So how’s your March going? I don’t want to make light of what’s going on in the world, and when I say that what I mean is that I use comedy to cope and I hope you don’t take offense when I do inevitably make fun of the horrors of March 2020. I would have loved to have spent more time inside chiseling away at my backlog, but I work retail so I’ve been busy. I’ve also been adding to that backlog of mine. During my off hours though I’ve enjoyed some great demos and I’ve got back into some classics that I’m familiar with. There’s nothing like a little comfort and familiarity during these trying times. Here’s my list for March of 2020;
(I've got it! Poor handwriting and an inability to draw feet that is.)
This past month, I took a chance with Twitch streaming but it didn’t really take. Even when nobody was watching, it felt really oppressive to try and be ‘on’ while gaming. A majority of my time on Twitch was spent streaming Bioshock Remastered. The first time I played this was way back when the Xbox 360 was new and Halo 3 was a bloom-effect on the horizon. In hindsight, I think Bioshock was the better game: it had no weapon limits, interesting powers, and a really interesting setting.
(I love it when you call me Big Da-Ddy)
I played through Bioshock on normal this month and had just as much of a good time this time as my first. What I didn’t notice in the past, and this could be something that’s unique to the Remastered version, is that a lot of the powers seem to push you towards using the wrench. There’s a lot of open-endedness when it comes to how you take on enemies in Rapture, but I didn’t recall there being that many ways to boost your melee attack before. Another thing I didn’t notice was how weak certain weapons felt: I was surprised by how much machine gun fire a splicer could eat before they would die (unless you’re using anti-personnel ammo). I stuck with the shotgun for a majority of my run because of how consistently useful it felt from the time I grabbed it to the end-game. The story that unfolds as you play Bioshock is a classic, and one that goes highly recommended by basically everybody involved with gaming on almost every level. The final boss is kind of lame though, so is the proving ground you have to go through at the end of the game. They’re not deal-breakers though.
I haven’t played Super Smash Bros Ultimate in over a year. I don’t have Nintendo Online, I don’t play multiplayer, I haven’t picked up any of the DLC, but I wanted to try reconnecting with Smash. I love the concept of Smash Bros but I haven’t really connected with any of the entries other than the 3DS one. When I last played Smash Ultimate, I hadn’t finished the single player aspect so I thought I would get back into that. I’m still not finished with it, and I don’t see myself getting back into it for a while. I just got a new TV a couple months ago, but even on a larger screen I have trouble following the action in Smash. The characters are small,and the particle effects (and certain assist characters) further obscure the action. There isn’t even much incentive to play through the single-player since all you really get are power-up stickers that don’t really apply outside of SP. I wouldn’t say I dislike Smash, but thinking of Smash makes me want to play source games. Breath of the Wild, Fire Emblem, Persona 5, I would rather get into those than play a party-fighter featuring characters, soundtracks and stages from them.
South Park is a funny show, and Stick of Truth was a good (if easily broken) game so when I saw Fractured but Whole on sale for $5 I couldn’t jump quickly enough at the offer. Unlike the previous game, FbW sees the children of South Park playing super heroes instead of fantasy adventure. Also unlike the previous game, the turn-based combat has been applied to a grid. Every turn, a character can choose to move which effects where their attacks will land. Certain boss fights even feature high-danger spaces that you’ll need to avoid if you don’t want to get instantly knocked out. Your player character is highly customizable, and as the game progresses you unlock more classes and abilities to utilize. Don’t worry too much about how you want to build your character though, since by the end-game you’ll have access to just about everything.
As for the story, FbW is an amalgamation of past-episode references, references to superhero movies and TV shows, and a prolonged joke about how people identify themselves. I haven’t been keeping up to date with South Park, but things like Memberberries, PC Principal, Shi ti pa town, these are familiar to me. There wasn’t another alien anal-probe joke thankfully, but there wasn’t too much in FbW that made it stand out to me as much as Stick of Truth. I’m glad I played it, but by the end I had had my fill. I haven’t played any of the DLC either, but I may next month. I felt burnt out right before I hit the end-game so it may be a bit before I hop into the DLC.
