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Wasteland 3 - Review Thread

Game Information

Game Title: Wasteland 3
Platforms:
Trailers:
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: Deep Silver
Review Aggregator:
OpenCritic - 84 average - 97% recommended - 39 reviews

Critic Reviews

33bits - Juanma F. Padilla - Spanish - 95 / 100
After the excellent Wasteland 2, we were excited to get our hands on the new installment, and we can say without fear that it has met expectations. Wasteland 3 is a sign of the love that InXile has for his work and Brian Fargo for the genre that has created a name for him. If you are a lover of the saga or the genre, do not hesitate to enjoy it.
ACG - Jeremy Penter - Buy

Video Review - Quote not available

Attack of the Fanboy - Diego Perez - 4.5 / 5 stars
Wasteland 3 is one of the best RPGs I've played in years, and it's one you absolutely should not skip.
CGMagazine - Lane Martin - 9 / 10
Wasteland 3 is a lovely return to the post nuclear apocalypse with fun gameplay and interesting choices at its forefront, though at times it can be a bit clumsy in its implementation.
COGconnected - Tony Bae - 90 / 100
Wasteland 3 doesn’t pull any punches with its subject matter in sexuality, violence, and language. But if you are fine with that, I would highly recommend you give Wasteland 3 a shot, especially if you were (or still are) a Fallout fan.
Cerealkillerz - Julian Bieder - German - 8.8 / 10
On Paper Wasteland 3 sounds like the perfect RPG-Dream but the execution leaves much to be desired. Bugs, Glitches and graphics that doesn't really represent a game that releases and the end of this console generation are a bit of a letdown. Everything else from the great story, entertaining NPCs, solid battle system, clever leveldesign over to the love for details is amazing, besides some flaws that should soon be fixed, as inXile and Brian Fargo promise. Everyone that wasn't happy with the latest Fallout Games will surely love Wasteland 3.
Chicas Gamers - Adrián de Francisco - Spanish - Unscored
Wasteland 3 is a old-school role-playing game, with a compelling story, a combat system that promises but is not groundbreaking and some funny moments and black mood, which always remind us that we are in a post apocalyptic world, but with a smile. Don't forget the powerful character editor, rhythm voices, and the beautiful scenery that puts you in that atmosphere of cold and snowy Colorado.
Cram-Gaming - Robert Cram - 8.5 / 10
Wasteland 3 can be a bit of slog if you're gunning for marathon gaming sessions with it at the helm. Combat, whilst exciting initially can fall into the traps of repetition. A little more variety could have negated some of the repeated player actions. That said, the story is compelling and the characters an interesting assortment of misfit survivors, although perhaps fitting post-apocalyptic stereotypes. It's a fun, easy to play game overall though that should well-please fans of the series and keep players entertained for quite some time with its high replay-value. However, aside from some bugs here and there, the impressive amount of voice-work on offer, the character building is the best part of the experience where you can really nurture your ranger squad in this snowy post-apocalyptic world.
Digital Trends - Tom Caswell - 4 / 5 stars
Wasteland 3 is a rewarding game that offers unprecedented choice and is a great jumping on point for new players.
DualShockers - Kris Cornelisse - 9 / 10
Improving on its predecessor in almost every way, Wasteland 3 is one of the best and most reactive RPGs I've played in a long time.
EGM - Mollie L Patterson - Unscored
At least in my time with it, Wasteland 3 has been a fascinating experience. I’ve come to appreciate its depth of gameplay, character, building, and exploration, even if some of its pieces and parts still feel very foreign to me.
Entertainium - Eduardo Rebouças - Unscored
I will be even happier with Wasteland 3 once it’s patched and most of the bugs that bit me end up getting squashed. Even in its current state I’m having a grand ol’ time bringing some justice to the cold depths where no Ranger has dared to before. But for as much of a blast as I’m having out northeast in the cold, I hope I can make it back to sunny Arizona in time to save my fellow lawmen!
Eurogamer - Wesley Yin-Poole - Recommended
inXile's old-school RPG is the Fallout game we've been craving.
Fextralife - Castielle - 8.3 / 10
Wasteland 3 is a throwback to the old School RPGs of yesteryear, while providing a new combat experience and a bigger world. Players that liked previous Fallout Games, or games like Wasteland 2 or Baldur's Gate will feel right at home with this title, and will have the opportunity to try X-Com like combat. For the amount of content provided, 60 USD is a very good price, and fans of the genre should get more than their money's worth.
GAMES.CH - Nedžad Hurabašić - German - 83 / 100
Wasteland 3 is absolutely worth the money - the RPG brings dozens of hours of fun gameplay to the table. A must-buy for roleplayers.
Game Revolution - Jason Faulkner - 4 / 5 stars
Wasteland 3 is a marvel of a game, especially from a small studio like inExile. It’s not without its flaws, but the excellent writing and enthralling world overshadow those.
GameSkinny - Daniel Hollis - 9 / 10 stars
Wasteland 3 invokes feelings of classic RPGs such as Fallout and manages to nail the feel and tone perfectly in a modernized setting.
GameWatcher - Marcello Perricone - 8.5 / 10
A fantastic RPG that superbly mixes player choice and great combat to something bigger than the sum of its parts.
GamesRadar+ - Andrew King - 4 / 5 stars
Wasteland 3 doesn't bring much new to the table, both as a CRPG and as a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction. But, it's a terrifically executed role-playing game that rewards player investment from beginning to end.
GamingBolt - Ravi Sinha - 9 / 10
Wasteland 3 is a heady crescendo of post-apocalyptic story-telling. Its combat is compelling and fun while its characters and overall plot are engrossing, even when it goes to some dark places. A must-play for tactical RPG fans.
Gert Lush Gaming - Jim Smale - 9 / 10
Wasteland 3 is the defacto strategy experience and one that every gamer owes themself the pleasure of playing.
God is a Geek - Mick Fraser - 9.5 / 10
Wasteland 3 is a huge undertaking, marrying deep, choice-driven role play with fast-paced tactical combat and vast areas to explore.
IGN Spain - Álex Pareja - Spanish - 8 / 10
Wasteland 3 knows how to open to new players keeping the old school essence. It's not a revolution on the genre or in the post apocaliptic proposal, but it won't matter to the franchise lovers.
Niche Gamer - Cwb - 3.5 / 10
We’ll update this review if the game is fixed, and the issues outlined are fixed or at least addressed; and then I’ll pick it back up. As it stands now, I’ll be playing something else that isn’t as apt to crash. Buyer beware.
PC Gamer - Jody Macgregor - 84 / 100
A wilfully strange setting explored through a predictable but enjoyable old school RPG thats been streamlined just enough.
PC Invasion - Jason Rodriguez - 8.5 / 10
There are a few misgivings related to Wasteland 3's technical aspects, mechanics, and overall challenge. However, its cast of characters (both old and new), the switch to a traditional turn-based combat system, and branching paths filled with decisions and dire consequences make for a superb journey with the Desert Rangers.
PCGamesN - Gina Lees - 9 / 10
Lurid characters, a deep RPG system, and captivating combat set in an unhinged apocalypse - inXile Entertainment's latest shouldn't be missed.
Player2.net.au - Matt Hewson - A or higher
With a focus on freedom of choice that is second-to-none, Wasteland 3 has set the benchmark for CRPG narratives, all the while being supported by wonderfully engaging gameplay and roleplaying mechanics.
PowerUp! - Leo Stevenson - 9.7 / 10
If you’re an RPG fan, a Fallout fan or even just a videogame fan, do yourself a favour and play one of this year’s very best games; Wasteland 3.
Saving Content - Scott Ellison II - 5 / 5 stars
It took me a while to realize how much these interactions, whether it be the interpersonal conversation or combat encounters themselves, stuck with me. Wasteland 3 has rules, but they only exist for you to bend them. With limitless character creation combinations, branching dialogue choices that affect what quests you do or don’t experience, and multiple endings, Wasteland 3 is an expanse of content and opportunity. The change in locale does wonders, no longer relying on a tired post-apocalyptic biome. Wasteland 3 has a wonderful backdrop in Colorado’s frozen wastes, making it the perfect place to spend a nuclear winter.
Screen Rant - Christopher Teuton - 4 / 5 stars
Wasteland 3 takes players to a new location and presents them with equally unfamiliar challenges, yet still perfectly demonstrates all of the reasons why this series has had die-hard fans for over three decades, and is absolutely worth playing for anyone looking for their next post-apocalyptic fix.
Shacknews - Josh Hawkins - 9 / 10
If you’re a big fan of the original Wasteland games, or just an RPG fan in general, then I highly recommend picking up Wasteland 3 and giving it a try.
Spaziogames - Paolo Sirio - Italian - 8.3 / 10
Wasteland 3 doesn't change its predecessor's successful formula but, outside of certain design limitations, it perfects and modernizes it. It's easily the best game in the franchise, in terms of pure technique, and one that clearly gives you an idea of what inXile is able to achieve.
The Games Machine - Danilo Dellafrana - Italian - 8.7 / 10
Wasteland 3 is a good role-playing game, technically passable but enriched by a dense network of intriguing subplots that will push the most dedicated to play it several times. Watch out for the ever-present release bugs, though – best to wait a couple patches if you want to avoid unnecessary hurdles.
TrustedReviews - Alastair Stevenson - 4 / 5 stars
Wasteland 3 is a solid tactical RPG that will keep fans of the genre entertained for hours upon hours. But it doesn't do enough to bring the genre forward to a mainstream audience.
WayTooManyGames - Thomas Medina - 9 / 10
All in all, this is the game I wanted so badly for Wasteland 2 to be. It doesn’t just repeat what came before, but expands upon it all. Not just mechanically, but story wise as well.
Wccftech - Francesco De Meo - 9 / 10
Wasteland 3 features everything only the best role-playing games do: an engaging story powered by excellent writing, compelling characters, tons of customization options, and a deep tactical combat system that feels fresh even after dozens of hours. But, most of all, it features a living world that reacts to what the player does, and changes depending on how the player decides to deal with the troubles ahead, providing a role-playing experience of the highest degree, one that very few games can boast of.
Windows Central - Jez Corden - 5 / 5 stars
Wasteland 3 is a testament to the power of the branching narrative, taking it far beyond binary choices and into a grand canopy of cause and effect. It gives the wintry climbs of Colorado a lifelike quality that must have been painstaking to build. The most impressive RPG in years, Wasteland 3 is a masterpiece.
XboxEra - Jesse Norris - 9.7 / 10
Wasteland 3 shines with clear dedication to crafting the best game its genre has ever seen. Excellent visuals are matched by top notch voice work and some of the best and most natural writing I have seen in a video game not made by Naughty Dog. The combat is a brutal dance where one wrong move can spell disaster, but victory is an exhilarating rush that never becomes old. Wasteland 3 cements inXile as one of the best in the business in the RPG genre and affirms that Xbox has something truly special on their hands.
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Forex Signals Reddit: top providers review (part 1)

Forex Signals Reddit: top providers review (part 1)

Forex Signals - TOP Best Services. Checked!

