Aaron's A-Z Game Challenge 3

This was the third run of my A-Z Game Challenge. I went heavy on the Adventure and RPG games this time so it did take a lot longer to complete.

Aaron's Game Publisher Year System Completed 
Advance Wars : Days of Ruin Nintendo 2008 NDS 06/21/13
Review Impression : The gameplay is great and addicting, but geez, what a depressing story

This series was originally known as the Famicom Wars series and was popular for its simple turn based strategy. The basics are still in place here and although players and units can have special abilities and skills, the core gameplay remains the same. This was fun and I like the post-apocolyptic backdrop, but the story does tend to draw towards "depressing" quite a bit. This is good in short bursts, too. The last missions were very hard though with every round there is always some trick you can do. Even so, some of the damage given/received is based on luck and that does alter the outcome sometimes. In other words, for some of the missions you can do everything "correct" using an optimal solution and still lose by luck alone.
Bravely Default Square Enix 2012 3DS 07/21/13
Review Impression : More proof the Final Fantasy offshoots are better than the main series these days.

This is a spiritual successor to the "4 Heroes of Light" game for the NDS that came out a few years prior. This is a fantasy adventure in every sense of the word, and in terms of style, it plays much like FF9 (or the earliest FF titles) and the whole medieval setting. The graphics and gameplay really pop out with this title and if you are into Eastern style RPGs at all, you should really look into this, even if you didn't like 4 Heroes of Light or any of the modern Final Fantasy games. It really is good. (The intro animation with the Fairy struck me as too cutesy, though)
Castlevania 2 : Belmon's Revenge Konami 1991 GB 07/26/13
Review Impression : Would have felt "more of the same" when it was originally released. Still good, though.

The first Castlevania on GB had you move at a lethargic pace, and fortunately things have picked up here a bit. You can also choose your stage "paths" to a degree so there is some variety in how you can play through the levels. The graphics are much cleaner in this second one, or perhaps just more polished, but the main sprites are still the same.
Download NEC Avenue 1990 TG16 07/30/13
Review Impression : Standard shooter. Legendary English.

This is a fairly standard but good shooter for the TG16. You can "jack" into computers sort of like The Matrix as part of the story, but in the actual game it is more or less shoot and run. What really sets this apart are some of the continue screens. It is worth dying just to see some of them; they are that good. Odd profanity for no reason and slightly messed up English. "Shit! I can not fuck up for this!" It just seems so out of place for a simple shooter it is hilarious.
Earthbound Nintendo 1995 SNES 08/18/13
Review Impression : Classic RPG from the SNES era, if not a bit dated by today's standards.

I know this is a huge cult classic even though sales were mediocre when it first came out. It has a sort of juvenile tone in combination with a light hearted RPG engine and it works surprisingly well. The rolling counter for your HP adds tension to battle as you can still fight after a fatal blow if you do it before your HP drains. I found myself underleveled for the first half of the game but it was fine in the latter half. Also, the auto "You win" random encounters against pitifully weak enemies when you are overleveled is a nice touch. It's certainly bright and colorful, too! I liked the scenarios and characters. The ending can be disturbing depending on how you interpret that, but I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Final Fantasy : Echoes of Time Square-Enix 2009 NDS 08/23/13
Review Impression : Gameplay is better than the original. Story...not so much.

I liked the customization of Ring of Fates and that is all back in spades here. Although the gameplay is just as good for a 3D dungeon romp of a game, the story was pretty lacking and cliche from how I viewed it. The multiplayer option is excellent, too. It's not without it's minor flaws but overall it is a very solid Diablo-esque game if you don't mind the story. There is also a ton of customization to be had. Seeing the changes on your characters has always been a nice touch.
Game Center CX : Arino no Chosenjo 2 Namco-Bandai 2009 NDS 08/28/13
Review Impression : If you like retro games, this is a must...if you can read Japanese.

The first game Retro Game Challenge came out in English officially and was well received, but the sequel remained Japanese only (though I am heading a translation project that is nearing completion). It has action, adventure, puzzle and RPG games that mimic the style of the 80s era and it pulls it off beautifully. The games are good enough to stand on their own as independent titles. These aren't partial game segments, these are fully playable beginning-to-end retro games, and it's awesome.
Hana Ta~ka Daka!? Taito 1991 TG16 08/31/13
Review Impression : Silly premise. Average shooter at best.

