Saturday, December 31, 2022

10 games I want to play in 2023

The vast majority of the games I played in 2022 were played on my cherished, Splatoon 2-colored Nintendo Switch.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I usually prefer to spread my gaming love among several systems, both new and old.

As such, I want to do more than just play Switch games in 2023. I also want to play the following:

Another Code: R

Another Code: R (Wii)

I'm one of those nerds who adored developer CiNG and all of the brilliant games it managed to release during its relatively short lifespan. Or at least I've adored all of its games that I've tried to date, which includes the original Another Code (Trace Memory in North America), Hotel Dusk, Last Window, and Again. I've yet to play the company's lone PS2 effort, Glass Rose, or the Wii-based follow-up to the first game I mentioned here, Another Code: R. Although I don't see myself tracking down and starting through Glass Rose anytime soon, I'd like to finally check out Another Code: R in 2023. I love its art style and I similarly adore the Nintendo Wii, so I'm struggling to see how it won't quickly find a place in my heart alongside the other CiNG products I've experienced.

E.X. Troopers (3DS)

So many people I respect regularly sing the praises of E.X. Troopers. I took the first step to finding out if it's my cup of tea, too, by buying a copy of the 3DS version a few years ago, but I've yet to even slip its cartridge into my 3DS. I'll be honest here: I'm worried its gameplay won't thrill me the way it does so many others, but I want to give it a solid go all the same.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii)

Like many folks, I was miffed when Square Enix announced this Final Fantasy spinoff for the Wii rather than a mainline entry or even an actual Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles sequel that iterated on the original's ARPG gameplay. Now, though, pretty much everything about The Crystal Bearers appeals to me, from its dashing protagonist to its bizarre gameplay. 

Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society (Switch)

I ignored this game's predecessor, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk, for years despite generally loving Nippon Ichi Software releases because its gigantic parties of 40 or so members seemed both ridiculous and overwhelming. Once I got to playing it, though, I learned it wasn't too much to handle at all, and actually was an interesting departure from the norm. I've heard this follow-up treads similarly unique ground, so I plan to dive into it as soon as a copy is in my greedy hands in mid-February.

Me & My Katamari

Me & My Katamari (PSP)

Full disclosure: although I thoroughly love the original Katamari Damacy game, I've never played any of its sequels. I've bought most of them, but never even booted them up. That includes this PSP release. I'm pretty sure I've said here before that I would try to play Me & My Katamari, but I failed to follow through on it. Hopefully I can get off my butt in that regard this time. I've heard it's worth the effort, even if it doesn't exactly live up to the lofty expectations set by pair of PS2 releases that preceded it.

Popolocrois (PSP)

I have a feeling this isn't the first time I've publicly vowed to play this PSP game, too. Like Me & My Katamari, I've avoided Popolocrois for a few reasons, with the main one being that word of mouth on it isn't all that positive. Still, I've wanted to experience some version of this game ever since I first became aware of it decades ago (via the Japan-only PlayStation title from 1996), so I should probably get it over with and see if it's been worth all the fuss.

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney (3DS)

Why I didn't buy and try this curious crossover when it first came out is beyond me. I've thoroughly enjoyed every Professor Layton game I've played to date, and the same is true of the Ace Attorney games I've played, so of course I'd enjoy this one, too, right? I suppose it's possible I won't, but I'm willing to chance it. If only copies didn't cost so blasted much these days.

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Romancing SaGa (Super Famicom)

I've attempted to play the original version of Romancing SaGa a few times over the years. At least a couple of those attempts were made using an actual Super Famicom cart of the game, while the rest involved a ROM of the same. I'm fairly sure all took place before any worthwhile English walkthroughs existed. Now that one does, and now that a complete English fan translation can be found online, too, I'm ready to try again. I know I could just play the more modern Minstrel Song remake, but for now I want to tackle the original. Don't worry, I own a copy of the Minstrel Song remaster that released recently, so I'll fall back on that if needed.  

