Ape Escape (PS1) – Review

Another classic PS1 game to play on my PlayStation 5. Oh how time flies. I have a lot of history with this game. I remember picking it up for PS1 when it came out back in May 1999 from my local Toy’s R Us. It was the first game to explicitly require you to use a DualShock controller. So not only did I have to buy this game, I had to get a controller with it just to play it. That’s a big ask for a kid with limited funds, but I was already sold on the possibilities this new controller could provid.

You have to see how crazy this scene is in motion, building move around, wobbling like they’re made of jelly.

What’s interesting about these times is that a full three years prior, Sega released their Saturn 3D controller to use with Nights into Dreams. That was a controller with one analogue stick, along with the traditional D-Pad, that would give you smoother control over the way your character would fly through the environments. Instead of a digital interface, like a keyboard, you got the smooth motion that only an analogue stick could provide. Sony just went to the next level and added another stick, forever changing the game. The history of console gaming has to give it up for the efforts of Sony and these developers for making it a requirement to play this game, it’s just sucks that the first person shooters of the time didn’t get the memo.

This is what I respect out of this game. I have to give it up for the fact that they were the first to go all in on this new standard of control. It’s a little harder to praise the rest of the game though. The new PS Plus subscription service allows you to play some of these old games on PS5, I’ve already played a few of the other PS1 classic games, but this title really highlights a main issue I have with these games. For context, the PS1 has some really weird graphical issues when you play them, polygons seem to be made out of Jell-O and textures warp left and right all the time. The texture warping doesn’t really bother me that much, it’s what 3D games on a PS1 look like, so I can overlook that (even though modern emulators have solved this problem). My main issue with the 3D games on PS1, and especially this one, is the way the PS1 handles vertex points. If you don’t know, a 3D object is made up of polygons, each triangle polygon is composed of three vertex points. The PS1 can only do integer translation of these vertex points, which means the hardware itself didn’t have support for floating point calculations. So what does that get us in the 3D games that came out? It means that vertices constantly snap as they move, it’s not gradual and can honestly be visually annoying and can cause headaches. I feel like this problem is exacerbated by the fact that we’re now playing these games at higher resolutions on 4K screens, the problem is just amplified to an insane degree. Modern emulators can solve these issues, but that feature is currently not supported on the emulator the PS5 uses at this time.

Ape Escape is almost hilarious to play today. As you go through a few stages, you start to realize just how small these levels are. You can catch all the monkeys and get the collectable coin(s) in about 5-10 minutes. The draw distance in the game is insanely short as well, with parts of the level fading into the skybox at about 50 feet from the character.

I ran through the whole game and got the platinum in this one as well, but I did use my trusty rewind feature. I would run up to monkeys and if they got away after a bad catch attempt, I would just rewind it and try again.

I wouldn’t say this is a great game in today’s landscape, especially considering the evolutionary leaps in controls and gameplay since this titles release. Even compared to Mario 64, which came out 3 years prior, the controls are no match to what Nintendo were already doing. The controls in this game are a little bit of a gimmick, the right stick is used to give directionality to your attacks, which makes the camera controls default to the left and right of the D-Pad. This feels horrible and actually made me change the controllers button mapping on the console level to swap the R2 and L2 for the left and right D-Pad. There wasn’t way to make this change in the game which was frustrating.

a cinematic scene without the draw fog.

Another one of those classic PS1 games that I am glad I went through and got the platinum but couldn’t see myself ever playing this again, perhaps in another 23 years or so. It feels like watching an old movie today, you have to understand the cultural context to when it was released to really appreciate it, and I appreciate this game for what it’s done. It really needed some quality of life improvements like better controls and the ability to map buttons differently. It would have also benefited heavily from modding the game to allow for floating point calculations, I really had a hard time towards the end of the game with the way the motion of the polygons were translating, it was honestly giving me a headache. I also did play this on a 77″ TV, which made the actual jumps between frames turn into inches of my screen. If you play this on a 13″ CRT monitor using VGA cables, I’m pretty positive those issues aren’t as noticeable.

The draw distance is funny.

Final Score – 6.8

Play it just to see and feel a little bit of the history of video games and to help understand where the industry evolved from. This is a landmark title that is a little rough around the edges by today’s standards. The story is basic as fuck, the graphics are hilarious, and the controls are frustrating until you adjust them on a console level, and then they’re just a bit better. It will be really interesting to see what the sequel did for the series though, so perhaps I’ll try that at some point. One more thing though, the main character Spike, sucks. I beat the game and can’t remember him having any sort of personality or even saying anything. I’m sure he must have, but this is not a mascot for Sony by any stretch of the imagination.

