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  1. This article contains MASSIVE spoilers for the fan fiction Sonic Burst: Rise of Ashura. It is highly recommended that you read Episode One of Sonic Burst before reading this article. It is also recommended that you read part one before reading this part.

    Spoiler

    Where we last saw our heroes, the Freedom Fighters (sans Antoine) and Amy Rose were en route to the Miracle Planet via the Freedom Stormer when a pair of roboticized dragons chased them down. Accompanying these dragons was Metal Sonic, who had an... 'altercation' with the real Sonic and wound up capturing him. But as Sonic distracted his metal copy, Amy and the other Freedom Fighters managed to escape through use of warp rings that Amy was wearing as bangle bracelets. Having reached the Castle of Light, what fate will befall the Freedom Fighters?

     

    -- The Castle of Light (branching plot event cutscene)

    This sequence was glossed over in the story version of Sonic Burst, with Amy only telling Antoine about it in retrospect, but in-game, how it plays out varies depending on how the player handled previous situations with Amy. If Amy is still tied up, all proceeds the same way as it does in the story, with Captain Skulk Blackfoot (a female black-footed ferret and the captain of Queen Elena's guard) assuming the worst of the Freedom Fighters and locking them in prison, also negatively affecting the Esteem levels between the parties involved. However, if Amy is not tied up, Skulk lets them into the Castle of Light without further incident. Either way, Amy still leaves the Castle of Light on her own after hearing from Skulk that Tiara B. has left for Mobius to look for Amy herself and hasn't come back yet. If the Freedom Fighters have not been locked up, Amy briefly considers asking them to help her, but considering what just happened to Sonic, Amy's pretty sure they don't want to help her with anything else, so she goes alone.

    ...wow, just writing this has made me painfully aware of several plot holes in my original version of this chapter. How does Amy even know that Sonic's survived his drop of doom? Why doesn't Amy just use her warp rings to bust the Freedom Fighters out of prison? None of this makes sense anymore...

     

    -- Knothole Village Zone (again)

    The plot now takes us to the Lake of Rings, where Antoine is standing guard until Amy arrives from a Warp Ring to tell him that Sonic's in trouble and they need to help him. Regardless of whatever traumas Amy may or may not have inflicted on him back in the first boss battle (the dialogue options available change depending on those actions' effects on the characters' Esteem for each other), Antoine recognizes a chance to redeem himself when he sees one, and after pocketing the Power Ring from the Lake of Rings, decides to do the one thing he'd sworn he'd never do: re-activate Rotor's 'old project,' none other than a refurbished Ro-Becca. This leads them to the storehouse where Rotor's projects are kept, where a bit of exploring can net the heroes some more items and equipment before reactivating the most accursed abomination of the SatAM series.

    This is the first time in the game where the player has multiple characters to explore with, and while traversing the overworld, the player can switch back and forth between active party members with a key press. Different party members have different skill sets that can open up new exploration paths that wouldn't have been possible with other characters, but (usually) everyone shares the same inventory because it would be awkward otherwise.

     

    -- Character Profile: Amy Rose

    Sporting her classic look, Amy is a speedy physical attacker with a few tricks up her sleeves, or should I say -- her rings? Given Sega's current push towards emphasizing her magical abilities (no, I'm not putting the Tarot cards into this concept, ever), and the fact that I needed to explain how she travels between Mobius and the Miracle Planet to begin with, I made her bangle bracelets into Warp Rings because it just made so much sense. Amy isn't nearly as skilled with warp magic as certain other characters in the series (one of which you'll be meeting shortly), but she can use them to attempt to block/redirect attacks towards foes. And of course she has her trusty Piko Piko Hammer, which deals massive damage and can also smash obstacles in the overworld into collectible resources. She does suffer from Glass Cannon Syndrome, though, being an eight-year-old girl that's in over her head, and she's more vulnerable to Talk commands from the enemy. Being on the same team as Sonic will boost her morale, but if a specific foe knocks Sonic's HP into the red, she will become fixated on fighting that foe specifically until it's fully defeated.

     

    -- Character Profile: Antoine

    While SatAM Antoine bore no weapon, Sonic Burst Antoine has been gifted the sword he had in the Archie comics, which is labeled "Guardsman's Sword" in his equipment list. This sword is used both in attacks and in a couple of unlockable field moves as the story progresses, with Antoine learning to use his blade to pogo-jump (yes, really) and to dig into vertical walls and launch himself high in midair (yes, also really). He'll also get a new field move called "Para-Suit" where he uses his royal guard uniform as a parachute to slow his fall, and all of these field moves will come with a corresponding in-battle skill to make tracking them down more worthwhile. Naturally, these will all have to be discovered as the game progresses, because if Antoine had already known them beforehand he wouldn't have been... well, the butt of everyone's jokes for the entire twenty-six episode series.

    Antoine is pretty frail defensively (of course he is) but specializes as a speedy physical attacker who's got plenty of experience in dodging attacks. While Antoine has trouble committing to a battle when the going gets tough and is prone to panicking mid-battle and refusing to follow orders, pairing him with characters he has high Esteem for -- or that have high Esteem for him -- can help him power through his weaknesses and synergize with his teammates' battle strategy. His language disability adds an interesting wrinkle to his interactions with the Talk system, as he won't always understand what others say to him, often limiting the effectiveness of teammates' cheers and foes' taunts as well as affecting his ability to use Talk commands himself, sometimes with unexpected and/or hilarious results.

    Antoine has high Esteem for most of the Knothole Freedom Fighters (particularly Sally), but his Esteem level for Sonic is abysmal. And it's absolutely mutual. As rivals, if Sonic and Antoine are in the same party, if one of them gets a critical hit on an attack, the other will immediately get a free automatic attack in on the same foe to try to one-up the other. In all likelihood, this can and will be abused in certain builds; however, it will also negatively affect the pair's Esteem levels towards each other, so it has its downsides.

     

    -- Character Profile: Ro-Becca 2.0

    The most hated SatAM character of all time is now sporting a new look to make her fit the Sonic art style better and seem more around the age range of the core Freedom Fighter group. (I'm still debating whether it would be in extremely poor taste to make her species 'cougar;' sure Antoine was of legal age in the Archie comics but I don't know if I want to carry that over into Sonic Burst and besides everything about how she expressed her crush on him was still messed up.) This version of Ro-Becca thankfully seems to have no memory of her previous personality, though as a recently created artificial intelligence she's still not the most self-aware or perceptive of the Freedom Fighters. She does however pack a punch with the ability to use a myriad (and upgradable) assortment of power tools built into her limbs to interact with objects in the overworld to open up new paths, and while her rocket feet have a cooldown phase so as not to be overpowered (the length of time she can use them increases with upgrades), they're still pretty useful.

    As a robot, Ro-Becca is understandably weak to Fire, Lightning, and Water attacks; however, she's immune to Poison. She has a high Attack and Defense due to how she's built, but lower Speed due to her bulk. I was tempted to give her a status move where she tries to infatuate her opponent(s), but let's be fair -- she's terrible at that, and I don't think anyone really needs the level of PTSD that would give Antoine (and the fanbase). But it's part of her character (okay, actually, it's kind of the only part of her character in her official appearance), so I guess I'll give her the ability to only infatuate other robots, though this doesn't have an 100% success rate.

    While Ro-Becca starts out with high Esteem for Antoine despite memory loss from her reprogramming, he definitely does not reciprocate. She will sometimes encourage Antoine in battle to try to boost his effectiveness, but how Antoine reacts will depend on his Esteem for her -- when they first start out, he might actually lose effectiveness in battle if she pays him too much attention, becoming distracted or skittish.

     

    -- Dumpster Drive Zone

    Ro-Becca takes Antoine and Amy into a junkyard where they must scavenge for supplies to build robot disguises to break into Robotropolis. Ro-Becca's ability to interact with and repair broken technology and Amy's ability to smash obstacles into resources will both come in handy navigating the junkyard. This Zone is expanded from its role in the story version in that it's inhabited by badniks that must be fought and culminates with a battle against a multi-headed amalgamation of various badnik parts that has grown semi-sentient and seeks to destroy the intruders that have 'robbed' its domain. (No, it's not actually the Krudzu Hybrid Hydra, largely because I have plans for the Krudzu and it wouldn't make sense for it to appear in this form at this point in the storyline.) It's also a prime dumping ground for visual references to various bits and pieces of tech seen all throughout the series, including the robots that Sonic's destroyed over the course of the SatAM series.