This game has some creative artistic elements to it but that is about as far as it goes. It's a standard shooter at best. Totally mediocre side scroller. There are secrets and powerups but those are standard. In all honesty this is a pretty forgettable shooter.
Indiana Jones' and the Fate of Atlantis Lucasarts 1992 PC 09/06/13
Review Impression : Story is a bit too far fetched in spots, but still a solid adventure game.

I never did finish this one years ago but since I could play it on my Kindle Fire HD that is what I did. I don't think any one puzzle in this game was hard, but it was a decent enough challenge and there are multiple ways to solve puzzles which was revolutionary at the time. It has that classic Lucasarts Adventure game "mood" and is fun to play. I thought the story was solid, if not a bit silly at times.
Jackal Konami 1988 NES 09/08/13
Review Impression : Classic, simple NES shooting action

I like simple things and Jackal just lets me just run and shoot. It's a decent challenge and a lot of fun, though I have no idea why your bullets can only go forward yet your missiles can fire in any direction. You can rescue hostages along the way for extra points though in the end it doesn't matter too much.
Kingdom Hearts : Dream Drop Distance Square-Enix 2012 3DS 09/30/13
Review Impression : All the bells and whistles of the console versions, though shifting between characters is jarring.

I never really played any Kirby games until many years after they came out but I did enjoy what I played. This iteration is colorful and there is a lot to see and do and I like the exploration part or the game with multiple paths, though having the right ability when you need it is sometimes frustrating since you need to traverse several screens before you are in a place to use it effectively. The difficulty wasn't exceptionally high and it was a fun romp while it lasted. There are higher difficulties selectable, however, if you want that challenge. With the Dual Analog addon the game plays and feels just like the console version, and that was pretty cool.
Lands of Lore : The Throne of Chaos Westwood 1993 PC 10/18/13
Review Impression : I enjoyed this 3D dungeon romp more than others, but it was probably because of Patrick Steward

This game was known at the time for having voice acting done in part by Patrick Steward of ST:TNG fame. The gameplay is very similar to the PC "Eye of the Beholder" series, though there is some scaling and shifting of the background as you move around to make things appear a bit more fluent when you move around the map. The underlying system is pretty simple though there are some parts where the enemies just get ridiculously strong suddenly for no reason. Inventory is a bit clunky but the game moves along at a brisk pace. For those into the AD&D style adventures or 3D dungeon romps, this is nostalgic, but it definitely isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Magic Knights Rayearth Sega / Tomy 1995 Saturn/GB/SNES 10/29/13-11/01/13
Review Impression : 3 Different Console editions, 3 different games altogether.

I played through three different versions of the same game and they were all different. The GB one was a very simple Adventure/RPG you can finish in an hour (literally). Cute to a point but pretty pointless considering the simplicity and short length. The SNES one is a bit primitive but still has some charm as an RPG. The Saturn one plays like Zelda, though. I was actually a bit surprised at the quality and how well it holds up. It's not super or anything but it is solid and might be worth checking out if you are into that kind of Adventure.
Nano Assault Shin'en 2011 3DS 11/05/13
Review Impression : Amazing for the 3 days it will take you to see, play and beat everything.

I loved the look and feel of this. Some levels play like Super Stardust (Amiga) and others are more like Space Harrier. There is some challenge to be had but still, if you have any skill at all you will have this entire game beat in a matter of days. It's visually really cool, especially with the 3D setting on during the 3D sequences, but this is more of a rental than a buy IMHO.
Operation Wolf NEC Avenue 1990 TG16 11/10/13
Review Impression : Still as hard today as it was back in the arcades. Doing this with a controller is lunacy

In the arcades I could never get further than the 2nd level on this. It's still brutally hard today, and I must be nuts doing this on a controller. At least with a light gun you can quickly aim at enemies across the screen but with the controller you are limited to how fast the controller moves the reticle. This game does have a pattern and if you are into it, you can get it down after a massive number of tries, but it is still ridiculously hard. If you want to try this, I strongly recommend a light gun.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village Level 5 2006 NDS 11/25/13
Review Impression : Entertaining puzzles great in small bursts. Characters are charming though the story goes a bit off the rails near the end.