Big boss battle!
What until you see this in motion. The vertex points are popping all over.

Bluepoint Games Officially a Sony Studio

To the surprise of no one.

In what can only be referred to a as a shocking revelation, Sony has officially welcomed Bluepoint Games into the Sony family of studios.

The more interesting part of this all is that they are developing their own original IP now. Bluepoint is the studio behind the Demon Souls remake that launched with the PlayStation 5 along with the Shadow of Colossus remake for the PS4. They basically do those pretty remakes of games.

I must say that right now I’m just a little bummed that they’re making their own, original, titles for the platform. They are really good at taking an old property, sourcing out artwork and bringing it up to modern levels of graphical fidelity. You kind of knew that if they were doing a remake that it would be done to a high level of quality, and it seems like they could get them out at a pretty decent cadence.

Now, we’re going to have to wait 3-4 years for them to put out their own game. Maybe a little less because it seems like this acquisition has been in the works for some time. It was leaked out earlier this year that this was going to happen. They should have about a good year of development already done since Demon’s Souls came out as a launch title. Would it make sense for them to adapt that engine and make a Dark Souls style game? That’d be interesting.

I’m happy for the team of people at Bluepoint that want to create their own project, there’s a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment in doing something like that over remaking another teams work. So if that’s what makes them happy and get out of bed each morning, good for them. Hopefully their studio is big enough that they can have two teams working at once, that’s how I’d try to structure them. It does feel like a lot of the asset work in their remakes were done by other studios, which was a brilliant way of getting things up and running fast. Then again, that’s how a lot of studios work today, outsource the asset creation to studios in parts of the world where it labor costs are less.

It’s a little funny that everyone’s dreams of a Metal Gear Solid remake and Bloodborne have all gone out the window though. Perhaps one day!

Shenmue 2 – Review

I originally played through Shenmue 2 on the XBox when it came out in 2001, so it’s been a solid 20 years since I last checked in on Ryo Hazuki. The most interesting part of playing this game is just how small and insignificant it makes the first game feel, which I wasn’t expecting. That’s because when I remember back to playing these games I had all these great memories of playing through the first Shenmue, with it’s engrossing story and memorable scenes, with the second game being little more than a footnote in my memory.

To put all this into context, Shenmue 1 is the first chapter of the saga. Shenmue 2 covers chapters 3 to 5. The missing chapter 2 is a comic book story that covers the boat trip Ryo takes after he left Yokosuka, Japan. It makes sense when I go back to my review of Shenmue and take note of how short the story is and how it basically just feels like it’s the opening to a grander story, because that’s exactly what it is.

Shenmue 2 takes place in Hong Kong and then ventures a bit into mainland China in the final, brief, chapter of the game. This is probably where I have one of my biggest complaints about this game, the location. It feels a little odd that the game went into Hong Kong in these chapters. I feel a personal disconnect from what I felt when playing Shenmue 1, perhaps it’s my own bias towards Japanese architecture and culture.

When you get off the boat at the beginning of the game you’re in Aberdeen harbor, it’s honestly one of the ugliest locations in a video game I’ve seen in a while. The buildings are all this horribly textured red brick. The lack of geometric detail and lighting, combined with low quality texture work, just makes the whole image hard to look at. It starts to get a little better as the game progresses, but even then you’re mainly inside large buildings with repeating geometry and texture work.

A really ugly environment.

Yes, this game is pretty ugly to look at. Some of the NPCs will make you laugh because of the way they’re represented. It almost feels like the Japanese developers are kind of taking the piss out of the Chinese people in their game. You do have to take into consideration that this game is a port, not a remake. It was originally developed for the Dreamcast and Microsoft made a deal to get distribution rights for the XBox in the States, which means the game models aren’t improved or anything for this title.

I went back and forth on being impressed that a Dreamcast could render scenes in such detail, but other times I was really scratching my head at just how bad things looked back then. I can really see a remake of these games with the Dragon Engine from the Yakuza developers Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. I would personally love a complete remaster, but I don’t see a world where that would be financially viable for a studio to commit those levels of resources and money for this brand.

So let’s talk about playing the game. The map system is almost completely useless here. You first need to buy a map for each and every area you load into. The city is broken up into multiple parts, so one map will not be enough. The names of building will not be on this map, they simply give you something in the corner of your screen to orient yourself with. If you want to find a specific place, you have to ask people for directions or find a map directory in the world that you can zoom into and look for your destination. I ended up just pulling up a map on my laptop and keeping that up, way easier.