    This Zone is also where Amy makes a passing mention of the Ring of Acorns, but when Antoine presses further she tells him to 'forget I said anything.'

     

    -- Boss Battle: Titan Scrapnik

    The Titan Scrapnik battle is difficult in that it has three different heads, all with varying attacks, and the player must read its tells to determine which head is readying an attack and attack that head before it can fire anything. (I haven't decided what badniks specifically the Titan Scrapnik is based around, other than one of them is Coconuts and Antoine eventually wears its head as a mask, which ties into subsequent plot events.) While there is always the option to attempt to use a Talk command with the Titan Scrapnik, attempts to calm it down will show that it is not a thing that can be reasoned with. However, turning its multiple heads against each other through words or through baiting one head into misfiring on another in battle will make this boss easier. (Perhaps Ro-Becca flirts with the Titan Scrapnik and its heads start fighting over her?) While it's possible to brute-force the battle, turning the Titan Scrapnik's heads against each other will lead to an extra dialogue sequence at the end with Amy musing on how the infighting between the heads was its undoing, which gives Antoine some food for thought as to his attitudes towards his more aggravating teammates. As such, getting this ending slightly increases Antoine's Esteem towards Sonic, Amy, and Ro-Becca.

    The three heads of the Titan Scrapnik are crafted into the badnik masks that Amy, Antoine, and Ro-Becca wear as part of their disguises. In addition, certain parts from the Titan Scrapnik can be crafted into the Scrapnik Sword for Antoine, the Scrapnik Drill for Ro-Becca, and the Scrapnik Hammer for Amy. However, you won't get enough materials from Dumpster Drive Zone to craft all three of them just yet, forcing the player to choose how to spend their current resources. Clearing out all the resources in Dumpster Drive Zone provides enough materials to craft any one of the Scrapnik equips, while if you cleared out all the resources in Rotor's storeroom as well as in Dumpster Drive Zone, you'll have enough resources to build two Scrapnik equips. Eventually the player can obtain enough material to craft all three of the Scrapnik equips, although it should be noted that not all branching choices in-game will have this level of flexibility.

    In addition, now is as good a time as any to say that the equipment you get early on will be upgradable at certain points in the game if you have the resources to do it, so you don't have to worry as much about your favorite equipment falling off the ladder due to power creep... but there's no guarantee you'll be able to find enough resources to max out every single equip in the game by the time the credits roll. Economies are built on limited resources, after all, and this is a war zone we're talking about.

    Once you've crafted and equipped all of the badnik disguises, it's time to move on with the stealth mission.

     

    -- Robotropolis Zone (Act One)

    While the story version just has Amy pulling out her Warp Ring and transporting the trio into Snively's workroom, that doesn't really open up much room for exploration, so Robotropolis Zone is a full-on infiltration mission. With the badnik disguises, most of Snively's mooks (badniks and SWATbots) won't bat a metal eyelash at you, but it's still possible to engage in combat for experience points if you so desire... but getting into too many fights will alert the other badniks that you're not on the level and make them aggressive towards you, so don't think you're above consequences for your actions.

    Robotropolis Zone contains a fair number of technological devices that Ro-Becca can interact with to unlock more paths and secret areas.

     

    -- Workroom of Doom Zone

    Robotropolis Zone Act One ends with Amy, Antoine, and Ro-Becca reaching Snively's workroom and searching it, discovering (among other materials, including enough resources to craft the final Scrapnik equip assuming you've made the other two) Amy's other warp ring and Tiara's Shifter Scepter. This tips Amy off that her bestie's been kidnapped, and she uses the Shifter Scepter to warp to the Robotropolis prison cells to find her. Unfortunately, this wave of magical energy sets off the alarms in the workroom, triggering an encounter with Scratch and Grounder for Antoine and Ro-Becca.

    Depending on whether you blew your cover in Robotropolis Zone Act One, Scratch and Grounder may mistake the Freedom Fighters for actual badniks and send Antoine (disguised as Coconuts) to clean out the Robotropolis toilets (which is what happens canonically in the fanfic), or they may recognize the 'badnik impersonators' that have been wreaking havoc on their kind and engage in battle. Perhaps the disguised Antoine must try to keep his cover up with a series of questions Scratch and Grounder throw at him as to why 'Coconuts' isn't doing his job, and failing this questionnaire triggers the boss battle. (To be fair, any bot with an ounce of sense would immediately recognize Antoine's horrific mangling of the English language as suspicious, but these are Scratch and Grounder we're talking about, so there is in fact a nonzero chance of them buying it.)

     

    -- Boss Battle: Search and Smash Squad (Antoine Route)

     

    (No, I am NOT going through the trouble of listing their full title from AoStH. We all know who they are.)

    Scratch and Grounder are tougher customers than you might think from their official depictions as joke villains, especially with Amy the heavy-hitter absent from the party. Defeating them through sheer force alone is possible, but won't be easy, especially as they will mercilessly taunt and bully Antoine and Ro-Becca throughout the battle, inflicting statuses and debuffs if successful. However, the Talk command can be used to turn their words against each other, as they will each try to one-up the other in battle and exploiting this can lead to distracting them or even turning them against each other rather than the heroes. If Ro-Becca manages to successfully flirt with them, she can even make them fight each other over her. Defeating them will get some unique resource drops that can be crafted into special equips, including Scratch and Grounder disguises for the pair and a new "Drill Blade" for Antoine made from Grounder's drills that inflicts Earth damage.

     

    -- Robotropolis Zone (Act Two)

    If Antoine and Ro-Becca fight and defeat Scratch and Grounder, they both head through Robotropolis Zone Act Two as a team in their new disguises. If their cover is not blown, then Antoine gets sent through Robotropolis Zone Act Two on his own in his Coconuts disguise, and as such certain pathways and secrets will be unavailable due to not having Ro-Becca to interact with things. As such, there's a benefit to intentionally blowing your cover to trigger the Antoine Route, although there's a significant difficulty spike compared to the Amy Route (detailed later on below).

    The endpoint of Act Two is the latrines, where Antoine manages to find Robotnik's old PDA, a Nicole-like pocket computer that's going to be important later on in the adventure.

     

    -- Prison Cell Zone

    Amy must explore the Robotropolis prison cells in search of Sonic and Tiara, smashing open prison cells with her hammer along the way to free captured Mobians. (One of these may be Fang the Hunter, who doesn't stick around to thank Amy and just rushes off, picking her pocket in the process and making off with a sizable amount of her rings.) There are also prison cells with badniks locked in them, which Amy can talk to through the bars, learning that not all of the badniks are pleased with how Snively's running the place. Freeing the badniks may or may not have unintended consequences, as some of them will attack Amy if she's also freed Snively's prisoners or if she's smashed any other badniks, but others will give Amy gifts of resources or rings in gratitude before running off before she can smash them. (Yes, I know some players would be tempted.)

    When Amy reaches Sonic and Tiara, Tiara scolds Amy for messing with her Shifter Scepter and for using her warp rings to sneak off to Mobius to begin with, triggering a conversation where the player gets to choose whether Amy tries to defend her actions or tries to move the plot back to where (she thinks) Antoine and Ro-Becca are. Either way, Amy eventually takes them back to the Workroom of Doom Zone, where either Antoine and Ro-Becca have already left Scratch and Grounder in pieces, or Scratch and Grounder are having a somewhat unnerving conversation with Ro-Becca, whom they still think is a badnik and quite frankly they're kind of... put off by her attempts to sound enthusiastic about working for Snively. (She may have lost her stalker instincts but she is still entirely tone-deaf with overbearing tendencies.)

     

    -- Boss Battle: Search and Smash Squad (Amy Route)

    So this is why Scratch and Grounder are tougher to fight as Antoine and Ro-Becca: they're actually balanced for a four-character party of Sonic, Amy, Tiara, and Ro-Becca. The trick of turning them against each other still applies here, and they're significantly easier to best with the party of four, but you're still gonna have a time against them. It should be noted that Sonic fights at a significant disadvantage, having been starved of food and water in Snively's prison cells, so he's not gonna be running at full capacity for this battle. In his current mental state, he may insist on charging in anyway (refusing to acknowledge the player's commands), and the girls may have to use Talk commands to convince him not to be too reckless...