To invest in the financial markets, we must acquire good tools that help us carry out our operations in the best possible way. In this sense, we always talk about the importance of brokers, however, signal systems must also be taken into account.
The platforms that offer signals to invest in forex provide us with alerts that will help us in a significant way to be able to carry out successful operations.
For this reason, we are going to tell you about the importance of these alerts in relation to the trading we carry out, because, without a doubt, this type of system will provide us with very good information to invest at the right time and in the best assets in the different markets. financial
Within this context, we will focus on Forex signals, since it is the most important market in the world, since in it, multiple transactions are carried out on a daily basis, hence the importance of having an alert system that offers us all the necessary data to invest in currencies.
Also, as we all already know, cryptocurrencies have become a very popular alternative to investing in traditional currencies. Therefore, some trading services/tools have emerged that help us to carry out successful operations in this particular market.
In the following points, we will detail everything you need to know to start operating in the financial markets using trading signals: what are signals, how do they work, because they are a very powerful help, etc. Let's go there!

What are Forex Trading Signals?

https://preview.redd.it/vjdnt1qrpny51.jpg?width=640&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=bc541fc996701e5b4dd940abed610b59456a5625
Before explaining the importance of Forex signals, let's start by making a small note so that we know what exactly these alerts are.
Thus, we will know that the signals on the currency market are received by traders to know all the information that concerns Forex, both for assets and for the market itself.
These alerts allow us to know the movements that occur in the Forex market and the changes that occur in the different currency pairs. But the great advantage that this type of system gives us is that they provide us with the necessary information, to know when is the right time to carry out our investments.
In other words, through these signals, we will know the opportunities that are presented in the market and we will be able to carry out operations that can become quite profitable.
Profitability is precisely another of the fundamental aspects that must be taken into account when we talk about Forex signals since the vast majority of these alerts offer fairly reliable data on assets. Similarly, these signals can also provide us with recommendations or advice to make our operations more successful.

»Purpose: predict movements to carry out Profitable Operations

In short, Forex signal systems aim to predict the behavior that the different assets that are in the market will present and this is achieved thanks to new technologies, the creation of specialized software, and of course, the work of financial experts.
In addition, it must also be borne in mind that the reliability of these alerts largely lies in the fact that they are prepared by financial professionals. So they turn out to be a perfect tool so that our investments can bring us a greater number of benefits.

The best signal services today

We are going to tell you about the 3 main alert system services that we currently have on the market. There are many more, but I can assure these are not scams and are reliable. Of course, not 100% of trades will be a winner, so please make sure you apply proper money management and risk management system.

1. 1000pipbuilder (top choice)

Fast track your success and follow the high-performance Forex signals from 1000pip Builder. These Forex signals are rated 5 stars on Investing.com, so you can follow every signal with confidence. All signals are sent by a professional trader with over 10 years investment experience. This is a unique opportunity to see with your own eyes how a professional Forex trader trades the markets.
The 1000pip Builder Membership is ordinarily a signal service for Forex trading. You will get all the facts you need to successfully comply with the trading signals, set your stop loss and take earnings as well as additional techniques and techniques!
You will get easy to use trading indicators for Forex Trades, including your entry, stop loss and take profit. Overall, the earnings target per months is 350 Pips, depending on your funding this can be a high profit per month! (In fact, there is by no means a guarantee, but the past months had been all between 600 – 1000 Pips).
>>>Know more about 1000pipbuilder
Your 1000pip builder membership gives you all in hand you want to start trading Forex with success. Read the directions and wait for the first signals. You can trade them inside your demo account first, so you can take a look at the performance before you make investments real money!
Features:
  • Free Trial
  • Forex signals sent by email and SMS
  • Entry price, take profit and stop loss provided
  • Suitable for all time zones (signals sent over 24 hours)
  • MyFXBook verified performance
  • 10 years of investment experience
  • Target 300-400 pips per month
Pricing:
https://preview.redd.it/zjc10xx6ony51.png?width=668&format=png&auto=webp&s=9b0eac95f8b584dc0cdb62503e851d7036c0232b
VISIT 1000ipbuilder here

2. DDMarkets

Digital Derivatives Markets (DDMarkets) have been providing trade alert offerings since May 2014 - fully documenting their change ideas in an open and transparent manner.
September 2020 performance report for DD Markets.
Their manner is simple: carry out extensive research, share their evaluation and then deliver a trading sign when triggered. Once issued, daily updates on the trade are despatched to members via email.
It's essential to note that DDMarkets do not tolerate floating in an open drawdown in an effort to earnings at any cost - a common method used by less professional providers to 'fudge' performance statistics.
Verified Statistics: Not independently verified.
Price: plans from $74.40 per month.
Year Founded: 2014
Suitable for Beginners: Yes, (includes handy to follow trade analysis)
VISIT
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3. JKonFX

If you are looking or a forex signal service with a reliable (and profitable) music record you can't go previous Joel Kruger and the team at JKonFX.
Trading performance file for JKonFX.
Joel has delivered a reputable +59.18% journal performance for 2016, imparting real-time technical and fundamental insights, in an extremely obvious manner, to their 30,000+ subscriber base. Considered a low-frequency trader, alerts are only a small phase of the overall JKonFX subscription. If you're searching for hundreds of signals, you may want to consider other options.
Verified Statistics: Not independently verified.
Price: plans from $30 per month.
Year Founded: 2014
Suitable for Beginners: Yes, (includes convenient to follow videos updates).
VISIT

The importance of signals to invest in Forex

Once we have known what Forex signals are, we must comment on the importance of these alerts in relation to our operations.
As we have already told you in the previous paragraph, having a system of signals to be able to invest is quite advantageous, since, through these alerts, we will obtain quality information so that our operations end up being a true success.

»Use of signals for beginners and experts

In this sense, we have to say that one of the main advantages of Forex signals is that they can be used by both beginners and trading professionals.
As many as others can benefit from using a trading signal system because the more information and resources we have in our hands. The greater probability of success we will have. Let's see how beginners and experts can take advantage of alerts:
  • Beginners: for inexperienced these alerts become even more important since they will thus have an additional tool that will guide them to carry out all operations in the Forex market.
  • Professionals: In the same way, professionals are also recommended to make use of these alerts, so they have adequate information to continue bringing their investments to fruition.
Now that we know that both beginners and experts can use forex signals to invest, let's see what other advantages they have.

»Trading automation

When we dedicate ourselves to working in the financial world, none of us can spend 24 hours in front of the computer waiting to perform the perfect operation, it is impossible.
That is why Forex signals are important, because, in order to carry out our investments, all we will have to do is wait for those signals to arrive, be attentive to all the alerts we receive, and thus, operate at the right time according to the opportunities that have arisen.
It is fantastic to have a tool like this one that makes our work easier in this regard.

»Carry out profitable Forex operations

These signals are also important, because the vast majority of them are usually quite profitable, for this reason, we must get an alert system that provides us with accurate information so that our operations can bring us great benefits.
But in addition, these Forex signals have an added value and that is that they are very easy to understand, therefore, we will have a very useful tool at hand that will not be complicated and will end up being a very beneficial weapon for us.

»Decision support analysis

A system of currency market signals is also very important because it will help us to make our subsequent decisions.
We cannot forget that, to carry out any type of operation in this market, previously, we must meditate well and know the exact moment when we will know that our investments are going to bring us profits .
Therefore, all the information provided by these alerts will be a fantastic basis for future operations that we are going to carry out.

»Trading Signals made by professionals

Finally, we have to recall the idea that these signals are made by the best professionals. Financial experts who know perfectly how to analyze the movements that occur in the market and changes in prices.
Hence the importance of alerts, since they are very reliable and are presented as a necessary tool to operate in Forex and that our operations are as profitable as possible.

What should a signal provider be like?

https://preview.redd.it/j0ne51jypny51.png?width=640&format=png&auto=webp&s=5578ff4c42bd63d5b6950fc6401a5be94b97aa7f
As you have seen, Forex signal systems are really important for our operations to bring us many benefits. For this reason, at present, there are multiple platforms that offer us these financial services so that investing in currencies is very simple and fast.
Before telling you about the main services that we currently have available in the market, it is recommended that you know what are the main characteristics that a good signal provider should have, so that, at the time of your choice, you are clear that you have selected one of the best systems.

»Must send us information on the main currency pairs

In this sense, one of the first things we have to comment on is that a good signal provider, at a minimum, must send us alerts that offer us information about the 6 main currencies, in this case, we refer to the euro, dollar, The pound, the yen, the Swiss franc, and the Canadian dollar.
Of course, the data you provide us will be related to the pairs that make up all these currencies. Although we can also find systems that offer us information about other minorities, but as we have said, at a minimum, we must know these 6.

»Trading tools to operate better

Likewise, signal providers must also provide us with a large number of tools so that we can learn more about the Forex market.
We refer, for example, to technical analysis above all, which will help us to develop our own strategies to be able to operate in this market.
These analyzes are always prepared by professionals and study, mainly, the assets that we have available to invest.

»Different Forex signals reception channels

They must also make available to us different ways through which they will send us the Forex signals, the usual thing is that we can acquire them through the platform's website, or by a text message and even through our email.
In addition, it is recommended that the signal system we choose sends us a large number of alerts throughout the day, in order to have a wide range of possibilities.

»Free account and customer service

Other aspects that we must take into account to choose a good signal provider is whether we have the option of receiving, for a limited time, alerts for free or the profitability of the signals they emit to us.
Similarly, a final aspect that we must emphasize is that a good signal system must also have excellent customer service, which is available to us 24 hours a day and that we can contact them at through an email, a phone number, or a live chat, for greater immediacy.
Well, having said all this, in our last section we are going to tell you which are the best services currently on the market. That is, the most suitable Forex signal platforms to be able to work with them and carry out good operations. In this case, we will talk about ForexPro Signals, 365 Signals and Binary Signals.

Forex Signals Reddit: conclusion

To be able to invest properly in the Forex market, it is convenient that we get a signal system that provides us with all the necessary information about this market. It must be remembered that Forex is a very volatile market and therefore, many movements tend to occur quickly.
Asset prices can change in a matter of seconds, hence the importance of having a system that helps us analyze the market and thus know, what is the right time for us to start operating.
Therefore, although there are currently many signal systems that can offer us good services, the three that we have mentioned above are the ones that are best valued by users, which is why they are the best signal providers that we can choose to carry out. our investments.
Most of these alerts are quite profitable and in addition, these systems usually emit a large number of signals per day with full guarantees. For all this, SignalsForexPro, Signals365, or SignalsBinary are presented as fundamental tools so that we can obtain a greater number of benefits when we carry out our operations in the currency market.
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[Review] Ranking all the Switch shmups Ep26 – Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade

We’ve all had a game that is a gateway to a specific genre. That one game which made us pay attention to a style of games and allowed us to fully experience the genre. It might not have been the first one we play, but it is definitely one that stays closer to our hearts. For me, this game was Darius.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I will say it again: Darius is the shmup that is closest to my heart. I loved the horizontal gameplay, I loved the Silver Hawk, I loved all the huge bosses that looked like fishes. The gameplay also hit bunch of chords that resonate with what I love about shmups. I’ve been waiting so long for this, so alas, I present to you: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade!
Publisher: ININ Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Jun 16, 2020
Price: $44.99
Tate: Built-in
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of the Darius games released on the arcades. This wasn’t your typical cabinet, as one of its main features was the usage of multiple screens. Darius used 3 screens, while Darius II/SAGAIA used 2 screens. M2 really went out of their way to bring the most authentic arcade experience! The result is impressive to say the least!
This collections includes 4 games:
Darius and SAGAIA include 3 and 2 different versions respectively, bringing it to a total of 7 playable games.

