Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin Review

I can’t remember if I finished the original incarnation of Dark Souls 2, and I’m not really sure why. I really (really really) loved Demon Souls. I thought the original Dark Souls was amazing and added so much to the Souls formula. For whatever reason, though, I never really got into Dark Souls 2. Turns out skipping that entry was fine because Scholar of the First Sin improves on many aspect of Dark Souls 2‘s gameplay, adds in all the previous DLC and makes it an overall amazing experience.

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Final Fantasy 5 Four Job Fiesta

So, I haven’t been able to pump out SNES reviews as quickly as I would have liked. I started on Final Fantasy IV (SNES Final Fantasy II) and just couldn’t get into it. I’ll try again in the future but…I have a hard time getting past the terrible translation. I may try to play through the GBA version via the GCN GBA Player so I don’t have to look at a small screen.

I am, however, going to start on Final Fantasy V. It’s a game I’ve never played and it seems really interesting. It made it’s debut in 1992 on the Super Famicom but was not released in the U.S. on the SNES. So, technically, a SNES game, I’m counting it. Final Fantasy V eventually made it’s way to the U.S. on the PS Final Fantasy Anthology (which I owned but never played, the load times are insane) and then later the GBA.

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ActRaiser Review

ActRaiser Box Cover

– I changed the battery on this board, it wasn’t saving anymore. Changing the battery was terrifying, I was convinced the battery was going to explode if the solder got too hot.
– The ‘b’ button is to confirm selection, and ‘y’ is to cancel. I guess that makes sense, the rightmost button is used to confirm, left to cancel, but why not ‘a’ to confirm, ‘b’ (“back”) to cancel?
– You’re playing a god and some evil guy has sealed your powers.
– In order to restore your powers, you have to play through a platforming level and beat a boss.
– Once you beat the boss, you go into a sim mode and build a town. Your townspeople ask you to do stuff like burn bushes so they can build houses. They need a god’s help to burn bushes to build houses.
– Flying around the overworld makes great use of Mode 7

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Super Castlevania IV Review

Super Castlevania IV Box Cover

– The controls don’t always feel tight.
– The jumping physics seem odd, even in the SNES era. Can change directions but still feels stiff.
– No battery, game uses a password system. 4×4 grid, composed of holy water, axes, hearts and empty spaces. I’m going to store the codes as I go, here’s one:

w e e e
a w e h
e w e a
e h e e

[a = axe, e = empty, h = heart, w = holy water]

– The music is fantastic and easily the best part of the game.
– Boss can sometimes be super easy, you can kill them so fast you don’t even see all of their moves.
– There is frequent slowdown even when a lot isn’t happening on screen.
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RETRO Game Magazine

I love video game magazines. I also love retro games. Putting the two together and creating a retro gaming magazine might be the best thing, ever. Unfortunately it’s 2013 which means there aren’t a ton of video game magazines left, let alone ones focused on the retro gaming scene. In fact, as far as I know, there’s only one currently, Retro Gamer. It’s great but there two downsides to the magazine:

  • It’s really, really expensive (check out the subscription rate).
  • It’s British so it has a somewhat different retro focus then a U.S. magazine would.

Other than that it’s an excellent magazine, which is why I’m hoping the Kickstarter for RETRO hits it’s goal. The one year subscription is reasonably priced and it’s U.S. based. They’ve also got a great list of contributors to back the magazine, as well. Mike Kennedy, the man behind the Kickstarter, is also a part of the awesome Retro Gaming Roundup where I initially hard about the project. It’s a super long (like, 8 hours or so) monthly retro podcast.

I’m not sure why they chose a trailer filled with literally zero content except pre-rendered mockups and dubstep.