    This is as good a time as any to state that healing items come in the form of chili dogs, and that many stages (including Robotropolis Zone) contain vending machines where the player can buy various types of chili dogs and status healing items. Also, one-ups look like computer monitors because while it makes no reasonable sense in-universe, I wanted to call back to the one-ups in the classic Sonic series and you can't stop me.

    Defeating Scratch and Grounder still nets you the same loot drops as the Path One fight, but since Antoine isn't present, you can't exactly give him the Drill Blade because he's not around at the moment. Not to mention that regardless of whether you fight Scratch and Grounder here, the scene still ends with Metal Sonic showing up with an army of too many badniks to fight, promptly re-arresting everybody and sending them back to the cells again. Yes, there are a surprising amount of plot rails for a game centered around choice, but there's an upper limit as to how many branching timelines I can keep track of here, especially at the beginning.

     

    -- Character Profile: Tiara B.

    Tiara's overworld ability comes from her first and only (canceled) game, Sonic X-Treme, where in at least one version she was to wield a scepter that would allow her to warp between foreground and background layers. She won't be the only character who possesses warping abilities, but thus far the other one(s?) I have planned won't show up until the endgame, and since Sonic Burst is planned to have twenty-six episodes, it's gonna be a while before we get there.

    Tiara herself has pretty unremarkable stats, but her real power is in her Shifter Scepter's warp magic. The scepter can not only allow Tiara's attacks to hit through foes' protection, but it can redirect any successfully blocked attack aimed at Tiara to hit the foe who launched it. The effectiveness of these deflections varies based on the foe and their attack type, taking stats and the elemental system into account, but like Tiara's own attacks, deflected attacks will hit through any protection the foes may have, possibly including armor but I'm not sure how I want armor to work in this game. As the story progresses, Tiara eventually gets an upgrade that allows her to use warp magic to slam two foes into each other, causing variable damage to both depending on the sizes of the foes involved.

     

    -- Snively's Throne Room (conversation/cutscene)

    Metal Sonic takes the captured Sonic (wearing an inhibitor ring on his head; think the rings on top of the captured Mobians in Blast to the Past pt. 2) to Snively to face interrogation. Snively, being Snively, takes great pleasure in using a plate of delicious-looking chili dogs to try to tempt the starving Sonic into breaking. Sonic, of course, will never break for the likes of Snively, but we see the first signs of Sonic's eventual descent into Dark Sonic form in this scene. Once Snively realizes that his attempts are worthless, he declares that he's going to roboticize Sonic instead, and Metal Sonic leads him off to his presumed demise.

    ...of course, you know that's not going to happen in Episode One, but Sonic doesn't.

     

    -- Roboticization Chamber

    When Metal Sonic brings Sonic into the Roboticization Chamber, depending on the player's choices earlier in the game, either Antoine comes to save Sonic alone, or Ro-Becca comes alongside Antoine. If Antoine comes alone, he's captured pretty quickly and put in the roboticization chamber alongside Sonic, but if he comes with Ro-Becca, they have enough combined power (mainly Ro-Becca's, obviously) to break Sonic free of his restraints and have the three of them challenge Metal Sonic together. This doesn't mean that Antoine coming alone forfeits the win condition, though, as Antoine will manage to free Sonic from his restraints and give him the Power Ring even if he's locked in the roboticization chamber, and Sonic will escape the chamber by spin-dashing through the top of the machine, destroying the roboticizer in the process.

     

    -- Boss Battle: Metal Sonic

    This battle will be harder or easier depending on if you fight it with Sonic, Antoine, and Ro-Becca, or only with Sonic. However, this is the first battle to reveal the Burst mechanic, which is activated by a Burst Gauge meter that increases as you take certain actions and gives the user a new temporary 'super form' (not necessarily a Super form, if you get my meaning) for the rest of the battle.

    Sonic's Burst form is Dark Sonic, and his Burst Gauge is filled through blocking hits, taking damage, taunting enemies, and even throwing shade at his own companions in battle (which has the trade-off of dropping their Esteem for him). Most of Dark Sonic's attacks take on the Dark element, and while his power levels increase dramatically, he can be difficult for the player to control and will sometimes ignore commands, especially if a certain foe has pissed him off. However, in Sonic's weakened state, he's more vulnerable to attacks, and he may need Antoine and Ro-Becca to distract Metal Sonic from attacking him.

    Notably, actually defeating Metal Sonic isn't necessary if you're only fighting him with Sonic, as the events of the Sonic Burst story will play out canonically with Antoine using Robotnik's PDA to trick Metal Sonic into the roboticization chamber and trap it in Sonic's own restraints; however, this scene does not play out if both Antoine and Ro-Becca are present, and having all three Freedom Fighters on the scene makes it necessary to defeat Metal Sonic the old-fashioned way.

    Regardless of how Metal Sonic is defeated, Dark Sonic will collapse from exhaustion, the remaining teammates will arrive on the scene (having escaped the prison cells on their own), and the group of five will all escape through use of Tiara's Shifter Scepter. The group also learns that oh, by the way, Amy's assumption that the Freedom Fighters' Time Stones were the same Time Stones stolen from the Miracle Planet? The whole thing was a complete misunderstanding. Ouch.

     

    -- Knothole Village Zone (epilogue)

    Sonic is checked into the Knothole Infirmary, where the resident medical expert (a pink female polar bear named Nursa because I absolutely refuse to use Dr. Quack) diagnoses him with dehydration and heat sickness and declares that he needs rest and rehydration for the next few days. Sonic is not thrilled about this, of course, but it is what it is.

    Antoine, meanwhile, is off on his own, having a conversation with Robotnik's PDA. Turns out the thing has pretty much the same level of sentience as Nicole, isn't happy about its programming forcing it to help Robotnik do all these terrible things, and wants to take advantage of a loophole in its programming not giving Snively the same privileges by helping the Freedom Fighters take down the little man with the big nose. It also introduces itself as Aster X, hinting that it was given to Robotnik by a not-at-all-nice associate of Robotnik's that Antoine should hope he never meets.

    This completes Episode One, but the player does get some optional sidequests they can run before starting Episode Two, such as searching out medicinal herbs in Great Forest Zone for Nursa to treat her patients, or searching Dumpster Drive Zone for parts to upgrade Ro-Becca. Which character you play as during these sidequests is up to you, although of the five characters introduced in Episode One, Sonic is not available to play as at this point, as he is currently recovering. Which character does which quest will also affect Esteem levels, and some quests might have branched paths with different endings depending on the player's choices.

    Sneak preview of an upcoming blog article:

    Spoiler

    So one of the weirder things about my psyche is that when dealing with a creative effort that requires multiple pieces, I try to gather as many different pieces as possible, then practically keel over with decision paralysis immediately afterwards because I now have way too much stuff to choose from. That was one of my main reasons for restarting my Animal Crossing: New Horizons save file completely from scratch, because I wanted to try to build a new island from the ground up starting with the limited resources the game gave me initially instead of spending the literal millions of Bells I'd accrued from months', possibly years' worth of obsessive-compulsive hot item grinding while watching YouTube videos on my laptop. (I may not be as repentant on the subject as I'd prefer to be. Riches are fleeting and so are we, and nowhere is this made more clear than having your entire save file deleted.)

    Going in to my new island, I had an idea in my mind as to what theme I wanted to run with, something that played to my personal tastes and fully embraced the anthro aspect of the game's villagers. Furry fantasy is my jam (so long as it's, well, not... look, we all know that kind of furry subculture is rampant and the less we speak of it the better), and the concept I eventually decided on was 'Redwall-core.' Stories like Redwall, Mistmantle, The Green Ember, medieval-era fantasies played out by furry actors. To quote S.D. Smith, 'rabbits with swords.'

    Unfortunately, once I got onto my island and realized my village fruit was oranges, I realized that maybe the game was trying to tell me to aim for something a little more tropical in vibe.

     

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    GAME 64: GRADIUS (NES): 100% COMPLETE

    One of the earliest games I played for the 52 Game Challenge is Truxton, a top down space shooter for the SEGA Genesis that was a ton of fun to play: Even for subsequent loops. With that experience down and out, I decided to venture our further into the world of space shooters. And what better entry to try than what can be argued as the defining game of the genre: Gradius! Specifically, the NES port.

