- Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Nintendo DS)
- Ys I & II Chronicles (PlayStation Portable)
- Rez (Dreamcast)
- ~Hack~ Metroid: Scrolls 6 (Game Boy Advance)
- Punch the Monkey! Game Edition (PlayStation)
- Ristar (Mega Drive)
- ~Homebrew~ Slow Mole (NES)
- K-ON! Ho-kago Live!! (PlayStation Portable)
- ~Hack~ Final Fantasy IV: Ultima (SNES)
- Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure (Mega Drive)
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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Nintendo DS)
|Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective||Nintendo DS||Adventure|
For this Play This Set, I would like to highlight another game that I would consider a hidden gem on the DS. Ghost Trick is an adventure game created by Shu Takumi, the creator of the Ace Attorney series. In this game you control a ghost who has just recently gained consciousness but lacks any memories of their past. However, you soon learn from a possessed lamp that you have unique ghost powers called “ghost tricks”. These powers consist of: 1) the ability to possess and manipulate inanimate objects to help you travel around and solve puzzles, and 2) the ability to possess corpses to go back four minutes before they have died so that you may be able to alter the past to change the future. With these powers your goal is to figure out who you are and who killed you. Oh, you have by dawn to figure everything out before you disappear forever.
In addition to the plot (which I’m purposely keeping short since it’s important to go in blind to this game), the gameplay is great. Story is broken into eighteen chapters that allows saving at pretty much any point, so it’s pretty easy to pick up and play or quit whenever you feel like it. Outside of exploring locations and talking to other characters, you’ll be solving puzzles using your ghost tricks. These puzzles typically consist of you manipulating objects (like turning on/off fans or opening doors) in a specific order to achieve a goal (which usually consists of saving someone’s life). What makes these puzzles interesting is the time element present in most of them. When you use your ability to travel back in time four minutes before someone’s death, you will first witness those four minutes before they died. After witnessing their death, now it’s your turn to act and try to alter their future before they die again. This time element adds an extra sense of urgency that makes the game so much more engaging than what other puzzle games try to do. However, don’t fret if the time element is turning you away from this game. Time freezes when in the Ghost World, so you can always use that time to think through what actions you need to do to solve the puzzle. Plus, you can always reset the four minutes (or to a checkpoint if you manage to alter fate a little bit) at any moment to restart a puzzle again.
The set itself does a pretty good job representing what this game offers. It does have the basic progression of completing each chapter, but also includes achievements for visiting specific locations at specific times in the game to witness optional scenes (which a lot of them are pretty humorous). While describing these achievements as “specific locations at specific times” might scare some people away from trying this set, I will say that chapters can be replayed at any point and all these achievements are visiting specific places at the start of the chapter. So, if they are missed by accident it’s pretty easy to go back and get them.
Before I give away any more of this game, I will say that control-wise, this is a friendly DS game. To my knowledge this game can be played entirely without a stylus, but playing using a mouse also feels really nice (even for the most time-sensitive puzzles). To fans of the Ace Attorney series (and games similar to it) or people interested in a game with one of the best stories stuck on the DS, I strongly recommend playing this game. You won’t be disappointed.
Ys I & II Chronicles (PlayStation Portable)
|Ys I & II Chronicles||PlayStation Portable||Action RPG|
Are you ready to enjoy bump combat yet again? Welcome to the land of Esteria once more to learn the history of the ancient city of Ys, recover the books describing its history, and save the land from the growing hordes of demons.
Because of the many ports of Ys I and II in the 80’s and 90’s, what sets Chronicles apart from those that came before, besides the music and graphics? For starters, gameplay has been enhanced with 8-directional and 360-degree movement allowing for smoother control, a multitude of NPCs have become unique with their own dialogue and names, a new town in Ys I that used to only exist in the game’s manual, new secrets and easter eggs, difficulty options, and a time attack to see how fast you can defeat all the bosses from one of the two games.
Thanks to how much was added into these versions, both sets have been designed to have you experience most of the secrets, along with presenting various challenges for the bosses. Ever wanted to see how you’d do against some of Ys I’s bosses if they were invisible? How about a minimalist equipment run? Or maybe you just wanted to do some events in a slightly different order. And lastly, how about beating the games on the highest difficulty setting: Nightmare. Think you’re up to the challenge?
