This worked out pretty well last year, so with 2022 upon us, it’s time to start a new list! As with 2021’s list, new entries will be added to the top. There’s plenty to play, so let’s get busy:
Valis: The Fantasm Soldier (PC Engine/Switch)
Completing the Valis Collection in reverse, I cleared the first game in the Valis series (although it was actually the last of the initial trilogy developed for the PCE before the release of Valis IV) with quite a bit of difficulty. Some sections toward the end of the game are just as harsh and unpleasant as Valis II, but with the QOL features once again, I muddled through. I beat the Mega Drive version wayyyy back in the day, but now I’m happy to have seen the entirety of the PCE version too.
Valis II (PC Engine/Switch)
Cruising right along to Valis II, another of the Valis series I’d never finished — and if using rewind and save states was helpful for Valis III, I gotta admit those QOL features were all but essential for this second chapter. Some spots in this game are downright brutal! Even with rewinds, I died a few times in the last couple levels just to get through them, because some of the enemy patterns are just awful. Still, it was great to finally see all of part II and cross it off my bucket list. Phantasm Soldier is next!
Valis III (PC Engine/Switch)
The Valis Collection published by Limited Run showed up in my mailbox a few days ago, and the first of its three games that I finished was Valis III. Despite having owned the game on both PC Engine and Sega Genesis for years, I never actually finished it until now! Some of the bosses are a little cheap and brutal, and some of the mechanics of getting through the levels are a bit tricky to figure out, so I will fully admit to taking advantage of the built-in save states and rewind features to get through it, but that made it no less satsifying to finally clear this 16-bit classic. Can’t wait to make it through the other two on the compilation!
Ys: Memories of Celceta (PC)
Yet another Ys entry crossed off my list, Memories of Celceta is the remake of Ys IV, which had two versions (PC Engine CD and Super Famicom), neither of which were released in North America. Anyway, the gameplay style of Celceta is a lot like Ys 7, but from a graphical standpoint it features more realistic character proportions. Yes, it was another fun and addictive adventure, though probably settling toward the lower end of my personal Ys ranking list. Regardless, with three Ys games finished this year, I am getting close to caught up on the entire franchise, so perhaps my next RPG undertaking should be something outside the series…?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and TMNT: Turtles in Time (AC/Switch)
The TMNT Cowabunga Collection (or as I’ve been calling it, TMNT: The Gen-X Mid-Life Crisis Collection) is actually pretty impressive, with no less than 13 games and a wealth of historical artifacts included. Despite my snarky take on it, I was actually pretty excited for this compilation to come out, as believe it or not, I hadn’t played many of the titles on it. So one of the first things I did was to credit-pump my way through the two arcade games. It had been a long time since I played the first one (and I had never finished the arcade version), and I wasn’t even aware that Turtles in Time was an arcade game before it hit the SNES because no local arcades had it back in the day. Anyway, great fun, great nostalgia, and I’m looking forward to dipping into the rest of the Turtles games and finishing some more.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (PS4)
Resuming my “Ys kick” that has led me to the realization that Ys might actually be my favorite JRPG series, I spent the past several weeks playing through the most recent installment, Ys IX. While I enjoyed the game, I’m a little disappointed to report that it’s probably my least favorite entry in the series. Although it’s structured similarly to its predecessor, Ys VIII (and is a direct timeline sequel to it, unless they decide to squeeze a couple more chapters in between them with some future titles), Monstrum Nox is unfortunately not nearly as fascinating or emotional a story as Lacrimosa of Dana. Some graphical issues and, quite frankly, shitty animation, didn’t help. Still, I liked the premise of turning Adol and his new cohorts into a sort of “superhero” team, the characters were likeable though not lovable (admittedly, Dana herself was a tough act to follow — see my Ys VIII entry below), and the game was fun enough to explore, being able to freely run, climb, warp, and glide around the vast town of Balduq. I would probably just not recommend Monstrum Nox as the Ys game to start with if you haven’t played any before. In other news, Falcom has already announced Ys X, which supposedly will feature a younger Adol and will be set around the time of the original two Ys games, Books I & II.
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
Wow, I did not expect to enjoy this game as much as I did! The “cap-ture” (haha I just came up with that) mechanic was very useful, I loved the fusion of Mario-ness with some more realistic enemies and environments but also incorporating some complete bizarre insanity, and the game’s difficulty is definitely on the easy side, making it a fun adventure to breeze through without any of the frustration that some Mario games bring. And can we talk about New Donk City and how that whole area just warms the heart of a crusty old arcade Donkey Kong fan like me? Overall, I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of the 3D Mario games — they’re all right, but I’m not super dedicated to them or anything, which is why it took five years for me to get around to playing this one — but Odyssey is by far my new favorite of them.
