2019 mid-year review

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: post an update reviewing what I’ve done so far this year regarding the site and what my general plans are for the rest of the year.  I know there are bloggers in the community who do this weekly or monthly, and good on them.  I don’t post nearly as often as they do, so I can only really justify this kind of post about twice a year.  I’ll also be going all the way back to December, because why not.  I think that was when I truly revived the site again, so it makes more sense than an arbitrary Jan. 1 cutoff date.

Game reviews

Since I started posting on a regular basis again, I’ve written several full game reviews, some of which have been reviews of free games because fuck my current financial situation.  But not all of them were free.  And a few of the free games are among the best I’ve played this year, so it’s not like that’s been a bad thing.

 

Disgaea 1 Complete – A PS4 remaster of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the very first game in the series.  A lot of fans were clamoring for this one, partly for the reason that it has the most beloved cast of all the games.  There’s a reason Laharl, Etna, and Flonne keep popping up in NIS games 15 years after their debut.  I liked Disgaea 1 Complete, though it’s definitely a better deal for players new to the series than for old veterans, because it really doesn’t add much to the original experience.  The game is still a classic, though, and it’s the definitive version of the first Disgaea, so I do recommend it.

Doki Doki Literature Club!! – This is a popular free-to-play western-developed visual novel – perhaps the only game in the world right now to fit all those descriptors.  DDLC fully lived up to the hype in my opinion.  I already knew going in that the game wasn’t quite the lighthearted dating sim it claimed to be on the tin, but it still managed to surprise me.  If you’re the type who gets anti-hyped over games that get tons of attention from popular Youtube LPers and Twitch streamers (something I totally understand, by the way) you should do yourself a favor and try to get over that, because DDLC is really worth playing.  And it’s free.  Did I mention it’s free?  The above-linked review is packed with spoilers, though, so just be warned if you haven’t played it yet.

Momodora II – Another free game.  Yeah, my bank account was suffering the last few months, so I had to make some cuts to the game budget.  Things are better now, thanks in part to all the work I’ve gotten lately.  But if I hadn’t gone through a difficult period earlier on, I might not have sought out Momodora II, a free action-platformer by independent developer rdein.  Momodora II is not as polished as its successors, but for a free game it’s excellent.  Another recommendation.

OneShot – Like DDLC, OneShot is an ultracreative indie game that really threw me for a loop with its twists.  The obvious comparison to be made here is with Undertale – they’re visually similar and share some themes – but OneShot really is its own game, different from any other game I’ve played before.  I’ve never played a game that made me care about a protagonist as much as OneShot does, and the best part is that the game achieves this without a lot of cheap heart-string-pulling.  That’s not to say there isn’t any sentimentality in OneShot, but that sentimentality is totally earned.  I highly recommend the polished and expanded OneShot for sale on Steam, because it’s more than worth what you’ll pay for it.

Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight – These Persona 3 and Persona 5 dancing game spinoffs were disappointments.  They were too expensive, they didn’t have enough tracks, and both felt like the result of an Atlus board meeting about how best to milk these Persona games while they worked on Persona Q 2 and whatever other Persona spinoff they have in mind next (a cooking game?  I’ll put my money on that.)  Also consider the fact that these two games are essentially the same game with different casts of characters who don’t even interact with each other like they do in PQ2, and you’ll end up asking yourself why the hell these were each priced as full games. If you’re dying for a Persona rhythm game, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a much better choice.

Even so, I couldn’t give P3D and P5D failing grades.  They’re functional, the music is still good despite some unimpressive remixes clogging up the tracklists, and I can’t hate any game that features my battle android waifu dancing to “A Way of Life”.  Just keep in mind that these are fan-only affairs.  If you’re not addicted to the Persona series, I can’t recommend them at all unless you find them for a real bargain.

Saya no Uta This isn’t exactly a review of Saya no Uta, but rather an analysis of the game as a horror/romance.  It’s full of spoilers as well.  Suffice it to say that Saya is a really good game that you should play unless Lovecraftian body- and mind-horror is a turnoff for you, in which case you should stay as far as possible from it.

Sonic CD – A lot of fans consider Sonic CD a sort of lost classic.  It was first released in 1993 on the failed Sega CD, then brought back a decade later on the Gamecube-exclusive Sonic Gems Collection.  And now we finally have the definitive version of the game on Steam remastered by the man himself, Christian Whitehead.