(It was good...not great, but good)
I really wish the Final Fantasy VII-R demo had explained more of the in-game system more. I played through the demo twice, and I had fun with it. I’m looking forward to Final Fantasy VII-R despite it being incomplete, no matter what Square’s PR has to say. So here’s what I really wish was demonstrated: How do Materia work here? You can clearly see them in Cloud’s buster sword and Barret’s gun-arm, but you can’t interact with them in the demo. The combat scenarios are fixed rather than being random so you can’t grind experience. Even when you fight, it only seems like you earn Gil and Experience points that contribute to your character’s level rather than your Materia. In the original, it was technically possible to level up your Materia early on in-game but it required a whole lot of grinding. Speaking of grinding again, I really want to know how often enemies respawn.
Part of why I like playing JRPGs is making myself incredibly powerful when I probably shouldn’t be. Maybe I didn’t backtrack enough in the demo, but I couldn’t seem to find any way of making enemies respawn in the Mako Reactor. I like how the game plays in general though. I like how you can either tap or hold the O button to attack enemies (unless you’re Barret, who’s better off just holding the button). I don’t know how I feel about needing to use a segment of your tech-bar before you can use items, but I do like how more powerful attacks can be used with the tech bar. On that note though: “Classic Mode” as FFVII-R defines it automatically attacks enemies so you can focus on manually using special abilities. If you consider this to be classic Final Fantasy, then it sounds like your only Final Fantasy was XII, or maybe the MMOs. I’m excited for Final Fantasy VII-R, but the demo made me more interested to replay the original...or Final Fantasy XV.
(I fully expect Gackt to be in FFVII-R)
I’m still playing Fire Emblem Echoes and I’m still going about it at a glacial pace. Nothing new has really happened either; Celica and Alm are still doing their own thing. I’m focusing on Alm for the moment, and the last thing I did was save someone from execution.
I owned a copy of Final Fantasy XV before I owned a means to play it. When I moved back home from Georgia I played through it on my partner’s PS4 and I really enjoyed it. Now I have it on PC and I’m still really enjoying it! I don’t really like the pinball minigame thing you can find in the diners, but I love going on hunts and fishing and Chocobo racing. During this run, I’ve been grinding up ability points to spend on my magic stats. Even without that, the magic effects in XV are stunning and they always seem to hit hard, even if you’re using ineffective magic against your enemies. The more standard combat is a little bit more hit-or-miss. Noctis can theoretically use any weapon from any class, so I usually kit him out with a sword, a great-sword, a spear, and a magic flask. The problem is that he’s definitely not suited to all of those weapon types. The great sword being the biggest example: Noctis swings those things around so slowly that landing a single hit seems pointless considering how many more hits could have been landed, for more damage, with other weapon types.
(I didn't make this)
After a certain point in the story you unlock the ability to summon Astrals (summons, GFs, Eidelons, etc) in battle, but they allow you to call them randomly. You could get the option to summon an Astral while fighting level 10 scorpions, you could spend a half hour fighting level 99 monstrosities without a hint of divine intervention, and it’s kind of annoying. I also think it’s annoying that I can take on quests that I can’t finish until much later due to map restrictions and road blocks. When I first played through Final Fantasy XV I thought it might be my favorite Final Fantasy in the main series, but I’m one of those players who will absolutely love a game in the moment and that’s what I told myself at the time. Playing through it now, for a second time, I think I can still safely say that I love Final Fantasy XV but I have no idea where I would place it compared to the others.
Since I’m playing the Windows Edition of Final Fantasy XV, I have access to the DLC so I jumped into Episode Gladiolus this month too. I made an educated guess about the best time to play Episode-G because I’ve never done it before and I wasn’t sure if it would use my existing save data or not. Luckily for me, I could have started whenever I felt like and I would have been fine! Even early on in the Gladdy-O expansion I sensed a bit of a formula to it. The plot reason for it existing is that Gladio wants to find himself after suffering a defeat in an Imperial base. He goes to seek training at a proving grounds but when he gets there, he’s told that the Blademaster (who you may remember from Final Fantasy V, wink-wink) usually kills those who fail the trails of the training grounds.