WanderingHeiho - Chronicles was my introduction to the Ys series, and was either my second or third ever Falcom game. While some of the bosses were a massive pain to deal with the first few times, and still can be (hello Vagullion), I strongly recommend players to at least try one of the many versions of Ys I and II just to see how its combat can sound strange at first, but be surprisingly engaging.
malasdair - Are you sick of new Ys sets yet? Well, make some room for this one. Chronicles is a truly sumptuous and slick modernization of the flagship Falcom series. WanderingHeiho and myself both put a lot of time, effort, and love into this set, and we’ve struck a nice balance between gentle prodding for new players and hardcore challenges for the vets. I suggest switching the soundtrack arrangements between runs - all three are fantastic, and switch the vibe up just enough to stay fresh. Good luck!
|Rez||Dreamcast||Rail Shooter, Rhythm|
“What is the meaning of Life?” is a question that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. But what if Artificial Intelligence starts to have these questions himself? This Question came into the mind of an AI called Eden, who manages a network in the future called the K Project. Eden is getting flooded with an infinite amount of Data and starts to question its own existence and decides to shutdown.
You play as a hacker who dives into Cyberspace and fights off viruses and firewalls, with a goal to reawaken Eden. Otherwise, it could lead to a big problem for cyberspace and humanity in general.
This game is much more then your normal rail shooter. It is a one-of-a-kind experience, featuring a unique electronic music soundtrack that you can influence through your attacks. The game is filled with 5 beautiful and unique areas, filled with all sorts of colorful and psychedelic imagery.
The producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi is one of the most underrated minds in the video game industry. After leaving Sega, he also made other unique games such as the Lumines games, Every Extend Extra, and recently Tetris Effect.
Dive into this game and be amazed.
~Hack~ Metroid: Scrolls 6 (Game Boy Advance)
|~Hack~ Metroid: Scrolls 6||Game Boy Advance||Action-Adventure (MetroidVania)|
Metroid: Zero Mission is probably the best Metroid, depending on your opinion on Dread for Switch. It has a lot of sequence breaks, can be played normally or rushed if you know the tricks like Bomb and Wall Jump, the map is well made for both beginner and expert players, the bosses are a mix of the classics with some new guys (and a V2™ of a certain ear destroying dragon), and the soundtrack sure doesn’t disappoint.
But we aren’t talking about Zero Mission here, but Scrolls Six which is a “magic-like” (at least in lore) Metroid game with a new map but the same nice experience from the vanilla game. The game is about 1 hour of gameplay for someone who knows the basic of Metroid, has some creative boss achievements, rewards you for knowing bomb jump and wall jump, is easy to explore and find the collectables, is more casual in a way you can do 16% / low% and 100% in Normal mode instead of the old and classic hard mode, allows you to choose your own route to clear the game, and the music is good.
Punch the Monkey! Game Edition (PlayStation)
|Punch the Monkey! Game Edition||PlayStation||Rhythm|
Before you ask, no this is not a Whack-A-Mole game where the moles are replaced with monkeys; instead, this is a Lupin the Third Rhythm game, with its name being based off of the name of a set of albums that are remixes of Lupin the Third’s songs (all of the songs from this game are from these albums). While the main gameplay is fairly generic for a rhythm game (hit the corresponding buttons when they hit the circle), its extra modes that make it unique. For instance, you can play the entire game with a light gun, making it one of the few light gun rhythm games I’ve heard of (and maybe the first?). The three minigames (a Shooting Range, a Slot Machine and a Breakout clone where you shoot the ball) also work well with a light gun. There are also difficulties for the songs that swap the buttons around (so if the original chart asked for X, the flipped one would ask for Triangle) and a difficulty that completely randomizes the buttons it asks. Combine all that with a very good soundtrack (even to someone like me who hasn’t watched Lupin the Third) and you’ve got a pretty fun rhythm game.
Ristar (Mega Drive)
Ristar is a super charming and unique platformer that simultaneously feels right at home in the Genesis era and ahead of its time. The entire game is built around Ristar’s stretchy arms: you can aim them in 8 directions, and they will latch onto objects and most walls. Letting go of the button launches Ristar in that direction, hurting enemies, swinging him past poles, or just bonking. The focus on this mechanic feels a lot like a modern indie game: Ristar knows what makes it unique, and never drops it. At the same time, each level provides a new, different playground to experiment with the possibilities of the grabbing mechanic. Examples include levels with bounce pads that force you to grab while undergoing rapid vertical movement, levels with slippery floors that prevent you from stopping or turning back without clever grabs, and what just might be the least terrible water levels on the Genesis.
Ristar is also absolutely heckin’ adorable, probably the cutest mascot in Sega’s arsenal. He got the Kirby treatment with a chunk of his cute sprites changed or removed to make him all angey in the English versions, but the set is compatible with the Japanese version so you can still see Ristar in all his ‘dorbness!
And would you believe the game has actual honest-to-god unlockables? If you successfully find the game’s collectibles by completing bonus stages (1 of which is hidden in every level), you’ll be given passwords at the end of the game that unlock some cool extra modes. I won’t spoil exactly what they are, but be ready for pain if you want to truly 100% complete Ristar. Unfortunately there isn’t currently an achievement for the game’s final challenge, but I’m hopeful it will be added in the future.
