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Plastic Guitars

Drum of the Gods

Rhythm games are a fun little niche of video games that seem to go in and out of fashion somewhat regularly. Dance Dance Revolution blew up in the early 2000s, while Guitar Hero and Rock Band dominated the latter half of the decade. I don’t know if Just Dance was ever actually popular, or if Ubisoft just spent billions of marketing dollars to make us think it was. Beat Saber was a massive thing for a while there, a few years ago. Maybe it still is and I just don’t follow the right socials.

In 2022, however, I have found the rhythm game that I believe must have been made specifically for me: Ragnarock. Picture this: a VR rhythm game about drumming, with a Viking aesthetic and a track list consisting almost entirely of metal. This perfect coalescence seems obvious on paper, so I have to wonder how it took so darn long to get it to market. The fact that it was released in late 2020 and it took me this long to discover it is equally mysterious.

Continue reading Drum of the Gods

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – December 2017

End of the line, 2017! It’s been a good’er, I’ll miss ya!

~ Game Over ~

Hollow Knight (PC) – If you’re looking for a Metroidvania that is expertly crafted and hard as balls, this is your game. I look forward to playing it again when it releases on Switch.

Mega Man X (SNES) – Couldn’t remember if I had already run it this year. Had to make sure.

Shovel Knight (3DS) – Sometimes you just need to close out the year by replaying a couple of your favourite games.

Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator (PC) – FNAF6 came out and I didn’t know it until three weeks later. Such is the downside of living in relative isolation. But hey, FNAF6! Hooray!

Chiptune Champion (PC) – A nerdy alternative to Guitar Hero. I may try to rip the music because it’s pretty good, but playing Guitar Hero on a keyboard just doesn’t have the same appeal.

~ Now Playing ~

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch) – It’s not quite as perfect for me as Xenoblade X was, but I’m still having a Goddamn ball. Read more thinks and thoks here.

Hammerwatch (Switch) – Yeah! Hammerwatch! I thoroughly enjoyed playing through this on PC, and I have been waiting for something similar to come to Switch. The real deal is even better!

Pokémon Ultra Sun (3DS) – Trying to play through it with poison-types only. I’ve never done a mono-type run before, and poison is probably one of the harder ones to start with.

Pokémon GO (iOS) – Might as well mention that I’ve been playing here and there to catch some of the new ‘mons. Gen 3 has a lot of my favourite guys, after all.

Skyrim (Switch) – I have barely touched it because Xenoblade 2 is eating all my video game time.

Yooka-Laylee (Switch) – I have barely touched it because Xenobalde 2 blah blah blah….

Volgarr the Viking (Switch) – I have barely touched it because… it’s super difficult and I can’t even get past level 2. But it’s really cool and I’ll deffo give it some more time in the future.

Super Mario RPG (SNES) – Long overdue for a replay. This run is more leisurely and taking advantage of infinitely-spawing monsters and emulator 30x speed abilities to level up quick.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PC) – For some reason, I just don’t care. The original game was excellent, but I cannot be bothered to give even half a shirt about Chloe.

Nine Parchments (Switch) – Just played the demo. Ramblings here.

Adventure Capitalist (PC) – I thought I’d kicked this habit, but then accidentally opened the game (damn Steam taskbar thing) and got sucked into another stupid event for a weekend.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – September 2017

The beginning of the month was a time of plenty, with a vacation week dedicated solely to doing whatever the heck I wanted. And also getting a crown on one of my teeth, but that’s besides the point. Then the dark times came, as I went back to school, and my video game time was subsequently supplanted by studying.

~ Game Over ~

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS) – It’s been 13 years since the last 2D Metroid. The wait was so worth it. The only thing that could make it better is if it were a Switch game.

Chicken Wiggle (3DS) – Completed all the packed-in levels, but as long as Atooi and Talk Nintendo keep making new ones, I’ll keep on playin’ ’em!

Illusion of Gaia (SNES) – I’ve been wanting to replay this for what feels like forever, and finally doing so was my birthday present to myself. A good use of my week off.

