Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Community Game-Along 2024 Stream Line-up

Game Along Calendar showing each monthly theme (see bold text in article below for the themes)

For many years now, I've been participating in the Chic Pixel community's game-along events. This year, I'll be back at it again but will also try to give myself a little more leeway to catch up on my backlog.

I've listed each month's theme below with a few games I have locked in for each. These are games I either selected myself or were chosen via Capsule Creds (channel points) redemptions. I also have the number of slots available for games requested by viewers or sent to me by publishers for review. I'll be updating this throughout the year to keep it current.

January: Food-themed Games (and Backlog Catch-up)

  • A Highland Song 
  • Kirby Return to Dreamland 
  • Koa & the 5 Pirates of Mara 
  • Dragon Quest 4

February: Dating Sims (and Backlog Catch-up)

  • The Last Faith
  • Dragon Quest 4

March: Mecha Games

  • Shogo Mobile Armor Division 
  • Panzer Paladin
  • Strike Suit Zero (postponed)
  • UnMetal (postponed)

April: Platformers

  • Panzer Paladin
  • Princess Peach Showtime
  • Demon Turf
  • Rusted Moss (postponed)

May: Games with a Portable Aesthetic 

  • Save Me, Mr. Tako!
  • Prodigal

June: Fashion Games

  • Style Savvy or Fashion Dreamer
  • Alice Madness Returns
  • <1 slot open>

July: JRPGs

  • <2 slots open>

August: Games from Asian Countries (excluding Japan)

  • <2 slots open>

September: Shmups

  • Wallachia Reign of Dracula
  • Strike Suit Zero
  • <5 slots open>

October: Horror

  • Castlevania 2
  • <3 slots open>

November: Visual Novels

  • <2 slots open>

December: Crappy Games (aka "Kusoge"), DOS games, and Backlog Catch-up

  • <4 slots open>

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Dipping my toe into Tokusatsu

Kamen Rider (superhero with a bug-like mask) flexes his bicep

Over the past couple of years, I've been getting more into mecha, both in anime form and model kit form. This has caused me to brush up against mecha's older live-action cousin, tokusatsu. For those unfamiliar, tokusatsu ("toku" for short) is a Japanese TV/film genre that tends to prominently feature superheroes, monsters, and giant robots. Power Rangers and Godzilla are two of the most popular examples in the West. 

Whenever I've been in hobby stores shopping for Gundams, inevitably see some toku kits on the shelf too. And whenever I watch mecha anime, toku shows are often something streaming services recommend I watch next. And you know what? I think it's working.

So I've had my eye out for a toku on-ramp for a little while now. When I heard about Hideki Anno's (of Evangelion fame) recent Shin tokusatsu film trilogy, I figured I finally had a way in. I've now seen all 3, so here's some thoughts on each:

Shin Ultraman poster featuring the titular alien superhero and his human allies

Shin Ultraman - While I had seen a few random episodes of Ultraman Tiga back when it was on TV in the US, I didn't really know what to expect from this movie based on the original 1960s series. To be honest, I found this film a bit hard to get into due to how much of a love letter it was to its source material. By trying to cram as many plot arcs from the TV series into one movie as possible, I found it hard to get invested as a newcomer. However, the passion that was put into Shin Ultraman was enough to have me interested in watching the next Shin movie.

Shin Godzilla poster featuring a silhouette of Godzilla against a red background.

Shin Godzilla - When I was a kid, I had a phase where giant monster movies were my jam, so Shin Godzilla is the entry in this series I came most prepared to watch. And I'll get right to the point, I loved it! The monster designs were fantastic and the human characters felt a lot more fleshed out than those in Shin Ultraman. The film also did some interesting things with symbolism and political commentary; a revitalization of concepts that have faded a bit from the franchise since the days of Gojira. Just thinking about this movie again has gotten me counting down the days until the next Godzilla movie, Godzilla Minus One.

