. The game's biggest visual flare comes in the form of a cutscene between stages where Hawk or Tony stab a knife into a "wanted" posted displaying an image of the boss you just defeated.

There's almost nothing notable about this game. It doesn't even have a two-player mode, so you can't enjoy it on the couch with a buddy as you would most other brawlers. From an objective standpoint, if you have access to any Streets of Rage title, there's no reason to reach for Crest of Wolf.

And yet I do, for some reason! I sought out this game and paid for a physical copy of it, and that was after I played through most of it a number of years ago on a burned CD. Why? It's hard to say. Maybe it's the hair metal soundtrack, lovingly arranged and presented on redbook audio. Maybe it's the satisfying crack of the punch and kick sound effects, or the dopey "UGH" the enemies make when you knock them out. Or the way the screen gleefully displays "POTATO" when you pick up a pack of french fries. Or how Tony's walk cycle looks like he's trying to lead the marching band. Maybe all I need in a game is the genre trappings of a 1990s brawler.

At any rate, Crest of Wolf is a game I truly adore but do not particularly recommend. The biggest shame about it, honestly, is that it shows how other games of the genre could have looked on the console. I would have adored PCE ports of arcade games like X-Men, Bucky O'Hare, or Violent Storm. Ah, well.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
At the very least, it's got a standout cover.

Zyxe9Jb.jpg
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I gave it a 5/10 when I played through it a few years ago, so... yep, that tracks. It's super disappointing that the brawler genre is so underrepresented on the system. (It's also weak in the platformer department, which is even more of a bummer. But them shmups are legit.)
 

q 3

here to eat fish and erase the universe
(they/them)
Maglam Lord is basically the successor to Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, complete with gay marriage. It's nice enough, though the lack of budget can be felt throughout. The comparison to Swordcraft Story also hurts it, as combat and crafting are much shallower here. Though I definitely don't miss the fishing minigame!
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Maglam Lord is basically the successor to Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, complete with gay marriage. It's nice enough, though the lack of budget can be felt throughout. The comparison to Swordcraft Story also hurts it, as combat and crafting are much shallower here. Though I definitely don't miss the fishing minigame!
Oh hey I've been playing this too! I haven't played Swordcraft Story but I agree on how low budget it is. I got it with eShop credit and it's been a perfectly fine thing to play in short bursts.

Also the romance guru character design is so out there it must be mentioned:

FKzJerdVEAMpklD.jpg
 

q 3

here to eat fish and erase the universe
(they/them)
The game does let you choose to be platonic with your bestie and even has a nice "everyone is just friends" ending.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
The standalone release of The Forgotten City still feels like a mod for a decade old game, but it's very interesting nonetheless. I felt compelled to keep playing and solve one more mystery.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Finished Hollow Knight and to my surprise at 95% I usually don't go to completionist levels unless I'm having fun and though I banged my head on a couple of the dream bosses, I did. I got all the grubs, the strongest nail and found a lot of stuff overall. Sadly couldn't get all the badges... and I also don't know if I've found all the baddies (There are a few I hadn't killed all of yet from my present list but it wouldn't take long to). Game was a delight and lived up to the hype, though I did a lot of travelling for the sake of my fragile badges.
 

Bulgakov

Yes, that Russian author.
(He/Him)
Finished Hollow Knight and to my surprise at 95% I usually don't go to completionist levels unless I'm having fun and though I banged my head on a couple of the dream bosses, I did. I got all the grubs, the strongest nail and found a lot of stuff overall. Sadly couldn't get all the badges... and I also don't know if I've found all the baddies (There are a few I hadn't killed all of yet from my present list but it wouldn't take long to). Game was a delight and lived up to the hype, though I did a lot of travelling for the sake of my fragile badges.
I loved and pushed hard toward the end of this game too. Very fun.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Finished replaying Arkham Asylum

Still a grand ol' time, punching up crimeboys with all the powers of a very rich athlete.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I'm considering replaying it on the Steam Deck. As far as I can tell, it's working great, despite its "Unplayable" designation, using Proton-GE instead of stock.
 

