So when Sephiroth activates his Final Smash, do the other players have to put their controllers down for two minutes?

I don't have the time to write extensively about the Cyberpunk situation, but the witch-hunt histrionics about the game being a front for a James Bond villain plot on behalf of CD Projekt to murder its players through deliberately-triggered seizures or how some enthusiastic fan who wanted to create an OT for the game on ResetERA was a sleeper agent for a vast ultra-right-wing conspiracy to trick people into buying the game because he had the audacity to like it remind me of why I am so glad to be out of the gaming social media ecosystems. I understand there have been issues with smartass imprudence by CD Projekt and one big immediate problem that needs to be resolved w/r/t the flashing light sequences (as well as the question of how it got through cert), but solutions aren't going to be found by raving about conspiracy theories that'd be right at home coming from the Trump legal team. It is jaw-dropping what established figures within the community are claiming with a straight face to believe, and they all seem to be losing more of their once-respected goddamn minds with this game with every passing day.

So I recently bought a Dragon Age sticker on Etsy - from The Wind's Nocturne, very lovely - and went to leave a review. Well, too early, Etsy said - but in checking my past purchases, I noticed a pin I'd ordered from a different vendor way back in January that I didn't remember receiving. I rummaged through my pin repository, the top drawer of my dresser, to make sure my memory wasn't failing me - and while I didn't find the rogue pin, I did uncover an errant hard drive. From an old laptop, after it got a memory upgrade, I think. It'd been unnoticed dead weight in that drawer for years on end - but now that I'd learned the secret of SATA and had obtained a cable, I plugged it in and started searching for one particular file that had been lost in computer breakdowns and transfers across the years. The material on the drive turned out to be 10 years old, but it yielded paydirt.

That's a long haul to the above image, a mishmash of commentary by Akari Funato from a dead version of her site partially on how the characters from "Kokuhaku Suru Kioku" of Vheen Hikuusen shaped those of her Victorian drama Under the Rose, but I've been trying to track it down for so long that I'm posting it here for...well, you see the title. In my mind, the one-to-one character mapping was more comprehensive than shown, as it extends further in the manga than what's shown - there's an Oscar Wilde analogue that's obviously just Morris, even taking into account that Funato has molds for her characters, and you can find elements of all the major KSK players somewhere in UtR's cast. This definitely is the errant image, though - I remember that sketch of Rouj.

It's nothing major - notes on the puns behind Tagak and Rouj's names; that the Guildmistress's costume was Victorian-inspired; that she did the genga for Mia's intro scene on the 32-bit version...trivia all covered in other Lunar commentary from Funato. She does note in the middle there how she split the influence of young Ghaleon between two aristocratic young men in the series - the silent, stoic William and the hot-blooded, carrot-headed punk Linus. "I don't see the resemblance," says Linus. That makes two of us.

Notes on three titles on my list that I hoped I would adore but where there just weren't any sparks.


Super Metroid (yeah, I know)

I wanted to love it: It has a horror-ish atmosphere that's unique for the era. It's got a woman in the lead. It's a prestigious franchise from Nintendo I've never gotten into. I own the GBA cart of Metroid but have never beaten it. I hit a wall at the Kraid fight and got caught in one of those situations where I had come so far on a famously difficult title without help that I thought it'd be a shame to break the streak but never got past the part where I was genuinely stuck. By most accounts, the Super Nintendo incarnation was superior, so I thought it'd yield a more successful experience.

But: I don't find fun at all the "shoot every single tile of every surface" gimmick upon which Metroid relies for the player to discover new gear. It's maddening and tiresome, and while that misstep wasn't uncommon in the NES era, I would have expected an SNES title, particularly one as well-regarded as Super Metroid, to have moved past it. Though I almost quit when a spate of the dreaded wall jumping reared its head, my true breaking point came when I was getting to areas where I was clearly expected to have the grapple beam and didn't, and trying cleverly to cheat my way through areas that required it, as you might be able to pull off in comparable situations in Symphony of the Night, *almost* worked but frustratingly failed just before success. That meant that to proceed I had to revisit every square inch of explored space, which at that point was considerable. I've realized that Castlevania gives me pretty much all the exploration and recursive unlocking I want out of Metroid and that Samus and I, unfortunately, are never going to get along.

