Shantae And The Seven Sirens

Saying Shantae and the Seven Sirens is very flawed would be a mistake, because no component of the game comes off as lackluster or problematic. What it truly lacks is a bright spark of creativity to elevate it further. However, in spite of that absence, the quest it contains remains enjoyable throughout the way, and the whole package is recommended to anyone looking for a lighter – but still very big in scope – take on the Metroidvania genre, one that sprinkles a maze-like world with drops of straightforward action-platforming and adventure. Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a very welcome return to form by one of the independent scene’s most beloved franchises. And even if it has some catching up to do to match the best efforts of its genre, there is no denying that the change it brings to the table is as pleasant to experience as the knowledge that the half-genie is back to doing what she knows best; that is, unlocking the secrets of a big labyrinth while talking to characters, executing trading sequences, going through dungeons, and bringing down foes with her signature hair whip.

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Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Ironically, even though it is more recommendable to longtime Fire Emblem players due to the fact it lacks the long introductory arch of The Blazing Blade, the steps The Sacred Stones takes towards accessibility may cause some frustration in those veterans. After all, its abundance of enemies and goods removes the stifling resource restrictions of its predecessors, making its adventure – therefore – much closer to the easier contemporary entries of the franchise than to the mighty challenges that were rather frequent in the past. That caveat aside, The Sacred Stones is yet another very good entry in the saga, and it is likely to universally please. Because, in the end, its greatness does not originate solely from the fact it adds the practicality of a world map to a well-known gameplay framework that has repeatedly proven it works well. The Sacred Stones is great, ultimately, because it joins exciting strategic battles with an engaging plot that moves through sweetness, sadness, and darkness. And when that formula is achieved, the Fire Emblem franchise is at its finest state.

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Highway Hijinks

Ultimately, that is certainly the greatest gift of Onward: its unbelievable ability to distract one from realizing how conventional it is deep down. And Pixar pulls it all off so well that they are actually bound to make many viewers genuinely and fairly believe in far more than that, as some will conclude the story of Ian and Barley is one of the best they have ever produced. It is part deception, part heart, part creativity, and part experience. And with these tools in hand, the company digs itself out of the artistic dead-end that Onward seemed to be in concept. Deliberately or not, it was a position in which Pixar put itself when they opted to assemble their own twist on the trope-ridden road movie genre. And from that tight starting point, it is hard to argue they could have done it any better. Whether it was a self-imposed test or a twist of fate, they passed it with flying colors.

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Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade

In the end, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade was undoubtedly a very good choice for being the franchise’s first entry to be released outside of its home country. And even after the further establishment of the saga all around the world with a sequence of equally strong titles that certainly built on it, revisiting this Game Boy Advance chapter is still more than worth it for aficionados and casual fans alike. Surely, some of its traits will reveal a roughness that was neatly smoothed out as the saga developed; but, at the same time, a portion of these old-school values actually make The Blazing Blade be one interesting transitory bridge between the brutal past of Fire Emblem and the more accessible future that would lead it to universal success. And in that sense, it is a kind of adventure that cannot be tackled in many other places.

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SSX 3

It is possible to, perhaps, argue that the dedication SSX 3 puts towards the creation of a massive mountain with seamlessly connected courses and areas ends up leading it to have a somewhat small number of tracks, as the game carries slightly less than twenty of those. Nevertheless, such a complaint hardly holds when faced with how big and impressive the title feels. Where most sports games often rest on previously acquired laurels and are satisfied with implementing a few alterations in order to justify a sequel, SSX 3 goes the other way. Sure, at heart, it still presents the mixture of thrilling races and exaggerated arcade features the franchise is known for. Yet, the work it does in terms of world-building is so stunning and pushes so many boundaries that its scope still comes off as utterly flooring.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons walks on a tightrope whose existence is utterly unlikely. One will have a hard time finding, in the entirety of the Nintendo canon that existed prior to its release, a title that can extract as many hours out of players that go into it. Simultaneously, even though a time-consuming nature is often reserved to games that appeal to few, Animal Crossing: New Horizons carries an allure that is universal. The usual premise of living and taking care of a little virtual village filled with lovely characters has been expanded to the concept of developing a barren deserted island into a charming little town floating in the middle of the ocean. It is a process that takes weeks, progresses slowly, requires patience, and features a great deal of grinding. But it is also a journey that lets players perform tasks at their own pace and, thanks to the marvelous customization powers included in New Horizons, exercise their creativity freely and without any pressure, carefully building a personal virtual paradise that has the potential to keep producing joy for a good number of years. Such is the magic of Animal Crossing.

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Mystery Blogger Award

Thanks to Red Metal, who runs Extra Life Reviews, one of the finest blogs about games and movies you are going to find out there, I have been tagged with a Mystery Blogger Award. In the past, whenever I was given one of those, I bookmarked them while telling myself I would get to replying to them later. Of course, I would then forget all about it for quite a bit, usually remembering I had questions to answer when creating the post did not make much sense anymore due to the elapsed time. In a way, this one was not really different, since the tag happened about a month ago. But I will get to it anyway because answering these is fun. So, without further ado, here are the questions and answers.

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Secret Of Mana

Although Secret of Mana is a game that, in many ways, is built on the role-playing staples often explored by the folks at Square, it is also a title that finds features to make it unique. It is a quest that holds an impressive number of well-designed dungeons, appealing locations, and notable bosses; elements that will not surprise anyone who has delved into other works by the company. At the same time, it bets on an action-based battle system that greatly separates it from the Final Fantasy games, and features a tone and traveling mechanics that further expand that gap. Truthfully, with the exception of the technical and artistic prowess it carries in visuals and music, none of the components that constitute it are flawless: its plot lacks development, its combats – even if fun – have a variety of issues, and a few minor design oversights are bound to cause players’ enjoyment of the quest to be slightly disrupted. Yet, despite them, Secret of Mana remains satisfying, and regardless of how Square certainly released better efforts for the Super Nintendo, the title is still worth playing due to how it breaks away from the usual mold followed by the company, sprinkling action and adventure onto the bones of a regular RPG.

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Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is, ultimately, a phenomenal revival that went through one crooked path in order to become reality, making its existence as much of a victory as its stunning quality. Materializing as a product that balances indie trends with respect for the tradition and spirit of the franchise to which it belongs, the game is a marvel that is difficult to qualify, as it uses the full extent of its long quest to explore a surprising myriad of mechanics and gameplay styles, succeeding in all of them with the same level of competence. As such, whether it is in action, in platforming, in shooting, in exploring, or in puzzle-solving, the game will please all sorts of audiences, conquering the hearts of those who were around to see the saga peak and then disappear, as well as drawing in a group of gamers who were never aware of the Wonder Boy property. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom achieves that status because it is relentlessly inventive and impossibly charming. And surrounded by numerous contemporaries who have explored the same genre, it is able to qualify as one of the very best.

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Super Paper Mario

Through those various problems, however, Super Paper Mario still stands relatively well. The decision to dilute the RPG elements of its predecessors and bet on the action and puzzle-solving components of the saga does make sense when the context in which the game was inserted is taken into account. Nevertheless, its quest, the general dullness of its combat, and the varied but ultimately overly straightforward nature of its puzzles reveal the process of simplification may have gone too far. Super Paper Mario, therefore, is able to find a way to work as a game not thanks to the excellence of its gameplay, but because the charm of its world and the competence of its mechanics are accompanied by a very well-written plot and individual chapters that shine quite brightly. As such, even if in the end it is just its script and characters that will truly leave a mark and be remembered by those who go through the adventure, the title is worth playing thanks to its uniqueness and its powerful heart.

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