Revenge of the Ninja (Sega CD)
Most of my gaming-related time lately has been spent on a laserdisc-game-based PC project that I am working on, which I will have more information about as it progresses. While doing so, I sort of kind of accidentally finished Revenge of the Ninja (aka Ninja Hayate) on Sega CD; a game which, oddly, I have actually never finished before. Turns out it was pretty easy, but it’s the first game I’ve finished on my new project, so that was kinda cool. A definite Dragon’s Lair wannabe, I think Hayate actually stole a bit from Cliff Hanger as well (which is kinda backwards, given Cliff Hanger’s pedigree of being footage taken from some Lupin the Third anime films, turned into a game in the US, then being copied in this Japanese game). Not as good as Taito’s other anime LD game, Time Gal — but of course, if you ask me, Time Gal is untouchable, so I’m a bit biased.
Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
Wow, after sleeping on this game for so long, I finally crossed it off my backlog, and I REALLY liked it. I liked Heavy Rain when I played it years ago, but this was so much better. The cyberpunk theme made much more sense with Quantic Dream’s unique interface, I loved the world design, and I cared about the characters a lot. In fact, I enjoyed it enough that after finishing it, I went back and re-played some chapters just to try different choices and get different outcomes. I’m actually a bit surprised at how much I got into this game!
Final Fight, 19XX, Senjou no Ookami II (Arcade/Switch)
So the other day, I was in the mood to play Magic Sword, so I fired up Capcom Arcade Stadium on my Switch. Then I realized that Magic Sword is not on Capcom Arcade Stadium. I could’ve sworn it was?? Guess I was mistaken. (It should be, though.) So instead, I started playing Final Fight, and realized I had never actually finished the arcade version. After doing that, I moved on to 19XX, and then Senjou no Ookami II (aka MERCS in the west). Even though I had played all of these before, I had never credit-pumped all the way through them (these were made in the ’90s, when that was how they kept you in the arcades — there’s no way I would have 1CC’d any of these), so I enjoyed seeing the endings of these three classics for the first time.
The Shapeshifting Detective (PC)
This is the first title I’ve played from Wales Interactive, a studio specializing in modern FMV games. Yes, FMV games are still a thing, and I have been wanting to try some new ones, so here we are. In this game, you play a detective that can become anyone you’ve talked to, and you use this ability to cross-examine the various characters in order to solve a murder in a small town. I happened to correctly solve the case my first time through, but in doing a bit of looking it seems the culprit can be different depending on how you play, so I’m sure there are several more ways to finish (or fail) the game. I did enjoy it and have added more of Wales’ FMV titles to my Steam library, which I’m looking forward to checking out.
New Pokemon Snap (Switch)
Pokemon Snap on the N64 was the last Pokemon game I bought or played through, and I really loved its chill escapism. So of course, I was looking forward to a new version on Switch. For some reason, this one didn’t grab me like the first one did, but I must admit the Switch is the ideal console for this type of game. Still, I had a good time exploring again, and finished the main story and played through the additional areas that open up afterward, and raised all of them to at least Level 2.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS4)
It takes a long time to finish a 40-hour JRPG when you only have about 45 minutes a day to play it, but after three months I finally beat another Ys adventure. I played the demo of this when it came out and I wasn’t crazy about it, but after hearing so many fans rave about how good the game was, I had to give it a try, and I am happy to report that it was a greatly rewarding experience. Ys VIII continually unfolds into a far more epic and emotional odyssey than its modest opening chapters let on. Despite my initial reservations about the new-to-the-series third-person perspective, all of the beloved Ys tropes and traditions remain intact, from the classic item jingle to the rockin’ soundtrack and anime cutscenes. There’s even an item that allows you to run faster and execute an old-school bump-system attack on enemies! I absolutely fell for Dana and she has easily become one of, if not my very favorite, JRPG characters. Another very worthy installment in this classic JRPG franchise.
2064: Read Only Memories (PC)
This text-and-dialog-heavy, point-and-click adventure has a thoughtful storyline and clear influences from retro games of its ilk. A nicely-realized world and its inhabitants are brought to life with excellent pixel graphics and strong voice acting. Recommended for fans of graphic adventures like Snatcher and Steins;Gate.
Believe it or not, I’ve never actually sat down and played through Rygar! I’d played it of course, but never cleared it, and I was a huge fan of the PS2 Rygar game, but the NES version has been on my shelf forever, unfinished. So what better way to kick off 2022 than by crossing a classic off my bucket list! I did play it on Switch, which was a huge help with the assist from suspend points. No shame, I don’t have time for anything else. I’ll enjoy playing through this again, now that I know how to get through it.
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