- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 369
I’ve decided I really don’t like Metroid Dread for the same reason I really didn’t like Metroid: Samus Returns. Aspects of the game implemented to solve a prevalent problem make the game not fun. I am, of course, talking about the aiming problem, and the melee counters.
Enemies can attack from every direction. In past games, the resolution was so low, you didn’t have to aim: if the enemy or weak spot was in the same square as the beam shot, it registered as a hit. But now, the resolution is so high, you can’t get away with that.
Aiming in this game is pretty piss-poor. Because there's really only one usable direction input (while there are two on the Switch, you can't use the second and also fire the gun), you have to press a button to enter "aiming mode", then push the analog control stick in the direction you want to aim. Because it's analog, and because its resolution is ridiculous, it's unbelievably difficult to aim precisely.
Retro Studios already solved this problem, and rather eloquently: locking on. By pressing a button, Samus locks on to the enemy. Even in Metroid Prime 3 / Trilogy, where the controller’s movement was incredibly intuitive to aiming, you could lock on. It worked VERY well. But, I guess Nintendo didn’t want to “rely on a crutch”, so they give the player another crutch, and then force you to use it.
The melee counter is actively the only way to defeat MANY enemies, in both games. Yes, you can use charge or missiles, but… not really.
Melee counter incentivizes you to use it in a number of ways: most enemies against which it works can’t be harmed otherwise, or it would take too long. You get significantly more rewards for killing with a melee counter. But why did they incentivize it so hard?
Because it SUCKS.
Holy crap, does melee countering suck. If there were another way to defeat these enemies, literally everyone would use it, even if it meant taking the time to aim (which is SUPER-awkward).
The way the melee counter works is, an enemy will telegraph an attack with a little sparkle, and if you hit the melee button within the correct time frame, you "counter" the attack and auto-aim on the attacking creature, giving you another brief window in which to fire once, instantly killing said creature (the game explains this off as "the creature's guard is down from being surprised by such an attack")—in other words, an even bigger crutch than just giving the player an auto-aim feature. Hell, even Other M had auto-aim, and it's WIDELY panned!
And the timing is TERRIBLE. This is literally, wait for the enemy to flash then hit X, but only in this brief window because otherwise you could either get hurt (regular enemy), get SEVERELY hurt (boss), or be instantly killed (E.M.M.I.). And yes, the E.M.M.I. are one of the enemies susceptible to the melee counter, although in their case, they aren't killed, simply stunned long enough for you to run away. And that's assuming you nail the timing, because that's the tightest timing in the game. You know, something that's introduced to you within the first ten fucking minutes, because it's THAT important of a mechanic.
But, if that’s how they fixed the aiming problem, doesn’t that still have the problem?
It sure does! Which is why fully three fourths of the enemies in both games (Metroid Dread and Metroid: Samus Returns) can only be attacked with this method.
A method they HAD to incentivize, because it fucking sucks.
Who thought this was a good idea?
This is most exemplified in the first boss fight in Metroid Dread, a creature called Corpius. They really should have just called this fight QuickTime Events: The Boss, because that's all it is.
In the first part of this fight, we see the aiming problem presented whole-hog: You need to hit the bastard in the face, which is a ridiculously small portion of its total body. Any hits registering anywhere else on his body, including missiles and charge shots, are absolutely worthless. Hits to his face MUST be missiles or charge shots to do damage. And, of course, he can move his head around, like literally any creature you'd expect to encounter. So, RARELY is the head at a level where you can just hit it. This means you have to actively stop and aim, and if you're out of missiles you have to PRAY you have enough time to charge a shot. There is exactly one good window for this: Corpius attacks by stabbing down with his tail, which predictably gets stuck in the ground. If you're inside the tail's radius, you have a second or two of free-range to aim and fire at his (still constantly-moving) face. If you're outside the range of his tail, tough titties: You can't shoot through or around it, and while you could use the opportunity to charge up a shot to unload once the tail is free, good luck AIMING.
If you do manage to get through Phase 1, Phase 2 introduces a weak spot on the tail. Corpius is then shown to have a sort of cloaking ability (which, naturally, you obtain upon his defeat), but this weak spot glows even in that state. In this case, it's a simple matter of aiming at the weak spot and firing literally anything—this spot is vulnerable to regular, uncharged shots. In spite of the aiming problem, this is hands-down the easiest part of this fight.