ARCADE GLORY

As hard as this might be to believe, I have never played an arcade Darius game before. I always mentioned Darius as my favorite shmup, but the truth is that I began with the SNES games. I had heard on the street that the arcade versions were superior so I was very excited.
When I booted the original version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing next to an actual arcade cabinet. The game greeted me with 3 screens places next to each other on the center of the screen. I was excited to play, so I pressed the coin button. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience…
As soon as I inserted the coin, a typical fanfare played along as my credit counter increased by one. But there was something else. The controller started vibrating to the tune of the music. I just can’t make justice to this effect with words. It felt like being inside an actual arcade cabinet. Vibrations and sound made the experience feel authentic. It made me think about the arcade days where you would hear cabinets everywhere and just feel the energy of the place.
As soon as I started to play, the screen changed and the empty spaces were replaced by arcade artwork. This artwork was exactly the kind you would see pasted near the controllers to show you how to play and other general information. Everything about the game was designed to make you feel like on the arcade. This is the kind of presentation that every other arcade port should try to achieve.

FISH GRAVY

What truly sets apart the Darius Cozmic Collection from any other collection is the amount of features and arcade fidelity that M2 added to the game. Every single aspect, every single menu and every single feature was lovingly added to create a masterpiece.
From the get go, you will be presented with the very familiar “A boss is approaching” message featuring King Fossil. The message just says that your game data is approaching fast. It really is only a fancy way of saying the game is loading, but it sets the tone to the orgasmic experience that you are about to have with the game.
After going through the intro scene, you will be greeted with the main menu which contains all 7 playable titles in this collection. You also have a replay, manual and staff options. If you are wondering where the options are, they are specific for each game, so they must be adjusted from within each game. My only complaint here is that the manual is in japanese. There isn’t much to learn from a manual though. The only thing was the Darius Gaiden capture mechanic, so I picked that one up from the internet.

AN ENTIRE LEGACY

Speaking of the games, 7 different titles can be quite intimidating. If you are anything like me, then chances are you don’t know what’s “new ver” or “extra ver”. Thankfully, each game features a sort of museum display that features a screenshot of the menu, the title, the launch date and a very thorough description of the game. The text will navigate you through each version of the games and specifically highlight why it is different from its predecessor or what was changed when going to western markets.
Each game includes a training mode for those who wish to challenge specific parts of the game. Training mode will let you choose to play any stage and customize a variety of settings such as the strength of your Silver Hawk and the game rank, which is the in-game difficulty. The obvious use for this mode is to practice your piloting skills and go for the 1CC. Even casual players can view this as a pseudo level select cheat code for maximum enjoyment!
Perhaps one of the most amazing inclusions of the collection is the replay mode. For every one of your play throughs, there is an option to save a replay of your play session. What differs from regular replays, is that they pack an incredibly robust set of features. Other than being able to watch a recording of yourself, you can see your inputs and control the playback of the replay. You can rewind, fast forward, go back, increase the speed or even go full slow-mo to analyze your gameplay.

KING OF THE ARCADE

Challenging oneself is one thing, but going after the world is the true spirit or arcade shmups. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features online rankings which are separated into 2 categories: “Arcade” and “All-mix”. Arcade is played with every setting on default and using only one credit. If you are playing and choose to spend an additional credit to continue, then your scoring is changed to “All-mix”. All-mix is a catch-all for every other style, from easy difficulty to hard or even static rank modes.
If you ever wondered what’s it like to play like the king of the leaderboards, then you’ll be glad to know you can download leaderboard replays! This allows you to watch the entire play throughs of top players, along with their inputs and the previously mentioned playback features of a replay. A must have for those willing to go for the record or even those curious about what it means to be a champion.

YOUR PERFECT CABINET

The in-game menu for each game will further let you customize your gameplay experience. The amount of options is truly staggering, so suffice to know that you can change in-game setting as difficulty and score for an extend, screen quality adjustments like scan lines and gadgets, and the controllers.
One menu I really want to highlight is the gadgets menu. Gadgets are responsible for making the gameplay experience truly stand out. They track all sorts of data from yourself and the enemies. From a friendly side, you can see your current level of power, the number of hits your arm can take and the information related to the current zone. From a less friendly side, you have all sorts of analyzers that display the current boss, their weakness and detailed HP for each of their parts. There’s even a life gauge that appears at the bottom of the screen for easy viewing when fighting bosses!
Although I could see an argument against being way too much information, I’m personally thankful because I’m a data nerd and I love knowing all this information. If it is too much for you, then you can always turn off the gadgets and customize the screen to your liking. The real beauty comes from creating your perfect cabinet.

THE EMULATOR ADVANTAGE

One of the main selling points of emulators has been the ability to use save states. Darius Cozmic Collection is no slouch and features save states of its own! These save states will let you cheese the game as much as you want, but they also let you replay specific sections and master them for your future arcade runs. I won’t judge you, so have fun with save states! The only caveat is that using save states will not record your score. Unfortunately, replays will only record from the last time you loaded the save state onwards. So there’s no chance of creating tool-assisted runs.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bringing up the in-game menu will completely pause the game and show you a fully-fledged map of the game, complete with boss encounters for each zone and the amount of power-ups featured in said zone. It really is great for strategy purposes to know which stage will allow you to upgrade your Silver Hawk! Resuming a game will also give you a 3 second count down with a jumping robot animation to ensure you are ready for action. This detail wasn’t really needed, but it is one of the many ways in which M2 shows appreciation for Darius and the player.
Out of all this nitty gritty details, I have to say the song name is one of my favorites. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a pop-up that appears when the song changes and displays the song name. I just think it looks really cool. By the way, don’t forget to check “Olga Breeze”, my favorite song!

DARIUS, THE OG

Darius, the game that started it all. Featuring 3 screens, this is the biggest Darius game featured in this collection (ha!). If I may add, I also think this is the game that highlights all the love M2 poured into bringing arcade experiences to your living room. With features such as the cabinet art and the body sonic vibration, it really brings home the arcade feeling.
As you can expect, playing the first game on the series is both, a nostalgic and a painful experience. Playing on 3 screens is truly magical, but at the same time, it is a victim to the older design choices. Not much that can be done here, after all, it is a decades old game. Just a small detail to keep in mind.
Darius helps establish the foundations of the franchise from the very first game. One of the Darius staples is the upgrade system for the Silver Hawk. Throughout the game, you can encounter 3 different orbs which are dropped by different colored enemies. The orbs can be red, green or blue.

SILVER HAWK

Red orbs will upgrade your primary fire. Each orb increases your power, but collecting 7 will upgrade your shot to the laser, and then the wave. Green orbs will upgrade your bomb, which is your secondary fire. Bombs also get stronger with more orbs and also upgrade when you reach 7. Blue orbs will give you a shield called arm. The initial shield blocks 3 hits and any additional orb will add 1 more hit. Just like red and green, you can upgrade after 7 orbs which will make it so that additional orbs give you 2 hits and then 3.
The downside to the upgrade system is that, upon death, you will lose every orb you collected in your current tier. The good news is that if you, for instance, managed to upgrade to the laser, then your shot can never fall below that. The bad news is that the number of orbs is limited per stage, which means it is almost impossible to upgrade within a stage the same stage where you died. The exception is a single stage that has 7 blue orbs in the old version and one with 7 green in the extra version.

THE FISH

The most distinguishable characteristic of the franchise is definitely the marine bosses. The stages are all over the place with a very diverse space settings, but the bosses are always one thing: fish. Actually, I’d say it is marine biology, but fish is an overly simplistic way to describe it. Darius also has one peculiarity which is that every set of stages has the same boss. For example, the 4th stage boss will always be Fatty Glutton in a different version depending on which zone you chose.
The other defining feature of Darius is being able to choose your adventure. After each boss, you can choose to go to one of 2 different zones. This choice is made by either being on the top or bottom half of the screen, as the stage actually splits after beating the boss. It certainly took me off guard the first time as I crashed into the divider. Despite having the same boss, the zones are drastically different and carry the strategic choice of having a different number of orbs. Your path will be determined by which aspect of your Silver Hawk you want to improve.

THE COINS

What struck me the most about Darius is how unforgiving it is. This is expressed in the descriptions of the newer versions. The thing about Darius, is that the game is next to impossible to beat if you didn’t fully upgrade. Later enemies are merciless and if you don’t have sufficient firepower, then you probably won’t stand a chance. This ruthlessness is exacerbated by the death system, as death will set you considerably behind. Because upgrades are usually a 2-stage effort, getting shot will set you back 2 levels worth of progress.
A fun aspect I found on Darius is the dynamic created by having 3 screens. This is probably the widest game I have played, and it brings new challenges to the table. The first one is that you need to gain screen position to succeed. Being at the front is usually better, with moving back feeling like losing real estate. The reason behind this is that you are able to shoot down enemies before they become a threat with their numbers. The other less obvious reason is the number of bullets allowed on screen. That number is limited, so it is in your best interest that those bullets expire fast so you can fire new ones. Being back equals more time before they reach the end of the screen, which is undesirable.
Overall, the game poses a unique challenge, but I’m not going to lie, it is actually really fun to play. Achieving an upgraded Silver Hawk is a hard endeavor, but that makes it even more rewarding when you pull it off!

DARIUS II/SAGAIA, THE PROOF US WESTERNERS HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS

Darius II came in and simplified the game in some interesting ways. First of all it reduced the upgrade system so that it is now only a single stage that can be maxed out. The number of orbs was reduced to compensate. Another simplification comes courtesy of the screens themselves. The number of screens was reduced from 3 to 2 in order to be installed in other dual screen cabinets such as The Ninja Warriors.
Unfortunately, the single stage of upgrades means that the game is even more savage when you die. This time around, you actually lose all of your progress in terms of firepower. There will be special rainbow orbs which help you catch up a little, but even then they might be a little too late. As a result, my 1CC had to be done by never dying.

I ALWAYS WANTED A THING CALLED A TUNA SASHIMI

One thing I want to mention, is that Darius II has my absolute favorite intro sequence of any Darius game in this collection. From the music that goes ramping up to the main theme, to the voice lines calling out the launching sequence:
“Main engine energy level, 20% increase !”
“I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi”
“3…2…1…”
It all creates an unbelievable sense of excitement!
A very fun piece of trivia is the existence of SAGAIA. It exists to be a compact version of Darius II to be sold on western markets. Then there’s actually 2 versions of it which feel like 2 pieces of the same game. If SAGAIA trimmed certain pieces of the game, then version 2 came to use those trimmed pieces and created another entry. It’s actually quite funny.

DARIUS GAIDEN, THE KING

Darius Gaiden is definitely the reason you will keep playing the arcade collection. Quality in older games under a modern eye is usually a product of nostalgia and design elements that still hold on in today’s gaming landscape. Contrasting with that, Darius Gaiden IS a fantastic game that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase if it was released today.
For Darius Gaiden, less is more, as this time around the game was played on a single screen arcade cabinet. The game does seem to lack some of the ambient goodies such as the rumble effects, but it makes up for it in gameplay experiences.

