Sunday, December 15, 2019

Mini-reviews of the 19 games I finished in 2019, part one

Back when I was a teenager, I finished a ton of games each year. These days, I'm lucky if I can beat even a handful.

Well, except for the last two years. In 2018, I finished 15 games. And I've finished 19 games so far in 2019.

I enjoyed every single one one of those games, so I thought I'd share mini-reviews of them in a pair of blog posts. Here's the first batch; look for the second in a few days.

A Witch’s Tale (DS)--I approached playing this role-playing game with the lowest of expectations thanks to the fairly terrible word of mouth that surrounds it. It didn't take me long to develop my own, far more positive opinion of A Witch's Tale, though. I'd never call this touch-heavy offering a classic, don't-miss DS RPG, mind you, but I think it's both unique and fun enough to warrant a playthrough or two if you still own (and use) one of Nintendo's dual-screened systems.


Another Code (DS)--You may have heard that this point-and-click adventure, known as Trace Memory in North America, is on the short side. Well, it is. In fact, it took me less than five hours to reach Another Code's end credits. That said, it packs a lot of intrigue, not to mention interesting puzzles, into the brief, coming-of-age journey of its heroine, Ashley Robbins. One thing I would recommend to folks who've yet to play any of now-defunct developer CiNG's DS games: start with this one, then move on to the far superior Hotel Dusk and The Last Window at a later date.

Crimson Shroud (3DS)--Although I bought this Yasumi Matsuno-helmed RPG the day it hit the 3DS eShop back in late 2012, I barely put more than a few minutes into it until early this year. I guess all the talk about it being inspired by tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons intimidated me a bit? I needn't have worried. In the end, I found Crimson Shroud to be a thrilling change of pace. OK, so a few battles near the end aggravated me, but not so much they caused me to walk away in a huff. I did feel a bit, well, huffy after watching the game's initial ending sequence, but even that didn't ruin the otherwise-lovely experience for me.

Ever Oasis (3DS)--This 2017 release was made, in part, by Koichi Ishii, who also had a hand in such gems as Secret of Mana, that game's sequel (Seiken Densetsu 3), and one of my all-time favorite RPGs, SaGa Frontier. Ever Oasis resembles the first of those titles, but it's far from a copycat. Unlike that 16-bit classic, this overlooked 3DS gem includes town-building, material-gathering, and quest-fulfilling components. To learn more about those and other aspects of this game, check out the blog post I published a few months ago, "A whole lot of thoughts on Ever Oasis for the Nintendo 3DS."


Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (DS)--Here's another DS title I long avoided because of the negative word of mouth that surrounds it. Now that I've played it, I'm baffled as to why so many others pooh-pooh A2. Sure, its vibe is decidedly different from that of the original Final Fantasy Tactics, and it's quest-based rather than story-focused, but I found those changes refreshing rather than off-putting. Actually, the only issue I had with Final Fantasy Tactics A2 was its annoying final boss--and that's a complaint I could level at most Square Enix RPGs I've bothered to finish.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)--People have been begging me to play this Shu Takumi-directed adventure game from 2011 for ages. Now that I've done so, I can understand their passionate pleas. For whatever reason, I always assumed Ghost Trick was just Ace Attorney with a different coat of paint. Instead, it's more of a puzzler. With an amazing art style. And an impressive soundtrack. And a surprisingly touching story. What I'm trying to say here is: if you've yet to play it yourself, do so as soon as possible.

Katamari Damacy Encore (Switch)--As much as I love the original PS2 release of Katamari Damacy, I rarely pull that system out of the closet these days. I play my Switch all the time, though, so you know I jumped all over this port--especially since it's portable. (I pretty much only play portable systems at the moment.) The eight hours I spent with it were among my most joyous of the year, as far as the time I spent with games were concerned. As a result, I sincerely hope Bandai Namco gives us a Switch port of We Love Katamari in 2020.


Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn (3DS)--I know a lot of people reacted to the announcement of this barely enhanced portable port of Kirby’s Epic Yarn with a shrug or a sigh (if not worse), but my own response was far more positive. Granted, I adore both the original Wii game and the 3DS system, so the idea of playing through the former on the latter sounded like a dream come true. And you know what? That's basically what it was for me. The only way I could've loved it more would've been if it had included new stages or been playable in 3D.

Kirby Triple Deluxe (3DS)--Despite my love of cute games, I've never been the biggest Kirby fan. I had such a good time with Epic Yarn, Return to Dream Land, and Planet Robobot, though, that I broke down and bought a copy of Triple Deluxe early this year. I didn't find it as thrilling as I found Epic Yarn or Planet Robobot, but I still had a blast with it. It felt like a portable Return to Dream Land, and that was more than fine with me.

Lapis x Labyrinth (Switch)--I hemmed and hawed a lot before buying this Nippon Ichi Software title. Why? The main reason was preview trailers made me think Lapis x Labyrinth's gameplay might not be my cup of tea. My reticence seems silly now. I loved nearly every second of the 30-ish hours I put into this frantic, side-scrolling dungeon-looter. I get the distinct feeling it's one of those "not for everyone" titles, but it definitely was for me.

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