Then, we get a third part: The creature knocks some paneling off the wall, revealing a spot to grab that's elevated from the floor. This is important because this is where Corpius begins breathing a toxic gas along the ground, forcing you to seek refuge higher up. Alas, staying here for very long makes you a sitting duck—you can't move, so while aiming is significantly easier, the boss can easily just wail on you. This phase can't really be damaged; you simply shoot it enough to get it to go into its "vulnerable" state, which allows you to slide under the creature and—you may have guessed it—it telegraphs a stab-down of its tail with a sparkle, meaning you have to melee counter. You do this TWICE to finally, FINALLY defeat this singular first boss of the game.
After I finally beat this boss, which took something on the order of ten tries—for the record, I don't suck at video games, and in fact made it through the entirety of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, a game notorious for its steep learning curve, in a matter of a few hours on my FIRST playthrough—that was kinda the point where I stopped having fun with the game. Because I saw this aiming problem as the crux of the issue I had with it, and realized that the melee counter was Nintendo's rather shitty way of trying to deal with it.
Several months later, I was watching a Let's Play-er play through the game on YouTube, because at that point I'd basically decided I wasn't going to play it long enough to ever see the story myself.
Something incredibly edifying about watching him play it was, he was having a lot of the same issues I did, and identifying them as such. He correctly pointed out that the overabundance of counter-attack opportunities (something else he pointed out as being the case) was likely due to the fact that aiming sucks, especially while you're trying to play an action segment.
He also encountered a problem I had, that I hadn't thought of as a major issue with the game until I saw him run into it: There are many, MANY multiple points in the game where it feels like you might've soft-locked yourself. (Soft-locking is where you have locked yourself into a situation through software; the alternative is hard-locking, where something in hardware goes horribly wrong and the game stops playing. In both cases, you cannot progress.)
The game plays extremely linearly, to a massive fault in terms of a Metroid game, more so even than Metroid Fusion, a game noted for its problematic linearity. However, the game also wants the player to backtrack and re-traverse large swaths of the map, in order to make the game feel less linear. As a result, there are many points where it is extremely non-obvious what the game expects you to do next, and especially if you wind up in a spot where you can't backtrack—EXTREMELY common in this game—it feels like you've made a massive mis-step and are now proper-fucked.
I got into that state in an early part of the game, where it was not at all obvious I was supposed to break some blocks in the ceiling; the room looks like a pickup room, just with the expected item hidden, so while it's absolutely a dead end, it doesn't FEEL like a dead end. Earlier, the game informs you that, if it ever feels like you're stuck, you should try shooting the walls to see if there's some hidden block; unfortunately, this then means that these shootable blocks are incredibly hidden, and not at all obvious. Because the game tries SO HARD to have realistic, immersive settings (which work, and are absolutely stunning as the game progresses), things like breakaway blocks just blend in with the scenery. This is then made actively WORSE by blocks that can be destroyed with Speed Booster, since those are all incredibly obvious.
In the player I was watching's case, he got stuck because a door he was expected to go through, he'd already been through, but at the time he went into it, the room was super-heated and he couldn't progress without taking massive damage. What wasn't obvious was, a room much much later that dissipated that heat, dissipated it from that specific room. So he spent upwards of half an hour scouring the map, looking for the one little spot he must have missed, because otherwise it felt like he'd soft-locked himself.
NO GAME (least of all one based on exploration) SHOULD EVER, EVER EVER EVER, MAKE THE PLAYER FEEL LIKE THEY'VE IRREPARABLY FUCKED UP FROM SIMPLE MOVEMENT. This, right here, is the BANE of Metroid Dread.
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 1537
It's been a long time since I last played a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, in fact way back to the first pair. I owned Blue Rescue Team, and I remember enjoying it. The story was interesting, though I didn't get very far; the game came out during a rough time in my life, so I didn't spend a lot of time playing video games. Even so, the premise is hard to forget: It's a Rogue-like, but with Pokémon! And also you're a human who has inexplicably turned into a Pokémon. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is a remake of those first two games, Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, and from what I can tell so far, it's pretty faithful to the source material.