I never got into the Layton series until now but I knew what it was. Although it took me a bit to warm up to the setting and story I did enjoy the puzzles. I do get the impression the puzzles were targeted at players younger than myself since I had no problem whatsoever with about 3/4 of them, even when they required some side calculation to work out. You can find hint coins but honestly I never needed them. The interface and puzzles were very nice overall, though. My only complaint is the story near the end. I can live with the secret of the village but the part involving the main antagonist just felt too over the top for me. Still, if you like small puzzles on the go, this is a nice entry to the series. I'd like to play more.
Quarth Ultra Games (Konami) 1990 GB 11/28/13
Review Impression : I had no idea there was an ending to this game. The last level is brutal but the rest is simple fun puzzle goodness.

I had played this when it was new and had no idea there was actually an ending to this game. Part of the reason is that the last level is brutally unfair. If you didn't carry over a powerup from the previous level I don't know if it is even feasible to pass the last stage. The game involves filling up gaps in random shapes to make rectangles that will disappear, like a shooter-Tetris. The only problem is that the last level is dense, scrolls fast and you will be moving like a bat out of hell trying to clear it.
Rhythm Thief R Sega 2012 3DS 12/02/13
Review Impression : Fun game, though the story is silly and the minigames that rely on motion sensor control are BS!

It is refreshing to see a new Rhythm game and I was looking forward to this one. The music and gameplay was a lot of fun and charmingcmost of the time. There are a few music minigames that require you move the 3DS to trigger the gyro sensors, but the problem is that they are not totally reliable and for a music/rhythm game, this is unbelievably frustrating and unfair. Games shouldn't force the gyro controls like this. The game was pretty simple overall and forgiving other than that, however. The story involves the resurrection of Napoleon and it gets pretty ridiculous at points but the characters are pretty charming and I hope there are more games in this series.
Suikoden 2 Konami 1998 PS1 01/04/14
Review Impression : Epic in scope and depth. Many paths and optional quests as well. Overwhelming at times.

I never got very far when it was new because it became very involved and overwhelming (and my Japanese wasn't up to snuff then either). This RPG is pretty long and involved and there is a lot to see and do. I enjoyed this but the length and depth to this game is pretty long/deep but it has a great old-school RPG feel to it so anyone longing for a long but great RPG can't go far wrong with this. There are a lot of optional quests and some situations can be averted/altered so there is more than one way to get through the game, which is nice.
Tales of Phantasia : Narikiri Dungeon Namco 2010 (2000) PSP (GBC) 01/14/14
Review Impression : Starts slow, becomes a fun hack-n-slash fairly quickly.

When I started playing this game, I just couldn't get into it because I didn't feel like yet-another-Tales of Phantasia game. However, the game quickly became a hack-n-slash variant with a job and level system and I quite liked that. The story isn't particularly deep and there is a fair amount of hand-holding to let you know where to go next/what to do next. There are challenging enemies here that do require leveling at times but there is almost always some job or skill that can even the odds as well. There is a lot of content here and if you liked the battle style of the Tales games more than the story and/or like dungeon romps or hack-n-slash this isn't bad at all. I'm not sure if there was ever an English release, though...
Ultima : Runes of Virtue Origin 1991 GB 01/19/14
Review Impression : Charming as a simple GB title, though easy.

This isn't a great game. I have trouble saying it is a good game but it isn't completely terrible. The dungeons are very small and you can visit them in varying orders. There is some variety and depth to your items, weapons and armor. Overall it is a very simplistic version of an Ultima game and not much more. As a GB game it is cute and passable, but the SNES port (which is the same) is pretty underwhelming.
Virtue's Last Reward Chunsoft 2012 PSV 01/28/14
Review Impression : Amazing adventure game with multiple paths that each get more interesting. Note taking on the Vita is terrible, though.