~Homebrew~ Slow Mole (NES)
|~Homebrew~ Slow Mole||NES||Platforming|
Want to relive the brutal platforming of Super Meat Boy, without replaying it or an I Wanna Be the Guy game? Don’t care if the character is slow, as long as it’s tough but fair (i.e. not clunky)? Do you have an entire day to kill?
If you answered yes to all of these, then the NES homebrew game Slow Mole is for you! Guide the pudgy protagonist through many dangerous locales, each consisting of many single screen challenges! It also features a unique checkpoint system, forcing you to make a difficult decision: speed through to make your progress permanent, or be more careful and risk doing it all over again? The choice is yours!
K-ON! Ho-kago Live!! (PlayStation Portable)
|K-ON! Ho-kago Live!!||PlayStation Portable||Rhythm|
“K-ON! Houkago Live!!” is a superb rhythm game which was released for Sony’s PlayStation Portable in September of 2010. Unfortunately, the game was never localized, and it remains a Japanese-exclusive title. “K-ON! Houkago Live!!” was developed by xeen Inc., a smaller company which had previously only developed a handful of arcade games, although they would later create another successful rhythm game on the Nintendo 3DS: “Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure”. “K-ON! Houkago Live!!” borrows a little from the already successful Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA franchise, which were also PSP games published by Sega, but above all, the game reads like a love letter to the first season of the K-ON! anime, which itself was an adaptation of the manga series written and illustrated by Kakifly.
K-ON! is about a group of high school girls who participate in a “light” music club. Surprisingly, music plays a relatively minor role in the series since the characters are easily distracted and spend most of their free time goofing off, eating desserts, and drinking tea (hence the name of their band: Houkago Tea Time). Still, the girls are quite talented, and they perform a number of catchy songs throughout the course of the series.
As for the rhythm game itself, the notes scroll right to left along the bottom of the screen on what is supposed to resemble a musical bar while the top portion of the screen displays the girls performing the song. It’s a fairly simple setup, but it works so much better than what was used in the Project DIVA series. Houkago Live!! features 19 different songs; this includes both the opening and the ending theme songs of the 1st season (as well as the 2 singles that they were bundled with for the album releases), all 4 of the insert songs, and even a collection of special character-specific albums where each of the 5 girls sing 3 songs, 1 shared and 2 unique. While 19 songs doesn’t sound like a lot for a rhythm game, believe me when I say that it’s impressive for a 13-episode anime. Plus, they made separate tracks for each of the 5 girls. What’s utterly shocking is that each of the instruments truly feels different. Yui Hirasawa on lead guitar is generally more irregular than the other parts. Azusa Nakano on rhythm guitar utilizes unique chord transitions that frequently have you swap hands when switching held notes. Mio Akiyama on bass forces you to play primarily with your left hand. Tsumugi Kotobuki on keyboard switches back and forth between series of held chords and quick strings of single notes. Last but certainly not least, Ritsu Tainaka on drums requires that you use both hands to keep the beat. In addition to the 5 tracks, there are also 3 difficulties: Normal, Hard, and Hard with the special “Secret Scroll” item.
Speaking of items, this game has a near-endless supply of unlockables which are generally earned by playing through the songs. When not playing the rhythm game, you can hang out with the girls in the club room (or a variety of other locations), give the girls treats, fill the room with furniture and other decorations, and if you happen to use the right item with the right character(s) at the right location, you’ll unlock a special event cutscene, which is usually a recreation of a scene from the anime and voiced by the very same actors. From the main menu, there’s also an album where you can see what’s left to unlock, view pictures from the anime, and listen to music and special MC voice clips. You can also dress up each of the girls using the various outfits and accessories you unlock, and if you’re feeling really creative, you can even make customizable music videos.
Now that we’ve discussed the high quality of the game itself, I suppose it’s time to talk about KingS1zzle’s achievement set. It does exactly what you would want it to do: it accurately covers all of the in-game achievements. You’ll have to play through the songs with every character on every difficulty, full comboing each at least once. There is definitely some redundancy, but it’s hard to be mad at the developer. Remember when I said that the game was never localized? Well, that’s not as important as you might think because KingS1zzle spent a great deal of time constructing a fairly thorough translation of the entire game. The only other thing I’ll say is that you shouldn’t begin playing this game looking for an easy mastery. Despite being quite good at the game, I’m 45 hours in, and I’m not even close to collecting the last of Mugi’s MC Voice drops, which would earn me the final 2 achievements. All of the other collectibles are fixed, but the MC Voices are given out randomly based on drop percentages, and the rare drops are incredibly rare. In conclusion, play this game if you watched the anime, read the manga, and/or appreciate rhythm games. It won’t disappoint.