This game starts off in exactly the same way as the original on which it was based: You wake up in the Pokémon world, discover you're the selected Pokémon when your chosen partner finds you, and start your journey. A mother Butterfree runs into the two of you, terrified about her child, a Caterpie that has fallen into a newly-opened fissure in the ground and is now surrounded by hostile Pokémon. The two of you rescue it, and thus start your Rescue Team: A group of Pokémon that take it upon themselves to rescue others in trouble.
Truth be told, I'd wanted to play other Mystery Dungeon games, but the timing was never good for me. So, now that this game is out, I look forward to attempting to play through it again, with updated graphics. These graphics, incidentally, are pretty nice, designed to look and feel like a children's picture book; on the opening menu even, you can hold the minus button to "Admire Illustration", to get all the menu items off the screen so you can see the illustration being used as a backdrop. It's a nice touch! It means Nintendo recognizes aesthetics are an important part of this experience, if they want to make it feel new and fresh.
That having been said, I'm a touch disappointed that there doesn't appear to be any new material, at least not thus far in my playthrough. I've gotten to a point where, without giving away too much, a Diglett gets kidnapped by a Skarmory; this is still quite early in the game, and there's plenty of the old material to still work through. It was my biggest complaint with the Secret of Mana remake Square Enix released two years ago, that, while it was nice they'd updated the graphics, they brought essentially nothing new to the table, that it played exactly like the original and might as well have been just a straight port. I don't know; we'll see.
As of right now, I can say the game is every bit as charming and intriguing as I remember the original being, so it does have that going for it. Alas, since Blue Rescue Team was a DS release, and DS games can still be played on 3DS systems, aside from the admittedly-wonderful graphical update, I'm not seeing a huge draw to playing this over the original on still-current hardware.
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 1609
When I first saw this game originally on the XBox One, it actually almost made me want to get that console, just for the one game. It's an adorable-looking platformer from an independent studio — always a plus in my book — it looked like an amazing, fun time!
And then they announced it for the Nintendo Switch, except this was NEW Super Lucky's Tale. Which is, apparently, actually kinda new? I don't know; I never followed through on the XBox. But what I've heard is that there are new elements to this title. I couldn't begin to say what those elements might be.
But it's amazing! New Super Lucky's Tale is just about the perfect game for the Nintendo Switch. It's every bit as cute as the cover art made it look (plus looks fantastic besides, with an amazing style), and it's a lot of fun! I've only played the first area, but even with that, it was wonderfully fun to collect everything and 100% the area. It appears at first glance that every area has four "pages" to collect: One for a certain number of coins collected in the level (the first was 300, but that might vary), one for collecting the letters LUCKY, one for completing the mission of the area, and a "secret" page given by a puzzle.
I do have a few complaints, but they're minor. In particular, the speed Lucky walks at is rather slow, and there doesn't appear to be any way to "run"; the speed works really well for the platforming puzzles, but then when you just want to move around the world it's kinda painful. The other thing is the loading; while this happens kinda rarely, it takes a long, long time. I understand loading things takes time and I'm certainly not faulting that, especially since the game doesn't dump you into a loading screen for every single character interaction like some other, well-known, AAA games *coughSonic'06cough*, but they do take quite some time.
Still, the game is a blast to play, and with how few collectibles there are in each area, it's definitely a good game for just about anyone. Give it a shot, especially if you like platformers!
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 1338
So! Pokémon Sword / Shield.
Let's address the elephant in the room: No, I'm not happy about the lack of the National Dex. In fact, that was the final deciding factor in my opting not to get the game, at least not yet. While it is certainly not the first generation of main-line games I've not obtained shortly after launch (Gen I took me maybe a year because, while I'd seen it in store ads, I had no idea what the games were; and I only got my first Gen IV game, Platinum, maybe a year ago), it's definitely the first game in the series to come out and actively make me not excited for its release before it released. I wasn't a fan of X/Y, and generally hated Sun/Moon (with US/UM barely making the base game more playable, but shoehorning in all sorts of extra crap that... I'll be getting to later), but, when Sword/Shield were announced, I was actually excited, hopeful. And everything they said after that initial announcement made me much, much less so.