I can’t call Sonic CD a classic on par with the Genesis games.  There are too many problems with the game’s level design, and all the bosses are pushovers – Dr. Robotnik was really phoning it in this time.  Still, Sonic CD is pretty fun, and I’d say it’s well worth buying the Steam version, especially if you’re a fan of 2D Sonic.

Yume Nikki – I finally got around to replaying Yume Nikki, a seminal RPG Maker game that’s now available free to play on Steam.  YN is a cult classic that’s influenced a lot of other indie titles and is a must-play for anyone who’s into surreal or unconventional games.  This one’s more of a retrospective than a review, if there’s any difference between those at all.

Features

Best of Windows Entertainment Pack (Parts 1, 2, 3) – Around the end of January I got nostalgic for the old days of Windows 95, so I loaded it up on a virtual machine and played every game in the Windows Entertainment Packs on it.  That’s 29 games in total, each of which got a short one- to two-paragraph review.  Some of them are really good games worth checking out, while some of them are… well, not.  If you’re curious about which of these 90s equivalents of mobile games are worth playing today, check out the above links.

Essays on the Megami Tensei series (#1, #2) – Here’s a real surprise coming from me – two pieces I wrote about themes in the Megami Tensei series that I found interesting.  I might write more of these kinds of posts in the future about other series.  I basically got both of my degrees in bullshitting, so I’m good at this sort of thing.

Games for broke people – I revived this series that I briefly started and then dropped all the way back in 2016.  Not sure why I quit writing these, because I like reviewing free games by amateur developers.  There are some real gems to be found on sites like itch.io (perhaps on Steam as well, though the well of decent-looking free games that aren’t MMOs seems to have dried up there recently.)  While there is admittedly a lot of unplayable garbage among these games, there’s also some stuff that no professional publisher would ever dare to put out because they’re too afraid to take risks.

Music reviews and related posts – I won’t go through them one by one, but I’ve recently written a few reviews of mostly game OSTs along with a few posts about music in general.  Music has always been a secondary theme on this site, and I’ll keep posting music-related content (especially when I don’t have the time to play a new game, like for example when I have to work through the damn weekend.)

Upcoming content (backlog reviews, new reviews, etc.)

My backlog never seems to decrease, especially since I keep buying new games on sale on itch.io and Steam.  Here are some games I’ve got on deck to review once I finish them:

Our World Is Ended. – This is an all-ages (well, sort of, but more on that later) visual novel set in modern-day Tokyo with a science fiction flavor and an eccentric cast.  If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like Steins;Gate, you’re not wrong.  I’m only three or four hours in right now, but Our World Is Ended is already pushing all the right buttons.  Aside from a less-than-stellar translation job – some lines are awkward, and I’ve seen at least half a dozen glaring typos so far.  Was the publisher really so stingy that they couldn’t bring themselves to hire a proofreader?  For fuck’s sake.  The game’s also starting to run a couple of jokes into the ground, mostly at Asano’s expense.

The game seems to think Asano is unappealing, but it’s doing a real bad job convincing me of that so far.

Just one more note about the game before the review proper: I’m playing the PC version on Steam.  Physical copies are also available for PS4 and Switch.  Normally I’d spring for a physical copy, but I don’t have a Switch, and given Sony’s current track record when it comes to demanding the removal of certain elements in localization, I didn’t want to get the PS4 version lest it came to the States all hacked up.  Also, a digital copy of the game is $20 cheaper than the physical package being sold on Amazon and in stores, and I’m still doing my best to economize.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight – I’ve had this game in my Steam library forever, so I feel like I really have to take it on now.  Momodora II was a lot of fun, so I expect Momodora IV will be even better.  It looks a lot more polished, anyway.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles – I bought this old classic during a Sega Steam sale last month, and so far it lives up to the original (except for the hideous “SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics” shell that surrounds it, with the virtual bedroom and Genesis and shelf full of games – I get what they’re going for with the nostalgic look, but the actual game is all the nostalgia I need, thanks.)

Senran Kagura Estival Versus – I bought this PS4 game a while back, but somehow I haven’t touched it until now.  It’s a fun beat-em-up that makes for an excellent escape from reality.  If I have anything to say about it, I’ll write a review at some point.

Rakuen – I bought this RPG Maker game during a Steam sale a few weeks ago.  It always gets mentioned in the same breath as Undertale and OneShot, so it must be good.  I’ll play through it once I feel up for another experience like that, which shouldn’t be too long from now.