(Image credit.)


StarTropics

I wanted to love it: That aesthetic! Palm trees and island fun! Sunny days and bright palettes! We need more tropical RPGs, if you ask me. Add the celestial theme, and that's just a winning combination. Plus, I really like the idea of a Zelda-ish title themed on all-American kid stuff: baseballs & bats, slingshots, yo-yos. A much-overlooked attempt at Zelda by a U.S. studio? Maybe we have a hidden gem on our hands!

But: Well, they tried to copy Zelda's gameplay, but they sure didn't have Zelda's talent. They took the drawbacks of death in the first Zelda - you start from the beginning of the dungeon with three hearts - but are extremely stingy with life refills and make enemy formations hard-hitting and aggressive, meaning that you have to replay and replay and replay every area until you get things perfect to survive. Exploration has been near-completely removed: progression through the alternating Zelda II-style overworld map screens and the Legend of Zelda-ish dungeons is almost entirely linear. This makes for a distinctly more level-like experience than its Japanese counterpart, and in a title with better combat, that might have been an interesting twist, but not here - it just means you're just trapped replaying the same succession of frustrations. (You don't even have any way of getting extra items to help you out: there are no shops, just a couple standardized pickups per dungeon, and your loadout resets to zero between areas.) The finishing touch was that they artificially boosted the difficulty even further with mean tricks - blind jumps offscreen where the wrong random choice of path will make you lose a life, etc. What a failure of gameplay in the face of charming visual style.

ETA: Good gravy, I forgot: StarTropics has this control quirk where there's a marked delay when you try to move in a new direction. You'll first turn to face that direction, then wait a beat, and only then will you actually start moving, providing you've continued to hold down the control pad. The devs did this to allow you to negotiate some pixel-perfect single-square-island jumping puzzles - so that you can turn in a direction without moving in that direction, see - but it makes the very act of movement rather unmanageable in an action title. It's a moment of lag, but that moment did make the difference between success and failure in many a boss battle attempt.


Observation

I wanted to love it: It was the follow-up title from No Code to Stories Untold, a horror title revolving about finding one's way around outdated technology that contained a startlingly insightful dissection of empathy in video games in its second segment. I genuinely thought it was one of last generation's best titles, so of course I'm up for this.

But: Stories Untold largely sat you at a series of workstations; while you might have to shift your line of sight from machine to machine from time to time, not much movement on the part of the player was required. Here, No Code went hog-wild with freedom of movement: the game is set on a space station in zero gravity, and you're a little A.I. sphere that can jet anywhere, including outside on spacewalks. It is extremely hard, at least for me, to get your bearings in this environment. There's this winding series of passageways you have to negotiate to find your way from one particular pod to its neighbor that I don't think it was meant to be a maze, but which took me 15 minutes to navigate regardless. I should have been in the next room instantaneously.

There's also a tension between investigating your environment thoroughly - given that, you know, a game named Observation might require you to be observant - and my tendency to get hellatiously lost if I stray off course. There's a point where you're tasked with accessing a panel on the outside of ship during a spacewalk but are suggested a sidequest. Remembering that the game previously skipped me ahead before I had investigated to my satisfaction previously, I ignored the instructions to the panel and did the sidequest first, then went back to the pod where the panel was supposedly located, convinced I could find it myself (the pod was numbered and everything). I got lost for an hour. I still could not find the goddamn hatch controls - even having located the numbered pod; even with video guides. I suppose it's to the game's credit that I started getting motion-sick only at the end of this imbroglio, but sick I got. I eventually had to give up and am presently hoping that when I reload I'll be put back before the spacewalk, so I can follow those directions. Given Observation's pedigree, I do want to stick with it, but we are, let us say, going through a rough patch currently.