So, right now I'm watching someone else play through the game, because in addition to not really feeling the game, I especially wasn't feeling paying almost twice what every other Pokémon game has ever cost for something with almost half the actual content. And at the moment... yeah, I'd probably have fun if I were to buy the game here in two months when the price drops, but I'm feeling pretty justified in my decision.
First, this game gives the player the ability to customize their character far more than pretty much any game thus far; while a lot of similar content was in S/M/US/UM, this gen takes it to a new level with updated hairstyles, makeup options, and a larger selection of now UK-inspired clothing. (These new games take place in the Galar region, which is analogous to the real-world island of Great Britain.) While I totally understand the desire to create your character as yourself, to make it a proper self-insert and whatnot, I feel like an important part of the charm of the older games was the fact that your player-character was, in fact, their own character; sure, all their decisions were ultimately made by you the player, but the direction of the game was itself influenced by the character these PCs had. Silver might not have been your huge rival had you not been Gold, and you might not have tried to chase off Team Rocket from the Lake of Rage; Brendan and May (and Wally)'s relationship wouldn't have blossomed the way it did were it not for any of those characters being themselves. The self-character is an integral part of the story; otherwise, you're just some kid at an amusement park.
Which brings me to my next issue. Arin Hanson I feel voiced this the best when talking about The Legend of Zelda, up to but not including Breath of the Wild: Tourism. The game directs you along, tells you where to go and what to do, which isn't playing a game; it's being given a tour. "Look at this amazing world we created! Guess Corviknight's weight: Win a prize!" And look, let me just say up-front: The Galar region is amazing. It's the reason for my statement above, that I'd probably have fun playing the game in spite of my issues with it. But, this game does exactly what the last two Gens did, holding your hand as it forces you to see and do all they've added to this game.
Look, I know the game needs tutorials, and of course this is far from the first game to have this issue; hell, even Gen I effectively forced you to follow the game's path by adding things like cutable trees and pitch-black caves to block your forward progress until you finished a specific task at hand, often beating a gym or knocking back Team Rocket. But see, there's still a difference:
Okay so, going back to Gen III, Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald: This generation added a new thing, Pokémon Contests. These were effectively beauty contests, but with a little more depth; in addition to beauty, there were contests for each of a given Pokémon's stats, including things like "Cool", "Cute", "Clever", and "Tough". The overall winner of a given contest was not for a given category, but for their overall score regardless of category. This also came with a new mechanic called PokeBlocks, itself a new means to use the Berries introduced in Gen II; with these, you could combine Berries into Blocks, which would change (generally improve) the stats of each of those categories. The Block mechanic was... confusing at best, requiring a weird sort of four-player match-up, and I never got the hang of it; however, while I never really participated in the Contests myself, it was a fun thing to just exist in the world, something that made the world feel more complete, more fleshed-out. But that's just it: At least in the first two (because I never played Emerald), it was present, and the game told you it existed, but you could absolutely just bypass all the Contest locations with no issue. They were a fun part of the game; that's it. Alas, the Contests were dropped in the very next Gen, though I believe the PokeBlock mechanic was retained sort of?
In Gen VII, the aforementioned S/M/US/UM, they introduced a new form of battle called Battle Royal (sic). This form of battle involves four people, and as the name suggests, it's basically a free-for-all, with the last one standing declared the victor. There are a few more rules than that, but that's kind of the gist. It can only be played in a specific location; in other words, it's similar to Contests, a fun little diversion that doesn't actually affect the story in any way and can easily be ignored if that's just not your thing. But, that's just it: These games, you can't ignore it; in order to progress through the story, you are literally forced to play at least one Battle Royal, pitted against Hau (your rival), Gladion (a boy your age who I guess is supposed to be this game's Silver, but, not quite?), and "The Masked Royal", Professor Kukui (the region's professor). This battle does not move the story along; it does nothing to or for any of the characters involved, least of all the player. It exists solely as a tutorial: "This is how you play this part of the game!" But that's just it: If I never wanted to play that part of the game, well fuck me because we're doing it, god dammit!
And this is far from the only similar infraction in that Generation: You're forced to go clothes-shopping. You're forced to try a Malasada. Hell, in US/UM, you're forced to interact with the Photo Club at least once, and to play the Mantine surfing minigame at least once (even though ferries do exist between the islands, and are infinitely faster without the added stress of worrying about minigame bullshit).