Piczle Lines DX (Switch) – For the record, I only beat the Story Mode’s 100 puzzles. There are still another 200+ puzzles to solve in the Puzzle Mode. Hooray!

PAN-PAN (Switch) – A cute little adventure game that took well under two hours to finish up. I’ve come to really enjoy short games like this, and PAN-PAN was very fun and rewarding to solve.

No More Heroes (Wii) – A replay inspired by the recent announcement of the third NMH game.

~ Now Playing ~

Hollow Knight (PC) – Not only is it a sterling example of what a Metroidvania should be, but the difficulty level is perfect. Very tough, lots of dying, but no challenge ever feels unfair.

Death Road to Canada (PC) – This weird zombie road trip roguelike came out of nowhere, and holy cow is it ever a blast to play. I’m not convinced that it can actually be won, though.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4) – At this rate, I’ll never finish it. There are too many sidequests. Too many hunts. A too-big Adamantoise. Too many got-danged fish to catch.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch) – It’s basically a light-hearted XCOM, so yeah, it’s really good. What’s much more surprising is that it’s sort of making me like the Rabbids.

Monster Hunter Generations (3DS) – Say what you will about the MonHun grinding cycle, I find it ever so satisfying and it’s still fun after seven billion hours over sixteen hundred games.

Monster Hunter Stories (3DS) – I think it says a lot that I invested upwards of ten hours in the demo, and still didn’t finish it before the full game was released.

Splatoon 2 (Switch) – I basically just played during the Splatfest, and it was nice to see my team win again after the crushing defeat of Ketchup by Mayo. Friggin’ mayo. So gross…

Pokémon Puzzle Challenge (GBC) – How do you make me like Puzzle League even more? Throw a Pokémon skin on there. Bonus points for being Johto-themed!

Picross NP Vol. 1 (SNES) – I wasn’t seriously playing it. Just booted it up to knock out a few puzzles. As much as I love this collection, the controls are just too… slippery?

Magikarp Jump (iOS) – Might be time to stop including this and Greasy Money on the monthend list. I mean, I play Pokémon Shuffle every day, too, and it hasn’t been mentioned in ages.

TPB: Greasy Money (iOS) – Back-to-back event weekends mean I’m even more invested in this app than usual. But I’m still not going to give them any more of my money.

Rock Band (360) – Played a bunch one weekend; my left hand remained cramped for days after.

King of the Monsters (SNES) – I played exactly one round, and then quit because it was dumb. But it sure did look appealing in Nintendo Power lo those many years ago.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – May 2017

This may be the longest list to date… I don’t know quite how it happened, seeing as I feel like I’ve been playing far fewer video games than usual. Ack! Maybe it’s time to start logging playtime?

~ Game Over ~

Bye-Bye, BoxBoy! (3DS) – Is it the Best Box Boy? Yeah. Yeah it is. They’ve definitely pushed the series as far as it can go, and I’m glad it’s (ostensibly) being retired before it loses its lustre.

KAMIKO (Switch) – I thought “This looks neat, I’ll buy it off the Japan eShop because there’s no way it’ll ever come out in North America” but was stymied because the Japan eShop doesn’t accept my MasterCard. And then it came out in North America the very next week. Welp!

ABZÛ (PS4) – Something about a diver saving an underwater ecosystem from the ravages of machines. I don’t really get it, but it was super pretty. Also, so many cool fishies!

Blazing Star (Switch) – A NEO-GEO shoot-’em-up that is visually amazing (duh). It also taught me what separates a good shmup from an annoying shmup: enemies that soak up bullets. Also most of the playable ships are kind of terrible. Windina is always the way to go.

Stardew Valley (PC) – We accomplished everything that isn’t a horrible slog. Once we acquired the Junimo Hut, it just seemed like there was nothing else worth doing. And so it’s finally over.

Dark Witch Music Episode: Rudymical (Switch) – The title gives away that this is not your average Legend of Dark Witch game. In fact, it is instead a weird rhythm game that demands nothing less than perfection. Despite that, I still kinda liked it.