TRUE POWER

One aspect that is radically different from its predecessor is the upgrade system. Whereas Darius II simplified the Silver Hawk upgrade system, Darius Gaiden took it back to its original Darius roots. This means that, once again, we have multiple upgrade points. Upgrades take considerably less red power-ups to achieve, which actually makes it possible to upgrade multiple times during the same stage.
Death penalties are lower as well with death only losing you a level of power. Because there are more power levels, it is more forgiving and doesn’t set you completely behind like the previous entries. Perhaps the best of all is that neither arm nor bombs have any penalty whatsoever. What’s more, you don’t even lose your arm or bomb level when losing a credit. I can say with 100% certainty that this game is actually possible to complete within a reasonable number of credits if you die on the later zones.
I would take it one step ahead and say this game has a little of the Contra syndrome. The original Contra is a game that was considered hard, but was significantly easier if you could maintain the spread shot. In the same vein, getting the earliest upgrades makes Darius Gaiden a breeze. A well deserved victory, if you ask me.

YOU’RE MINE NOW!

New to Darius Gaiden is the ability to capture mid bosses. Half-way through a stage, you will encounter a medium sized boss with a purple orb somewhere in its back. If you manage to take down the orb without killing the enemy, it will detach and slowly drift away. If you capture this orb, then the mid boss will fight alongside you until its timer expires. I gotta say that having a huge fish on your side is surprisingly satisfying!
Having a single screen makes the experience much more familiar for shmup enthusiasts. While it does lose some of the charm of the ultra wide field of view, it also rids itself of nuances such as your horizontal movement being low in terms of total horizontal space or the limit on on-screen bullets.
A combination of those factors I mentioned contribute to making Darius Gaiden a much better experience. It’s simple to play and forgiving when you lose. Every stage is unique and makes every new play through a completely different experience, not just in a different-ish way, but rather full blown new content!

A LEGENDARY PACKAGE OF NOSTALGIA

There’s one thing that you might be thinking, and that’s that I might be biased because it is Darius. It is true that I openly admit everywhere that Darius is my favorite. However, in this particular case my work was cut out for me, I don’t need to be biased because this is truly a wonderfully crafted collection that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch.
It contains every possible version of Darius you might have encountered on the arcades and then sprinkled some top notch features that make it stand on a class of its own when it comes to ports. It also helps that the Darius games remain to be as fun as they always have been, even with their caveats. I took 3-4 times more time to play this collection, not because it had a lot of content, but because I loved playing every second of it and wanted to try it all. Wanted to 1CC every version, wanted to traverse every possible stage, wanted to created masterful replays.
The only possible downside I can see to this collection is the price. $44.99 is a very high price compared to other shmups on the market. In terms of features and overall content (because remember, every game has more than an alphabets worth of different zones) it does warrant its price. Although I can see people double guess their decision, with this game being close to the cost of a first party title and significantly higher than other shmups.

TOP 3

My tentative placement for Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade was on the top 3 spots. I really had a hard time deciding where to put it, so I went back and revisited both Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta. After finishing my Ikaruga play through, I was reminded of the magic that is Ikaruga and how special it is. Psyvariar Delta also reminded me of the buzz system and how the refined gameplay and level ups work towards creating an experience that I can’t quite put into words.
The main defining factor, however, was that I don’t think any of the Darius games in the collection beats the top 2 contenders. The 7 games as an aggregate, are certainly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the superb M2 porting labour. With that being said, I will award it a 3rd spot because the gameplay experience is incredible, but a little held back by the age of the games and the hefty price tag.
Still, Darius will always be #1 in my heart.

THE RANKING SO FAR:

  1. Ikaruga
  2. Psyvariar Delta
  3. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
  4. Devil Engine
  5. Rolling Gunner
  6. Blazing Star
  7. Jamestown+
  8. Tengai
  9. Steredenn: Binary Stars
  10. Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
  11. Sky Force: Reloaded
  12. Strikers 1945
  13. Black Paradox
  14. R-Type Dimensions EX
  15. Sine Mora EX
  16. Shikhondo – Soul Eater
  17. Ghost Blade HD
  18. AngerForce: Reloaded
  19. Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
  20. Q-YO Blaster
  21. Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
  22. Pawarumi
  23. Red Death
  24. Task Force Kampas
  25. Switch ‘N’ Shoot
  26. Last Resort (ACA Neogeo)
submitted by AzorMX to NintendoSwitch [link] [comments]

THE SEARCH FOR THE GREATEST SWITCH SHMUP: EPISODE 28 – Raiden V: Director’s Cut

Before I begin, I just want to remind everyone that all of my reviews can be found at my site: www.azormx.com. I tried to keep it as minimalist as possible, and it doesn't have any add or any other intrusive elements, so the content is king. Do check it out, as reviews are usually live there before I publish them elsewhere. Any way, on to the review!

The shmup genre hasn’t been a mainstream genre in a long time. To be honest, I don’t think it ever was, even during the arcade days. While we certainly don’t have a shortage of shmups, let alone new release, they usually come from smaller teams. Indies have taken it upon themselves to become a guiding light for all of us. Their creations have been nothing short of amazing! However, we don’t really have anything we could call a “AAA” shmup. We do seem to have the next closest thing: Raiden.
Developer: Moss Co.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Jul 25, 2019
Price: $29.99
Tate: Unfortunately… no. This really needed to have TATE
Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a vertical shmup set in a fictional but real world. It claims to be the original bullet-hell, and after playing it extensively I gotta say that I agree. Raiden V features some intense air combat, coupled with giant bosses and some jaw-dropping transitions between areas.

THE GREAT INTRO CHECKLIST

Right out of the gate, what caught my attention was the intro. The best way I can put this is that it has everything great about shmups in a short video. It has a great track, it has giant enemies, it has ships and it even has pieces of lore I do not understand! Simply amazing!
Most importantly, it is a very accurate portrayal as to what you should expect from the game. Unlike other shmups, Raiden goes all out in the presentation department, with the story taking a mayor role. Another way I can put this, is that it certainly feels like a considerable effort was placed in every element of the game. Raiden V features a level of polish that very few shmups can claim to have.

WELCOME TO THE CUSTOMIZATION STATION

One of Raiden’s strength is the amount of customization you have available for your ship. At the beginning of the game, you can choose between one of 3 different ships: Azuma, Spirit of Dragon and Moulin Rouge. Each of these ships has different stats in terms of attack, defense and speed. They also have their own sub-shot which is always firing along with your main cannon.
On top of selecting a ship, you can arm yourself with 3 out of 9 different weapons. Those 9 weapons are grouped into 3 categories: Vulcan, Laser and Plasma. You can pick, or rather you must pick 1 for each category. The result is a combat style that is unique to you.
During your play throughs, you will encounter several power-up orbs. These orbs will power up each of your weapons up to 10 times! Each of these orbs can be either red, blue or purple depending on the weapon it powers up. The orbs cycle the colors, with an outer dot indicating a timer until it changes colors. This allows you to control which weapon you want to power up, giving you the flexibility to pick your own style or choose a weapon for the occasion.
The best part is that absolutely no power-ups are lost upon death! This means that you are free to retry to your heart's content and play at your own pace. Raiden won't punish you or set you up for failure with an unrecoverable situation.
I didn’t put too much attention into weapon selection at first. I figured it wouldn’t be too relevant, as I would probably just play the entire game with a single weapon, but the advanced scoring mechanics and the rank system were quick to make me second guess my decision.

ACE PILOT

At the core of Raiden V, there are 2 main systems to be aware of: your rank and your flash level. Both of them measure your combat capabilities, although in different ways. Your flash point gauge is a score multiplier that tracks how fast you defeat your enemies. By defeating enemies as soon as possible after spawning, you can earn higher multipliers to increase your flash gauge. By having quick kills, you can raise it to higher levels to increase your score. Your rank, on the other hand, only concerns itself with how many enemies you’ve defeated.
Your rank doubles as the deciding factor of which path you will be taking. Raiden features branching paths with an A, B, C or S version of each stage. Depending on your total destruction rate, you will either move up or down in rank after a stage. While I do not know the exact numbers, I believe having more than 98% destruction rate will increase your rank, 90 – 98% will keep it as is and <90% should decrease your rank. S rank stages are presumably harder than A/B/C stages, with C being the lowest.
Apart from having a higher score and challenging yourself with the difficulty, the importance of S rank is getting the true ending. In order to truly watch the ending of the game, you need to reach the final stage on S rank using a single credit. You also need to power up your 3 weapons to level 10. Once you meet those conditions, you will be able to challenge the final boss. Alternatively, you could just fulfill the level 10 weapons condition to fight the true final boss.

THE BEST CHEERLEADER

A new addition to Raiden V is the cheer system. By accomplishing certain in-game milestones like a certain number of enemies destroyed, you will get an achievement. These achievements are broadcasted to any players connected to the leaderboards. They can then “cheer” on your achievement to increase your cheer gauge. This goes both ways, as you can also cheer the achievements of your fellow Raiden players.
Once the cheer gauge is full, you can unleash it to clear the screen and gain a drastically stronger sub-shot. Think of it as a devastating bomb, only more devastating and easier to fill. It clears screens and decimates even the bosses.
Perhaps many people won’t think too much of it, but I found it really interesting to know that there’s someone on the other side celebrating my achievements. Likewise, there were times where I left my game on pause to do other stuff, but held on to my controller to provide support for my comrades.

SWIFT DESTRUCTION

Everything I’ve mentioned before plays out in the general strategy of the game. Assuming you want to get the best results, you need to know where to hit and how to hit hard. For the untrained eye, most shmups just look like games where you fire away with complete disregard and hope the enemy dies. This is definitely not the case in Raiden.
In order to succeed, you must be able to find your rhythm and read the stage. Learn the enemy formations and strategize the quickest kills. Be there before the enemy arrives and take them down before they realize what hit them. If you want to face the true final boss, then you must also learn to juggle your weapons and find the moments to upgrade them. Maxing a weapon and then switching is a recipe for disaster, as you don’t want to be on the later stages with a level one weapon and risk your flash level or destruction rate. With so many weapons and ship types, your strategy to succeed will be unique to you!

LORE GALORE

One of the main selling points, at least per the game itself, is the story. Raiden V features an extensive story that is fully voiced and occurs as you play the game. This story elements come as the prologue and epilogue scenes, as well as all the events happening mid stage.
As you fly your way to the levels, characters will be advancing the story by having conversations and narrating the current events. The dialogue is available on one of the gadgets located on the right side of the screen. You can read anything you might have missed and even pause to read the on-screen log of events (up to a certain number of events, as the log scrolls to open way for new text).
As for my opinion of the story, I have absolutely no idea of what happened during the game. I played my fair share of runs, but I found it next to impossible to focus on the dialogue while trying my hardest to survive. The voice acting would have been my saving grace, but I found the sound mixing to be the opposite of ideal for listening to dialogue. I even tried lowering the sound effects and BGM to see if I could focus on dialogue to no avail.
The text is also incredibly small when playing on docked mode. It gets even worse when playing handheld.