You can have a tutorial occur as the beginning of the thing, if someone approaches said thing and actively tries to participate. You are absolutely allowed to have the great big Battle Royal stadium in the middle of the island where it's super-obvious, where players will seek it out because it's interesting, and then start up the tutorial if it seems like they're actually interested in playing it. These sorts of things are FINE. But ripping me out of the game I'm playing, the game I'm actually fucking enjoying, because you want to show me some pissant bullshit you put together for this game. NO. BAD. STOPPIT.
And Sword / Shield immediately started with this.
They'd introduced the concept of the Wild Zone in one of the Nintendo Direct videos a few months back, and as soon as they did, the first words out of my mouth were, "Well, can't wait to be torn out of my game to be forced to experience that." And sure enough, literally on the way to the first Gym, the train you're riding just happens to be blocked by a flock of Wooloo, right at the damn Wild Zone station. You are forced to play that section of the game before you can even get your first badge.
Now don't get me wrong: I actually like the Wild Zone concept (not so much the Dynamax, but...); in a base game, I'd probably play the hell out of that area. It'd be better in my opinion if the wild Pokémon you could see in the overworld only existed in the Wild Zone like that, but, you know, it's still fun. You get to go camping for the first time in a Pokémon game! You get to make bloody curry! (Not, bloody curry, I'm just, I'm trying to affect a British thing.) It's actually a super-cool fun thing, and you advertised it in a Nintendo Direct leading up to the release of the game! So why, WHY, did y'all feel the need to force players to go through it!?
And it's just, it's a problem indicative of the direction of the Pokémon series as a whole: You can't just experience the game anymore; you're not allowed to plow through the story and "Catch 'em all", because they put these new things into the game and you're going to experience them at least once, dammit! Which, ultimately, not only puts me off that new and interesting thing you just put into the game, but puts me off the entire game as a whole. By holding my hand and guiding me through your world, you make me less interested in your world.
Sword and Shield DID back off on this a little bit; you're not FORCED to go clothes-shopping, for example. But it's still an issue endemic to the series as of right now, and I genuinely think The Pokémon Company needs to take a step back and re-examine their reasons for doing it. If you're doing it because you think players will have fun with it, but won't try it for themselves, all you're doing is ruining it for the players; this is the exact same mentality behind forced reading assignments in English class, and more often than not it just ruins what would otherwise be perfectly good books. There is NO reason for there to be freaking homework in a damn video game. And if you're doing it because you don't think players will have fun with it or hold any interest, guess what? It needs to be removed from your game.
Which brings me back around full-circle to my opening arguments: The National Dex problem.
Look, I get it. With this new Generation, there are now AT LEAST 890 Pokémon. Back in Gen III, when Iwata re-wrote the game's database to allow for a larger variety of Pokémon and ultimately made it so small and compact they were able to add things like new stats, Abilities, and Natures, it was a Big Deal; it was such a big deal in fact that, there simply wasn't a means to trade backwards to the previous games, no matter how much I wanted to. It made completing the National Dex actually impossible in that Generation until they released FireRed and LeafGreen. (This was easily, EASILY, my biggest problem with Gen III and the primary reason I stopped playing that game, and ultimately skipped Gen IV.) BUT: They released FireRed and LeafGreen, specifically for that reason. At the time, there were only 386 Pokémon, and so completing the Dex wasn't an insurmountable feat. Frankly, I would claim that 890 Pokémon isn't either; hell, that's a lower number than the highest number I've ever actually sequentially counted to (2000, and could've kept going). BUT, I get it: As a database grows, so does its drain on a system, and if that database isn't well-optimized, it becomes an exponential problem as it gets that much bigger. Iwata's no longer around to help them out, and it seems like the folks programming Pokémon right now don't know a whole lot about database programming; it's something of a niche even in Computer Science. I totally get it.
