Game Ramblings #18 – Kirby: Planet Robobot

More info from Nintendo

  • Genre: Platformer
  • Platform: 3DS

Let’s be realistic here.  The mainline Kirby platformers haven’t really changed that much in the nearly 25 years the series has been going.  Sure, there’s been the more experimental games, some entirely touch driven like a number of the older DS titles, or motion driven like Tilt ‘n’ Tumble.  However, the platformers all effectively have the same gameplay; a bunch of pretty standard platformer levels where Kirby can suck up the enemies to gain powers, ranging from archer abilities, to fire breathing, and more.  Robobot doesn’t make an attempt to change that, but it both succeeds at not screwing up the formula, and bringing in some nice touches to make this a great entry nonetheless.

So, the question then I guess is what this one does that’s different from the standard formula.  The biggest obvious difference is the Robobot part of the game’s title.  In most of the levels, Kirby can takeover a big ass robot frame, and truck around the levels in that, rather than on foot.  While the core gameplay is still the same (the robot also sucks up and gains powers), the implementation of the powers between the robot and Kirby on foot is entirely different, and the robot being large also allows for destruction of areas in the level that Kirby alone can’t get into.  What this does is enforces a larger sense of exploration than is typical in a Kirby game, as getting a robot frame can allow you to get into areas you previously had to pass up.  It’s also worth noting that like most games with robots, punching things in the face is still satisfyingly great.

Robobot also brings back the multi-plane gameplay from Triple Deluxe, and uses it to great effect here.  In particular, some of the robot sections have you jumping back and forth between both level planes based on power ups.  For example, the wheel powerup turns the robot into a motorcycle, and allows jumping between the near and far plane with the press of the button, allowing for much quicker traversal through the level without having to stop.  Some boss fights also take advantage of the depth, with freely rotating circular arenas, or the robot punching projectiles in and out of the screen towards the enemy firing at you.  The depth also ties into a lot of the collectible aspect of the game, with stamps and collectable cubes hidden all over.  In general, it took a good feature from the previous title, and expanded on it in ways that really made sense given the game they were developing here.

That being said, the game has some issues, but they aren’t any different than a typical Kirby game.  By and large, this is an easy game, and the difficulty is more in trying to be a completionist, not missing any collectibles.  I don’t think I ever died in a way that wasn’t self inflicted due to missing something and needing to force backtrack, even on the final boss.  The game was also relatively short, clocking in at something around 6-7 hours.  That said, I didn’t play through the included minigames, which seemed like they were probably 25% or so of the included content.  Had I been going for a 100% collectible completion, you can probably clock in another 3-5 hours, depending on how nice RNG is treating you in the collection of the in-game stickers.

Realistically speaking, there’s no mystery to whether or not to play this one.  If you like Kirby games, you’ll like this.  If you haven’t liked Kirby games, you probably wouldn’t like this.  If you’re looking for something new, that’s definitely not here either, and you’re probably better off playing Rainbow Curse on the Wii U.  Regardless, this was another fun Kirby game, even if not much has really changed over the years.

As an aside, Nintendo’s website for Kirby has an adorable Kirby sprite.  Nice touch guys.


Game Ramblings #17 – Song of the Deep

More Info from Insomniac Games

  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Platform: PS4
  • Also Available On: Steam, Xbox One

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this game is pretty close to Metroid: Zero Mission in a submarine.  For one thing, it’s very distinctly a Metroidvania title, with a 2D relatively open world, backtracking for upgrades and cash to areas you could not previously enter, and combat involving a lot of missiles.  For another, about half way through you earn the ability to exit your sub, mirroring the introduction of Zero Suit Samus, and the more risky decision making involved there.  However, this one does enough to separate itself from being just a clone, and ends up being a great experience for a great price.

This game really has boiled down what it means to be a fun Metroidvania title.  Direct traversal has a really nice flow to it.  Despite being underwater, the movement speed is really quick, and turning is tight, despite having a distinct weight to changes in direction.  Both main weapons (a rope claw, and a set of different missiles) feel good in combat, and also play a part in expanding the areas you can get to in the world.   Enemies are ever present, but don’t feel unfair, and also drop a fair amount of health pickups, so I didn’t ever feel stressed between large segments of combat.  Really this is about as good a Metroidvania as I’ve played in the last few years, and I would recommend it just for that.