After playing it for an hour and a quarter, I’ve finished Episode Gladiolus. That is to say, I’ve beaten The Blademaster and unlocked a new sword that I can use in the full Final Fantasy XV. There’s a final challenge where Gladio fights against Cor, a helpful side character who I’m sure I saw in the main FFXV game, but your resources are incredibly limited and Cor knocked me out in a few hits. Episode-G was short and sweet; if it was much longer I might have become annoyed by how simple the combat was, and I didn’t care too much for the soundtrack, but I like having some context on where Gladio disappeared to. Getting a powerful new weapon and hearing another remix of Battle on the Big Bridge was also nice.
The Trials of Mana Remake demo kind of came out of nowhere. I knew it was in development of course, but I didn’t realize there was going to be a demo before release. Before this month, I had played Trials of Mana for only a few hours on the Switch. It was part of the Mana collection launched on that platform, but since I can’t comprehend Japanese I didn’t make it too far. Then I got an English-language copy as a gift and I still didn’t make it too far because the art style of the Super Famicom classic is difficult for me to really comprehend. I’m not going to say it’s bad since I love the character and monster models, but I have a lot of trouble making out what’s going on in a lot of screens in the original release. This isn’t an issue at all in the remake, which reminds me a bit of Dragon Quest XI.
The Trials of Mana demo lets you start the game from the very beginning, so you’re free to choose three of the six playable characters instead of being forced to play as a set party. For my playthrough, I chose to play as Riesz and even though Hawkeye and Angela were chosen as my party members, only Angela joined me before the demo ended. Like another JRPG demo I played this month, Trials of Mana uses a real-time combat system. Instead of tapping O for light attacks and holding it for heavy attacks, those attack types have their own dedicated buttons. As you attack, you gain tech points that can be used for more powerful attacks. There’s also an MP gauge for magic attacks, but I never had direct control over those while I played the demo. Angela did use them from time to time though, which seemed impressive to me as she was completely AI controlled. In the original everything stopped when you use magic attacks, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for the remake.
I didn’t really have much of a chance to get a feel for how powerful the magic was in Trials R, but the combat in general was fun to engage with and the special abilities I had access to were satisfying enough to use. Based on what I do know of the original, I think the remake might have been made a little easier. In the original for example, the crab boss kicked my ass a couple of times before I finally managed to take it down. In the original though, it was easy to hit, easy to dodge, and just easy to take out in general. The Guardian Scorpion from the Final Fantasy VII-R demo by contrast felt like a heavy-hitting damage sponge.
I may play through the demo again; I downloaded it on Switch and Steam, but I only played it on PC this past month, and it would be nice to see how one of the other characters starts out. Overall, I think I’m more excited about Trials of Mana R than I am for Final Fantasy VII R, if only because Trials of Mana isn’t being cut apart and sold back to us piece by piece.
The Resident Evil 3 R demo is another one that I downloaded on two platforms, but unlike Trials of Mana R, I did play both of the versions that I downloaded. The PS4 version demonstrates that I have absolutely lost touch with controller-based gaming. I had a whole lot of trouble aiming guns as Jill, I couldn’t see because of how dark everything was (even after a lot of kajiggering), and overall I came away from Resident Evil 3 R D with a negative impression. Then I tried again on PC and everything was much, much better. I didn’t play extensively, but I did make it past the flaming alley. On console, Daddy Nem-Nem killed me...somehow (I dunno, I was running away then I was thrust onto my stomach, then I got a game over screen), but on PC I lost Coaty-McGee inside of the Donut shop.