Shin Kamen Rider poster. The hero stands with his iconic red scarf flapping in the wind

Shin Kamen Rider - For this one, I came in almost completely blind. Other than knowing that Kamen Rider is a superhero with a green mask and a motorcycle, I had no idea what I was getting into. What I found was that this was easily the most uneven of the three. For starters, the movie is quite gory, which I was not expecting. The other thing is that the tone fluctuates abruptly from corny or zany to very dark and serious. I'm not really sure how much of this is a reflection of the source material versus a bold stylistic choice on the part of the filmmakers. Despite this, unlike Shin Ultraman, Shin Kamen Rider developed its characters in such a way that helped me get to know them as a newcomer and get invested in their personal struggles. I'm not sure if I can say this was a "good film" per se, but it was definitely successful in piquing my interest in the franchise.

After having this tokusatsu sampler platter with these three films. I'm still trying to decide where to go from here; have I sated my curiosity or do I want to go deeper into the toku rabbit hole? As I wait for Godzilla Minus One to come out, I think I'll keep an eye out toku model kits that look like they'll be nice additions to my shelf. I'm also tempted to look for a shorter Kamen Rider series to try out. Let me know if you have any suggestions!


Saturday, August 5, 2023

Gunpla Progress and Photos

At the beginning of this year, I had the idea of using this blog to post photos of my Gundam/mecha models ("gunpla") and share some thoughts about them. However, this year has been much busier than I expected, and my opportunities to build models and write have been limited. I also kept getting stuck in this loop of feeling that my models or photos weren't quite right, so I kept putting it off.

All that said, it's #Blaugust now and I decided to let go of perfectionism and show you what I've got! Some of these are completed and others are works in progress. Enjoy!

86: Juggernaught

a spider-like robot with a gun on its back

While the anime 86 didn't really grab me, its spider-like mecha designs were pretty cool. I built this one back in the January/February timeframe but it took a long time for the weather to warm up enough for me to be able to top-coat it. At the time, this was one of the most modern kits I had built, so the logically laid out instruction manual that was fully in English was a big change from what I'm used to with my older kits. There's even some flavor text from the anime in the manual to provide in-fiction context to the mecha's design. Being a modern kit, it looked pretty nice as-assembled but I still did some customization: painted the eye with metallic red, panel lining and weathering the fastener heads, then applied matte topcoat. Overall, this was a fun one to build and it was interesting to build something non-humanoid for a change!

Gundam Igloo: Zudah

Zudah stands hold his rifle. His arm sags under the weight

Typically, I don't build Gundams from series I've never seen. However, this one was a thoughtful gift from my sister, so I certainly had to make an exception to my usual rule. On Christmas last year, she sent me a tiny Zudah and on my birthday she sent me the HG Zudah kit. Clearly, she thought there should be a new addition to my "Don't talk to me or my son ever again" gallery and I agree! 

Zudah is a fairly standard early-2000s HGUC kit with one exception... his almost comedically large rifle. The rifle is so absurdly large and heavy that his arm joints aren't strong enough for him to hold it upright. I actually had to modify the arm joint just to keep the rifle from pulling his arm out of the socket! Thankfully, HG Zudah has his son there to help him!

A tiny Zudah model stand beneath the larger Zudah's rifle to help prop it up

Code Geass: Lancelot Albion

Lancelot stands with a sword and each hand and his wings spread wide

When I watched Code Geass back in 2020, I was disappointed to find that there weren't any model kits on the market for it. I thought the more outlandish designs from this series would be fun to build. Thankfully, Bandai pulled through for me and I found Lancelot Albion on the shelf in a local shop last December. It's an HG kit but considerably more complicated than a Gundam would be. I loved the large translucent wings!

Currently, this kit is just in the as-assembled state with one tweak, I used paint on the red and green detail parts rather than the color block stickers it came with. I still plan on panel lining this one and possibly giving it a glossy topcoat instead of the usual matte.

It only felt fitting for mecha called "Lancelot" to defend a castle, so you can see it below guarding my girlfriend's Lego Disney castle. 