A big complaint that I had on the first game was the amount of time I waisted just sitting around killing time as I waited for the next scheduled event to take place. In this game that’s almost completely eliminated. You can fast travel in specific instances, it’ll always give you the option to wait and speed up time. If you run out the clock on a day it’ll bring you back to your resting spot, then the next morning, it’ll give you the option to continue from yesterday and warp you back. It’s nice to see the evolution and problem solving at work. If you just want the story then this is a great quality of life feature added over the first game.

The fighting is better than it is in the first game. In Shenmue I felt like I had almost no control over a fight and just smashed the same few attacks and I’d eventually win the match. There’s a bit more strategy involved in this one, especially when you get to the later parts of the game and have to do a series of street fights to progress. It’s by no means a great fighting system. You wont have fun doing it and you wont look forward to fighting at all. Just keep at it and you’ll get through it.

Let’s not even get into the QTEs and how stupid they are. You have to do button presses at various story moments and fight sequences. This is not a good mechanic that holds up to the test of time. It was meant to provide a more cinematic experience but really it just frustrates the player if they mess up. You end up not caring about what’s happening because all you’re doing is trying to input a dumb sequence of button presses so you don’t have to start the whole sequence over again. This is a slam against all instances of QTE throughout all video games, it is simply a commentary on how they were implemented in this title.

If you intend to play this game I recommend that you use a guide to get you through the story. I don’t have time in my life to play this game the way you were supposed to when it came out. I don’t want to run around asking people where to go and piece together all the clues. Modern games would just give you waypoints on your next objective, pointing you to a restaurant you’ve never been to, this game makes you figure all that out yourself. I didn’t just want to beat this game or see the story, I was aiming to get the platinum trophy for both Shenmue 1 & 2 so I followed a trophy guide. Luckily, it was a fairly straightforward platinum and doesn’t require you to have to do a bunch of extra tasks, which is really nice.

I did come to this game for the story. I wanted to play through all three titles just to see what happens at the end of the third game. I think I owed it to my younger self to experience all the Shenmue that I can and to at least get the platinum trophy in the first two games. I’ve been looking at what’s involved for the third game and I’m not sure I care that much about collecting herbs, but I’ll see what happens when I get there.

What can I really say about the story in this game? It’s slightly better than the first game. I’m simply talking about the story itself here, not the way it’s presented or anything like that. There’s a bit more action towards the end of the game that really makes you feel like you’re actually in the second act of the game. Things are happening, granted, there all happening in a 17 story building that seems to go on forever and everything looks the same. You start to learn about the mirrors and what they do. Some mystical/magical things happen with the mirror that isn’t physically possible. Lan Di is talked about a lot and you get to see him at the end battle, but he’s not involved and just hangs off a ladder attached to a helicopter. This is literaly the weirdest game ever made.

The final chapter of the game has you going into mainland China to rescue a girl in a river chasing a deer. She seems to have magical capabilities or something and keeps reciting a poem that references you coming to her. You get to run around a forest for what seems like forever. You see the Shenmue tree and use a sword and the mirror to make a sword float in mid air. What does it all mean?!

I don’t even know…

Do you see what I’m saying? I have no idea. This is what I was left with 20 years ago, an image of this. This is what all of us Shenmue fans had to go on. Then Yu Suzuki crowdfunds a sequel to this game and it gets greenlit. I hope he can wrap up this story in the sequel because I really don’t think he’s going to get another shot at it.

Final Score – 7.1

I think it’s a better game than the original. As hard as it is for me to say that it is a better game. The setting and the sheer volume of memes from the first game make it more memorable by a mile. Is this a good game that people should actually play in 2021 though? No. Only people with a soft spot for this series should even think about going back to these games. It’s fascinating to see what they were trying to do with the technology they had at the time. They were clearly overambitious and bit off more than they could chew. If you have never experienced a Shenmue game then you really need to give it a try, it’s interesting for sure.

Shenmue – Review

When Shenmue came out on December 29, 1999, you bet I was ready to play it. Who didn’t see the trailer as a kid and say “I want to experience a F.R.E.E. game?!”. If you don’t know the history of all this. The Director of the game, Yu Suzuki, created a brand new genre that he called “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment”. It basically meant that you were supposed to be playing a game so realistic that you’d basically think it’s a movie, and it has quicktime events.

When you get down to what Shenmue is, it’s the seed in which not only a Shenmue sequel grow from, but a series of Yakuza games did as well. I haven’t played through Shenmue in a number of years, but I remembered so much of it. The launch of Shenmue meant a lot to me when it came out, from both a personal level and that of a gamer. It fostered a love for Japan and it’s culture as well as the types of games being developed there. They were attempting to push the medium of video games into scripted stories with “fully interactive” worlds to explore. It was on a completely different level from anything else being released, or that’s how it felt at the time.