    Gradius_(U)_-!--0.png

    While Truxton was top down, Gradius is a classic side scroller. And after experiencing the rewarding mayhem that is Truxton, what did I think about this infinitely more famous franchise?

    It's fine. Granted, with some caveats.

    Gradius-Double-Dare.GIF

    Gradius is one of the first of its kind, so naturally it isn't exactly rich in the mechanical department. It's as simple as simple can get: Avoid shit, mash the fire button. Can't give it too much crap for being a trendsetter rather than a game changer, if you know what I mean. But as such, it can be seen as rather basic.

    And that's all I can really say for it. It's a basic shooter. It's incredibly hard, too. There are ton of obstacles that are very, very easy to be killed by that it's borderline cheap. Otherwise, the game would just be very short... and it is, cause I used Rewind. So it really did come out as a very quick and easy experience, but hey, that's fine by me. I like 'em short and sweet.

    But I can definitely see why this game was sold at full price then. Nothing screams the 80s like being stupidly hard for compensating for short development time and resources.

    sulcox6ij0aa1.thumb.png.ace00958b902179b2ef866ba0ac3c83b.png

    But what's funny about Gradius is the progression. Unlike Truxton where the game tells you how far you are to the ending, Gradius just continually goes on as one long extended level. Then you beat a boss that you didn't know was the final one... and that's it! Definitely caught me off guard.

    My biggest problem with Gradius though are the power ups... or what I assume are power ups. The little notches on the bottom of the UI like MISSILE or LASER. I don't know if I've been playing the game wrong or something, but they don't seem to make any major difference in the gameplay.

    Again, I don't mean to compare it to Truxton since Truxton came out so much later... But Truxton did power ups so much better, I'm just saying. Cause Gradius isn't exactly what I call a gratifying experience in terms of feeling like you're getting more powerful the longer you stay alive. It just becomes boring after a while without any spice to your ship through the journey.

    So all in all, Truxton is a very satisfying, brilliant space shooter that's a ton of fun.

    Oh, and uh. Gradius is alright too, I guess.

    GAMES FINISHED: 64

    GAMES COMPLETED: 58

     

     

  3. ....Where do I even begin to get original with this idea?

    Sonic And Mario, Mario And Sonic. These two have a reputation of a Blazing Rivalry since 1991, and onward. Some see them as Two Different sides of the same coin, others see them as Two, unparalleled mediums that triumphs over the other: Character, abilities, feats, and many, many more. Some could never see this come together at ALL, but some do. and that some is me.

    Call me crazy, but if done right, these worlds could definitely live together. The idea is Simple: What if Mario And Sonic Lived in the same universe? From their first game to their recent, how would it work? Well, with the Help and ideas of AI, I've been Wigging out to post this for a WEEK, but, with so many ideas, I have to post this into 4 parts for better writing, and to digest the 4 different Environments. This one is the iconic Mushroom Land!

    This all started with A topic I made, and a question I Inquired: How would These two coincide? Well, I brought this up to an AI website called POE.ai, and, well, I think the AI was a tad... confused.

    See, what I wanted is what was stated above; A world where things from Sonic seamlessly live alongside Mario's. The AI, however, takes a more Game-y/SMB Z route: Having an outside force, merge these worlds. while it's a nice idea, with Bowser and Eggman Working together to find this force, and Mario and Sonic does the same, butting heads with their respective villains, this wasn't what I was going for, but ill keep it in the back of my head.

    So, what are these Environments? how could you mix the Thrills of Sonic with the relaxed, whimsical world of Mario? Let's See for ourself with the first area:

    Area 1: Mushrise Hills

     

    Description: A hybrid zone that combines the lush, rolling hills of Sonic's Green Hill Zone with the vibrant colors and iconic blocks of Mario's GrassLand. Classic platforming challenges and loop-de-loops await.

    Just imagine a Natural plain, full of corkscrews, Colorful Blocks, and Trampolines. Bridges above and below, Shimmering Waterfalls, and Koopa Troops across the ground. There are many challenges to try, trees to climb, and Loops to traverse. Huge Mushrooms of all variations Dot the land, with some being platforms, and others being Bounce, and getting air here is easy, flying high with them. Just think about the Movie Adaptation of The Mushroom Fields. There could be Villages here, full of mobians, and Totem Poles are also around. Sonic is okay with it, but Maro and Tails Question it from time to time. This leads us to our Second Area:

    Area 2: Metropolis Square

     

     

    Description: A bustling metropolis where Mushroom Kingdom and Station Square (from Sonic Adventure) intersect. Imagine running through streets filled with Toads and Chao, with towering skyscrapers and warp pipes dotting the landscape. Clear Warp pipe can take the heroes anywhere, combined with the Grinding rails that are accessible too. Run, jump, and grind through bustling streets and scale towering structures.

    Aww yeah, this happened.

    I thought this was just perfect, given that City Escape was expanded in Generations, and combined that with Station Square and New Donk City, you got a pretty Packed city. Akin to The City in The Mario Movie (Inside the Kingdom walls), There are clear pipes to use, and there are townspeople all around, in higher and lower areas. Upbeat Shops, Humble Homes, and Steetlights liven up the place. There are Manholes that you can Ground-Pound/Stomp to access the Sewer systems, finding Secrets, or maybe a whole new area! Now, if we just take a short Run on the water, or a plane to our next Stop:

    Area 3: Starshine Harbor

    Description: A coastal area that blends the tropical vibes of Isle Delfino (Super Mario Sunshine) with the oceanic adventures of Sonic's Seaside Hill. Sail on hovercrafts and speed through water-themed levels. There are Submarines and Coral Reefs to be found, and some even hide Treasures to be found.

    The Coral reefs here shine bright as the Shine Sprites that resonate here. this place is THE best Vacation spot, with Orcas, Colorful fish, and palm trees galore. Sea Urchins live here to, if you dive into the Crystal Clear water, don't be over a Geyser, because it can send you FAR up! Your usual places are here, with the amusement rides of Pinta Park, the Haunted Hotel of Isle Defino, and the Quaint Village of Bianco Hills. Let's head back for now, Because we are here for a wild ride.

    Area 4: Carnival Capital

    Description: A lively entertainment district where Casino Night Zone and New Donk City (Super Mario Odyssey) collide. Enjoy thrilling slot machines, bumper cars, and carnival games while collecting rings and coins. Towers with spinning tops akin to Sonic Adventure’s “Twinkle Park” are present, with a Ferris wheel, and even some pinball Challenges for Sonic, and Minigames for Mario.

    This is for the hardcore slot and out there.

    At first, this was Named "Carnival City", but how boring is that? There are many fun things to do here, like Solving Puzzles, Spinning slots, or doing Races in Bumper Karts. The place is very lively, and full of pizzazz as most things glitter and shimmer in the Night, and the neon signs do too. there isn't much to say here, given that it's another New Donk City Fusion, and if I decide to (And by that, I mean get the motivation) to change it I will.

    Area 5: Snowy Glacier

    Description: A frozen wonderland blending the icy slopes of Cool, Cool Mountain (Super Mario 64) with the icy caverns of Ice Cap Zone. Race down slopes, ride snowboards, and explore frozen caves. There are many Inhabitants here, and a ski lodge here as well.

    I can just see it now: Instead of Racing down a slide Versus a Pengiun, your still going against a Penguin, except down a mountain. Sonic and his team gets Snowboards, but Mario and Co. get sleds and Skis. there will be challenges to get in the middle of flags and things. There is a top part of it, but there's also an underground part. this part has REALLY high winds, making it hard to see or platform. this can be stopped by Switches, but only temporarily. There is a Cavern here, hidden from the Chaotic winds, showing the inside if the ice. Wanna get out of the cold, and into the sun? let me proudly introduce:

    Area 6: Mystic Junglira Oasis

    Description: A lush and vibrant jungle area where Sonic's Mystic Jungle merges with the dense foliage of the Donkey Kong franchise. Navigate through dense vegetation, swing from vines, and encounter ancient ruins and hidden waterfalls.

    Well, even I didn't expect a DK mix. weird, huh?

    Well, What you see is what you get: A Hedgehog who loves adventure An island of mystery, and Natural Wonders. Secrets behind Cascading Waterfalls, Jungles full of ripe bananas, and worn-down, vacant industrial areas. now that I think about, when I describe this place, it sounds a lot like south island. mhm. ANYWAYS, we have mountainous areas, Risky reefs, Shorelines, and Valleys of swinging vines.