That’s about it for now.  I’m not planning to slow down my pace this year, and in addition to the above reviews, I’ll keep writing free game and music-related posts.  If I’m productive enough, maybe I’ll even start writing these update posts on a quarterly basis.  Just like the Form 10-Q that corporations have to file with the SEC.  In conclusion, be sure to visit the sites in the sidebar as well – they’re all excellent bloggers who post way more often than I do.

 

11 thoughts on “2019 mid-year review

  1. More of a Disgaea 2 fan, but felt good going back to this after nearly 6 years from my last playthrough. Still, haven’t attempted any of the optional content for it.

    Was not aware there was a “Best of Windows Entertainment Pack” since it came preinstalled on my family Packard Bell machine back then. Think I only had 12 of the 29. Do remember Ski for sure.Glad to know this actually exist.

    Planning on getting to Our World End myself after I finish a few short OELVN. Was hoping the messy translation would be fixed by now since that means the console versions aren’t either. Was planning to play the PC version anyway, but guess I can deal with it.

    • I liked Disgaea 2 a lot as well. If you’ve got a PS4, I really recommend Disgaea 5. It’s got a ton of content, including (free) DLC with the casts from several old Disgaea games that include the first two.

      Looks like I screwed up the title on the Windows Entertainment Pack listing – it should read “The Best and the Rest”, but it’s fine. Sounds like you had that Best Of pack preinstalled on your computer. We had the same games on our old desktop back in 1993/4. Those were good times.

      As far as the translation to Our World Is Ended goes, I haven’t played any of the console versions, but the translation certainly looks messy. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen – that prize still goes to Ar tonelico II. But it’s really not great. That’s the only real complaint I have so far, though.

      • Way ahead on that one and actually brought it 3 times. Brought Disgaea 5 on the JPN switch eshop on release, Admittedly, I hadn’t finished it since

      • *Sorry. Accidentally hit send.

        Brought Disgaea 5 three different times. Once in JPN eshop, a physical copy on switch, and the PC version. I haven’t finished it since I keep going to the item world, lol. Already at level 500 with high end equipment last I checked and sitting at Chapter 6. Haven’t found a good chance to get back to it.

        Oh, lol. Thought they had a compilation pack for the Window Releases.

        Ar tonelico was really something. If you ever wanted to go back to it, believe someone did a full retranslation.

      • No problem. Sounds like you’re a more dedicated fan than I am – I’ve only got the PS4 version of Disgaea 5. That Item World is very seductive as well. It’s really easy to get lost in the weeds with these games, especially 5, which has so many new side features.

        I’ve heard about the AT fan translations. Haven’t gone back to check them out, but maybe I will someday. I know there was actually a game-breaking bug in the official NA release of ATII at the final boss, which is probably a big part of why that project started in the first place.

      • Played almost all the Disgaea games up till now aside from the visual novel one and the Prinny spinoffs. Do have to admit liking 5 since it streamlined a bunch of things I hated in prior installments. Buying the 3 different versions kind of happened, especially getting discounts on the physical switch copy and PC release.

        Oh, that was the final boss? Remembering when I played back in middle school, I thought was some optional boss if you didn’t beat within 3 turns, she would some move that wasn’t programmed back in and crash the game. I might be wrong since it has been a long time.

      • The only Disgaea game I missed somehow was 4. Not sure what happened there, but I should probably get around to it someday if I get the time.

        I’m pretty sure that crash wasn’t intentional. I could be wrong myself, though. Seems like the fan localization fixed that issue from what I’ve read.

  2. I wish more compilations included the full Sonic 3 & Knuckles because that is easily the best game in the series. I’m not sure why they’re so adverse to making it work considering one of the earliest ones (Sonic Mega Collection) proved it was indeed possible.

    And Rakuen is one of the two non-RPG RPG Maker games I’ve played (the other being OneShot). I didn’t think it was quite as innovative as OneShot or Undertale, but it does provide a very memorable experience.

    • Yeah, I don’t know why people insist on breaking Sonic 3&K back into its two halves when it wasn’t intended to be played that way.

      I also look forward to Rakuen based on what I’ve heard about it, even if it’s a little more conventional than those games were.

  3. I’m not a fan of Sony’s new policy. Nowadays I have to research whether to buy stuff on PS4 or Switch based on reports of whether content has been cut. The last Senran Kagura I ended up buying on PC for that reason.

    • As another PS4 owner, I’m also disappointed. I really don’t get the logic behind Sony’s new course. Game series like Senran Kagura aren’t going to sell more on your platform if you force them to be censored, and none of the pro-censorship people would buy any of these games anyway. I hope Sony realizes its mistake soon.

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