~Hack~ Final Fantasy IV: Ultima (SNES)
|~Hack~ Final Fantasy IV: Ultima||SNES||Role-Playing Game|
You like Final Fantasy IV? You want to play that but more interesting, with more convenience features, and with way more content? Then FFIV Ultima is for you. Ultima at its core is the same old Final Fantasy IV but with years of tweaks and improvements and modifications that, in almost all cases, serve to make it a more fun game. Remember how the rods just had extremely underwhelming attacks that you’d only use because you didn’t really have a better option? Now they all actually do something interesting and useful. You hated the encounter rate being too high? Now there’s a toggle to just turn it off whenever you feel like. You found the drop rate to be heinously low? Numerous enemies have had it boosted to 5 times what it was originally, and you can get an item to double the drop rate as well. There’s also an in-game bestiary to tell you what everyone drops and the rate for it. Stealing is a lot easier to do (you even get equipment that does it when you attack), spells are better-balanced, characters are better-balanced, there’s party-switching at the end, and there’s just so many neat things to see.
There’s also a load of extra bosses. In the straight path of the game, it’s mildly more difficult than the original, but that’s completely mitigated by the fact that the characters are stronger in general overall; the extra optional bosses, on the other hand, can be quite a bit more difficult, but very rewarding when you kill them. If you love Final Fantasy IV as much as I do, figuring out how to kill them is a lot of fun and the rewards for doing so are usually worth the effort. If that’s not your thing and you were fine with how easy the game always was, that’s fine too; the game doesn’t force you to do anything super difficult on the main path, so you can just go through and see the new stuff, and you can always come back and kill the earlier ones when you’re a higher level anyway.
The actual set itself is mostly about highlighting all of the things you can do, all of the extra bosses and little extras here and there that are nice to know about. There are no out-of-game challenges or anything, but Ultima doesn’t really need them, as beating the new bosses is certainly enough by itself. There’s also some completionist stuff for filling out the bestiary, which might be annoying in some other games, but Ultima has nothing that is truly missable. Almost every piece of equipment outside of the extremely end-game stuff can be bought or dropped at some point.
Overall, I just think that Ultima is a lot of fun to experience, especially if you love Final Fantasy IV as much as I do.
Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure (Mega Drive)
|Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure||Mega Drive||Action Platforming|
Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure is a platformer game for Mega Drive/Genesis from the Tiny Toon series. Though a game from this series was released also for SNES, it has way fewer levels, so the Genesis version is my favorite 16-bit Tiny Toon game. Unlike in the NES version, you can play only as Buster Bunny. Why? Because your friends from ACME Looniversity were captured and controlled by Dr. Gene Splicer.
Buster’s Hidden Treasure is similar to the likes of Super Mario World and Sonic. You walk on the world map, choosing a level to play. Some of them have 2 exits, so you can clear only a few levels of each world to complete it and choose your own path if you want to. Each world has a boss, after beating which the new world opens. You can return to the levels you already played to get extra lives or search for secrets, even in completed worlds. Each world has 1 level with a hidden secret bonus level in it. You can get extra lives for finding the life item in a bubble and also for certain points milestones.
How is it similar to Sonic? It’s a very dynamic platformer where you run a lot. The springs and slopes also remind me of Sonic. Seriously, if you love Sonic, try Buster’s Hidden Treasure. There’s just a bunny instead of a hedgehog and carrots instead of rings. Collecting 50 carrots earns you a helper, or sometimes you can find them as items in the bubbles. Helpers can be called once to clear all enemies from the screen. You can have a few helpers to summon in the same level and you’ll get the point bonus for each one you have not used after beating the level.
You start with 3 hearts and can earn up to 5 by collecting the bell items in the bubbles. Each heart is 1 HP, reduced by contact with enemies. If you have no hearts left, you’ll lose a life and in the next try you’ll start from 3 hearts again. You can also refill your health by collecting heart items in bubbles. When you run out of lives, you can continue from the beginning of the last world you have reached or choose the password to continue the game later. There is no battery saves, just passwords. The last item in bubble I did not mention is the crystal which gives you invulnerability for a short time.
And of course the set for this game is worth playing. It was made by Salsa, one of the most creative devs so far. It has a lot of enjoyable achievements, but they are not too hard. There are achievements for collecting all the carrots (or most of them if there are several ways) in the level, for collecting all the items in bubbles in the level, for finding the secret bonus levels, for beating worlds without losing a life and bosses without taking damage, a few achievements for beating the game under several conditions, and also a few easy and fun achievements awarding you for doing something pretty simple.