Replaying this game on my PlayStation 5 and on a 4k OLED TV really brings everything into a sharp focus. You realize that there were severe limitations to the Dreamcast hardware at the time. Even though this is considered to be the most expensive game ever made at the time of release, it’s almost comical at the level of detail on display compared to any modern title released today. That doesn’t hinder my enjoyment of it, it’s just examining what it is in the social context of today.

The game really feels like the first arc in a modern game or story. Time moves in the game as it does in the real world, just at a slightly faster pace. I was able to complete the story in about two weeks of game time. If you stretch out the game and take too long to complete it you’ll be given a bad ending on April 15th. I finished the game with about four months to spare, so you have plenty of time to get every little collectible if you happen to have all the time in the world.

The story is just bare bones to be completely honest. You set out on a journey to find your fathers murderer, Lan Di. This is done by talking to people in town, investigating and trying to get more and more clues to where Lan Di is. Ryo will hit a roadblock here and there, eventually landing a job moving crates at the docks and finding passage on a ship. This is where the game ultimately ends and the next game picks up, simple as that really. Apparently, in Japan, they even took all the cutscenes in this game and made them into a movie that they played at certain theaters after the game came out. What a simpler time.

I’m not really knocking the game any for it’s brevity, I have so much love and fondness for this game that nothing can really spoil it for me. The simple fact that Ryo goes around asking people where sailors hang out is worth the price of admission. What surprised me in this playthrough was just the shear amount of downtime you have.

The story in this game cannot be rushed. You will be told to come back at 7PM to meet a character and have nothing to do for the whole afternoon. This is why you’re allowed to explore, shop, buy capsule toys, and visit the arcade. You’re meant to be enamored by the depth of the world to keep you occupied. I, however, have played this game before and have played the arcade games many times in the past. I only wanted to get enough capsule toys for the associated trophies. So I just ended up leaving the game sitting idle as I did other stuff non gaming related. When the time came I’d pick up the controller, make a save, and trigger the next cutscene.

Let’s now talk about work. Ryo will eventually head down to the docks and start working a forklift to make some extra cash and learn about the Mad Angels. You have to spend a few days going to work, starting with a race around the docks where you can earn little capsule toys for winning. You then get instructions on where to pick up boxes and where you need to drop them off. So you just drive around on your forklift until you get a lunch break where you can buy some more toys, work again and clock out at 5pm. Going back to this game and playing it now, this part of the game really felt like a bit of a slog. Compare that to playing this back when it launched on the Dreamcast, this part of the game was an opportunity for my brother and I to slow down the story and earn some money while buying all the toys, music tapes, and items in the store. The reality of it all, you come to find out, is that you don’t need any of that crap (besides 50 unique toys for the trophies).

When looking back at this game, the interesting aspect is the fighting mechanics. Shenmue was originally meant to be an offshoot of Virtua Fighter, but it doesn’t feel like it translated that well. I absolutely hated the combat in the game this time around. The controls in combat just felt so slow and unresponsive. You have no way to effectively counter or control your opponent. Instead you just try to do some sort of move and hope it lands. Sometimes you’ll win your fight the first round, sometimes you die and have to replay it, it all feels like luck whether you win or lose. You get to the point where you just want to try and cheese all the enemies by spamming some moves you think will land. I tried training in some of my downtime, but it just ends up feeling pointless after a while. You go into a parking lot and just do the same moves over and over, hitting the air. What’s the point? If you’re coming from some of the Yakuza or Judgment games and are expecting a fun arcady style beat ’em up, this is not that.

Final Score – 7.0 (biased opinion)

I have a soft spot for this game so it’s hard for me to recommend it to others that are coming in new. I’m not sure if I could honestly make that call. Part of what makes this game so special is knowing all the history behind it and knowing the state of video games when it was released. You see the seed of the Yakuza franchise here. You understand that people who worked on this game went on to create the Yakuza games. I would have loved if this title was remastered by the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio like they did the first two Yakuza games. Until that time, this version allows a wider group of people to experience this classic and historical game, whether you have the same connection to it as I do is a different matter. I do find it hard to dismiss the historical context of this game and what it was attempting to accomplish at the time. My score would have been higher if I reviewed it when it originally came out, and I still feel like this score is a tad high for what it is, but it would hurt me too much to bump it down even further.