Destroy All Humans! (PS4) – Bought the PlayStation Humble Bundle just to replay this. Honestly, a little underwhelming on the gameplay front, but I loooove the B-movie aesthetic/plot.

Snipperclips (Switch) – Chopped my way to the end of the single-player levels. It’s a very clever game, but is so much more fun when you’re working with other players. And I say that from experience, having previously solved all the multiplayer stages with a full four-person team.

ARMS Global Testpunch (Switch) – Okay, so I didn’t really “beat” it because it’s just a demo… But I really wanted to list it because it absolutely sold me on ARMS. Of course.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – May 2017

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – April 2017

~ Game Over ~

NieR: Automata (PS4) – Finished up and got that sweet platinum trophy. Loved every minute of it. I laughed, I cried (multiple times), and I have to say it’s a worthy follow-up to one of my favourites.

PaRappa the Rapper Remastered (PS4) – Yeah, I bashed my head against this wall long enough to get to the end, but I doubt I will ever truly understand how to play well.

Blaster Master Zero (Switch) – What a stellar game! The original Blaster Master is much too hard for me, so this reboot was a very nice way to appreciate the game without all the headaches.

The Unfinished Swan (PS4) – A weird little first-person adventure game that is constantly playing with how you get around its world. Read more here.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap (Switch) – Beautiful remake of a TG-16 platformer that I didn’t realize that I already own on Wii Virtual Console. Oh well! It’s definitely worth buying again!

Pic-A-Pix Color (WiiU) – Honestly, I’m as surprised as you are that I’m playing a Wii U game. But then again, it’s picross, so maybe not. Also it’s crossbuy with 3DS, so I’ll likely play it again soon!

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – April 2017

On rapping paper dogs

I was browsing the PSN store about a month back, to see if anything good was on sale. When clicking into the PS+ deals, I noticed that I was able to pre-order a remastered version of PaRappa the Rapper at a discount. I didn’t really stop to think about it, and immediately locked in that preorder. I love the soundtracks to PaRappa and its spin-off, Um Jammer Lammy. Why would I pass up the opportunity to get an HD-quality version of the game?

The game was released this past Tuesday and the answer to that question, my friends, is that PaRappa the Rapper Remastered is almost unfairly difficult, and as a result, is not all that fun to play. It’s a rhythm game that arbitrarily rewards or punishes you for matching the rhythm, despite that ostensibly being the goal of the game. This was the same thing that kept me from ever really getting into the original release.

Now, if you are completely unfamiliar with this game or perhaps the genre at large, it’s actually very simple. Each stage is a song, wherein a character will rap a phrase, and then you have to rap it back at them. This is accomplished by pressing corresponding buttons that appear on a bar at the top of the screen as PaRappa’s icon passes over them. Typically, you want to hit the button right on time, but every other rhythm game will allow a little wiggle room in either direction. You know, because rewarding only perfect timing would be more maddening than fun.

PaRappa… doesn’t follow these rules at all. I spent maybe and hour and a half with the game, and I still have no idea when it actually wants me to press the buttons. It seems completely arbitrary, as even when I hit every note with (as far as I can tell) perfect timing, there’s a 50% chance that the game will see fit to detract points from my score. Sometimes it seems like the game would prefer me to hit the button a little bit ahead of the cue, sometimes a little bit after. This appears to change not even with every song, but with every phrase. It’s literally impossible to suss out what the game really wants from me. At this point, I think it might be actively trying to infuriate me.

Compounding the problem is that PaRappa’s vocals will accompany each button press, and they will totally throw you off. If your timing is imprecise, his raps will be stuttery and incomplete. If your timing is perfect, they’ll flow like a river. But in my experience, the better his rhymes flowed, the more likely the game was to penalize me. For whatever reason, the jumpy stutter-rapping scored better more often. There are options to “Feel the Beat” (enable rumble) and “See the Beat” (I noticed no difference), but they didn’t help at all in figuring out the correct timing.

It’s all really too bad, as the rest of the game is wonderful. The weird paper style of the visuals is a little dated, but I still think the game looks rad. The story that goes along with those visuals is a little formulaic, but it’s cute and usually pretty funny. And like I said before, the music is excellent. These are tracks that I often listen to independent of the game.

