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Oculin, known in the realm of the living as Benjamin Toy Yoder, is a college student majoring in journalism and professional writing. He likes to pretend to be a vidjya game journalist and, at the very least, has successfully tricked a few people into believing him, landing him gigs at VGChartz, Classic Game Room Empire and TheSpeedGamers.

Digging for gems in unknown or poorly received titles is what Oculin games for. He places a large emphasis on entertainment, rather than just polish. He also has an unhealthy interest in creepy Japanese idol games, despite never playing one.

Anime, visual novels and manga are also hobbies of his, although he is incredibly picky and very rarely takes recommendations.
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Mega Man Legends is the series first foray into the 3D space. The title came out in a fascinating time as many developers were trying to get their bearings in a 3D world. Mega Man Legends fails in some areas, but also impresses with its ambitious design and variety of gameplay elements that go well beyond what the series' past formula.

Feel free to check out my personal blog, Oculin's Box, at: http://oculin.wordpress.com/

Final Fantasy IX, the final Final Fantasy for me to sink my teeth into. It’s the final release in Final Fantasy series on the original PlayStation, but encompasses everything the series had been to that point.

Unfortunately, while the game is available on PSN, it has yet to be updated into an HD version, leaving it definitely one of the most pixely 3D Final Fantasys.

I decided to change these smaller episodes into a "Mini" series for Never-Ending Backlog. Feedback is always welcome.

Shadow of Destiny, released on the PlayStation 2 by Konami in 2001, is an adventure featuring a time traveling protagonist who attempts to prevent his murder. Player must walk and talk his way to victory through cutscenes and dialog choices.

Also available on Xbox and PC. There’s also a retranslated PSP port.

Feel free to check out my personal blog, Oculin's Box, at: http://oculin.wordpress.com/

Money Idol Exchanger, also known as Money Puzzle Exchanger, is a 1997 puzzle series developed by Face for the Neo Geo MVS. The version reviewed here is the PlayStation release, which can be found on the PlayStation Store released by MonkeyPaw Games.

This video is an experimental take on condensing the creation of my video reviews. It's a bit rough, but was expected for a first try and a less than three hour production time. This is compared to the usual like 15+ hours I normally spend on videos. 

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3:27 PM on 08.14.2014

I have a weakness for cute anime things, especially if it looks like it's from the 80s or 90s. While I had heard of the Japanese Umihara Kawase series, I've never been too big into importing. All of the games have passed me by until the most recent Nintendo 3DS release, which was localized under the name Yumi's Odd Odyssey. 

Something that has stood out about the franchise even since it's original 1994 Super Nintendo release is the visual style of the games. While the characters are cute little chibi girls, the backgrounds instead take a more realistic look.  Paper doors, cross walk lights, wine racks, faucets, rubber ducks and tons of other everyday objects sit in the background often not even placed logically. Sometimes a paper wall will just float in the backdrop for no particular reason. The fish enemies fall somewhere in-between realistic and just goofy looking. They wobble around on their legs and have big buggy eyes. This is all set to a soundtrack that feels like it's out of the 16-bit era with a whimsical and relaxing vibe to it. 
The aesthetics create a strange and surreal environment, yet it doesn't feel out of place given the game's structure. There's no story outside some brief character bios, nor an overarching world. The game is based off a simple stage select screen. Each stage is a small self-contained box the player must navigate through.

Merely running and jumping on platforms won't get you far.  A fishing lure is your main tool for traversing the levels in Yumi's Odd Odyssey. After throwing the lure in one of eight directions, it will attach to a surface. You can then swing across gaps or simply hang in the air. I often hear the series get compared to Bionic Commando because of this mechanic. However, Yumi's Odd Odyssey offers much more freedom of movement when you're attached to a surface.

When hanging from the fishing lure, you can retract and extend your line. It may not sound like much but the speed you generate from doing this is ridiculous. You'll start bouncing around with only the lure keeping you from flying off in some random direction. Let go of the lure and off you go, hopefully not to your death. 

Yumi's Odd Oddsey is all about controlling the speed and angle at which you launch. The lure mechanics can feel unpredictable at times as there's a ton of factors in how fast and what direction you'll go. Even so, it still feels heavily reliant on the player's skill and timing.  

Early on you'll have to start throwing your lure mid-air to swing from one surface to the next without ever touching the ground. All of the platforms and interactive elements have a distinct look to them, so you'll never find yourself accidentally trying to latch onto background elements. Once you master the basic mechanics, you can start doing some advance techniques like wrapping a lure against an object to get a specific angle or to further increase your launch speed. 

