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The Cheap Ferret Verdict: 2015 in Review

December 24, 2015 5 comments

What a year for gaming. It’s been an absolutely amazing year with a ton of selection, and some of the best games ever made. This has been possibly the best year ever to be a gamer.

Or at least that’s what I’m seeing a lot of people say about 2015, but sadly I find it hard to agree. In fact, I’d love to talk about my favourite games of the year in one post and then talk about my most-anticipated games of next year in a separate follow-up, but I haven’t got enough material for the former.

Many of the year’s big releases have failed to command my attention. It’s been the year of the po-faced open world adventure, and I’ve rolled my eyes at basically everything. Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, etc. all looked dull to me and lacked the fun factor that I generally want from my games. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate almost got me back into the Assassin’s Creed series due to its Victorian setting but ultimately I passed on it due to microtransactions. MGSV was the first Metal Gear that failed to capture my interest because it looked like all the personality of the series had been surgically removed. And the less said about the initially promising yet ultimately worthless The Order: 1886, the better.

On top of that, I was so disappointed with Rise of the Tomb Raider and the politics surrounding it I wrote a full post on it – that game could have been my Game of the Year based on the comments I’ve seen, but since I’ve been unable to play it at all, it gets listed as my biggest disappointment instead. Good job, Squeenix!

And then, of course, CoD was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars.

Was there anything that caught my interest at all this year? I liked the look of Ori & the Blind Forest, since it had a nice aesthetic. Undertale has captured people’s imaginations and I’m fascinated by the idea of an Earthbound-style RPG where you can avoid battles with everyone. Until Dawn keeps popping up on my radar but I’m still reluctant due to Heavy Rain being a terrible game, but people say it’s amazing, so maybe? And then there’s Life is Strange, which narratively got me interested through watching others’ streams, but mechanically didn’t appeal to me at all.

Nintendo have had the best of the year in my opinion. Super Mario Maker looks fun, and Xenoblade Chronicles X seems to be winning people over and I’m looking forward to hopefully playing it myself soon. Yoshi’s Woolly World looks cute but I’ve not played it enough to pass judgement.

But what is my Game of the Year?

Read more…

Losing the Plot: Alundra Is All About Death

December 16, 2015 Leave a comment

I recently posted my review of Alundra as part of my Chronological Challenge, and I stated that it is a lot more plot-heavy than the Zelda games it takes heavy influence from, and this is partly why I much prefer the game to the likes of ALttP. So today, I’m going to examine Alundra’s story and determine exactly what it is that makes it work so well.

Please note, there are spoilers abound, so if you wish to take my recommendation and play it first, then please do so. If you’ve played it already, aren’t interested in playing it, or don’t particularly care for spoilers, then feel free to read on.

Read more…

Chronological Challenge – Tomba!

December 15, 2015 Leave a comment

And here we are, the final game of 1997 in my challenge! Sorry for all the delays in posting reviews, but we’re here now so it’s all good!

This will be the last review I post for a little while as I’m going to be taking a break over the Christmas and New Year weeks to get my head in a better space so I can decide on ways to make this blog and my YouTube channel better. I’ll be posting a year-end retrospective and thoughts on what I’m looking forward to in 2016 during those two weeks, but that’s all until the new year, so enjoy this for now and I’ll see you soon!

Tomba!
Publisher: SCE | Developer: Whoopee Camp | Released: December 1997 (Japan)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (PSN release)

Goal: Defeat the Evil Pigs

Actual Outcome: All Evil Pigs sealed in their tiny purses

I remember renting Tomba, known as Tombi in the UK for some reason, and thinking it was kind of fun, but for some reason I never got the full game. On a whim, I decided to buy it while playing through my challenge so I could finally play it through in full.

This is a weird hybrid of 2D platformer and JRPG. You play the titular character, who is an anime caveman with pink hair and an apparent love of wrestling, as he journeys through a weird land in an attempt to get his grandfather’s bracelet back from a group of evil pigs. It’s a very silly game for the most part, as the world is somewhat nonsensical and Tomba’s quest is little more than a combination of lots of smaller quests.

Read more…

Chronological Challenge – Gran Turismo

December 14, 2015 1 comment

We’re nearing the end of 1997 with my previous double post, and this time we’re back on the PlayStation, and playing a game that I got when I was younger but never managed to really get into, as will become apparent as you read on.

Tomorrow I should have the final 1997 review up and running, and then hopefully we should be able to get started on 1998!