I loved 999 for the NDS and was looking forward to this. Pity this game was pretty rare here and I had to buy it on the PSN for my Vita. This mixes the Nonary game from the first (spiritual first) game with the Prisoner's dilemna and it works very well. You can traverse the different game paths with a new map system and that helps tremendously. The story and paths all leave little hints you need to get past other paths and there is a lot of replayability. The story gets pretty insane as you get to the last paths but I mean that in a good way. As an adventure game, this along with 999 are must-plays as far as I am concerned. My only gripe with the Vita port is that crappy note-taking function (The 3DS works better IMHO). You need to write down some long arbitrary codes at times and I wish the interface was a bit cleaner and easier to use/resulted in more legible writing)
Willy Beamish Dynamix 1992 Sega CD 02/03/14
Review Impression : Not as good as I remember it. Very hard and frustrating with long load times. A bit too precotious.

Way back when I played this on the Amiga I got decently far into it, but the load times and the arbitrary puzzles with non-intuitive solutions put me off it until now. The look and feel is nostalgic, even on the Sega CD version which has terrible load times but looks the same as the Amiga. This was initially advertised as a beginner adventure but no, no, no. With the timed and arbitrary puzzles this is more frustrating than anything. However, this was the first game (I think) to have a running clock and timed events, so that was a pretty ambitious thing.

I was actually more amused that the protagonist and his family are a clearly upper class family (or upper middle class) and their complaints and worries just seem so ridiculous. You could read a lot into this game just from the setting and dialogue.
Xenon 2 Bitmap Brothers 1992 Genesis 02/09/14
Review Impression : Was better back in the past. Horribly aged shooter nowadays. Shame.

I remember getting this on the Amiga way back when it was new. I thought this was revolutionary at the time but it hasn't stood the test of time very well. Compared to shooters at the time it was very good but nowadays it just feels so slow and lethargic. You can buy and upgrade weapons but it all gets reset at the end of the game along with your cash at the end of every level. It has some hard parts but nothing terrible if you are into shooters. It also has one of the shortest/worst game endings before throwing you back to Level 1 with none of your upgrades or cash or score. Oh well.
Ys Seven Xseed 2010 PSP 03/03/14
Review Impression : If you can get past the first 30 minutes, this is an awesome hack-n-slash with rich and varied locales, weapons, monsters, etc.

I was warned the first half hour of this was slow and boring, and boy was it ever! When I finally got to the overworld and had more control over the situation, it became Diablo and a very good one at that. All of the scenerios and locations are standard but beautifully detailed and illustrated. The dialogue is passable but the characters are good. There is a lot of customization possible and a wide variety of items and weapons/skills and monsters. There are even some giants you can take on as extra challenges. On easy, the difficulty is fair but on the harder modes it gets brutally difficult. I enjoyed this one a lot and look forward to trying the others in the series.
Zelda : Triforce of the Gods 2 Nintendo 2013 3DS 03/12/14
Review Impression : Solid, fun and creative Zelda game in the style of LTTP. I am not as huge as fan as others, though.

I admit, I'm not the biggest Zelda fan. I liked Link to the Past on the SNES and can say it is one of the truly great games of the era but I never much took liking to the rest of the series except for Zelda 2 on the NES which others seem to hate. This game played and looked very nice, it had a nice charm with the ability to jump in/out of the walls and a good variety of locations and secrets. As a Zelda game it is a solid adventure but I still thought the game was a bit simple and I finished with it in not too long of a time. I was into it, but not so much that I wanted to play it nonstop for hours on end. Compared to other Zelda entries this is great, though, and if you like the series and haven't played this, you should check it out.
250 Mannin no Kanken IE Institute 2009 NDS 04/01/14
Review Impression : Why I picked an educational title I'll never know. The 1 kyu Kanji Kentei is a brutal, brutal monster.

I had a hard time coming up with a "number" titled game and came up with this. The "1-kyu" level test isn't the be all and end all of this game since you could theoredically go back and 100% clear all of the practice questions too but in terms of skill, this is still brutally hard and requires years of study if you know nothing about Kanji.

The NDS screen is fine for most of the game but it gets really hard to see and write the Kanji at the higher levels. I eventually had to put this game on my laptop and play on a touch screen to write the Kanji. However, this game is both forgiving and not at the same time. Sometimes you can write the character perfectly but the game will think you wrote a different Kanji, then at other times you write something completely wrong or just scratches and it thinks you wrote the correct character. There are some multiple choice but the majority of the game involves writing the characters or the reading and that makes this an excellent practice tool, though the actual exam is much, much harder.

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