Lancelot stands before a Lego castle that is several times taller than him

Witch from Mercury: Beguir-Beu

A basic humanoid robot, it still needs details like weapons and armor

Considering that Witch from Mercury hasn't even finished airing all its episodes, you really can't get much newer than this one when it comes to Gundam models. I've only assembled the basic structure so far, but it's been a real breeze. The instruction sequencing makes it easy to find the parts you need and everything fits together pretty much perfectly. I'm looking forward to finishing this one whenever I get around to it.

Closing Thoughts

Building modern kits and non-Gundam Bandai kits has been an interesting experience! It's nice to just be able to snap things together without having to worry as much about sanding and painting and such. Of course, I'm still planning on working on some of those more involved kits as well, but it's refreshing to shake things up. I'm also hoping to build another kit on my Twitch channel sometime soon.

Let me know if you have any questions about these models (or Gunpla in general) and feel free to share anything you've built recently!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Community Game-Along 2023 Stream Line-up

 

Game Along Calendar showing each month's theme (same as titles in post)
Image Credit: MDi from the Community Game-Along

Making good on a promise from my recent status update, I've put together an outline for my Community Game-Along streams for 2023. If you're new to this blog or the game-along concept, I take part in an annual calendar of events where participants play games from a different genre or theme every month.

Below are the games I already have locked in for each theme. These are games I either selected myself or were chosen via Capsule Creds (channel points) redemptions. I also have the number of slots available for games requested by viewers or sent to me by publishers for review. I'll be updating this throughout the year to keep it current. 

January: Puzzle Games

  • Case of the Golden Idol
  • Entropy Centre
  • Return of the Obra Dinn

February: Dating Sims

  • Stardew Valley
  • Love Plus

March: Music Games

  • Metal Hellsinger
  • Hi-Fi Rush
  • Giraffe & Annika
  • Muse Dash

April: Platformers

  • Curse Crackers
  • NekoTako
  • Sayonara Umihara Kawase
  • Lunistice
  • Klonoa Door to the Phantomile

May: Metroidvanias

  • Ore ga Omae o Mamoru
  • Wonder Boy Dragon's Trap
  • Metroid Prime 2

June: Roguelikes

  • Downwell
  • Dead Cells
  • Hades
  • Shiren the Wanderer

July: JRPGs

  • Alterium Shift
  • Ys 5

August: Games from Asian Countries (excluding Japan)

  • Xuan-Yuan Sword 3
  • Anno Mutationem
  • Raji an Ancient Epic

September: Shmups

  • Cotton Boomerang
  • Sin & Punishment
  • Earth Defense Force 4.1: WingDiver the Shooter
  • Escape from Terror City
  • Dimension Tripper Neptune: Top Nep
  • AK-xolotl
  • Raiden 3 x Mikado Maniax
  • Nova Strike
  • Zero Wing

October: Horror

  • The Mummy Demastered
  • White Day: A Labyrinth Named School
  • Castlevania 64
  • Signalis

November: Visual Novels

  •  Norn9 Var Commons

December: Simulators

  • Star Wars TIE Fighter
  • Forza Motorsport
  • <TBA sim game>
  • (1 slot open)

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Status Update

Considering it's been over a year since my last post, I figured I was long overdue for a status update. In short, I'm still having a blast playing games and creating content about them. However, that content has taken on new forms:

  • My Twitch channel: Over the past three years, I've gone all-in on streaming. I've been doing 3 streams per week lately, and at 3-5 hours per stream, this has taken up a considerable amount of my free time. If you've never caught one of my broadcasts before, they've very chill and cover a wide variety of games (just like this blog has). In addition to streaming games, I also occasionally build Gundam models on my channel.
  • Geek to Geek Media: While I've been affiliated with the Geek to Geek Media Network (GtG) for many years, I was more recently invited to become a member of their writing staff. At this point, I guess you could say I've transitioned from being a blogger to a game journalist? While it's not a paid position (GtG is entirely run by volunteers), I get provided with review copies of all the games I cover, which is pretty nice. Regardless, the types of articles I write for GtG are pretty similar to my posts here: succinct game reviews, impressions, and recommendations. Since it doesn't make sense to be writing about games like this in two different places, you can now find all of my latest articles over there.
  • The Community Game-Along: This annual schedule of gaming events has been near and dear to my heart since the very beginning of this blog. It has also served as a great source of inspiration for blog posts. Nowadays, I mostly use their calendar to plan my streams... but that's not all! I now serve as a member of their planning team and provide input about which events should be added to each year's game-along calendar. In fact, the newest recurring theme on the calendar, Shmuptember, is largely there due to my influence.
So what does all this mean for this blog? In short, I don't entirely know (which is why this site has been dormant for a while). At a minimum, I'm going to keep the site up to serve as an archive of everything I've written up until this point. However, I also have a few new ideas that I hope to implement this year:
  • Stream planning - This blog could serve as a good place to organize which games I'll be streaming for each game-along theme. I think this could be a handy reference for anyone that wants to redeem channel points to add a game to my stream schedule.
  • Gunpla photo gallery - Outside of Twitter and Mastodon, I don't have a good place to share photos of the Gundams (and other model kits) I've built. This idea still even fits my original "tales from the backlog idea" since I have a considerable stockpile of unopened model kits in my cabinet!
  • Miscellaneous musing - While my structured reviews and impressions for games now live over at Geek to Geek Media, I might try to use this blog for more free-form thoughts on games, anime, etc that don't really fall under the banner of "games journalism". It's iffy if I'll actually follow through on this idea, but I at least want to give myself the option if the mood strikes.
With all that being said, I want to give a big thanks to everyone who's been reading this blog over the years. It's been a pleasure sharing my thoughts on games and discussing them with you all. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional sporadic update here and be sure to check out my new stuff over at GtG and Twitch!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Metroidvania May Round-up

With 2D platformers already being one of my favorite genres, #MetroidvaniaMay was a natural fit for me. I decided to spend this month exploring some newer indie games in the genre as well as playing an old classic that I had been meaning to get around to for a very long time. I streamed all three of this month's selections on my Twitch channel

 Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth

I've been looking forward to this one for a while since I was such a big fan of Team Ladybug's previous Metroidvania game, Shin Megami Tensei Synchronicity Prologue (review). Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is based on the Japanese fantasy novel series, Record of Lodoss War, which has previously been adapted into anime and several other games.

Pros:

  • This game's gorgeous pixel art and animations do a great job of evoking the classic look of the anime.
  • Deedlit's proficiency with both swords and bows makes her a very versatile character; it was fun to switch back and forth between melee and ranged attacks on the fly. 
  • Similar to SMT Synchronicity Prologue, Deedlit can dynamically change her elemental strength and weakness. This gives boss battles an Ikaruga-like quality that I quite enjoyed. 
  • In addition to using the bow for combat, you can also ricochet arrows off surfaces to flip switches and pull off some cool trick shots. The use of arrows for puzzles provided a nice change of pace.
Cons:
  • The difficulty curve is all over the place, especially for boss battles. There were some I would defeat very easily and others I would struggle with, but there wasn't a clear ramp-up in between.
  • As much as I liked the element switching mechanic, it was hard to keep track of which element Deedlit had equipped in the heat of the action because her elemental affinity only changes her appearance slightly. Also, the UI feature that shows your current element is at the very edge of the screen and hard to glance over at during a battle.
  • While I'm generally familiar with the characters and story of the anime, the story of this game seems to have been written for players who are caught up on the whole novel series. As a result, the plot seemed vague and unclear to me at times.
Verdict: Most of these cons are minor nitpicks. I can comfortably recommend this game to anyone looking for a mechanically solid Metroidvania.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 8 hours, 12 minutes (98% map completion)

Blaster Master Zero

Inti Creates games are pretty much my jam, with Bloodstained (review) and Gunvolt (review) ranking highly among my favorite 2D platformer franchises. As a result, I was very curious to see how their revival of the NES favorite, Blaster Master, would fare.