THE WORST CHEERLEADER

Out of all the voices, Eshiria’s was the one who got on my nerves the most at the beginning. Other than having her role as navigator on the plot, she also critiques your gameplay. In-between stage scenes, she will provide commentary describing your gameplay. She will be quick to point out if you did well, but also if you did poorly. On my early runs, when I was still learning, it would tilt me to listen to her complaining to me about stats I did not understand.
And perhaps, a huge part of my problems was a lack of understanding of the game mechanics. I listened to her complain about my destruction rate without knowing it was about my rank. She also complained about destruction speed without me knowing it was about the flash point.
The problem is that the game never bothered explaining any of its mechanics to me. I really looked around for some sort of tutorial to no avail. I had to resort to 3rd party resources. While that isn’t uncommon, I really don’t like games with obscure mechanics that can’t be discerned in-game.
Once I got better and consistently reach the S levels, I finally started to value her advice. Of course, I wouldn’t count on everyone reaching the same enlightenment as I did. In my opinion, her comments would more often than not add insult to injury. Once again, it’s not really the commentary, it’s the fact that none of what she said made practical sense until I started digging on the wiki.

GADGETS AND THE SCREEN REAL ESTATE

Perhaps the worst omission from Raiden V is the lack of a TATE mode. Vertical shooters don’t really have an excuse to do this, with the existence of add-ons like the flip grip or rotating monitors. Instead, Raiden decided to make the most out of the free space and add several gadgets.
In standard fashion, these gadgets will keep your stats like score, flash level, the dialogue and even hi-score statistics. Your left gadget can even be cycled between the score chart and cheer notification, in-game tips and global statistics. Out of those, the tips are definitely the winners. They do give some important advice, such as staying on top of the guns of the first boss to avoid damage.

NOT A FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD

Every stage is divided into smaller scenes. These scenes serve as a way to catch your breath and tally your score. There’s even a nifty “restart scene” option that allows you to replay a scene. Choosing to restart will deny you the option to upload your score to the leaderboard, but serves as a great way to practice or even “fix” a run to so can get to the true ending.
Every once in a while, the action will pan out and open the way to a bigger stage, with you looking smaller in comparison. I admire the grandioseness of the resulting scenes, but they were also quite impractical. Think about your weapons, the destruction rate and the flash gauge. An extended stage means longer travel distances from side to side. Having a bigger stage means you move slower, which reduces the pacing of the game to a crawl. Reaching enemies quickly becomes a struggle. Worst yet, I’ve counted times where it took me whopping 5 seconds to go from side to side of the stage.

THE OG BULLET HELL

Despite all the fun of blasting enemies quickly to gain flash levels, I gotta say that I found the combat, specifically the bullets, to be lacking in grace. For a game that’s the original bullet hell, most enemy volleys feel like bullet showers. There’s no finesse in them, just a bunch of bullets moving towards you. Dodging them isn’t fun, it’s survival. The problem only gets worse in higher difficulties where the bullets just go faster.
Not all patterns are as bad though. While the vast majority will be just a bunch on increasingly faster bullets thrown at you, some exceptional patterns will show from time to time. As a result, fights tend to be very hit or miss, with both hits and misses being on their respective extremes.
What certainly doesn’t help is that the bullets are very hard to see. As pretty as the backgrounds might be, they are very busy and the quick motion makes them into a blur. Bullets don’t have their characteristic outlines or color palettes to become distinguishable. Some even blend with your own vulcan. The result is a lot of cheap kills caused by intentional obfuscation. It this was their intention, then perhaps I’m being too harsh, but you know visibility is usually one of my pet peeves in shmups.

REPLAYABILITY AND LONGEVITY

As far as game length goes, I consider Raiden V to be one of the longer ones. I was surprised after my first run of the game, as it took me 50+ minutes to complete the campaign. Usually, my baseline for shmups is around half an hour, which made this one almost twice as long. While I’m not fond of longer campaigns, I know a lot of people would certainly be glad to know there is plenty of content.
Of course, playing through the campaign isn’t enough to view the entire game. If you recall, most stages have 4 versions of themselves. Those versions are separated by the ranks: S/A/B/C. This means you would need at least 4 runs to see everything the game has to offer. There’s also 6 different endings to uncover.
Also new to the Director’s Cut edition are 2 bonus levels. These level are slightly different from your typical levels. The bonus missions will challenge you to fight a new boss ir oder to obtain medals. Dealing damage will detach the medals from the boss, allowing you to catch them. Gather enough medals and you will advance to the next phase. Higher medals mean higher ranking. Taking damage will take medals away from you, so surviving continues to be a priority.
Lastly, there is a new boss mission mode that allow you to play “boss rush” missions. These missions have certain conditions, like using a specific weapon or fighting at a specific HP level. The targets are usually 1-3 bosses. Boss mission is a very fun arcadey mode for those who enjoyed the boss fights and want more of them.

SOUND EXCELLENCE

If there’s a factor that merits my highest praise is the sound department. Simply put, the OST is fantastic. The track length syncs perfectly with the stages, and it always fits the mood. I just couldn’t get enough of the OST, and listening to it while writing this review was the recipe for a perfect Sunday! I also got some good coffee that would make the captain proud.
For all the praise the music gets from me, it still is dragged down by the terrible sound mixing. Similarly to the voice acting, I tried to mess with the sound settings to increase the volume and reduce the sound effects, but it still wasn’t enough. The tracks were great but I struggled to listen to them amidst all the explosions. The calm moments were great, as they let me listen to the songs in peace.

LAST WORDS

Raiden is a master class in shmup design for the wrong reasons. Its high points perfectly illustrate how shmups should look and feel. The low points also show what you should NOT do when creating a shmup game. Despite all of this, it all comes down to how fun a game is.
Raiden V is a very fun game. It isn’t different, but it’s certainly very polished. I delivers some levels of quality that are notably absent in the majority of the games. As a concept, I feel like it serves as an example of how current gen shmups should be. The execution fell flat in some regards, but as a whole I was satisfied with the time I spent with the game. It does come with a hefty price tag, so my advice is to check this game out when you find a decent sale. I got mine at -70%.

THE RANKING SO FAR:

  1. Ikaruga
  2. Psyvariar Delta
  3. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
  4. Devil Engine
  5. Rolling Gunner
  6. Blazing Star
  7. Jamestown+
  8. Raiden V: Director’s Cut
  9. Darius Cozmic Collection Console
  10. Tengai
  11. Steredenn: Binary Stars
  12. Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
  13. Sky Force: Reloaded
  14. Strikers 1945
  15. Black Paradox
  16. R-Type Dimensions EX
  17. Sine Mora EX
  18. Shikhondo – Soul Eater
  19. Ghost Blade HD
  20. AngerForce: Reloaded
  21. Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
  22. Q-YO Blaster
  23. Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
  24. Pawarumi
  25. Red Death
  26. Task Force Kampas
  27. Switch ‘N’ Shoot
  28. Last Resort (ACA Neogeo)
submitted by AzorMX to u/AzorMX [link] [comments]

MAME 0.222

MAME 0.222

MAME 0.222, the product of our May/June development cycle, is ready today, and it’s a very exciting release. There are lots of bug fixes, including some long-standing issues with classics like Bosconian and Gaplus, and missing pan/zoom effects in games on Seta hardware. Two more Nintendo LCD games are supported: the Panorama Screen version of Popeye, and the two-player Donkey Kong 3 Micro Vs. System. New versions of supported games include a review copy of DonPachi that allows the game to be paused for photography, and a version of the adult Qix game Gals Panic for the Taiwanese market.
Other advancements on the arcade side include audio circuitry emulation for 280-ZZZAP, and protection microcontroller emulation for Kick and Run and Captain Silver.
The GRiD Compass series were possibly the first rugged computers in the clamshell form factor, possibly best known for their use on NASA space shuttle missions in the 1980s. The initial model, the Compass 1101, is now usable in MAME. There are lots of improvements to the Tandy Color Computer drivers in this release, with better cartridge support being a theme. Acorn BBC series drivers now support Solidisk file system ROMs. Writing to IMD floppy images (popular for CP/M computers) is now supported, and a critical bug affecting writes to HFE disk images has been fixed. Software list additions include a collection of CDs for the SGI MIPS workstations.
There are several updates to Apple II emulation this month, including support for several accelerators, a new IWM floppy controller core, and support for using two memory cards simultaneously on the CFFA2. As usual, we’ve added the latest original software dumps and clean cracks to the software lists, including lots of educational titles.
Finally, the memory system has been optimised, yielding performance improvements in all emulated systems, you no longer need to avoid non-ASCII characters in paths when using the chdman tool, and jedutil supports more devices.
There were too many HyperScan RFID cards added to the software list to itemise them all here. You can read about all the updates in the whatsnew.txt file, or get the source and 64-bit Windows binary packages from the download page.

MAME Testers Bugs Fixed

New working machines

New working clones

Machines promoted to working

Clones promoted to working

New machines marked as NOT_WORKING

New clones marked as NOT_WORKING

New working software list additions

Software list items promoted to working

New NOT_WORKING software list additions

submitted by cuavas to emulation [link] [comments]

Hi r/shmups! I'm currently on a project where I try to review every shmup on the Switch, so I thought I'd share my reviews here! Here's the 26th entry: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade

We’ve all had a game that is a gateway to a specific genre. That one game which made us pay attention to a style of games and allowed us to fully experience the genre. It might not have been the first one we play, but it is definitely one that stays closer to our hearts. For me, this game was Darius.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I will say it again: Darius is the shmup that is closest to my heart. I loved the horizontal gameplay, I loved the Silver Hawk, I loved all the huge bosses that looked like fishes. The gameplay also hit bunch of chords that resonate with what I love about shmups. I’ve been waiting so long for this, so alas, I present to you: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade!
Publisher: ININ Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Jun 16, 2020
Price: $44.99
Tate: Built-in
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of the Darius games released on the arcades. This wasn’t your typical cabinet, as one of its main features was the usage of multiple screens. Darius used 3 screens, while Darius II/SAGAIA used 2 screens. M2 really went out of their way to bring the most authentic arcade experience! The result is impressive to say the least!
This collections includes 4 games:
Darius and SAGAIA include 3 and 2 different versions respectively, bringing it to a total of 7 playable games.
ARCADE GLORY
As hard as this might be to believe, I have never played an arcade Darius game before. I always mentioned Darius as my favorite shmup, but the truth is that I began with the SNES games. I had heard on the street that the arcade versions were superior so I was very excited.
When I booted the original version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing next to an actual arcade cabinet. The game greeted me with 3 screens places next to each other on the center of the screen. I was excited to play, so I pressed the coin button. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience…
As soon as I inserted the coin, a typical fanfare played along as my credit counter increased by one. But there was something else. The controller started vibrating to the tune of the music. I just can’t make justice to this effect with words. It felt like being inside an actual arcade cabinet. Vibrations and sound made the experience feel authentic. It made me think about the arcade days where you would hear cabinets everywhere and just feel the energy of the place.
As soon as I started to play, the screen changed and the empty spaces were replaced by arcade artwork. This artwork was exactly the kind you would see pasted near the controllers to show you how to play and other general information. Everything about the game was designed to make you feel like on the arcade. This is the kind of presentation that every other arcade port should try to achieve.
FISH GRAVY
What truly sets apart the Darius Cozmic Collection from any other collection is the amount of features and arcade fidelity that M2 added to the game. Every single aspect, every single menu and every single feature was lovingly added to create a masterpiece.
From the get go, you will be presented with the very familiar “A boss is approaching” message featuring King Fossil. The message just says that your game data is approaching fast. It really is only a fancy way of saying the game is loading, but it sets the tone to the orgasmic experience that you are about to have with the game.
After going through the intro scene, you will be greeted with the main menu which contains all 7 playable titles in this collection. You also have a replay, manual and staff options. If you are wondering where the options are, they are specific for each game, so they must be adjusted from within each game. My only complaint here is that the manual is in japanese. There isn’t much to learn from a manual though. The only thing was the Darius Gaiden capture mechanic, so I picked that one up from the internet.
AN ENTIRE LEGACY
Speaking of the games, 7 different titles can be quite intimidating. If you are anything like me, then chances are you don’t know what’s “new ver” or “extra ver”. Thankfully, each game features a sort of museum display that features a screenshot of the menu, the title, the launch date and a very thorough description of the game. The text will navigate you through each version of the games and specifically highlight why it is different from its predecessor or what was changed when going to western markets.
Each game includes a training mode for those who wish to challenge specific parts of the game. Training mode will let you choose to play any stage and customize a variety of settings such as the strength of your Silver Hawk and the game rank, which is the in-game difficulty. The obvious use for this mode is to practice your piloting skills and go for the 1CC. Even casual players can view this as a pseudo level select cheat code for maximum enjoyment!
Perhaps one of the most amazing inclusions of the collection is the replay mode. For every one of your play throughs, there is an option to save a replay of your play session. What differs from regular replays, is that they pack an incredibly robust set of features. Other than being able to watch a recording of yourself, you can see your inputs and control the playback of the replay. You can rewind, fast forward, go back, increase the speed or even go full slow-mo to analyze your gameplay.
KING OF THE ARCADE
Challenging oneself is one thing, but going after the world is the true spirit or arcade shmups. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features online rankings which are separated into 2 categories: “Arcade” and “All-mix”. Arcade is played with every setting on default and using only one credit. If you are playing and choose to spend an additional credit to continue, then your scoring is changed to “All-mix”. All-mix is a catch-all for every other style, from easy difficulty to hard or even static rank modes.
If you ever wondered what’s it like to play like the king of the leaderboards, then you’ll be glad to know you can download leaderboard replays! This allows you to watch the entire play throughs of top players, along with their inputs and the previously mentioned playback features of a replay. A must have for those willing to go for the record or even those curious about what it means to be a champion.
YOUR PERFECT CABINET
The in-game menu for each game will further let you customize your gameplay experience. The amount of options is truly staggering, so suffice to know that you can change in-game setting as difficulty and score for an extend, screen quality adjustments like scan lines and gadgets, and the controllers.
One menu I really want to highlight is the gadgets menu. Gadgets are responsible for making the gameplay experience truly stand out. They track all sorts of data from yourself and the enemies. From a friendly side, you can see your current level of power, the number of hits your arm can take and the information related to the current zone. From a less friendly side, you have all sorts of analyzers that display the current boss, their weakness and detailed HP for each of their parts. There’s even a life gauge that appears at the bottom of the screen for easy viewing when fighting bosses!
Although I could see an argument against being way too much information, I’m personally thankful because I’m a data nerd and I love knowing all this information. If it is too much for you, then you can always turn off the gadgets and customize the screen to your liking. The real beauty comes from creating your perfect cabinet.
THE EMULATOR ADVANTAGE
One of the main selling points of emulators has been the ability to use save states. Darius Cozmic Collection is no slouch and features save states of its own! These save states will let you cheese the game as much as you want, but they also let you replay specific sections and master them for your future arcade runs. I won’t judge you, so have fun with save states! The only caveat is that using save states will not record your score. Unfortunately, replays will only record from the last time you loaded the save state onwards. So there’s no chance of creating tool-assisted runs.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bringing up the in-game menu will completely pause the game and show you a fully-fledged map of the game, complete with boss encounters for each zone and the amount of power-ups featured in said zone. It really is great for strategy purposes to know which stage will allow you to upgrade your Silver Hawk! Resuming a game will also give you a 3 second count down with a jumping robot animation to ensure you are ready for action. This detail wasn’t really needed, but it is one of the many ways in which M2 shows appreciation for Darius and the player.
Out of all this nitty gritty details, I have to say the song name is one of my favorites. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a pop-up that appears when the song changes and displays the song name. I just think it looks really cool. By the way, don’t forget to check “Olga Breeze”, my favorite song!
DARIUS, THE OG
Darius, the game that started it all. Featuring 3 screens, this is the biggest Darius game featured in this collection (ha!). If I may add, I also think this is the game that highlights all the love M2 poured into bringing arcade experiences to your living room. With features such as the cabinet art and the body sonic vibration, it really brings home the arcade feeling.
As you can expect, playing the first game on the series is both, a nostalgic and a painful experience. Playing on 3 screens is truly magical, but at the same time, it is a victim to the older design choices. Not much that can be done here, after all, it is a decades old game. Just a small detail to keep in mind.
Darius helps establish the foundations of the franchise from the very first game. One of the Darius staples is the upgrade system for the Silver Hawk. Throughout the game, you can encounter 3 different orbs which are dropped by different colored enemies. The orbs can be red, green or blue.
SILVER HAWK
Red orbs will upgrade your primary fire. Each orb increases your power, but collecting 7 will upgrade your shot to the laser, and then the wave. Green orbs will upgrade your bomb, which is your secondary fire. Bombs also get stronger with more orbs and also upgrade when you reach 7. Blue orbs will give you a shield called arm. The initial shield blocks 3 hits and any additional orb will add 1 more hit. Just like red and green, you can upgrade after 7 orbs which will make it so that additional orbs give you 2 hits and then 3.
The downside to the upgrade system is that, upon death, you will lose every orb you collected in your current tier. The good news is that if you, for instance, managed to upgrade to the laser, then your shot can never fall below that. The bad news is that the number of orbs is limited per stage, which means it is almost impossible to upgrade within a stage the same stage where you died. The exception is a single stage that has 7 blue orbs in the old version and one with 7 green in the extra version.
THE FISH
The most distinguishable characteristic of the franchise is definitely the marine bosses. The stages are all over the place with a very diverse space settings, but the bosses are always one thing: fish. Actually, I’d say it is marine biology, but fish is an overly simplistic way to describe it. Darius also has one peculiarity which is that every set of stages has the same boss. For example, the 4th stage boss will always be Fatty Glutton in a different version depending on which zone you chose.
The other defining feature of Darius is being able to choose your adventure. After each boss, you can choose to go to one of 2 different zones. This choice is made by either being on the top or bottom half of the screen, as the stage actually splits after beating the boss. It certainly took me off guard the first time as I crashed into the divider. Despite having the same boss, the zones are drastically different and carry the strategic choice of having a different number of orbs. Your path will be determined by which aspect of your Silver Hawk you want to improve.
THE COINS
What struck me the most about Darius is how unforgiving it is. This is expressed in the descriptions of the newer versions. The thing about Darius, is that the game is next to impossible to beat if you didn’t fully upgrade. Later enemies are merciless and if you don’t have sufficient firepower, then you probably won’t stand a chance. This ruthlessness is exacerbated by the death system, as death will set you considerably behind. Because upgrades are usually a 2-stage effort, getting shot will set you back 2 levels worth of progress.
A fun aspect I found on Darius is the dynamic created by having 3 screens. This is probably the widest game I have played, and it brings new challenges to the table. The first one is that you need to gain screen position to succeed. Being at the front is usually better, with moving back feeling like losing real estate. The reason behind this is that you are able to shoot down enemies before they become a threat with their numbers. The other less obvious reason is the number of bullets allowed on screen. That number is limited, so it is in your best interest that those bullets expire fast so you can fire new ones. Being back equals more time before they reach the end of the screen, which is undesirable.
Overall, the game poses a unique challenge, but I’m not going to lie, it is actually really fun to play. Achieving an upgraded Silver Hawk is a hard endeavor, but that makes it even more rewarding when you pull it off!
DARIUS II/SAGAIA, THE PROOF US WESTERNERS HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS
Darius II came in and simplified the game in some interesting ways. First of all it reduced the upgrade system so that it is now only a single stage that can be maxed out. The number of orbs was reduced to compensate. Another simplification comes courtesy of the screens themselves. The number of screens was reduced from 3 to 2 in order to be installed in other dual screen cabinets such as The Ninja Warriors.
Unfortunately, the single stage of upgrades means that the game is even more savage when you die. This time around, you actually lose all of your progress in terms of firepower. There will be special rainbow orbs which help you catch up a little, but even then they might be a little too late. As a result, my 1CC had to be done by never dying.
I ALWAYS WANTED A THING CALLED A TUNA SASHIMI
One thing I want to mention, is that Darius II has my absolute favorite intro sequence of any Darius game in this collection. From the music that goes ramping up to the main theme, to the voice lines calling out the launching sequence:
“Main engine energy level, 20% increase !”
“I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi”
“3…2…1…”
It all creates an unbelievable sense of excitement!
A very fun piece of trivia is the existence of SAGAIA. It exists to be a compact version of Darius II to be sold on western markets. Then there’s actually 2 versions of it which feel like 2 pieces of the same game. If SAGAIA trimmed certain pieces of the game, then version 2 came to use those trimmed pieces and created another entry. It’s actually quite funny.
DARIUS GAIDEN, THE KING
Darius Gaiden is definitely the reason you will keep playing the arcade collection. Quality in older games under a modern eye is usually a product of nostalgia and design elements that still hold on in today’s gaming landscape. Contrasting with that, Darius Gaiden IS a fantastic game that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase if it was released today.
For Darius Gaiden, less is more, as this time around the game was played on a single screen arcade cabinet. The game does seem to lack some of the ambient goodies such as the rumble effects, but it makes up for it in gameplay experiences.
TRUE POWER
One aspect that is radically different from its predecessor is the upgrade system. Whereas Darius II simplified the Silver Hawk upgrade system, Darius Gaiden took it back to its original Darius roots. This means that, once again, we have multiple upgrade points. Upgrades take considerably less red power-ups to achieve, which actually makes it possible to upgrade multiple times during the same stage.
Death penalties are lower as well with death only losing you a level of power. Because there are more power levels, it is more forgiving and doesn’t set you completely behind like the previous entries. Perhaps the best of all is that neither arm nor bombs have any penalty whatsoever. What’s more, you don’t even lose your arm or bomb level when losing a credit. I can say with 100% certainty that this game is actually possible to complete within a reasonable number of credits if you die on the later zones.
I would take it one step ahead and say this game has a little of the Contra syndrome. The original Contra is a game that was considered hard, but was significantly easier if you could maintain the spread shot. In the same vein, getting the earliest upgrades makes Darius Gaiden a breeze. A well deserved victory, if you ask me.
YOU’RE MINE NOW!
New to Darius Gaiden is the ability to capture mid bosses. Half-way through a stage, you will encounter a medium sized boss with a purple orb somewhere in its back. If you manage to take down the orb without killing the enemy, it will detach and slowly drift away. If you capture this orb, then the mid boss will fight alongside you until its timer expires. I gotta say that having a huge fish on your side is surprisingly satisfying!
Having a single screen makes the experience much more familiar for shmup enthusiasts. While it does lose some of the charm of the ultra wide field of view, it also rids itself of nuances such as your horizontal movement being low in terms of total horizontal space or the limit on on-screen bullets.
A combination of those factors I mentioned contribute to making Darius Gaiden a much better experience. It’s simple to play and forgiving when you lose. Every stage is unique and makes every new play through a completely different experience, not just in a different-ish way, but rather full blown new content!
A LEGENDARY PACKAGE OF NOSTALGIA
There’s one thing that you might be thinking, and that’s that I might be biased because it is Darius. It is true that I openly admit everywhere that Darius is my favorite. However, in this particular case my work was cut out for me, I don’t need to be biased because this is truly a wonderfully crafted collection that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch.
It contains every possible version of Darius you might have encountered on the arcades and then sprinkled some top notch features that make it stand on a class of its own when it comes to ports. It also helps that the Darius games remain to be as fun as they always have been, even with their caveats. I took 3-4 times more time to play this collection, not because it had a lot of content, but because I loved playing every second of it and wanted to try it all. Wanted to 1CC every version, wanted to traverse every possible stage, wanted to created masterful replays.
The only possible downside I can see to this collection is the price. $44.99 is a very high price compared to other shmups on the market. In terms of features and overall content (because remember, every game has more than an alphabets worth of different zones) it does warrant its price. Although I can see people double guess their decision, with this game being close to the cost of a first party title and significantly higher than other shmups.
TOP 3
My tentative placement for Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade was on the top 3 spots. I really had a hard time deciding where to put it, so I went back and revisited both Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta. After finishing my Ikaruga play through, I was reminded of the magic that is Ikaruga and how special it is. Psyvariar Delta also reminded me of the buzz system and how the refined gameplay and level ups work towards creating an experience that I can’t quite put into words.
The main defining factor, however, was that I don’t think any of the Darius games in the collection beats the top 2 contenders. The 7 games as an aggregate, are certainly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the superb M2 porting labour. With that being said, I will award it a 3rd spot because the gameplay experience is incredible, but a little held back by the age of the games and the hefty price tag.
Still, Darius will always be #1 in my heart.
THE RANKING SO FAR:
  1. Ikaruga
  2. Psyvariar Delta
  3. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
  4. Devil Engine
  5. Rolling Gunner
  6. Blazing Star
  7. Jamestown+
  8. Tengai
  9. Steredenn: Binary Stars
  10. Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
  11. Sky Force: Reloaded
  12. Strikers 1945
  13. Black Paradox
  14. R-Type Dimensions EX
  15. Sine Mora EX
  16. Shikhondo – Soul Eater
  17. Ghost Blade HD
  18. AngerForce: Reloaded
  19. Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
  20. Q-YO Blaster
  21. Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
  22. Pawarumi
  23. Red Death
  24. Task Force Kampas
  25. Switch ‘N’ Shoot
  26. Last Resort (ACA Neogeo)
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Raven Reviews: IxSHE Tell Part 1, The Mechanics of a Book.