Tengai Makyou II: Manji Maru (DS)

I was one of those odd kids who proudly owned a TurboGrafx-16 back when it was current (and a distant third option for game fans after the SNES and the Genesis). I even owned one of those devastatingly expensive TurboGrafx-CD units. One of the games I bought to put the latter device to use was Tengai Makyou II: Manji Maru. I was obsessed with it at the time. It looked unlike any RPG I'd ever laid eyes on up to that point. The battle scenes, in particular, blew me away with their dynamic animations. Unfortunately, the language barrier proved to be far too massive for my puny brain to overcome. Thankfully, walkthroughs are a thing now (they weren't then), so I'll refer to as many as are needed if I tackle Tengai Makyou II's Nintendo DS port this coming year.

Void Terrarium 2

Void Terrarium 2 (Switch)

The first Void Terrarium was one of my three favorite games of 2020. That game daringly combines a futuristic roguelike (one of my favorite genres, currently) with a human Tamagotchi. Like many such NIS mashups, it sounds like an obscene mess on paper, but seems brilliant once you play it. To be honest, previews of Void Terrarium 2 have me worried it will be disappointingly derivative (it often looks like a retread of the first game), but those who have played the Japanese release swear it's an honest-to-goodness sequel, so I'll take them at their word and fervently anticipate its North American launch in late February.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Seven games I sadly failed to finish in 2022

I finish nearly every game I decide to start.

Or at least I did before this year. 

As I mentioned in my "favorite games of 2022" post, this year has been a weird one in many regards, but it's been especially so in terms of my interaction with and enjoyment of video games.

For reasons I can't fathom, I failed to finish a whopping seven games this year. The games in question are 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Fuga: Melodies of Steel, Live A LiveNora and the Time StudioSaGa 2 Hihō Densetsu: Goddess of DestinyShin Chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation, and Skyrim.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (Switch)

I've wanted to play this Vanillaware game since it was first announced for the PS4 and Vita several years ago. Yet when I finally got a chance to play it, I bailed after just over an hour. To be sure, this bailing had little to do with 13 Sentinels' story or gameplay and a lot to do with the fact that tacking its strategy segments with a drifting Switch Joy-Con proved to be more than I could handle at the time.

If I'm to be honest, though, the existence of these strategy segments played a small role in my disenchantment with 13 Sentinels, too. I've never been a big fan of real-time strategy games, so sticking one into an otherwise-compelling visual novel was never going to thrill me.

Don't worry, I'm planning on returning to 13 Sentinels in 2023 and giving it a proper chance, RTS segments be damned. I won't be doing so until I fix or replace my current pair of Joy-Cons, though, that I can assure you.

Fuga: Melodies of Steel (Switch)

Unlike 13 Sentinels, I put a good amount of time into Fuga: Melodies of Steel before walking away from it earlier this year. Over 11 hours, to be exact. Which suggests I liked it quite a bit, right? I did, in fact. Unfortunately, a Fuga boss that gave me more trouble than expected and a (real life) trip that occurred around the same time conspired to both take me away from the game and keep me from returning to it.

Again, the plan is to give Fuga: Melodies of Steel another go sometime next year. Perhaps strangely, I'm considering starting over with it. After my abovementioned boss woes, I did some sleuthing online and learned that I made a few decisions during my aborted playthrough that likely led to that unfortunate roadblock. A fresh start should keep me from repeating the experience.

I think the hard work will be worth it regardless, as Fuga's two-dimensional, turn-based tank battles and cute, furry crew proved to be quite captivating during the 11-plus hours I put into the game a few months back.

Live A Live (Switch)

As is usually the case, I can't remember exactly why I failed to finish Live A Live after devoting about 10 hours to it shortly after it hits store shelves in July. What I do remember: I had a great time with the four stories I managed to complete in the time I spent with this HD-2D remake. I especially liked the prehistoric chapter that focused on a lovelorn (some might just say horny) caveman and his colorful crew—which includes an ape that injures baddies with his farts and poop.