Pros:

  • Similar to what they did with Bloodstained, Blaster Master Zero retains the 8-bit charm of the NES game's designs but adds extra detail and color beyond what an NES could render. It gives the games a very appealing Shovel Knight-like aesthetic.
  • I loved the music in this game! So many 8-bit bops!
  • Switching between side-scrolling vehicle sections and top-down on-foot sections gives the game a nice sense of variety.

Cons: 

  • The game felt too easy for the majority of the campaign then had a sudden difficulty spike near the very end.
  • The map features some repetitive level design elements (e.g. rising water/lava/acid) that got old after a little while.
Verdict: While it won't supplant either of my favorite Inti Creates games, I had a lot of fun with Blaster Master Zero and will definitely play its sequels at some point in the future.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion  Time: 10 hours, 48 minutes (100% completion)

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

It may have taken a long time to get around it, but this month I finally crossed one of my biggest gaming shames off the list! Symphony of the Night is one of the defining works in the Metroidvania genre and it has gone on to inspire many others since its original release on the Playstation 1. 

Pros:

  • While the pixel art looks low resolution for a PS1 game, it makes up for it with fluid animations and smoothly rendering many sprites on screen at once (a feat that SNES Castlevania games definitely could not pull off).
  • This game has an interesting and varied soundtrack that blends the retro rock-inspired sounds of the earlier Castlevania games with baroque and jazzy pieces. Part of the fun of discovering a new area of the castle was getting to hear what kind of music it would have.
  • Symphony of the Night's version of Castle Dracula is huge, intricate, and a lot of fun to explore.
  • The game's voice acting and script are terrible but in an endearing sort of way.

Cons:

  • Even compared to the previous two games I played this month, Symphony of the Night had a very inconsistent difficulty. Older Castlevania's are known for their challenging boss battles, but this game's fights were often unusually easy, which made many encounters feel anti-climactic. 
  • Some rooms in the castle spam you with enemies in a way that can get very annoying. This was especially true in an area that spawned infinite Medusa heads while I was trying to solve a puzzle.
Verdict: I'm really glad I got around to playing this iconic Metroidvania game. I could definitely tell that certain aspects of the genre were still being worked out in Symphony of the Night, but I had a good time with it despite some rough edges. Playing this also gave me a sense of appreciation for how much refinement and iteration Castlevania and other Metroidvanias have gone through in the years since.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 11 hours, 31 minutes (best ending route)

Overall, exploring these three games gave me a better sense of the commonalities between Metroidvanias, both in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. I feel like I have a much better sense of why this genre continues to endure and is such a popular format for indie developers to tinker with. 

Note: This post is part of the Chic-Pixel community's #CapcoMonth event. For more info and their full list of events, check out this page: Community Game-Along Master List

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Capcom Month Round-up

For Capcom Month, I decided to color outside the lines a bit with three games from established Capcom franchises and two indie games that are heavily inspired by Capcom works. Taking this approach gave me a great variety of aesthetics and gameplay styles, which made for a really fun and interesting month. With the exception of Monster Hunter, I streamed all of these on my Twitch channel.  Here's a roundup of mini-reviews for each game that I played:

Gunvolt Chronicles Luminous Avenger iX

While technically not made by Capcom, I kicked things off with the third game in Inti Creates' Mega Man-like series, Gunvolt. Rather than playing as Gunvolt himself, this entry follows his rival Copen in his battle against the nefarious Sumeragi Corporation. While this entry still delivered the tight pixel art action the Gunvolt series is known for, I found that I enjoyed this one a little less than its predecessors. Copen's move set doesn't work quite as well for my playstyle as Gunvolt's does and I didn't particularly care for this game's supporting cast. Thankfully, the game featured a great rogues gallery of over-the-top villains and a kicking soundtrack which helped elevate things a bit. Ultimately, I'd say this is the weakest entry in a strong series but still a solid action game in its own right. 