Then you get to Insomniac’s attention to detail being at the forefront.  The story is lighthearted, but for them a surprisingly serious tale of a girl trying to find her lost father.  However, as ever it is fantastically well written.  Visually the game is absolutely beautiful, and the audio fits as a fantastic ambient soundtrack while floating through the various areas.  Every region has both a distinct visual style, and a matching soundtrack, so you’re always experiencing something a bit different, even as you’re just rummaging around trying to find every last hidden secret scattered around.

Realistically, there were some things that were definitely a bother.  Some upgrades were not very obvious in what their intended role was, though experimentation quickly fixed that problem.  The inherent floatiness of the controls definitely worked great in most areas, but some tight laser avoidance areas showed some of the potential weakness of underwater adventures.  In one particular area, there was an obnoxious escort segment involving a tiny sea creature needing to be led via lights, who liked to go get distracted everywhere but where I wanted him to go.  That said, none of this detracted from the overall experience.

If you’re a fan of Metroidvania games, go do yourself a favor and go buy this one.  It’s only $15, and you get a great 6-8 hour adventure.  I’d also recommend going to pickup the physical copy if you’re into collecting.  I suspect this was a fairly limited run, and will be a good entry into your collection in the future when it becomes a lot harder to find.  Either way, this was a definite game worth playing.

I’m also going to put a side note here.  This game is the first released by GameTrust Games.  Most people probably won’t recognize that name, but it’s the new publishing arm started by GameStop.  A lot of people have a fairly negative view on GameStop, and some of that is definitely warranted.  However, them selecting this as their first title, a game that I suspect most publishers straight out ignored, is a potentially good sign for the future of that division.  They’ve got games signed from Ready at Dawn (The Order: 1886), Tequila Works (Deadlight), and Frozenbyte (Trine), so it certainly seems like we might be seeing some more interesting stuff coming out from them this year.

It’s going to be curious to see where GameStop takes that publishing arm, but leading with a small title from a great developer shows that they may be willing to take some risks to give back to the players and developers that they may have previously spurned.

Game Ramblings #16 – Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness

More Info from Square-Enix

  • Platform: PS4
  • Genre: JRPG

So I’m a bit of a sucker for JRPGs, and the Star Ocean series has never been any different.  However, it’s been a while since The Last Hope, and that one was already a pretty big step down for the series.  The unfortunate thing is that, while SO5 showed some promise in my playthrough, it’s not reversing the slide.

If you’ve played a Star Ocean game before, this one pretty much follows the pattern.  You’ve got a cast of people on a usual nonsense JRPG story.  You’re on a backwater planet that happens to be thrown into the midst of fighting between the advanced civilizations in the galaxy.  The characters themselves are probably an overall step up from The Last Hope, including an often entertaining, but definitely hilariously dressed mage. The battle system is still a solid action battle system, pretty similar to past titles.  In what could have even been an improvement, you get up to 7 active party members at one time, which is one of the larger JRPG parties I’ve seen.  However, the game ended up feeling like it was rushed to shipping, and never really pulls into a very cohesive whole.

On the surface, this is a very short game.  I ended up clocking around 20 hours to completion, though that was admittedly not a 100% run.  What it ends up doing though is progressing the plot extremely quickly, so the story is over as soon as you really feel like you’re growing into the characters.  It also means that leveling is EXTREMELY fast.  I ended the game just short of level 80, so you can imagine the leveling pace as I was actually fighting through the world.  The unfortunate thing is that unlike other Star Ocean games, you’re effectively rooted to one planet.  There’s a few excursions to space stations, but nothing permanent.  To combat this problem, the enemies scale in the world after certain plot points, but traversing the same areas definitely grows dull.

There were also some very distinct points that drew me to annoyance.  In general, the main healer for the party was pretty incapable of staying out of trouble, so I always kept a lot of healing and resurrection items on hand.  There were also a handful of boss fights that were effectively the worst kind of escort mission.  One in particular had me facing waves of enemies while one of my party members was hacking a door.  However, if she alone died, it was a game over.  She also would not defend or heal herself, and the enemies would beeline towards her without being able to be tanked by the rest of my party.  To say it was frustrating would be a massive understatement.

The unfortunate thing in the end is that I did legitimately enjoy playing the game.  Individual fights were just fun, the little side story moments that the series often has were generally just funny, the game generally looked pretty visually solid (if not a bit busy at times).  This is just one of those games that very clearly could have benefited a lot from more cycles of iterating on what they had going, because it’s so close to really being a great RPG.  At this point I’m just hoping that tri-Ace is now setup with the technology they need for the next few years, so they can truly just spend time working on a next-gen game, rather than next-gen technology.