Gran Turismo
Publisher: SCE | Developer: Polyphony Digital (sort of) | Released: December 1997 (Japan)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Play through Gran Turismo Mode and win the Gran Turismo World Cup

Actual Outcome: Obtained A License, kept losing races due to my poor knowledge of tuning racecars, gave up in frustration

Gran Turismo is a series that fascinates me, and yet I’m not entirely sure why. Normally my reaction to racing games is indifference with a few exceptions on the more arcade-oriented side of things. And yet this monster simulation game is always interesting to me, even if I don’t necessarily want to play every game in the series.

I think it’s because Gran Turismo mode puts you into the career of a racing driver, and as such it plays a lot with resource management and has the progression of an RPG, which makes it a little bit more interesting than just “drive these cars really fast” and I like that. Read more…

Chronological Challenge – Diddy Kong Racing & Yoshi’s Story

December 11, 2015 1 comment

So, I’ve been posting reviews one at a time lately but today I decided to do something a bit different. Today you’re getting reviews of two N64 games from 1997, both of which I…had some issues with.

I just hope I don’t upset some who class these as their childhood favourites. But then again, I already massively criticised Super Mario 64, so I guess it can’t get much worse! Read more…

Chronological Challenge – Tomb Raider 2

December 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Now, I said yesterday that Alundra was the last game of 1997 I finished for the challenge, but it wasn’t the last that I started, and so 1997 continues here on The Cheap Ferret. There are a few games left to go, but let’s continue with the good words from yesterday with another game I quite like.

Tomb Raider II
Publisher: Eidos Interactive | Developer: Core Design | Released: October 1997
Original System: PlayStation / PC
Played on: PS2 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: See how far I can get without dying

Actual Outcome: Shamefully died in Venice by misjudging the boat ramp jump

TR2 Screenshot

You all know my opinion on Tomb Raider by this point. I love the series with a passion to the point where it’s half the content on my YouTube channel now (may not actually be half, please don’t check). So we’re going to get a lot of this throughout the challenge where I point out why I love Tomb Raider so much.

However, playing Tomb Raider 2 for my challenge I messed up incredibly badly and died in Venice, so many of my thoughts here come from replaying the game for my Let’s Play a little while back. Bear that in mind.

This one, I can’t remember many nostalgic times with like I can with the first. I remember initially borrowing it from a friend of the family and being completely destroyed by the game’s first level. In stark contrast to the first game’s simple wander through a set of caves, The Great Wall of Tomb Raider 2 throws every trap possible at you about halfway through. It was something that shocked me as a kid, and to this day I still think is a bit of a strange design choice.

That aside, level design embarks into bolder territory in Tomb Raider 2, taking the action into a few more varied locations than the persistent crumbling ruins of the previous game. We explore modern Venice, head up a mountain, and visit a shipwreck. The variation makes the levels even more memorable than ever, with the speedboat sections of Venice being thrilling (if now embarrassing…), the yeti cage section of Tibet being genuinely unnerving, the cleverly-designed Maria Doria wreck being fascinating, and the weirdness of Floating Islands being intriguing. Tomb Raider 2 has, in my opinion, some of the franchise’s best levels. Feel free to disagree, but that’s how I feel about it.

The game is also a smoother experience than the first game, with Lara no longer moving like her boots are bogged down in treacle, and the graphics have been given a little polish so the world is a little less angular. Lara still has conical boobies though, albeit slightly less conical than before.

If there is a criticism I have of Tomb Raider 2, it’s in the enemy choices. Far too many enemies in this game are human gunslingers, and they are capable of causing a lot of damage from a distance while absorbing your bullets like they’re superhuman. It can get a little tiring having to deal with these enemies constantly, and more variation would have been nice. More secret dinosaurs, giant spider caves and yeti rampages, please!

Otherwise, this is up there as one of the best Tomb Raider games without question. It flip-flops with the first game for second and third place in my head. This is Tomb Raider as it should be.

Now, please feel free to watch my LP of it right here!

Chronological Challenge – Alundra

December 9, 2015 2 comments

Wow, I’m bad at posting these every day. I apologise for that. I hope I can post more in the coming days, but I can’t promise because that would potentially be a lie. But I will try!

Anyway, this one’s a good one. The last game of 1997 I actually finished. Let’s gooooo!

Alundra
Publisher: SCE/Psygnosis | Developer: Matrix Software | Released: April 1997 (Japan)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Find all Gilded Falcons and Life Vessels, and then defeat Melzas

Actual Outcome: Melzas defeated, all Falcons and Life Vessels found!

Alundra is one of those games that I have very strong feelings about, but very few people, if any, know of its existence. I’m surprised that I know about it, to be honest, since it’s kind of unusual for an obscure Japanese action RPG to turn up in my collection from childhood, but it’s been there a while, and I love it to bits. Read more…