(You can find my review of the original Gunvolt here: Gunvolt Review )

Score: ⭐⭐⭐

Completion Time: 6 hours

Devil May Cry

While I've been aware of the Devil May Cry series since its debut, I didn't actually have my first foray into Capcom's stylish character action series until Devil May Cry 5 in 2019 (DMC 5 review). I had such a blast with it that I immediately added some of the older games in this series on my to-do list and #CapcoMonth provided the push I needed to finally dive into DMC 1 via the Devil May Cry HD Collection. I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite this essentially being an anti-aliased PS2 game, it still holds up great in terms of gameplay and art direction. While there are a few elements that haven't aged well, namely some awkward camera angles and having limited lives with spread-out checkpoints, I still had a lot of fun on Dante's first adventure and will likely tackle DMC 2 & 3 at some point in the future.

Score: ⭐

Completion Time: 6 hours and 25 minutes

Resident Evil 3 (2020 Remake)

Similar to Devil May Cry, Resident Evil is a Capcom series that I didn't fully come to appreciate until fairly recently. After loving Resident Evil 2 Remake and Resident Evil 7 (but having mixed feelings on Resident Evil Zero), I was looking forward to playing another modern entry in one of video gaming's most beloved horror franchises. Gameplaywise, RE3 Remake plays very similarly to RE2 Remake, in that it's a third-person action-adventure game, however, the pacing of RE3 is much brisker than its predecessor. The focus on more linear level designs and big action set pieces gave this game a tone that felt much more like an action movie than a horror movie. Once I got used to that, I had a good time blasting zombies and other monsters as this game's especially badass depiction of the recurring series heroine, Jill. Ultimately, I think I prefer the more atmospheric adventure game approach of RE2 Remake and RE7 but this was still a really fun ride.

(You can find my review of Resident Evil 2 Remake here: RE 2 Remake Review )

Score: ⭐

Completion Time: 9 hours and 34  minutes

Monster Hunter Rise

You've likely noticed a theme at this point, but Monster Hunter is yet another Capcom franchise that I've been aware of for a long time but never really dug into before. In this case, Rise is the first Monster Hunter game I've ever played. I found right off the bat that while the basic gameplay loop is very simple (fight monsters, get crafting materials, make stronger weapons and armor, repeat), almost everything else about the game is needlessly complicated. It took me several hours to get through back-to-back tutorials, figure out the controls, and learn to navigate the clunky UI. However, once I managed to get through all that, I found Rise to be a really enjoyable experience. Having only a limited story and minimal world-building, the single-player campaign is fairly bare-bones but still satisfying, and the online co-op mode is a lot of fun whenever I actually manage to coordinate with other people to play. However, for me, what elevated this game from "good" to "great" was the presentation. I absolutely loved this game's medieval Japanese fantasy setting, catchy music, cute animal companions, and cool monster designs. I don't think I'm going to be someone who plays every MonHun game that comes out, but I'm really glad I took the time to get into this one.

Score: ⭐

Completion Time: 25 hours (Single-player campaign and few co-op sessions)

Nina Aquila Legal Eagle 2

Nina Aquila 2 cover art


After seeing the foundation established by the first game (see my review of Nina Aquila 1 for more info), I was keen to see where this indie Ace Attorney-like series would go next. Improving on the original in almost every way, Nina Aquila 2 offered a much more interesting case to investigate, a more complex story, and some new investigation segments to break up the courtroom drama. However, what set it apart was the scene of the crime: a hotel hosting an anime convention and trading card battle tournament. This opened up a lot of opportunities for humourous writing that mixed legal drama with anime fandom. I also enjoyed the Yu-Gi-Oh-inspired minigame that is integrated into the campaign as Nina gets dragged into the world of competitive trading card battles. While both the minigame and puzzle-solving parts of the mystery felt a little too easy for my tastes, Nina Aquila 2 was still an overall fun and charming package. I'm looking forward to playing the third game sometime in the future!

Score: ⭐

Completion Time: 9 hours



 Note: This post is part of the Chic-Pixel community's #CapcoMonth event. For more info and their full list of events, check out this page: Community Game-Along Master List