Like with the original, the remade Resident Evil 3 definitely has more of an emphasis on hoards and gunplay. In the demo, I was practically tripping over ammo and gunpowder. I figured out that red barrels do what red barrels always do fairly quickly when I reduced 2 groups of zombies to flaming confetti. I look forward to being handed an assault rifle on easy mode in the full version, but even with that much firepower I was surprised by just how resilient Nematode was even if you pump buckshot into his coin-operated love pump. I’m convinced that the big twist of Resident Evil 3 R is going to be multiple Nemesi, but we won’t know for sure until the game launches next month.
(I'm already seeing Classic Nemesis mods for this thing)
Ion Fury is Duke Nukem 3D but with a female protagonist and a techno-future apocalypse instead of an alien-invasion based apocalypse. The game starts out in a techno-futurist bar where it seems you start your murder spree because a group of androids going on their own murder spree made you spill your drink. From there, Ion Fury is a circle-strafing, enemy gibbing, rocket-hopping, murder-em-up playing out at roughly the speed of sound while techno-future-rock music plays in the background and an evil mastermind references pop culture at you while sending more hoards for you to murder. If I have to criticise anything, it’s the lack of enemy variety. There are palette-swapped dudes in yellow, red, and white cloaks, there are military armor dudes, there are spider-heads, there are segmented mutant worm things, and there are flying drone heads.
I feel like I’m still early on in the game though, so I’ll likely stumble on more enemy types eventually...Like the giant mecha I fought as a boss, and which put up an incredible fight! I’m also aware that Duke Nukem 3D didn’t have much enemy variety either. Ion Fury is definitely a game I’m going to keep coming back to and messing around with. It’s fast paced and murdering a hoard of dudes with a bowling bomb is vastly satisfying.
Molek-Syntez hates you. Last year, I played Opus Magnum and it only took me about 35 or so hours to complete all of the main puzzles. In the 9 hours of Molek-Syntez I’ve played, I’ve completed 11 of the 35 puzzles on the main menu. I bring up Opus Magnum because Molek-Syntez plays a lot like it. You’re told to produce a compound and are given a set list of atoms and basic chemicals to work with.
Using six nodes and a set number of moves, you need to rearrange the compounds you’re given and make them into the product you’ve been asked to produce. The first 2 puzzles act as tutorials and after that you’re thrown into the deep end of futuristic chemical production. If all of this big-brain chemistry gets you down, the cool down game is unlocked after you complete your first row of tasks, and in Molek it’s solitaire. I’ve never really played solitaire before and when I tried it here I didn’t really get it at first. Even after my first couple-dozen games I didn’t really get it, and even now I don’t think I’m fully getting it.
Solitaire isn’t really the main focus of Molek-Syntez of course, so don’t be too bothered by that achievement for winning 100 games or that other achievement for winning a game without cheating (is cheating a thing in other versions of computer solitaire?). Spacechem did NOT click for me, but I feel like I’m going to get through Molek-Syntez for the same reason I got through Opus Magnum: The feeling you get when you complete a puzzle is indescribably satisfying. There are puzzles that I never would have thought I could have figured out, but actually makes me downright euphoric, kinda like the first time I tied a pentagram harness, only I don’t need a second person for the full effect.
(This PC Solitaire game has a really hard puzzle game attached to it, it's fantastic!)
The month of March hasn’t been the greatest, and it looks like April is going to be another month where a lot of people will have a ton of time to sit back and play some video games. If you noticed a lack of 2 very high profile games on my March list, it’s because my money is tight enough that I haven’t been able to pick up either Half Life Alyx or Good Job yet, but I plan too at some point in the future. I’m still toying with the idea of deleting my New Leaf town and starting that from scratch, but I don’t think I’ll follow through on that, and I’m also concerned that my PC might not be able to handle Doom Eternal. As much as I’ve been enjoying Final Fantasy XV, my PC is noticeably struggling to run it at points. I’ll definitely be able to catch up with current games in April though, and there are a lot of Switch games that I haven’t picked up yet. I’ll roll a die and get back to you next month. Until then, please stay safe.