TL;DR I review the novel without talking about the plot.
A FRIENDLY DISAGREEMENT
Recently I had a discussion with a stranger on a forum who was adamantly apposed to what he called "Harem Games" and novels that featured harem elements. To recount the whole conversation would take pages and wouldn't be entirely relevant to this review but i'd like to summarize two key points he expressed to me that informed his opinion. The first is that Japanese society, and even American society, is not supportive of a man having multiple partners. While I was able to get him to admit that recent years have seen a rise in polyamory in the United States he remained adamant that any form of harem was unrealistic for the culture. Secondly, he expressed an opinion that mechanically and from a game design perspective harem routs were a "copout" because they are very rarely the true route or most naturally feeling resolution to a story and only exist for people who quote "Feel bad for the girls they rejected even though most of the time that would be better for them and they're okay with it!" He would go on to say that Japanese views on romance are incompatible with harems because of their focus on "firsts" and "being someones only" but being someone who is not native Japanese myself and has only experienced their culture through works like the subject of this review I can't say I'm able to talk about that point much. I feel like VNs portray an idealized version of Japanese culture just like American media does and just like I wouldn't say someone who was seen every episode of any three american sitcoms knows American culture I would not say I know Japanese culture from reading VNs.
Out of respect for his privacy I'm not going to name him here but if by some chance you're reading this stranger I spoke to this review will serve as my response to the summery of your points. While I know you're aware I disagree with you, I want to provide a better example then simply listing novels I though were good as I did in our original discussion. As I am well aware however that providing my response like this, if it were to miraculously reach you, is somewhat unfair since you have no good platform to respond with outside of a comment below please feel free to DM me and I will gladly respond. This review will be addressed to a wider audience obviously but I think it will be easy to tell what parts I have drawn from the information you gave me.
"BEST HAIR" CHOICE STRUCTURE
IxSHE Tell is a recently translated romantic comedy about P-kun (Ninomiya Hajime) and his difficult choice between five girls who confess to him one after the other. That plot synopsis may have drawn up some negative connotations for you but I encourage you to judge this story on its own merits because I was also skeptical but pleasantly surprised with the quality of the work presented. The novel is split in three parts. A lengthy prologue that takes somewhere between an hour and two hours to read. A common route of about fifteen hours, and then individual romance paths for each heroine that are about three hours long apiece. This clocks the total novel read time at about thirty hours but I would imagine a fast reader could finish it in twenty if they choose to. My personal time to completion is skewed slightly longer as I'm a masochist who wouldn't feel satisfied without being certain I've seen every possible line of dialog but I can't imagine this novel taking more the forty or forty five hours for the slowest reader. While their are a number of gimmicks in this novel I will discuss below without the H-patch the game makes the bold choice to provide the player with only a single meaningful choice and thereby creates a unique atmosphere I can't say I've ever experienced before.
Anyone who has read more then one or two visual novels will know that commonly the narrative choices are less then open to a reader pursuing more then one heroine. I hesitate to say common structure punishes readers for choosing options favorable to more then one romance route but it certainly discourages it. To explain what I mean lets take a look at a few examples. Muv-Luv, specifically Muv-Luv Extra, has a difficult to unlock "Bad" ending where if the reader favors a specific heroine but fails to choose her options in one of a few specific scenes the game ends abruptly without satisfyingly concluding. Their is also a second "Bad" end which occurs only if the player makes two specific choices, both of which are little more then rejections of the branch path to romance routes. Effectively, failure to fully pursue one of the game's heroines results in the game ending in its second act, but paradoxically while the game has two dozen or so choices any combination of those options will result in a romance route and "good" end so long as the reader chooses the appropriate option at one of the deciding points. IMHHW by contrast has a failure route you can only trigger by selecting one specific option in one specific scene that is obviously the wrong choice and then locks you into a route shortly after. I actually think one of the most enjoyable jokes I can find in a VN is finding the path that lets you spend the least amount of time with a heroine but still puts you on her romance path, then watching as P-kun trips over himself to explain how he fell in love with her instead of the girl he spent most of the last week with. Unfortunately though I can rarely do this without failing out before the final act because of this exact type of choice structure.
Some novels are more subtle about this lack of choice. Katawa Shoujo comes to mind as even at its worse you do have SOME free will to jump ship to a different heroine mid act but the binary choice between Lilly and Shizune never sat well with me and Emi being a one choice lock is just disappointing. While not every novel is blatant enough to go the Muv-Luv route and literally name the heroines in the choices so its impossible to miss who you're siding with its a rare treat to find a novel that doesn't spell out which options are the "right" ones to some degree. This brings me back to IxST because the design choice to make only one choice truly relevant, which I would call a weakness in any other novel, but replacing "Best Hair" choices with a gold star reward system opens the narrative and allows for a more natural and less pressured experience.
REAL CHOICE
This section might not be entirely 100% necessary but I wanted to break down exactly why I think the mechanics of this VN are so revolutionary and vastly superior to the rest of the genre. Honestly, while I know it wouldn't fit every novel I think future VNs would benefit greatly from this example. So the common route in IxST is divided into 5 subsections the novel labels as "days" but are probably better thought of as plot beats. Each subsection allows the reader to assign up to ten "hearts" in any combination to the five girls pursuing P-kun and with one major exception allows this to happen at any time. In the words of the games tutorial paraphrased, if a girl does something you like you can reward her with a heart. You're under no obligation to hand out hearts and can ignore the system all together if you choose but regardless at the end of each plot event you are prompted to select a girl for an extra scene and are then moved to the next plot beat with a new allotment of hearts. At the end of the last subsection if you overwhelmingly favored one girl with hearts over the others P-kun falls for that girl and you have the option to accept her confession. But even at this point you have the option to change your mind and pick another girl who will give you one final pitch about why you should choose them before giving you yet ANOTHER chance to back out and commit to the girl you favored.
Maybe the weight of how much this changes the feel of reading a VN isn't clear so lets do a comparison. Muv-Luv Extra isn't a great novel, certainly not terrible but it's about as average as I could hope to find. Their is no other single VN to me that is as aggressively 5/10 as Muv-Luv Extra. Placing it beside IxST both games have a prologue introducing their respective flavors of P-kun and follow it with an intro movie. I know i'm vastly oversimplifying things as the prologues to these two stories are nothing alike but mechanically they have no difference so the important part is that when the common route starts the reader is mentally in the same place. In IxST the player is almost immediately presented with all the choice mechanic they will be interacting with for the next three or so hours of the novel in the form of the heart system. Muv-Luv by contrast spends its opening to the common route with one of the five heroins and less then half an hour into the experience presents the first choice which is a binary question of if you enjoyed yourself with her. Unless you are brand new to visual novels you will know immediately that Muv-Luv's choice should give you pause because without even letting you meet four of the five romance options you are already having to make a choice that you have no way of knowing the significance of. While not all novels do this it's not uncommon for a visual novel to soft lock out of a route when you don't get every choice for a heroine correct and so this small moment to a first time reader can feel needlessly stressful because choosing one option may lock you on one path for the narrative and the other may permanently lock you out of it without telling you either result for HOURS.
In roughly the same time a reader will make their way through IxST's first section of common route to the extra scene choice that same reader in Muv-Luv will likely have to make two additional choices if not more all of which are binary "Best Hair" choices encouraging the reader to pursue one of the five heroines hours before the common route ends. This almost makes the choices irrelevant as the reader is primed to select whichever option continues the path their on and discourages them from picking the option they would prefer over the option that is more likely to result in a "good" end. Now to be fair IxST does not communicate to the reader that who they pick for the extra scene is not a soft lock but even if we assume the reader is ignoring the hearts and has already selected which romance route they want to shoot for the hearts system tutorial screen and the extra scene tutorial are definitely geared toward the opposite priming. Every girl is available to be chosen no mater how few hearts you gave her and this ties neatly into the games presentation. The cross view system that temporarily takes away the hearts counters and allows the reader to experience short scenes with each girl further primes the reader to the idea that no matter their choice at this stage the narrative will continue without soft locking. To summarize Muv-Luv and its traditional use of choices makes its narrative feel like the choices exist as a quiz of "what would this girl like me to do?" IxST and its heart system feel like you are organically favoring the girl or girls you enjoy and presents everyone with an equal chance for you to grow attached to them.
THE PROBLEM WITH COMMON ROUTES
I have another review in the works explaining why I dislike the presentation of most common routes using IMHHW as an example but I'll summarize my points here so I can explain how much better IxST is at getting a reader to seriously consider all the heroines as potential options then a traditional visual novel. Everyone knows their are certain types of characters that feature heavily in visual novels and to an extent has their preferences. Class Representatives, lolis, little sisters etc are all common starting points for heroines. I personally tend to dislike Tsunderes and have a preference for childhood friends but that's just me. Common routes ideally should follow four basic rules but often fail to uphold them.
1.) The common route should introduce but NOT develop characters only important in one or two romance routes and should involve background characters as much as possible while developing the heroines.
2.) The common route should develop each heroine equally and if possible should provide them with as close to equal screen time as feasible.
3.) The common route should have a reason for existing outside of developing characters and this reason should not be resolved before the romance routes begin unless those routes have their own conflict.
4.) The common route should have just as many CGs as the individual romance routes if not more and showcase each heroine evenly in them.
I came up with these rules because the entire reason a common route exists is to allow the reader to familiarize themselves with the world and characters and specifically the heroines. If it fails to accomplish that then what was the point of having it? IMHHW happens to fail at ALL of these rules but that's a topic for another day. Let me know in the comments if you're interested in that review and I'll push it up the list. However before I explain why IxST does so well by following these guidelines let me explain my reasoning for each.