    Well, for the sake of Mine, and your insanity, we only have 2 left. don't worry, we are almost done, and I PROMISE you it's worth the read. Now, let's go to the Hot Sands with:


    Area 7: Mirage Desert

    Description: A desert region where the scorching sands of Sonic's Desert Ruins meet the shifting sands and ancient pyramids of the Mario universe. Watch out for mirages and quicksand traps, and ride sandstorms to reach hidden temples. Towns full of cowboys and bandits call this place home, and Saloons and Structures are Sprinkled throughout.

    Yeah, I think this is an interesting choice too.

    With a mix of Sand areas from Mario, and the High-Speed thrills of the Sonic Sand Areas, we can see a land, full o' Danger. Anchient temples of time's past, Troops and Badnik, and Falling debris are the few things to be wary of here, as countless things can be considered dangerous here, especially the Townsfolk here. they don't trust many people, as some turn up to be thieves and bandits. Oasis can be found, full of life. It's a nice place to fish, yet hard to get to due to so many people getting lost. Now, to our last Fleshed-out area:

    Area 8: Cloudy Sanctuary Heights

    Description: Ascend to the skies where Sonic's Sky Sanctuary meets the fluffy, cloud-filled realms of the Mario series. Traverse floating islands, leap between clouds, and navigate treacherous sky-high platforms.

    Yeah, I made the coolest level mix with one of the Wacky worlds of the Mario Series.

    Theres not much to say here; it says it all there: Floating clouds, Peirous pits, achint temple in the sky? honestly, I could say a lil bit, but I'm trying to not make in sound like a video game.


    And, that's all! hope you had a better time reading than me writing. VERY tiring, but I managed. this took, 3 DAYS. I'm honestly scared for the others, given this is a 4 part series, but I thing it will be good enough. What are your thoughts? what would you like to see in the future? PLEASE let me know! Ciao!

  4. Next up on this little impromptu Sonic marathon is frankly - probably my least favourite game of the Classic era, and let's face it - one of the most divisive games of the franchise - Sonic CD. Now, if you'll recall back to the Sonic 2 blog from a week or so ago, you'll recall me mentioning that I do not particularly love the Classic games outside S3&K and Mania. In particular, you'll remember I discussed about how Sonic 2's level design doesn't mesh well with enemy placement, how it feels like it was built for speed, yet wants to punish you for going fast. CD on the other hand doesn't even get that far - because it feels like Sonic 1's exploration and slow platforming taken up to ten. 

    Now, ultimately - I grew to find a new respect for Sonic 2 by the end of that experience. I found myself enjoying a large chunk of the game. I came away with it with a totally different viewpoint than initially. So perhaps the same could be said here? After all, this wasn't some clunky old ass basic port I was playing, it was the original Christian Whitehead port that kick started a revival of Sonic remasters in the 2010s. Perhaps this time, this would finally be the one it clicks! After all, I had a good total 3-4 runs to do! Perhaps I would finally join the camp of fans who enjoy this game!

    ...

    *three-four runs later*

     

    Yeah, no. I'm sorry. I'm honest to goodness sorry. I really was hoping this would be the time I'd click with CD after Sonic 2 had a more positive experience, but I just can't vibe with it. It's just so against what I enjoy about this franchise in it's very core that I genuinely cannot find much enjoyment. Not to say my opinion didn't change, there's still a good deal to discuss, but I can't say I'm coming out of this without much more of a better opinion of CD than I had. 

    But still, before we get into that, let's at least get into some of the good stuff.

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    First things first - this intro absolutely slaps. Still the absolutely best depiction of Sonic's speed and stylish tricks in practically any medium. Especially considering this was their first real attempt at even depicting Sonic that wasn't some cheap Dic animation. Even as much as I love the OVA, I don't think anything has come close to comparing the intro and outro of the game. About the only thing I think comes close is Sonic Riders' intro, another similar anime-inspired intro. CD's intro reminds me of Original Dragon Ball in the best way possible, pretty fitting given Toei is the ones behind it. 

    That's also a good transition into the next piece of discussion - the game's story, which is actually fairly unique for a Sonic game compared to Sonic 1 and 2. 

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    Dr. Eggman is up to his old tricks again - once every year, a peaceful planet known as Little Planet hovers over the planet below, and Eggman has forcefully chained it down, flooding the world with his robotic creations and stealing the time-altering time stones for himself. To combat Sonic's next attempt to foil him, Eggman has created a robotic doppelganger of the hedgehog in order to stop Sonic in his tracks. As if things couldn't get worse, a Sonic fangirl named Amy Rose also follows Sonic into Little Planet, giving Eggman and Metal Sonic the perfect bait to lure Sonic into Eggman's ultimate trap for Sonic. Now it's up to Sonic to free Little Planet, and save both the past, present and future all in one shot.

    Of course, nothing needs to be said about how excellent an addition both Amy and Metal Sonic has been to the franchise's cast. It's hard to imagine a world without either character, and CD is all to thank for it.

    It's nothing extremely special or anything, it's still a Genesis era game and even S3&K would ultimately outshine it, but it's more ambitious, which is neat - picking up the Sonic 2 scrapped story as well, and the outro really does a great job to just make it feel like Sonic has really truly undergone this whole wide adventure as it recaps all of the varied locations into animation, giving us a true glimpse of how these stages are intended to be seen.

    Also, let's just get it over with now - the soundtrack is absolutely brilliant. No matter if it's Japan or US (although my personal preference is JP), there's some insanely great tracks all throughout (even if I am annoyed the 2011 port removes the vocals from the intro and outro). Personal favourites of the entire franchise being...

    I suppose the last major thing positive wise I do want to talk about is I think what they were attempting with the game is if nothing else - fairly novel. It's cool how they work the time travel mechanics into the game itself, offering ways for Sonic to get into either the past or future, and the idea of specifically needing to work to change the future is a really cool idea that ties into the damage that Eggman has done in a way none of the previous games really did. It again makes it feel a lot more important when a entire world's timeline is in danger because of Eggman.

    Aaaand unfortunately, that's where the positive section has to end. Because really, all of this concerns things that isn't the gameplay, and problematically - the gameplay and level design is this game's biggest problem.

    sonic-cd-20111214024842077-3574817.jpeg

    I wish I could get into a big rant and go in-depth about what annoys me with this game so much, but it's just plain and simple - I hate the platforming. It feels so against itself in a way that even 2 wasn't. The game wants you to go fast - with the time travel signs acting as the main means to do so, yet the game design is just so massive, filled with springs, spikes, and obstacles everywhere, constantly punishing you with damage or even sending you into the future where you can do nothing, which can practically force a replay. I cannot think of a single level beyond maybe Tidal Tempest Act 2 that I can say I particularly liked. So much of the game just feels ungodly cheap. 

    Then there's the past mechanic. As mentioned before, one of the major ways to finish the game and get the good ending is go back in time in every single stage and find a Metal Sonic hologram, and a robot generator. 

    sdvmdqttm6661.jpg

    Unfortunately, what this idea actually amounts to is going back to these massive stages and being forced to backtrack through them, with specific stages like Wacky Workbench and Metallic Madness having very specific means to find their objects. This is the killing blow to the game, this is so absolutely against the very concept of Sonic, which is high speed platforming getting from Point A to B, and being based on reaction time and not looking back. Instead, you will constantly backtrack the stages to try find this bullshit if you opt for this route, and that's even assuming you get to the past, because you outright need to find very specific areas to get the momentum needed to get to the past, while other places as stated are outright traps to send you into the future, a direct punishment. 

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    But there is another way. You can also do the special stages in order to collect the time stones. Before we even get into them, let me just say - screw getting into them. Instead of using Sonic 2's checkpoint method, instead we're right back into Sonic 1's method, meaning getting to the end of these long, massive stages - filled with traps and obstacles everywhere - with 50 rings to get into them. So that's a total pain already.

    But then the special stages themselves, I just hate them. The idea was cool - using 3D mode 7 esque levels where you need to destroy UFOs, but the game is just so unbelievably awkward when it comes to actually doing it. It's extremely hard to gauge distance between you and the UFOs, meaning it's extremely easy to miss them, and you can easily overshoot and land into ponds, which just rapidly drain your time. Which combined with the other problem of the special stages being a pain in the ass to enter in the first place - outright mixes for a miserable time.