Capcom Makes 150 Gold DuckTales NES Cartridges

To promote their newly released DuckTales Remastered, Capcom sent out 150 gold DuckTales NES cartridges to the press. It’s the same game with a gold painted cartridge and updated label. While it may not seem like much, this pisses me off because a) they seem like great collectors items, b) they actually work, c) they were made by iam8bit (who went all out with the reproductions) and, most importantly…d) I didn’t get one. Just like fucking Mega Man 9. I’m not bitter, it’s cool. Whatever. I don’t even care.

I even checked on eBay, out of curiosity and there are none at all listed.

[Capcom made 150 golden NES copies of DuckTales for the press: Here’s how they did it]

SNES Repro – Secret of Mana 2

Secret of Mana 2
Secret of Mana 2 (Seiken Densetsu 3) Japanese cover art.

Secret of Mana 2 (Seiken Densetsu 3) was the first reproduction I purchased and has really drawn me into the whole reproduction world. I’m a huge fan of the original Secret of Mana, it’s a terrific action RPG that was released by Square in 1993. At the time the sequel never made it to the U.S and we wouldn’t see a new game in the Mana series until Legend of Mana on the Playstation (which, in my opinion, was not nearly on the same level as Secret of Mana).

That all changed in 2000 when, thanks to a fan translation, the English-speaking world was able to enjoy a game that, I think, very much improves on the original and is one of the finest games to grace the SNES.

As a side note, to clarify the U.S. vs. Japanese naming conventions… The first game in the series was called Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden in Japan, while it was called Final Fantasy Adventure in the U.S. So, the numbering is off by one for the other release (Secret of Mana/Seiken Densetsu 2, Secret of Mana 2/Seiken Densetsu 3). Square just loved screwing with this stuff in the SNES era.

The game starts with you choosing three out of six possible characters to play as which you’ll control throughout the course of the game. This aspect offers some nice replayability, you’ll only see the storyline from these characters perspective. As with Secret of Mana, while the player controls one of the characters, the computer handles the other two. You can give the computer controller very general commands about how to handle themselves (if they should use abilities, which enemies they should target), which is a nice addition over the original.

Also new is the level up system. As you characters gain levels you’ll be able to customize which of their statistics to increase (strength, vitality, luck, etc.). Additionally, when they hit level 18 (and have a special item), you’ll be given the option to choose either a light or a dark class upgrade. Each variant offers unique skills and is another way to further customize your characters. This branching choice happens again at level 38, so each character can ultimately be one of four different variants (light light, light dark, dark light, dark dark). It’s a really cool system that adds even more to the replayability of the game.

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SNES Repro – Treasure of the Rudras

Treasure of the Rudras' Japanese Box Art
Treasure of the Rudras’ Japanese Box Art

Lately I’ve been into purchasing reproduction SNES carts on eBay or through 3rd party sites like Timewalk Games. “What in the hell are reproduction SNES carts” you’re probably asking. Well, basically, these individuals/companies are creating physical SNES cartridges that play either a) games only ever officially released in Japan with English translation patches applied to them or b) fan-made hack of existing games. Super Metroid Redesign is an example of a fan hack to make the game more difficult (apparently Super Metroid hacking is HUGE).

I’m a little more interested in the English translations of games that were never released in the U.S. There’s just a ton of great SNES-era games that never made it here, and I’m intrigued by the fact that now, roughly 20 years later, people are releasing physical reproductions of these games. It’s super niche, but there’s certainly a market for it. Also, the allure of not knowing for sure what I’m getting is kind of awesome.

One of the latest repros I purchased, through eBay is Treasure of the Rudras (Rudra no Hihō, a.k.a. Treasure of Rudra). Originally released in 1996 by Square, it’s an RPG were you combine words to make your own mantras (spells). You can create awesome sounding mantras like “pefaongnujin” or “bulvugnuegod” (those are actual mantras you could create). Mantras are generally broken down into three parts; there is an element core (lightning, dark), combined with prefixes and suffixes which can modify the power, how many enemies the spell targets (single or multiple), or add additional status effects like poison. You can also learn unique spells from enemies while playing through the game.

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