This JRPG's unique settings—others include ancient China, the Wild West, and a spaceship in the distant future—were the highlight here for me, though I also appreciated how each story lasted a few hours at most. You'd think that would've made it easy for me to plow through the whole she-bang in a breezy 20 hours or so, but somehow I felt a bit burned out by the time I wrapped up my fourth chapter. Considering I've only got three more to go, I should be able to complete the rest before similar feelings set in after I circle back to Live A Live sometime in 2023.

Nora and the Time Studio (Nintendo DS)

I've dreamed of playing this Atlus-made Atelier-like since I first heard about it in early 2011. Not because I'm a huge fan of the Atelier series, mind you (I've yet to play a single entry), but because I think it looks adorable and because I've rarely met a Nintendo DS game I didn't like. I had no hope I'd ever be able to enjoy it due to the language barrier, though. (It never earned an official North American or European release.) Or at least I didn't until I learned earlier this year that an English fan translation for Nora was out in the wild.

At any rate, I enjoyed the four or so hours I put into Nora and the Time Studio this summer thanks in large part to its gorgeous sprite art and charming characters. The only complaint I can level at it at the moment is that I found its gameplay to be more restrictive than anticipated. In some ways, it reminds me of another DS title I played in 2021, Princess Debut. The two titles are worlds apart in terms of genre, but both seem aimed at a similar audience and feature fairly (sometimes overly) simplistic gameplay. Should a bit of digging suggest Nora and the Time Studio is a relatively brief affair, I'll probably return to it in 2023. Otherwise, I think I had my fill this year.

SaGa 2 Hihō Densetsu: Goddess of Destiny (Nintendo DS)

It's hardly a secret at this point that I generally adore Square Enix's SaGa series. SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions has been one of my favorite Switch games to date, and SaGa Frontier is one of my favorite games of all time. Long before these two titles were even a twinkle in creator Akitoshi Kawazu's eye, though, there were the trio of GameBoy games that started it all. My fondest memories are for the first release, known as SaGa in Japan and The Final Fantasy Legend in North America, but I have a lot of love and affection for its sequel, too.

This is a three-dimensional reimagining of that game, as you might imagine. Although I'm sure it was more impressive back when it first came out in 2009, it remains a nice-looking game. It's a lot easier to play than the original GB release, too, thanks to various quality-of-life improvements. It's still quite stilted in that regard in comparison to more modern JRPGs, though, and I think that, along with the random and regular-ish difficulty spikes, is what prompted me to throw up my hands in surrender after nearly 26 hours of play. Will I willingly circle back to it in 2023? I can't imagine it at the moment, but stranger things have certainly happened, so who knows.

Shin Chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation (Switch)

Here's another game I spent a lot of time looking forward to playing before I finally got my grubby mitts on it. (It released in Japan over a year before it released in my neck of the woods.) As with 13 Sentinels, though, I walked away from Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation surprisingly quickly.

What was the reason? The biggie is that I just wasn't finding it as interesting or enjoyable as I thought I would. Also, and I hate to admit this, I think the Shin Chan characters and aesthetic weren't doing it for me. I would've far preferred for this to be a real Boku no Natsuyasumi game, even though I know that probably wouldn't be possible at this point in time (what with the Switch being the leading platform here, and Boku's close ties to Sony and the PlayStation).

Still, the plan is to return to Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation as soon as possible in the new year. Whether I actually accomplish that task is anyone's guess, though. Who knows, maybe the long-promised physical version will materialize soon and that alone will prompt a reappraisal of the game. Fingers crossed, regardless.

Skyrim (Switch)

Of all the games highlighted here, this is the one I put the least amount of time into in 2022 before dropping it for something else. To be honest, Skyrim has never seemed like my cup of tea. I only bought it after its Switch port released because multiple people whose opinions I respect suggested I would enjoy it. Based on my admittedly terse experience with it so far, I remain doubtful.

The classic European fantasy aesthetic doesn't do Skyrim any favors for me. Nor does the huge, open world (something that's always been hit or miss with me) or the real-time WRPG gameplay. Still, I've barely scratched the surface of what the game supposedly has to offer, so I'll try to push these semi-negative thoughts to the very back of my brain if I give this fifth Elder Scrolls adventure a second chance in the coming year.