    That's what really cinches it for me. I've given CD a lot of shots. I've done three runs of it alone for this challenge along in order to attain all of the trophies. Once with all time stones, once getting all of the generators and holograms, once in time attack mode, plus multiple level runs to reduce times and do clean ups of trophies. I think I've more than given this game enough chances to really convince me to like it, and I just can't.

    Even with Sonic 1 and 2, with some fixes, I can click with those games. I can play Taxman, or Origins, or even the Forever and Absolute versions of the games and have a ball because of the QoL improvements, but with Sonic CD being the very first port, mixed with just how it goes so against what I like about the Sonic series, I just can't. 

    There's a lot I do appreciate about the game and what it brings to the table. The visuals and music is downright fantastic and I love a lot of the ideas and ambition, but ultimately, it's still easily one of my least favourite 2D Sonic games. Not as bad as something like Sonic 4, but even still, I just feel annoyed and frustrated with CD ultimately. It's about what I expected, ultimately before starting this run.

    But hey, at least the next game is a Classic spinoff I do have more to talk about, both good and bad.

  5.      Through lands end past Monsto Town and straight to Barrel Volcano we've made some headway since last I

    wrote.Game still continues to be easy. I had hoped the Axem Blade could liven things up and it looked like it

    might but then it went down before it could recharge for a second volly. At least Culex continued to be final

    boss material. Proving to be too much for my friend with AOE's flying everywhere and turning Peach and Mario

    into a mushrooms proving to be the nail in the coffin. Maybe if she'd used the Lazy Shell armor it would of

    changed things but nope, work pants attack boost just too tempting.

     

         I love the number of secrets in this game. My friend completed the Yoshi Race in one try while there to get

    the flag for the musty fears, I don't think I've ever gotten the rhythm down. I mentioned Grate Guy's casino but

    12 rounds with Knife Guy she wasn't having it. Casino's aren't her thing anyway. But now I hope she likes

    minigames because Bowser's Keep is right around the corner.

  6. Tea Time with Marie

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    Since I recently completed this game for the 52 Game Challenge and spent 50 hours total on it, I figured I'd take the time to write out all of my thoughts and feelings on this game. Because hoooo boy... there's a lot to discuss.

    For context: Virtue's Last Reward is the second game of the Zero Escape trilogy. I completed the first game, 999 (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors), back in 2022 after getting both the first and second game on sale. The main aspect of the games is puzzle solving, and I'm a sucker for puzzle games (especially the classic JRPG maker games like Ib, Misao, Mad Father, etc.). Along with the puzzles, there's a mystery that unfolds in the style of a visual novel. So lots of text, lots of reading, moving sprites... you get the idea. 

    I will say that overall I enjoyed 999, but the ending started to lose me. Certain things about the story just kept getting more complicated and needlessly dragged on. The conclusion also felt a bit lackluster given how open-ended it was, but I figured that since there was a second game, a lot of that stuff would get answered. Overall, the puzzles were fun, the characters were a bit annoying at times, but not insufferable, and it was fairly simple to 100% the game.

    ...And then we get to Virtue's Last Reward. Still focused on puzzles, still primarily plays like a visual novel, and still stuffed with tons of philosophical concepts.

    At the start, I was vibing with the game. I was enjoying the puzzles, getting into the mystery, and enjoying some of the interactions between characters. But as the game went on, its problems started to become more and more apparent. Everything that I didn't like about 999 became amplified in this game. Having to play as a 20-something year old man who makes uncomfortable comments about women and practically begs for them to do certain things gets really old, really fast. Spoilers about one of the twists:

    Spoiler

    (Speaking of getting old, the fact that one of the twists in the game is that the protagonist, Sigma, was actually an old man who just had the consciousness of his 22-year old self is... something. We don't have time to unpack all that.)

    The awkward comments at women weren't the only obnoxious interactions though. The game's dialogue starts to get really repetitive, especially if you're trying to 100% it. You wanna hear Phi tell Sigma that he doesn't need to ask her before doing everything? Good, because you're gonna hear it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over... And that's not even with the repeated cutscenes you have to watch to get through every route. I can live with having to watch some cutscenes, because inevitably in a game with branching routes, some of them are going to have overlap. And that's fine. But when you're repeating dialogue that isn't part of those cutscenes and doing it time and time again, it becomes grating.

    Along with the repeated dialogue, you also get long-winded, sometimes unnecessary explanations. But for every half hour long explanation about things you already know, you get a thirty second explanation about things that make no sense and are never mentioned again. Those philosophical concepts I was talking about? You'll feel like you're taking a 101 course on it. All the time traveling and transferal of consciousness across time and space which is integral to the plot? Good luck understanding all of that, especially after having to listen to a character monologue for an hour straight. (At one point, I did just start crocheting during these parts).

    I think my biggest letdown with this game is how bogged down it gets with trying to be clever. Once you hit a certain point, the game just keeps throwing in twist after twist in an effort to say "Ha! Gotcha! Didn't see that one coming, did ya?" But when you're hit with so many attempts to subvert expectations, it just becomes an incomprehensible mess. The rules of the universe they've established start to blur, the characters they pulled in from the first game don't even feel like they have much of a purpose for being there other than fan bait, and it's impossible to keep all the details straight. The game itself even fully admits in some of the "Secrets" that not everything is explained. Which would be fine if, again, you didn't explain what Schrödinger's Cat was 50 times while barely mentioning anything about the core mysteries of the game. I'm sure there's some answer to this like "well, if you pay attention to those concepts, you could solve the mystery", but that feels like a pretentious way of doing it. By the way, I have yet to see anyone online have a good answer for what actually happened in this game.

    And with all this explaining going on, the main draw of this game for me, which were the puzzles, really start to take a back seat. The game seems to almost treat the escape rooms like a nuisance getting in the way of the plot (which I guess makes sense with the narrative, but it's still disappointing to me).

    The ending, even more so than the first game, felt disappointing and confusing. By the time I got the "Alternative"/Final ending, my brain had just completely melted. I had no idea what anyone was talking about, and the final cliffhanger just felt like another attempt at putting in a twist with no logical way of finding the answer to it. 

    I could probably keep going, but I'll stop there. All in all, I would say if you're interested in this series, play the first game and stop. From my experience with this game and from what I've heard about the third game, the first game is the best of what the series has to offer. So if you're just looking for a game where you can solve puzzles with an escape room type of vibe, play 999. Then look for other games. Please. Don't repeat my mistakes.

    Sincerely,

    A Puzzle Game Enthusiast

  7. Stk24
    Latest Entry

    By Stk24,

    IMG_0381.jpeg

  8. Title: Sonic the Hedgehog

    Issue: #4

    Writer: Ian Flynn

    Artist: Evan Stanley

    Series: IDW

    Previously Reviewed: Issue 1 | Issue 2 | Issue 3

     

    So, after reading the first three issues and getting introduced to Sonic's core friends (Tails, Amy and Knuckles), I was curious about what other characters we will be introduced to in this series next.  Lo and behold, I didn't expect to be introduced to a new character and an old character in the same issue!  But before we go into my thoughts on this issue, here's a brief summary of this issue.

     

    The issue begins like the previous three issues where Sonic heads to another village and discovers some badniks invading the town.  Once Sonic arrives at the town, he meets up with an energetic lemur named Tangle, who is busy taking down the badniks herself.  Sonic and Tangle immediately become friends and they continue fighting off the badniks, until a mysterious character drops in and it's none other than Blaze the Cat herself!  So, Sonic, Tangle and Blaze continue to fight against the badniks overtaking the city.

     

    Now, I'm going to be honest here: I don't know much about Blaze the Cat as a character since I never played the "Sonic Rush" games where she was introduced and it's been a while since I last played "Sonic 06," where she did show up.  But, I loved the fact that this issue did reintroduce Blaze the Cat into the Sonic canon since she hadn't been used that much in the games as of late (which is a shame) and it was great seeing her fight alongside Sonic and Tangle.  I also liked the fact that Sonic is so familiar with Blaze as I loved the scene where he's like "Oh yeah!  HEY BLAZE!" even though Blaze is a princess of her dimension and yet, she's so close to Sonic at this point.  I especially loved Tangle's reaction to Blaze showing up as she's shown as being that new girl who's seeing two people who are well acquainted with each other interacting with each other and she's like, "Ummm...where do I fit in all this?"  But then, she becomes fast friends with Blaze like she becomes fast friends with Sonic.

