State of the Game: New Classics

Last week I had a couple of days of strenuous labor in a row, and over the course of the weekend my back was feeling pretty sore. I’ve thrown it out a couple of times over the past few years, and I think I aggravated something one of those days. Over the weekend I took it easy but when I woke up on Monday morning it was a smidge worse, enough that I went into work but then immediately found someone to come in to cover me and went home. I stayed home Tuesday as well but was back to work by Wednesday. Nevertheless I ended up having a bunch of spare time to play some games that were mostly free that I hadn’t played yet. From last month’s Playstation Plus games, I tried out Grand Kingdom. From this month’s Humbly Monthly package, I played Lost Castle. I also touched on a few of the new games from Playstation Plus this month, Mighty No. 9, Bombing Busters, and finally played a game I picked up at some point on sale, called Battle Chasers: Night War. Lastly, I played through an indie title called Uncanny Valley that also came via Plus but I don’t recall when. This is on top of recently completing Shadow Warrior 2, and playing more of Crash Bandicoot and Shadow of the Colossus. It’s been a busy quarter for me, having completed several games and spending a bit of time in others. The theme for today is that these games all stem from a classic formula but put their own spin on their respective genres. Let’s take a closer look at these titles:

Grand Kingdom:

Grand Kingdom struck me as being a game I would enjoy, but it ended up being different than I expected. The only other title I can remotely compare it to is Has Been Heroes, which I wrote about back in January. The titles really aren’t that similar, but the combat systems are. In both, you’ll have different lanes in which you can move about to attack your enemies, but can only attack those in the same lane as your character. There is an element of timing as well, because you actually mash buttons when attacking, or must time button press correctly as the cursor moves during ranged attacks and magic spells. That’s where the similarities end, but it’s such a different way of doing things compared to most RPGs/JRPGs. There’s a storyline here but it’s not really all that important. You’ll spend most of your time on these mission maps, where you move a chess piece around a map and occasionally run into monsters and the game will swap over to the combat screen. Here you’ll move your forces around and fight the enemy. That’s really all there is to it, yet it still was a spot of fun. It was free last month via Plus so if you’re a member you’ve probably already added it to your account. I don’t think I’d pay money for it, but it’s decent nonetheless.

Lost Castle:

I mentioned having resubscribed to Humble Monthly for the month of March only because they were offering Dark Souls III as part of the $12 bundle. I still haven’t played that game yet (have yet to beat the first two games) but seeing the rest of the bundle reaffirmed my decision to stop paying for the service. It’s always one or two good games and a bunch of chaff, and this month was no exception. I’m happy to get a cheap copy of a game I wanted, but the rest of the package is never worth it. Lost Castle was literally the only other game I downloaded, but it’s pretty fun so it’s not a total loss.

A 2-D side-scrolling brawler, Lost Castle has rogue-like elements in that you will die, but you’ll get points to put into a tree of skills that will help you on further runs. You basically run around and kills shit until that happens. There isn’t much of a storyline, but it’s a fun little time waster and I enjoy these sorts of games so I’ll put some time into it here and there. Not sure what the MSRP is for this game but I’d pay a couple bucks for it.

Mighty No. 9:

Part of this month’s Playstation Plus offering, Mighty No. 9 is the Mega Man clone you didn’t know you wanted. It has had a troubled history being a successful Kickstarter that didn’t exactly keep its promises, but it’s been out for a while and it was something I wanted to try but didn’t want to buy. I’m thankful for that, as I would not have paid money for this one but it’s entertaining anyway.

The graphics are 3D models on a 2D plane, which is something we’ve seen before. It feels slow and kind of clunky, but then it still seems to work. I don’t know how to describe it, but basically I was unimpressed but it was still fun to play. Still has a bit of challenge like the old Mega Man titles too. It’s just sort of meh though. Thankfully it was free.

Bombing Busters:

Another free Plus game this month, Bombing Busters is basically Bomberman. The level design is the same, the bomb mechanics are the same. It’s more cutesy than its inspiration, but also less inspired. Fun to waste a few minutes with, not really worth the time.

Battle Chasers: Night War:

This game I actually paid for, and I’m glad I did. Hearkening back to old school console RPGs, Battle Chasers is actually based on a comic book from the 90’s. It plays like a combination between Final Fantasy titles and the likes of Secret of Mana, etc. You’ll move around on a world map, where you’ll come across encounters, and then warp to a fight screen, which is turn based and uses a series of menus to control (this is like 99% of RPGs of this style). In some areas, you’ll enter into a dungeon and will control your character from an isometric viewpoint. You have a party of 3, and each has a “dungeon skill” that can help you navigate around so you can swap between characters on the fly while in the dungeon. You’ll still run into creatures and swap to the combat screen. Otherwise when you are in town and talking with NPCs, a beautifully rendered comic book style conversation will take place, most of which is voice acted.

Of all the titles on this list, this one is certainly my favorite. It speaks to my generation of gamers who grew up with classic RPGs on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but it has the depth and graphics of newer generations. I fully recommend this one to RPG junkies, and it’s not too expensive either (I paid $17).

Uncanny Valley:

Finally, a trip into the strange world that is Uncanny Valley. This is one of those 2D pixellated horror games, a genre which has basically always been around but with which I have little experience. I can’t say that I have completed the game, because looking at the trophy list it appears that there are a bunch of different events that I did not witness. However, I lived through several days in the life of this main character, saw an ending and saw end credits. The storyline is loosely put together but it appears that this large building in the middle of a forest has been closed down (or hasn’t open yet) and you are hired as a security officer to watch over it. You run the night shift, and relieve a rather large man. The apartment you are provided as an employee is through the woods nearby. That’s really all they give you to go on. From there you’ll explore the building, meet a nice girl named Eve, have all sorts of weird dreams and hallucinations, and do your job.

In the end, I made Eve fall in love with me somehow, but then she murdered me at the end, severing all of my limbs from my body — roll credits. It was an abrupt ending and I still hadn’t really figured out what was going on at that point. I kept finding tapes and listening to what sounded like a therapist talking with a mental ward patient. Strange machinery was present throughout the building. But nothing was ever made very clear and the bouncing back and forth between reality and fever dreams was a bit confusing. Honestly I think this would have made a better 3D or first person horror title, but it’s still serviceable in its current form. I’d give it a whirl if you’re into that sort of thing.

That’s it for this round up. I have posts in the works for another RPG that I started that hearkens back to the good ol’ days, and the 2nd season of TellTale’s Batman game. Be back soon!

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