And here's the other thing: Gen VII did a number of other things I fucking hated too, and one of those things was the Ultra Beasts. These are Pokémon that are literally from other dimensions, creatures that technically, truly cannot even really be called Pokémon, but the game treats them as such. And there were a lot of these bastards. They were effectively those games' Legendary Pokémon, including the damn Legendaries that served as the games' mascots, Solgaleo and Lunala. Outside of those games, without the Aether Foundation, there is little excuse for those "Pokémon" to exist, to even be seen. Yes, you've got the aforementioned two and Necrozma, all three of whom are capable of punching holes in spacetime and traveling willy-nilly wherever they please, but ultimately, those Pokémon were Gen-specific for reasons of story. Similarly, the Tapus were also region-specific (though that didn't stop the Lake Spirits of Gen IV...). Effectively, Gen VII cut itself out of a different cloth deliberately, and in doing so made it near-impossible to reconcile including a lot of new Pokémon from it in later Generations.
So, there are good reasons for a good number of Pokémon to be cut. And with the database problems being what they are, I'd probably be content trying to collect everything in the Galar Dex. But, there are SO MANY good Pokémon, so many that almost always wind up getting cut because they simply aren't "popular". And if they had to cut the Pokedex down in order to deal with database issues, that means they actually cut certain Pokémon entirely out of this game; otherwise, the database issue would still be present, just slightly less visible. And that's effectively what they did when they fully disabled trading to previous Generations anyway, so.
And also... look. Different regional Forms do make sense, but... stoppit. You're trying to cash in on nostalgia, when frankly the best way to do that is just to include the damn base Pokémon. Quiddit. I love the Galar Form Zigzagoon and its new Obstagoon evolution, but... fucking, stop. If I had to choose between keeping all the old Pokémon and getting the National Dex, and having all these new Forms, it'd be National Dex, hands-down.
Pokémon is many things for many people, but in my opinion the most fun thing is the thing the series became known for early-on: "Gotta Catch 'em All". And if I can't do that, the game feels like a massive waste.
There's probably more to say on the game, but frankly this other person I've been watching has only just gotten started, and these were just my grievances that have been brewing since ~2013 that weren't addressed or even attempted to be acknowledged in this Generation. We'll see if anything more rubs me the wrong way as they progress.
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 1643
Truth is, I've been waiting for this game for years.
Japan got this release back in 2016, and Square Enix has been sitting on it ever since, uncertain whether they even wanted to release it in the States. As Seiken Densetsu 3, referred to in this title and the upcoming remake as Trials of Mana, was never released in the US before this collection, I suspect they weren't sure if they even should. In the end, I'm glad they did, though I do wish they'd done just a bit of work polishing the releases.
I started playing Trials of Mana a few nights ago. It's... interesting. I'm certainly not saying it's bad; it's a fantastic game, and graphically feels like the logical next step after Secret of Mana. Gameplay, it feels rather different, which isn't entirely a bad thing; I actually like the fact that you can just get right into attacking without waiting for a cooldown. The menu system will take some getting used to; while the round-robin quick-access item menu is essentially the same and there's nothing wrong with that, the character menu, which is where you have to go to do things like equipping new armor in this game, is radically different, much slower, and an all-around unpleasant experience. While I do still wish we'd gotten this game back when it first came out, in that aspect I'm kinda glad it got shelved. The mechanics for doing anything more complicated than direct attacking are basically never explained; while this was also true of Secret of Mana (save for the use of magic, which was explained but also trivially easy), it wasn't exactly difficult to figure out. Trials of Mana uses a sort of Tech system? I think? Based on what GameFAQs are telling me? Which, again, never explained. Maybe it was explained in full in the Japanese manual, which I've not really found this game's manual yet. (Switch games are frustratingly difficult with their manuals, as they're all "electronic", on the card itself.) One thing I'm not a fan of so far is how the story is basically being narrated to the player; I'm playing the game to experience the story for myself. I want to be the one who learns with the player character what exactly is going on; I want to experience the story as it unfolds, not as it was told to me. Maybe it gets better about that, I don't know. I've not gotten very far; my primary character is Kevin, and I've only really just picked up the third party member. I've literally only picked up Lumina; if I'd been playing Secret of Mana, I might've made it to Gaia's Navel in the same amount of time. For what it is — a faithful reproduction of the original three entries to the iconic Mana series — it's exactly what it needed to be, nothing less but nothing more. It makes me hope the upcoming Trials of Mana remake is good.