If PaRappa was a little more forgiving, I could see myself going back to it to play for trophies and maybe even just for fun, but as it stands, I almost feel like I’ve been swindled on this one. Admittedly, I should have known better, because I’ve been frustrated with PaRappa before on more than one occasion, and I’ve spent countless hours trying to get in the groove with Um Jammer Lammy, which has all the exact same issues. I suppose that I was just hoping that the HD remaster would have a softer touch.

The worst thing about it all, though? I’ll absolutely buy Um Jammer Lammy Remastered as well, if it should ever happen.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – March 2016

If February was defined by Pokémania, then March was defined by… also Pokémania (and to a lesser extent, Zelda mania). Eh, what can I say? I really love Pokémon, and there’s been a lot going on with the franchise these days.

~ Game Over ~

Pokémon Yellow Version (GB) – Playing through this one again was a very welcome blast of nostalgia, and also a little frustration at trying to remember how the mechanics used to work back in Gen 1. Running the game with a team of monsters I’d usually never use was a great way to make it feel fresh again. Hooray for Flareon!

Splatoon (WiiU) – Finally bothered to just hone my focus and complete the single-player mode. It was an absolute blast, and the final boss was something else entirely. I’m seriously hoping that they release another campaign some day, even if it’s just a little eShop title.

Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai (3DS) – Replayed the game in “mirror world” mode, which I guess is just the same levels you already played but reversed? While I may not be as hype for it as I was when it originally released, I still think it’s a solid little platformer.

Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters (GC) – I was testing out some Gamecube games to see which save files on my giant memory card had been corrupted, and popped in Mega Man Anniversary Collection. The save was still good, and somehow I ended up playing through this one. I mean, just one story path as Bass, but that’s still a cleared game, right?

New Super Mario Bros 2 (3DS) – I’ve been wanting to replay this for months now, but always had some other major 3DS game on the go. With Paper Jam and Pokémon Yellow done and dusted, there was no longer any reason not to jump into it. The twist is that this time I played about half the game in co-op mode, which is super fun.

Shovel Knight (3DS) – Do I really need to justify another Shovel Knight run to you? I think I’ve made it pretty clear already that it’s my favourite game.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – March 2016

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – February 2015

February, February… I don’t really have any preamble for February. It certainly was a month.

I bought a New 3DS. That’s a thing that happened.

~ Now Playing ~

Super Smash Bros 4 (3DS/WiiU) – Duh. For the first time, I think I’ve actually spent more time this month playing the Wii U version. Sounds wacky, but Smash is really great on 3DS.

Hyrule Warriors (WiiU) – Thanks to the new DLC pack, this is back in the regular rotation.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS) – The cycle begins anew, and I couldn’t be happier.

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (PSP) – My brother had to re-purchase this for his Vita, and started from the beginning. Helping him work back up to a decent rank was a nice warm-up for MH4.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (3DS) – One of my favourite Zeldas, but with better graphics and a few of the wrinkles ironed out. Terrific.

Lufia: the Legend Returns (GBC) – I didn’t like it at first, then it got better, and now it’s just feeling like a slog. Starting to remember why I don’t play many RPGs any more.

Senran Kagura Burst (3DS) – The shallowest, most action-heavy title on my 3DS. Great for when you just want to kick a bunch of butt without any thought or effort. Also I’m not terribly opposed to all the jiggly bits. The exploding clothes are a bit much, though.

Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii: Osu! Tatake! Ouendan 2 (DS) – Music is what brought me out of my post-separation slump. This is what put the wheels in motion. Mostly I just played “Bambina” and “Countdown” over and over.

Rock Band 2 (360) – Rocked out a little bit. Why did I bother adding this?

Pokémon Shuffle (3DS) – Freemium match-em-up. Now with Squirtles and Kangaskhans!

~ Game Over ~

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3DS) – Like the movie it’s based on, it’s surprisingly not a massive pile of garbage. Not great, but enjoyable. Much better than Magic Pockets’ last TMNT game, anyway.