     

    Now, let's talk about the new character in this issue, Tangle herself.  OH MY GOODNESS!  I never thought that I would love a new character that was made exclusive for the comic books!  Ian Flynn did such a fantastic job at portraying Tangle's character as Tangle is shown as being highly energetic and friendly towards everyone she meets, and I love that aspect of her character.  Even though the other characters like Tails, Cream and Sonic himself are very friendly characters themselves, it's nice seeing another nice character join the cast.  And of course, I just love Tangle's overall design as she wears a cool looking sports outfit, and she has a unique ability where she uses her tail as a weapon.  Also, I just loved Evan Stanley's artwork for this issue!  I think Evan Stanley and Adam Bryce Thomas are my two most favorite artists for this series so far!  Evan Stanley does such a fantastic job at giving these characters such humorous yet energetic facial expressions and it's always such a treat looking at these hilarious facial expressions from these characters!

     

    The only problem that I have with this issue is that I wished that they developed Blaze's character a bit more.  We don't know exactly where Blaze was during "Sonic Forces" and I would like to know where she was the whole time.  Also, as someone who is not that familiar with Blaze's character, I would have liked to learn more about Blaze's home world and how she met Sonic in the first place. Again, I never played the "Sonic Rush" games, so I'm a bit new to Blaze as a character.

     

    Even though I would have liked to learn more about Blaze's character, I had a lot of fun with this issue!  Tangle was such an awesome new addition to the cast and I can't wait to see more of her in future issues!  Looking forward to checking out the next issue soon!

     

    Taken from my blog: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

  9. Hello there. I'd like to discuss something that's been brewing in my mind for the past week and it's about Rails. Oh rails, an alternative to the usual past pace acting with the rather slow and bare bones automation. But rails never used to be this way. Take a seat friends, as we discuss The History of Rails in Sonic the Hedgehog.

    It all began June 2001, when Sonic Adventure 2 was released, the first game that featured Grind Rails. these type of rails functioned similarly to how they are today, except you can accelerate down the rail even faster, creating momentum allowing you to fly off the rails if you wish. Rails also had the caveat of the having any sort of "pull" for the player to gravitate towards it, meaning the player has to be very precise in order to proceed. This becomes heavily used within Final Chase, the second-to final act of the game. Rails are absolutely everywhere here, and utilizing them to reach far off distances, alternate paths, and crazy maneuvers throughout.

    Rails appear once again within Sonic Heroes, functioning very similarly. The differences really come in the level design, specifically from the two levels that feature rails heavily: Rail Canyon, and Bullet Station. The level design here places greater emphasis on switching between rails to gain rings, powerups, and defeat enemies. Personally, I believe this to be the best incarnation of rails, relying more on the level design to keep them interesting, having more of a puzzle, or tactile flow to them.

    After that, I believe that Sonic Colors is the first domino in Rail Decline, featuring rails as more of an automation section of each act rather then a more puzzle and tactile way of getting from start to finish. To be fair, Colors does feature some sections with you having to hop between 3 different rails to gain Red Coin and such, but those are very few and far between, being about less then a dozen of them throughout your experience.

    Rails are a bit tricky in Lost World, since the majority of rails within this game are incredibly bare bones due to the level design doing nothing with them. However, Tropical Coast Zone 3, and Lava Mountain Zone 2. In those acts, Rails make up the entire act, featuring rails that slow down, or speed you up depending on which one your on.

    Sonic Forces, some love it, some hate it, others think it's mediocre. Similar to last time, used purely for automation, nothing interesting going on, so there is nothing interesting to talk about.

    Lastly, were at what I think is the most interesting era for Rails: Sonic Frontiers. Frontiers features more of the automation of Rails have been rocking for about a decade now...partially. See, it's this strange split down the middle where, half of this game features automation, while the other half is something different. Rails that are short and require jumping fast, rails where you hop between then similar to Colors, circle shaped Rails where you have to aim Sonic at the right angle to proceed, large circle shaped rails where you have to make a full circle 3 times to defeat a boss, all of these mechanics are making Rails, in my opinion, actually interesting again, with not just letting automation be Rails' secondary name!

    To summarize: Rails used to be another form of transport featuring more of a tactile or in the case of Heroes, more puzzle-esque design philosophy, but afterwards, Rails got reduced to nothing more then wasteful automation, but hope seems to be on the horizon for our grindy friend, and Frontiers has been playing around with the potential of Rails, and perhaps we'll see more innovation with Rails in the rumored Frontiers 2 being in development.

    So, that was Sonic the Hedgehog and the Decline (and revival?) of Rails in 3D. Feedback would be appreciated as I'm gonna try to make this a weekly thing.

     

  10. What would you do if you were stuck in a mansion, trying to survive execution for a crime you didn't commit? According to Tecmo, get possessed by a demon and rip the crap out of the guys after you, naturally. That’ll show them. Continuing the development studio’s love for the dark, moody and gothic, Trapt is a rather interesting action game that involves a unique puzzle twist.

    Set in a suitably gothic medieval world, you play the role of framed Princess Allura, who is evading capture (and thusly, death) after the murder of her father – a killing that her 'German S&M' inspired stepmother blames her for. Fleeing with her maid Rachel, Allura discovers an abandoned mansion that she can hide in. Upon entering however she becomes cursed with a demon known only as the fiend, who turns her into a sorceress of traps. Using these traps, you can defeat the armies of soldiers who are hunting you down, and then sacrifice them to the fiend, making it stronger.

    So she’s a trapper keeper then? Hyuck hyuck.

    Oh, that joke wasn’t funny when we said it the first time, and it’s not even funny in text.
    A shame, we were going to base the whole review on that.

    Mind you, what isn’t funny is the power of the traps themselves that you get to control. The game is broken down into missions – that are in turn broken down into little mini battles where you face various pursuers, from soldiers to magicians to even tramps. News of your possession must have gotten round, because it appears everyone wants a piece of Allura, be it for a reward for her capture or plainly to stop the fiend from sacrificing any more victims.

    These battles take place in a room in the mansion, and you can do nothing but run away, avoid the enemy’s attack or place traps down. The traps are effectively your attack and defence, since you can’t do anything else. Hitting Circle will show an overhead view of the room you are in, with a grid covering it. You can then assign different traps to different face buttons. Triangle is used for executing traps from the ceiling, Square activates traps set in the walls and X is for floor traps. You get a choice of three of each type of trap, but you can only put down one ceiling, one wall and one floor trap at a time.

    Once you’ve set them, markers will appear on the spots you placed each trap, but you’ll need to wait until they’re charged up before you can use them. Then it’s simply a case of luring your victims to the right spot and letting loose by pressing the button that corresponds to the trap. You can even do combos, where using one trap may lead to them being hit by another, and so on. It’s fun to experiment with the different traps till you get to make an unbeatable combination. We found that catching foes in a bear trap, impaling them on a wall of spikes and then having them smacked in the face by a rolling boulder can work wonders for your combo count – but not for your victim’s head, obviously.

    The graphics are pretty good, with character models in the cut scenes being quite… voluptuous. Yes, let’s put it like that. The atmosphere and foreboding of the game is created effectively with moody browns and greys inside the mansion, and Allura almost an entire figure of white in contrast. An angel amidst all of the chaos surrounding her, if you want to get metaphorical.

    Despite the fact she is possessed, she is still pretty much in control of herself but, understandably, doesn’t really want to be beheaded by her rather horrible stepmother Queen. A good natured girl, driven to murder simply to survive, yet at the same time feeding the very demon that is to bring destruction to the world. Not the best of situations to be in really, is it?

    The music is all very gothic as well and there’s a great selection of tunes that will keep you on your toes, while the Japanese dialogue during the cut scenes and in-game is quite emotional. Shame about those sub-titles mind. You can’t get more emotional for a bloke than your nads being shaved off by a zooming buzzsaw, and hearing your enemies groan in pain is almost illegally satisfying.

    Naturally, since this is pretty much the whole of the game, the extent of the traps and how you can use them is quite vast. By killing your enemies you earn money, which can be used to purchase more traps. Before each level begins you are greeted with an ‘Intermission’ screen, where you can buy more traps, equip some attacks to your inventory so you can use them in battle, and read up on just who you will be fighting. And depending on who’s after your blood this time, certain traps will not work on them effectively.