RT-55J

definitely not a robot
(He/Him + RT/artee)
Finished Give Up the Ghost: a puzzle checklist, which is an inventive, tightly-designed sokoban-like made by a friend of mine on another forum. It is probably deserving of a more in-depth post, but I will say this it's easily one of my favorite games in it's genre. Everything has very nice tactile feedback, none of the puzzles are filler, and the central gimmicks like teleporters are elaborated upon in fiendishly clever ways. It also has the distinction of being the most difficult puzzle game I've played to completion. (try it (it's free))
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Finished Give Up the Ghost: a puzzle checklist, which is an inventive, tightly-designed sokoban-like made by a friend of mine on another forum. It is probably deserving of a more in-depth post, but I will say this it's easily one of my favorite games in it's genre. Everything has very nice tactile feedback, none of the puzzles are filler, and the central gimmicks like teleporters are elaborated upon in fiendishly clever ways. It also has the distinction of being the most difficult puzzle game I've played to completion. (try it (it's free))
These aren't my style of games so no comment on the gameplay, but the way the ghost smooshes when pushing on things is freaking adorable.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I finally finished Final Fantasy VII Remake, after months of getting sidetracked and then eventually looping back to it. Short version: it's a fantastic game that suffers from excessive padding. My final play time was 37 hours; if that had been closer to 25, I might consider this to be one of the all-time greats. The game really zooms the focus in on the Midgar part of FFVII, and the city itself winds up feeling like the main character, which I loved. The bits where Cloud takes on missions to help the people of the undercity really help to flesh out the world, and also make good on Cloud's journey from prickly loner to introverted team player. The other party members are mostly great, except for Barret, who is great and cringey at the same time. I mean he basically talks like a pro wrestler, which I suppose is an upgrade from his original personality, but he doesn't have quite the nuance that Aerith and Tifa get. The story was generally strong, and there were a few truly outstanding beats that will stick with me. The combat was fun, if a little overwhelming, but again suffered from the length of the game. By the final couple hours, I would internally groan anytime it seemed like a big boss fight was about to start, because I'd just had enough. On the bright side, the graphics and music are incredible, with some simply beautiful remixes of compositions that didn't get the best treatment on the old PlayStation. A feast for the eyes and ears, as long as you don't look too closely at the lip-syncing on the character models.

Let's talk about the ending:
I had the ending of this game spoiled for me long before I ever played it - possibly before the game even came out? And honestly, I don't know if I would have played the remake had I not known things were going to get weird. In the end, I was actually kind of let down by how little really changes between the original FFVII story and the remake. You get the weird Whispers, who show up throughout the game to force events to unfold along the prescribed path. But aside from a few oblique asides from Aerith and Red, who seem to kind of understand what's happening, not much is there to indicate that something is up. Then you get to the end, go to Last Area of a Final Fantasy Game Land and kill The God of Canon. This potentially opens the sequel up to do whatever the hell it wants, but in practice only about 5% of this game was actually different from the original story, albeit much more detailed. You get Sephiroth's cryptic "7 seconds" comment, which the internet seems to be divided over, and maybe some signs that Zack is still alive, which I would love. But that's about it!

As for what's next, I guess the answer is we don't really know. But at the same time, the party basically says they need to track down and defeat Sephiroth before he Meteors the planet out of existence, so we're not exactly flipping any narrative tables over here. I hope that the sequel really diverges from the original canon, and I'm looking forward to eventually playing it...but I'm also a bit scared that it will indulge in the worst Nomura-style JRPG excesses without the tether to the original story to ground it. Can Lightning strike twice? That's a joke.

Now it's time to decide if I want to dive into the DLC right away or not. Apparently it's around 7 hours long, which sounds like about the length I would want.
 
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