Rule one recognizes that visual novels need characters other then the protagonist and heroines to feel believable, otherwise the world feels empty and flat. These characters come in three flavors. Background, Side, and Spriteless. Background characters are things like the protagonists best friend or their teacher, definitely important people with a role in the narrative but not romance options. Ideally background characters should be introduced in the prologue to establish their personality and due to their development typically remaining static involved as much as possible with the character in the common route so that by the time the romance routes are reached they can serve their narrative purpose without taking away from the heroine. We should know everything important about them before the half way mark so they can be used and referenced easily as needed. A perfect example is Mikoto in Muv-Luv Extra, who is introduced about a quarter of the way through the game and has basically finished his development by the half way point. Side characters are the opposite, and should be developed in romance routes after being introduced in the common route. A good example here is if a heroine has a little sister, although not every little sister character is like this in general this example works. Ideally, the reader should know the heroine has a little sister and be introduced to her sprite but this is only to allow her to be expanded on in the romance route later so that each run of the game feels unique. Just like in real life growing closer to people means your circle of friends shifts and its more interesting to a reader to have to work to know every character in the game then to always have that information from the beginning. The last category of Spriteless are small time or single use characters that well, don't have a sprite. I might come back in a future review and talk about this group but they don't bear much relevance to the current topic so I'm going to move on.
The second rule is pretty self explanatory but to be thorough one of the greatest sins a common route can commit is focusing on one character over the others. Yes, I am aware that some novels have "true" ends that are meant to advance a larger story. Yes, I am also aware that in real life it is very unlikely people you only see at school or work or whatever will have an equal amount of exposure to you as people you've been friends with for years or who you have class with. None of those things matter in a novel. The author has the ability to portray each character evenly even if the protagonist does not have an even amount of interaction with each character. The thing about real life and realism is that life is often incredibly boring. I have yet to see a novel that forced me to sit through every class period the protagonist experienced, because that would be excruciating. I also don't have to wait six hours for the protagonist to wake up after going to sleep nor witness every bite of breakfast every day. This isn't a question of what is realistic this is a question of allowing the reader to get a decent understanding of the characters. This doesn't always mean they are given literally to the second the same amount of dialogue and screen time, but a good common route will let each heroine have an equal time to shine without favoring any of them.
The third rule is the one I most often see broken and as such has become my personal most important of the four. I am far more willing to forgive a novel that can follow this rule, even if it isn't for every run, then i am a novel that can not. I have no problems with slice of life narratives. It can sometimes be incredibly cathartic to just drop into the shoes of someone else and pretend to be them for a day. But stories do not exist without conflict and no, choosing which girl you like is not sufficient conflict for the story unless the protagonist is just as concerned about it as you are. Ideally, a novel's conflict should involve all the characters though that's rather difficult so settling for just the protagonist and heroins is fine. The conflict should also have enough leeway to be solved in multiple ways so that each heroines route can provide their own solution. How a heroine uniquely resolves conflict or avoids it is a huge opportunity to squander by ignoring the inclusion of a story.
The fourth rule is most concerned with creating a balanced feeling to the novel and has less to do with the common route specifically then it does with the novel as a whole but I tend to include it here because well, it just makes since. Obviously the romance routes are going to have a higher density of CGs then the common route. If you include extra scenes and optional scenes as part of a heroine's run rather then common route content that rule is doubly true. However this doesn't mean that the common route is totally devoid of CGs because that is obviously not the case. Most VNs use the prologue as an excuse to give each heroine an opening CG but the common route is where the majority of group shots and for lack of a better term "casual" scenes allow the artists to showcase each heroine outside of their static sprites. If you've read the other rules explanations you may have noticed that I haven't elaborated on the notion that the common route's main goal is to make the heroine's interesting to the reader and I've saved that point for this moment because outside of their sprites, which are a vital part of a heroine's ability to express themselves, CGs are the most important facet to letting these characters "breath." If you've ever listened to the dialogue in a visual novel without looking at the screen (Admittedly you'd have to know at least a bit of Japanese to do this but lets just assume you have the bare minimum understanding of what the characters are saying.) its actually really hard to distinguish each heroine's personality purely off the words they say. Maybe we don't often think about it but this genre is not just tied to its visual element it is at this point utterly undivorcable from it because it has come to rely on tropes and ideas that repeat themselves so often they tend to blur. How many visual novels have heroines that are constantly getting "shy" or "flustered?" How many use the same literal words like Segoi, Baka, Hentii, to describe things? Language is both endlessly expressive and limiting and even the best VNs, perhaps ESPECIALLY the best, would make TERRIBLE novels if they were printed as is in the form of a paperback. The entire reason for CGs even existing is to play off established tropes and the story to give the reader a snapshot of why the moment they are currently reading is significant and unique, and in a romance novel that more often then not translates to why the heroine is significant and unique. Neglecting this visual element therefore is a huge disservice to the the reader.
MERGING THE IDEAS
Having said all that IxST uses its unique choice system to facilitate a change in the reader's approach to reading and thus makes itself vastly more enjoyable. This novel could have so easily been nothing more then a self insert fantasy about being pursued by multiple women but because it encourages you to engage with every line of dialogue and spread your focus between all of the characters the story feels fresh and different. The last major choice mechanic I have to mention in IxST, the cross view system, is the epitome of this because while I do have problems with some of the scenes I'll talk about in part 2 of this review the fact it's the only time you can't access the hearts menu was a stroke of genius.
Cross view occurrences are once per subsection of the common route and present you with six to nine short scenes involving characters not in P-kun's immediate vicinity talking about or thinking about him. Their is always one scene for each of the heroines but most of the background characters get one each go around as well as usually a scene from the perspective of a random nameless classmate. These scenes are 100% optional but choosing not to read them is a real disservice because letting yourself get into the mindset of the heroins and characters really fleshes out their actions and puts context to the events that happen toward the end of each subsection. I think you'd really miss out if you skipped them. What elevates them for me though is the fact that since you can't access the hearts menu you're forced to think about the scenes for a longer period of time before immediately rewarding the heroines with a heart. By the time you get the menu back you may feel compelled to hand out two or three of your ten points and that choice is a really good moment to sit and consider how you actually feel about each of the characters. If you haven't been interested in one of the girls but their inner thoughts persuaded you they mean well or vise versa then these moments of returned choice can really shake up who you favor for the eventual act three. It feels like i'm praising this game for taking away my options during these sections, because I am, but that's only because you have such freedom everywhere else you become hyper aware and observant when it's scaled back.
Going back to the common route rules above this altered mindset falls perfectly in line with fulfilling those goals. Because the reader also cross views background characters to get their perspective they get to relegate development in the main story away from interactions with the protagonist and still fulfill the requirement they be showcased. Because each heroine always has a cross fade section each of them gets a roughly equal amount of time to win over a reader and because they have this extra time they can have more interesting personal conflicts that carry over to their romance routes while the main plot focuses on P-kun's struggles.
A RESPONSE TO A DIFFERENT POINT
I want to wrap up this first part of my review by addressing why I think "harem" games are uniquely suited to have better, more developed experiences then equal surface quality novels. IxST would not have worked as a story if the protagonist had been the one to confess to the heroines. I don't mean it would have just been different I mean the structure of this game and what made it so interesting and special would have been worthless if that one detail were changed. The choice system of IxST only works because all options are treated equally and never pull the reader too far in one direction. The mindset of someone who is balancing a relationship with five people is fundamentally different from pursuing one out of five. I can't make it any clearer then that, reading this VN is just fundamentally different because the atmosphere is different.
Am I saying ALL harem games are like this? Absolutely not. Especially those that have the harem route as an option but clearly do not focus on it or worse work like Harem Party where harem means nothing more then the Echii scenes keep changing girls. But I am saying its easier to break out of the mindset visual novels often fall into where you can only pursue one girl at a time and regardless of what the context of the situation is you should always pick the option that girl will like or be punished for it. The quote that really stuck with me from my conversation referenced in the intro above was "I can never get invested in the characters because they treat everyone the same."
I didn't say it at the time but isn't that a good thing? Do you WANT the characters to be inherently unequal? Everyone has their kinks and this is a kinky kinky genre you're allowed to pick favorites based upon what you like but doesn't it stand to reason that if you're reading a novel and one character is favored over another that the person who likes that unfavored character is going to wish they had been treated more equally? That's to say nothing about the fact that every novel is someones first and if a brand new VN reader gets hold of this story don't you want them to have a fair representation of the different character types? Isn't the entire point of having options to be able to explore them unbiased? If you really wanted to pursue just one type of character then their are dozens of novels with only one heroine, admittedly far less then their are with several choices but it's not like they don't exist! Now if the novel is poorly written and the characters have to all share two or three personality traits then yeah fine you have a point there but that's not the harems fault that's just a bad novel in general.
I can't say I'm a "fan" of harem VNs, I think I own maybe five total that could even plausibly count out of a sizable collection but I can't deny that problems I constantly complain about in other VNs are at worse absent in the sub-genre and at worst have active solutions like in IxST that I feel NEED to be praised. I don't feel comfortable writing off these stories because "One man can't possibly satisfy five girls." His words not mine.
WHY I CHOOSE TO SPLIT THIS REVIEW
Well for starters i'm already going far over what I think is reasonable for a single post and haven't even TOUCHED on the actual game's story but more importantly I think my opinion on the VN itself and the mechanics of the game are two separate things. I'll be clear and say I do like IxST, in fact it might crack my top 15, but I have a lot more to say about its narrative then I do about this topic so I decided it would be best to segregate the two ideas. Next week I'll be posting my views on the story, characters, music, art, and my overall opinion with a few extras thrown in. I expect it will end up being even longer then part 1 so be prepared for that I guess. I'm interested to see which of these two parts do better overall so if you liked what you read consider showing some support. I'll consider your updoot to be a substitute for a heart. This is my fourth review in this series so I'm still full of ideas but if these longer reviews do well I might consider moving to a slower release schedule to be sure I can be more detailed. Let me know what you think and if you agree with my points or the stranger I argued against. Stay well everyone!
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