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Valfaris Review

To quote Bill: This is me at my most masochistic.

I have a few questions for you. Do you consider yourself to be masochistic in your choice of games to play? Are you driven by a need to show your superiority over other players and scoff at them for not “getting good”? Has your quest for harder and harder games desensitized you to the point that it’s impossible for you to enjoy anything that isn’t actively trying to frustrate you? Well, you’re in luck, because have I got the game for you! Enter: Valfaris, a game so focused on punishing players that it forgets to be fun. Which, if you answered yes to the above questions should get you absolutely psyched, right?

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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Review

I can't track these changes.

It almost hurts to write that it’s been 13 years since Sega released Banana Blitz back on the Wii. At the time, I know I couldn’t have been more excited that we were about to see a Monkey Ball game that leveraged the motion capabilities of Nintendo’s hit system. However, when it finally released, I wasn’t thrilled with the results. Rather than leveraging the Wii remote in its horizontal orientation, like many other motion-centric games had, it forced you to point forward and contort your arm in awkward ways to tilt the stage. I quickly shelved the game and wrote it off as a failure. I suspect I wasn’t the only one, because after all these years Sega has released an HD remaster of the game leveraging more standard console controls using the analog stick. Unfortunately, the transition has introduced level design changes that bring things to a degree of difficulty that I’ve found to be insurmountable.

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Stranger Things 3: The Game Review

Dungeon-crawling through Hawkins.

Like so many other children of the ‘80s, I love Stranger Things. Booting it up is like taking a time machine back to my childhood. The pervasive synth music, the wardrobes and the cultural references instantly transport me, making it easier to get sucked into the day-to-day of Hawkins and the ever-creepy world of the Upside-Down. And just like a true ‘80s property, there’s also a tie-in video game to go along with the latest season of the show. Thankfully this tie-in isn’t quite as low budget as as the Atari 2600 and NES tie-ins of yesteryear, but the dungeon crawling brawler pales in comparison to the electrifying viewing experience offered by the show, especially this latest season.

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EarthBound Review Rewind

The RPG that wasn’t afraid to get weird.

Remember that silly old trope in teen movies where the nerdy “plain Jane” character magically becomes super attractive just by removing her glasses? It was a bit like that with EarthBound- an RPG that was largely ignored when released on the Super NES in its twilight years. Nintendo’s ill-conceived ad campaign telling the player that “this game stinks” didn’t do it any favors either. The game’s overtly humorous kid-friendly facade was unusual for its time and quickly written off as ugly and boring by all but the most accepting of RPG fans. But thanks to the positive praise in gaming forums years later, it picked up steam and eventually became lauded as one of the best on the Super NES. Much like the bespectacled character in every 90s teen comedy, it was as if EarthBound removed its glasses. Nothing was different about it- just our perception of what was already there.

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Tetris Review Rewind

The game needs no introduction; but this review does, however.

As it so happened, the Game Boy was the perfect present, as my older brother found out when he graduated from middle school. After the party was over and everyone had gone home, mom and dad came downstairs with a just one more wrapped present. I still remember the brother opening the box and joyfully exclaiming “It’s a Game Boy”! Since Tetris came packaged with it, we wasted no time playing that Russian puzzle game for years to come. It was the perfect game to complement the perfect present.

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Qix Review Rewind

The original Geometry Wars

My earliest memory of Qix began sometime in the mid-90s when I saw it listed in a Funcoland price sheet (remember those?) and thought it was pronounced “quicks”. As a kid, I thought it was a rule that all words spelled with a “Q” had to be pronounced with the qu inflection. But years of expanded vocabulary eventually proved me wrong. In short, the game’s title is pronounced “kicks”- because I suppose the developer Taito wanted you to get your kicks playing Qix. See what they did there?

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Xevious Review Rewind

A Game Changer

Every time I play Xevious on one of Namco’s "museum" compilations, I can’t help but reminisce about the time when I first discovered the game in 1992 on the Atari 7800 (a system which also familiarized me with other Namco classics outside of Pac-Man). Back then, our family couldn’t afford the Super NES or Sega Genesis. So, in a move of what I think was out of pity, a friend of ours gave us her 7800 with a huge bag full of games. While rummaging through the cartridges, I came across the little oddity known as Xevious. It was probably the first game I had heard of that started with an “X”, and the name intrigued me. I quickly fell in love with the unique enemy designs and mysterious land structures peppered throughout the game.

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Gris Review

Do you like Journey, but want it to have a bit more Mario in it? This is for you.

While GRIS is a short, 3-4 hour experience that doesn't take a whole lot of gaming skill for most of its run-time, don't be fooled into thinking there aren't legitimately challenging platforming and puzzle sections. Whether this immerses you more in GRIS's world or is just an interruption to your good time depends on what kind of games you like, but I'd say it's well worth the experience. 

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Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride Review Rewind

Family Matters

August of this year will mark the 20th anniversary since Dragon Quest was introduced in the US. With 10 core sequels and many spin-offs since then, you’d think an RPG fan such as myself would be well-versed in the series by now. But in reality, my Dragon Quest knowledge over the years has only been cursory at best. I got started about eight years ago when I completed Dragon Warrior (the series’ name in the US until 2005), and I’m currently nearly halfway through the massive adventure that is Dragon Quest XI. My depth of familiarity with the series pretty much ends there. Or at least it did until I recently finished Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride- a Nintendo DS remake of the beloved Super Famicom original.

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Dragon Warrior Review Rewind

This RPG is a real grind. No dragon your feet here.

If there’s one thing I absolutely adore about Dragon Warrior (aka Dragon Quest), it’s how much its subtle charms have influenced each sequel to come after it. There’s just something special about playing the latest game in the series (currently Dragon Quest XI) and still hearing the familiar sound cues of attacking an enemy, taking a hit, or the brief but satisfying victory chime and level-up fanfare. Additionally, the character designs by Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball creator and illustrator) give a visual continuity throughout each game. Without question, the Dragon Quest series has laid down some deep roots that all started here. But although it's a beloved first entry for nostalgic fans of the series, newcomers might not warm up to certain gameplay elements that weren't refined until much later.

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