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March 24, 2023

NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams

I had promised myself I’d do this one much earlier; either in the same year where I released my original review of the first NiGHTS game, or perhaps the year after. Oh well, better late than never, as they say.

SEGA has a thing for
free-spirited protagonists.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, I can understand; SEGA promotes the franchises that do well like Sonic, Persona and Yakuza. Still, due to a design that almost fits in Sonic’s world, NiGHTS benefits from having cameoed in the hedgehog's games every now and then, so they’re not completely unknown. The gender-neutral dream jester can only claim two full games to their name, with a third unofficial one that’s an add-on to the first, and has a cult following as a result. I already covered the original game, NiGHTS Into Dreams…, which first came out on the SEGA Saturn in 2006 before seeing a rerelease on Steam in 2012. Then at some point I got the "sequel", a Wii game titled NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, released in North America on December 18th, 2007, more than 11 years after its predecessor.

Semi-sequel, semi-reboot, this game carries over the themes, story and ideas (or should I say Ideya) of the previous entry. Journey of Dreams tries to bring the original idea of NiGHTS’ flight-based gameplay to a modern console. (…well, I say that, but this game has been out for 15 years so, depending on who you ask,  it may count as retro by now.) It’s probably easier to jump right into it so that we can compare and contrast.

March 10, 2023

Bloons TD 5

Every once in a while I think back to the era of Flash games and go… “wow, I played a lot of tower defense games back then”. They were definitely one of my favorite genres at the time, though I preferred the games that put a twist on the formula. Gemcraft, which I already discussed (and will discuss again), and Cursed Treasure, which I haven’t (yet), are two examples. The weirder one, though, might be the Bloons franchise.

Bloons is about the never-ending struggle between monkeys and balloons, all with different skill sets and power levels. At the core of the conflict, the Monkeys try to stop Bloons from traveling all the way across a path on the screen. Why? Who the Hell cares! Do we even need a reason? The Monkeys specialize in various types of weaponry, some of which toy with every possible facet of tower defense gameplay. The Bloons, meanwhile, just get stronger and stronger, occasionally gaining resistances to certain forms of attack or just taking more hits to go down.

I was planning to cover Bloons TD6 this year, but I felt the need to cover TD5 first, seeing as I had already played it before. I don’t plan to go over the entire history of the franchise, not that there’s a ton to be said about Bloons TD 1 to 4. The most notable difference between Bloons TD 5, released by Ninja Kiwi on November 19th, 2014, and previous installments, is the inclusion of classic free-to-play and return bonus elements.

March 3, 2023

Super Mario 3D Land

I haven't put that hat on in a while...

I promised myself that I would review more games I own for the Nintendo 3DS this year, so let’s start with a simple one. Mario platformers are simple, right? …it depends really. The 2D games are fairly simple. The big 3D games (64/Sunshine/Galaxy/Odyssey) are more complex. But this one is a weird beast trying to be somewhere between both.

That suit of fur sure is a lot more limber than
those in real life.
Super Mario 3D Land was released in North America in November 13th, 2011, in the first year of the 3D-enhancing portable console. Shigeru Miyamoto describes it as “a 3D Mario that plays like a 2D Mario game”. And it shows; this is unlike any other 2D Mario game, but in a weird way it’s also rather unlike any other 3D Mario game.

It’s somewhere in limbo between the two, in a way that's more complex than just 2.5D.

Let’s jump in – here we go!

Tails grow on trees??

Then again, if the tree ALSO has a tail...
The game opens on a massive windstorm over the Mushroom Kingdom. The wind is so powerful, it knocks away all of the leaves from a tree with a striped tail. The Tanooki leaves have flown away, scattered over the land. …Remember those? It was Mario’s flight power-up in Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Man, talk about a blast from the past. Mario and several Toads run to the tree after the storm to find it bare. A flying letter comes to them and they open it, getting a picture showing that Bowser has yet again kidnapped Princess Peach. For added points, he got his hands on several leaves and has used them to improve several of his minions (as well as himself). Mario must therefore rescue the chronically-kidnapped damsel from the scheming turtle-dragon. Must be a day that ends in Y.

Bowser needs better pastimes.

February 27, 2023

VGFlicks: Rampage (Part 2)

Continuing from Part 1; go read it if you haven’t.

The military

Their current size stands at "pretty damn big".
Inching ever closer to "monstrously big".
The giant animals are on their way to Chicago, breaking everything in their fits of rage. Claire and Brett Wyden, still at Energyne, are monitoring their progress, while distracting agents from the FBI who come to inspect their records. Claire makes sure to blame Kate Caldwell for the current mess. Meanwhile, Johnson – no, wait, I mean Davis Okoye – has a heart-to-heart with Kate while they wait for transportation, called by Harvey Russell, to come pick them up from the hayfield they’ve ended up in.

The three are taken to a military base, where they’re briefed on the rampage. George the albino gorilla and Ralph the wolf somehow met each other on the way to Chicago and, instead of fighting, kept going in the same direction together, which doesn’t make sense as members of such different species.

I had to do some geography work for this review!

Try reasoning with the army. It's hard. Especially if you're
the protagonist, you know what's going on, and they don't.
Then, it's not hard, it's freaking impossible.
Not sure where in the U.S. they actually met, but one of them must have gotten lost on the way. Kate concludes that the giant animals are being called to Chicago by a transmission that irritates them. Underestimating the threat level, Colonel Blake (Demetrius Grosse) has Davis and Kate taken elsewhere by the FBI for interrogation, likely a result of Claire Wyden’s earlier lie. Davis does manage to get the MPs off his back, first by trying to convince them to let them go… and when that doesn’t work, he just beats them up. He and Kate sneak around the base and steal the base’s medical helicopter, with help from agent Russell, who hands them the keys and a device to stay in touch.

Primatologist, ex-soldier, and he can pilot? He's a keeper.
While our protagonists fly towards Chicago, the military tries another explosive tactic against the animals, but only makes them angrier. This, finally, convinces them to evacuate the city. It’s probably too late for that. Once again, in a movie where only the main characters really know what’s going on, the military intervenes and makes everything worse. There would probably be a very interesting film analysis to be made about that (and how often it happens), but I’d be way out of my depth.

February 24, 2023

VGFlicks: Rampage (Part 1)

For monsters this big, humans should be akin
to breadcrumbs.
Final film review for now, and yet another franchise I’ve never played: Rampage, an arcade and console classic with games from 1996 onwards. The games are meant to pastiche the kaiju genre, and feature a giant gorilla, a giant wolf and a giant reptile (rights-free Godzilla), born from mutated humans, wreaking havoc on the world, destroying one building, and one city, at a time. I’ll admit I’m not one for the kaiju genre in general; I care more for the humans fighting the threat than for the monsters duking it out. Might be why the film, released to American theaters on April 13th, 2018 and directed by Brad Peyton, appeals more to me.

Well, that and the different take on the genre it represents. I’ll get to that soon enough. This movie is based on a game that didn’t have much in the way of story, so it will be interesting to see what gets added; aside from a woman in a red dress and the three who are turned into monsters, there isn’t much in the way of human characters in the original game (and saying that it has a story would be generous), so the film will likely follow some new protagonists.

There’s no need for a much longer introduction, so let’s jump into this!