Elite Beat Agents (DS) – Eventually I was Ouendan’d out, and moved into something a little more North American. Played obsessively for a week until I was able to be “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” on Sweatin’ difficulty. These games are so fun, I would really love to see another sequel…

Resident Evil HD Remaster (360) – Still a good one. Just a few tweaks away from being my ideal RE experience. Like, get rid of the crimson heads and busywork “puzzles” and it’s golden.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: April 2014

In March I tried to focus on fewer games, getting my count of beaten games up, and cleaving away a small portion of my backlog. But then April came along and I have just been all over the place with my gaming; playing on every platform, new games, old games, half-beaten games. I guess it’s like that rubber-band effect that happens to people who try to lose weight the wrong way.

This month’s list is huge, but at least I beat a lot of the games on it. Lately it seems like I’ve been favoring a system of working on one or two long games, while supplementing that with a bunch of smaller games that can be beaten over a couple evenings or a single afternoon. It’s a good system, and I wish I’d thought of it years ago. Maybe then my backlog wouldn’t be so enormous.

~ Now Playing ~

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate HD (360) – Unlike many, I quite liked the first Lords of Shadow game, but the 3DS sequel seemed so tepid that I skipped it. Luckily, Mercurysteam saw fit to release an HD version for $15 only a few months later, which then went on sale, and that sounded good enough to me. And, yeah, it’s pretty much as mediocre as the reviews make it out to be. Oh well.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: April 2014

Nostalgia trippin’

Hey, so does it mean you’re old when just the air can cause waves of nostalgia to wash over you? Because I’m totally getting that right now. It’s been a beautiful fall day, and the first real one as far as I’m concerned, because it’s just got that feeling to it. I love this weather, and it brings back memories of everything I’ve ever associated it with. I have no way to properly convey these feelings in words, but I can feel them in my heart and I need to get them out somehow, so I kept a running list of every memory that came back to me today because of the cool autumn air. Here’s what I got:

  • Trick-or-treating in general
  • Beating Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes for Nintendo 64 one Halloween night
  • Playing Silent Hill for the first time
  • Daily visits to the Heath Sciences Center
  • Watching Criminal Minds on Stephanie’s laptop in my car
  • Guitar Hero 5
  • Visiting a small corner store downtown that smelled like curry, and buying Pepsis at said store which also smelled of curry
  • Treehouse of Horror
  • YTV’s Dark Night specials
  • McDonald’s Halloween McNugget toys
  • Driving around with the family to look at Halloween houses
  • That old McDonald’s Halloween cassette tape. “Spooky Sounds” or something of the like?
  • Pokémon Silver Version
  • The beginning of Christmas madness at Toys ‘R’ Us
  • Donkey Konga
  • Traipsing through yards covered in crunchy, fallen leaves
  • Finally earning my driver’s license
  • Purchasing my first car (I still love you, Spirit)
  • The beginning of hockey season, and all those dreadful practise sessions
  • Carving jack-o-lanterns
  • The last family trip to Fargo
  • Chasing a bunch of egg-chucking hooligans down the street while dressed as the red Angry Bird
  • Playing Rock Band 2 at a Halloween party, and my sister-in-law commenting at how intense I looked while I was playing
  • Creating the alias “Tito Sanchez” for reasons I cannot recall
  • Going to a corn maze and haunted house with a group of friends, and being thought of as a goofball (not in a good way) by the females of the bunch.
  • Playing Magical Starsign in the upstairs storeroom of Toys ‘R’ Us instead of working
  • My brother’s friend Brent dressing as a woman for Halloween, and being called “Brenta” for many years afterwards
  • Not giving out free cookies to trick-or-treaters at Tim Hortons
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, for some reason. I don’t know why, because I never played that at Halloween time
  • Pillsbury cookie rolls, with pumpkins coloured into them!
  • Enjoying those cold, foggy mornings where nobody’s around and silence abounds
  • The many times I said I’d participate in (or at least check out) a zombie walk, but never did
  • Pumpkin pie
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Specifically, “This is Halloween”