    For instance, a chunky samurai warlord with heaps of armour isn’t going to be affected by a well-shot arrow. So crack a meteor into his skull and you soon remove that problem. People you kill are quite ceremoniously added to a museum of deceased victims, with specifics on how they died. You can also buy keys, which will open up new rooms in the mansion – at first you are limited to the one room to battle in, but soon you can run from one area to another if you fancy taking the fight elsewhere.

    When you start a battle, you’re given a rolling introduction to your enemies. It’s polite to get to know them before you start garrotting them, you see. Even though you may fight as many as five people in any one round, you will only ever see two foes at a time. Likely due to how much the PS2 can handle, but as you get to the later stages it all starts to feel a bit artificial. Well... obviously it is, because it’s a video game, but perhaps more than two people to battle at once would have added a bit of adrenaline to later levels.

    And speaking of which, although the gameplay is original for the type of game it is, you might end up feeling bored with it after a while – the trap-placing and the running around does get a little repetitive, and you will likely stick to a select few traps that you know will work best instead of experimenting after a short time. It appears that once you get to the stage of taking on five enemies, almost on a one-after-the-other basis, you’ve hit the top of the learning curve.

    The AI of the enemies are quite good, as we found ourselves rather frustrated when we set off traps too early, and the enemies simply stepped around our bodged attempt at beheading them. They do tend to be a little bit cheap though, particularly the magicians that will gang up on you with spells even when you’re on the floor and have yet to recover. You may also have problems adjusting to how slow the game is in action – the framerate is quite low and as a result everyone runs around almost as if they’re in slow motion, particularly the enemies. Not very exciting to have to wait for ages for a slow-witted opponent to be lured into a bomb trap.

    Longevity is a bit of an issue as well, although the game does try its best on this one. During the story mode there is a ‘Side Story’ that consists of one extra battle, which adds an alternative side to the main game. You also have a Survival mode, but considering the issues with repetitive play, it’s unlikely you will head here too often. It's the bizarre story that keeps you playing, with multiple twists and possibilities being uncovered in almost every scene, but once you’ve seen it all you will probably come back to it every now and then to indulge in the interesting gameplay and to mutilate people in various fun and nasty ways. For as long as it does last though, there is a lot to appreciate from gamers who are looking for something new.

    Score: C+

    It has its shortcomings, but this is interesting enough to hold your attention until you complete it. No doubt we’ll get the Daily Mail and the other media telling us that Trapt will encourage youths to get possessed and use magic traps to kill their mates or something – Trapt is a unique and gloriously gruesome puzzle-fest. One to rent.

  11. KingSonicFan134
    Latest Entry

    By KingSonicFan134,

    Sonic The Hedgehog has a lot of games. And in these games, are boss battles. Boss battles are designed to be a test for the players skills with the game's mechanics, and controls. Games series' like Mega Man and Donkey Kong I believe have perfected this design philosophy. Such as Captain K. Rool, and Shade Man to name a couple examples.

    However, with Sonic The Hedgehog, it's always been two sides of a single coin: It's either Case 1: The Boss is too easy and goes out too fast due to Sonic's sheer speed. Or Case 2: This boss is incredibly frustrating I can't even attack half the time due to the boss moving elsewhere.

    With that, I've noticed with Sonic Team's bosses implemented within all of Sonic's classic entries, they seem to lean towards Case 1 for the majority of it's bosses. Other developers like Arzest and the team behind Sonic Mania lean a lot more into Case 2 with their entries. From my perspective, it's this swaying pendulum between the two different philosophies that seem to have the need to sacrifice one for the other.

    What's the solution? Well, I believe that solution is found within a little game called Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Mushroom Hill Zone Act 2:

    Observe the boss mentioned

    This particular boss boils down to this: Spin Dash into the Egg Scrambler whilst dodging the logs coming in at a decent speed. There isn't anything halting what Sonic has been doing this entire game. Running. Running and jumping. This boss takes these two common actions taken by the player and makes them the focal point of this boss. Sonic is running at top speed and is not likely to slow down at any point during the fight. There's enough time to react to the spike balls due to the spike ball appearing moments after the intro has ended. And lastly, Sonic looses momentum when striking the boss, leaving a high chance for a sizable amount of time to happen between the strikes.

    The only problem to this boss is it's rather short HP bar during the fight. A simple tweak with the amount of HP and you have yourself the perfect boss for Classic Sonic gameplay. It asks of the player to take it's lessons learned throughout and puts them to the test. Without too much spamming of the A button, and doesn't rely on invincibility frames to make sure the fight doesn't end in two seconds.

    This has been my Classic Sonic The Hedgehog and Boss Design discussion. This all just my opinion and am by no mean a Classic Sonic Design Master.

     

  12. Welcome back! It's been a while, hasn't it? Oh, I have so many games to review now, so you'll hear from me again soon. Today's topic: Splatoon 3's Side Order. I'll get this out of the way first: There will be spoilers here.   Also, fair warning: I suggest not playing this DLC if you are relatively new to Splatoon. Click to unhide spoiler  to see review:

    Spoiler

    The story is kinda underwhelming, but it's not the biggest deal. I haven't unlocked all of Marina's dev diary, so, there are little tidbits I'm missing. The story is fairly simple, but there are cute little dialogue sequences between floors that reveal some more of the story and are entertaining.
    My big issue is the gameplay. Sure, the whole "run" thing is neat but it can cause issues. One, in order to complete it, you have to beat the entire spire (30 levels) WITH A DIFFERENT WEAPON each time. This can become highly time-consuming. You also can't choose a specific level, you just have to pray you got the one you want when selecting the next floor, which hurts replayability (in my eyes, at least).
    The level design is also plain. there's not much variation, and the levels are basically just arenas with a few differences. The game doesn't have many objectives to offer, so the gameplay just consists of playing similar levels and the same missions for 30 floors. Oh, by the way, if you die once (excluding Marina's hacks) you have to start all over again. From floor 1. Thankfully, I beat order on my 3rd run, but I don't want to imagine being a new player and trying out side order.
    There aren't many bosses (about 3-4, I think), and their encounters are random (1 per each 10th floor, but the boss itself is randomized). So, you have to fight each boss lots of times, which gets tedious and sucks the joy out of them. By the way, do you remember that you can't manually choose a specific level/boss? Only the major story ones (2, to be exact) can be manually chosen... after you beat the game. Speaking of which, let's move on to the endgame.
    The final boss resembles the first boss (Marina Agitando), where you have to destroy some portals to break the barrier so you can ink the boss itself. After you beat it, a cutscene plays and you have to spam ZR for a little. Then the fight repeats, but you have to destroy portals that hold color chips since yours were stolen. Once you break the barrier, you just have to attack Order. it took me at least 5 minutes because OH MY GOD HE HAS SO MUCH HP. I was using the roller and just circling him and spamming ZR. I kid you not when I tell you that I started drifting off. The song in the background started getting annoying because it's not very interesting musically. Oh, Pearl booyahs again but it lost the awe because it's not a killer wail and that idea was already used back in Octo Expansion.
    The color chips are a neat system, though. They were probably one of the few reasons I tried to keep playing. It is fun trying to choose which upgrade you would like/need the most. The bonus and danger levels add a bit of spice, but they are far too in between. They made the game feel less bland and repetitive.

    ...But oh my god I hate the progression of side order. The gameplay gets boring after a long time due to little variation. 

    That's not to say there ISN'T any difficulty. The farther you progress, the tougher the Jelletons become. (Or, really, they just spawn in higher numbers, have more HP [I think] and spawn stronger ones.) The missions also require more to be done, going from just needing two portals destroyed to four. However, with the tension that comes from increased Jelleton spawn rates, the missions are still very similar and don't offer much in terms of variation. 

    So, if you are a new player, WAIT until you play this or you will suffer, because it is difficult. 

     

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    DaBigJ
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    So, I guess this is a new feature that was added.

    I'm not really sure if I'm gonna use it much but hey, it's nice to have, I suppose. I never really ran a blog before so this is gonna be interesting.

    If I keep using it, I'll probably just post whatever is on my mind, be it opinion pieces on stuff or general random thoughts that I feel like are blog worthy.

    So yeah....uh.....bye for now I guess

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