You're not constrained to the set paths the levels seem to lay out. If you can use the physics to get to the end another way, the game's totally okay with you doing that.  Don't feel like dealing with spikes today? Swing yourself across the bottom of them, or try to throw yourself over the entire spike pit. The only barriers you'll meet are the borders of the level and your own ability to pull off these feats.  There are later elements like icy surfaces you can't lure onto, but those have their own uses that you can take advantage of. 

There are 50 levels overall, though you have to find secret doors to access most of them. The levels can be completed in less than a couple minutes. Actually completing them is the tough bit. Don't be surprised if you spend hours impaling the adorable little characters on spikes or having them drown at the bottom of the ocean. Surprisingly, it doesn't really come off as frustrating possibly due to the relaxing nature of the soundtrack. 

I hope interest in Yumi's Odd Odyssey starts to bloom over time. From what I can see, there's not much of a conversation going on about the game. It definitely deserves some attention after having to wait two decades to premiere outside of Japan. It's only available digitally on the eShop in North America, so it has a limited reach. $20 might seem a little steep for such a simple looking game, but the depth in the gameplay absolutely makes up for that.
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Nintendo has a weird interest in The Mysterious Murasame Castle. There's only been one game in the series, which was released for the Famicom Disk System in 1986. But it's a title that they keep referencing quite often in their modern games. Takamaru, the main character, has had cameos in a handful of titles. He's featured in a spin off mode for Samurai Warriors 3, he's a resident of the main island in the Japanese only Captain Rainbow and he's set to appear as an assist trophy in the upcoming Super Smash Brothers on Wii U and 3DS. The 3DS Virtual Console release is the first time the game has officially left Japan.

The Mysterious Murasame Castle is an isometric action adventure game, but with a heavy focus on action. Taking place in Feudal Japan, you play as Takamaru, a samurai apprentice, who is tasked with infiltrating castles that have been taken over by an evil power. This divides the game into two separate instances. Each level first has Takamaru navigating to the castle, and then he must retake the castle by killing the corrupted lord.

The game features some elaborate branching paths in levels, giving it an exploration aspect not seen in many action games from the time. However, you won't get much time to just stop and seek out secrets and hidden treasures. First, you're on a timer so you'll have to keep moving. Second, the game throws an avalanche of death at you. It's surprisingly just how much crap packs the screen while playing this game. Dashing ninjas, shurikens, fireballs, tornadoes, suicide bomber ninjas and all other sorts of enemies and obstacles fly across the screen at relatively high speeds.

The timer and rain of enemy death doesn't give you space to do much other than get to the castle or boss as soon as possible. It doesn't help that the longer you're on a single screen the more enemies and projectiles will fill it. Avoiding all of the enemies and projectiles is your first and foremost goal. Making it to the other side as fast as possible is your second goal. Actually killing enemies is the last thing on your mind.

It reminds a lot of shoot 'em ups since you have to mainly focus on evading projectiles while just spamming the attack button to take out the immediate dangers in front of you. Takamaru has a sword to deal damage in close quarters combat, but you'll largely use it to slay minion ninjas and deflect throwing stars that fly directly into Takamaru's face.

Your main offensive weapons are your ranged attacks. You start with a basic throwing knife, however you can power it up to a strong but short-ranged fireball, or a long-ranged windmill sword. These projectiles can be augmented with a variety of other power ups that can increase the throwing speed, multiply number of that can be thrown, and change direction as which they can be thrown.

You have a limited number of shots for enhanced projectiles, but ammo is dropped frequently so running out isn't that much of an issue. There are also a couple special moves that will clear the screen of enemies or make Takamaru briefly invincible.

All of Takamaru's attacks can be used while in motion, so it makes the game just a non-stop forward march death and destruction.

The Mysterious Murasame Castle can be punishingly difficult. Unlike a lot of 8-bit action games, there's quite a bit of leeway. You have a health bar and there's a plentiful number of health recovery items hidden in the world. Losing a life simply returns you to a powered down state on the same screen, but there are a lot of power ups scattered about to quickly raise your capabilities again. Running out of lives will return you to whichever area you were playing and the game even features a save function.

It's an intense game, something that the fast-paced soundtrack only amplifies. For $5, The Mysterious Murasame Castle is definitely an 8-bit gem worth checking out. It's just a shame it's taken so long to leave Japan.
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