Resident Evil 3 (remake) – Review

I ran through this game in just a couple of days and got the platinum trophy on it before Cyberpunk 2077 hit. I was able to get it for cheap in a PlayStation Sale and just had to go through it since I loved the Resident Evil 2 Remake so much.

Now, I haven’t played Resident Evil since it came out on the PlayStation 1. Most people, I suspect, have never played it. I never felt like it was one of the beloved sequels in the series, kind of like Code Veronica, so it didn’t get the rerelease treatment often. I was a kid at the time and played it at my friends house. Back then we used to play shitty Sega CD games and speed run Resident Evil: Directors Cut, but I only remember playing this game a little bit so just about everything about it was new to me.

Just before getting into this game though, I went back to my Resident Evil 2 Remake game and got the last remaining trophies and finished up the platinum on it. I was on a bit of a roll I guess you could say. I had already heard when this game was released that it was shorter than 2, but I didn’t really understand how much that was true. It’s not that it bothered me or anything, It would have if I had paid full price though (I believe it cost 60USD on release). It’s definitely not worth that release price, especially if they’re going to release little nickel-and-dime DLC to unlock extra costumes and shit like that. It’s a bit bullshit and one of the reasons I sat on the game for so long and waited for a sale.

So right off the bat I love the way the Jill character model looks in this game. I just think there is an ineffable quality about her look that is just so well done. It’s only slightly let down by some of the lighting and animation work, but the look of the model itself is great. I feel like she’s one of the more beautiful women in gaming today, there is just something about her that makes me want to keep looking at her face. The French would call it “je ne sais quoi”, it just grabs my attention more than a lot of other female protagonists in gaming. I can just respect the choice of look they went with here, it’s definitely not how I remember Jill looking in the original. In this game, she’s a complete badass that doesn’t take any bullshit from the men around her. On the other side of the coin you have Carlos and his massive head of hair, it’s insane.

The game itself is modeled closely on the remake of 2, except now you get a dodge move. You basically just have to take the 2nd game, remove almost all puzzle solving from it and make it an hour shorter and this is the game you get. It’s so streamlined it almost makes it a speed runners game. That’s exactly what I liked most about the game too. There’s something about a game with good mechanics like this where you can just blow through it in 90 minutes.

Yes, this will happen…

What that does is it forces you to learn the patterns of each level or section, so the next time you run through it you automatically know where to go and how to deal with all the enemies. Granted, that’s only if you’re going for the trophies. If you’re not you’re just getting a short little action movie of a game, which may be disappointing to some. It would have made a good rental game.

I didn’t approach the game like that at all, I watched the story the first time and skipped it every other. I was able to unlock the rocket launcher as a starter weapon, which helped me on subsequent playthroughs. I did a run without accessing the item chest which added another degree of complication to one of my speed runs. I actually just found it fun to run through the game so much. It truly felt like being a speed runner. I tend to only play a game once these days, games are getting so fucking long that you don’t get the opportunity to just play through them more than once, or for this game more than once in a day.

The trickiest thing about RE3 had to be the last boss on the hardest difficulty, that guy was a bit of a fucker. I did have a good tip that I think others should follow, which is to listen out for a particular sound to push in the charging cells. If you time it right you can skip one of his attack animations, making the fight a lot easier.

Open with a bang.

I thought the game would use a lot more of the locations from the 2 remake, but you basically just get a little bit of the police station and the street out front. It’s not like the locations really impressed me that much in this game. It was all kind of toned down in the excitement level. Nothing really stood out to me. The whole opening section around the train station and the streets surrounding it were a little forgetful. The coolest part was probably the big head above the store, but even then it didn’t wow me.

The hospital in the later portion of the game tries to complicate it up a little bit, but you can literally just blow through it with relative ease. You don’t get that Resident Evil puzzle solving, figuring out how to open doors thing. Sure, you have to get the tape player and the tape, but just open all the rooms and look around, you’re not going to miss anything. That’s all fine though, that’s not what this game is about. We got all that in the last game.

What I really liked about the story and where this game goes is when it starts interweaving into the events of the second game. It was cool to see how the timelines fit together and really make this seem like a more cohesive package with the 2nd remake.

The boss battels, I felt, weren’t really that much of a challenge (except the last on the hardest difficulty). If you play the game right, you’re going to get the rocket launcher in your chest for your other playthroughs. It doesn’t even cause your rating to decrease so you kind of need/have to use it. Except for the playthrough you do without opening the chest, which is fun. You have a dodge move which makes maneuvering the boss arenas a lot easier, if the nemesis comes at you and you’re good at timing your rolls you shouldn’t have a problem. The arenas were memorable, particularly where he’s running around in circles on the walls and the last when you finally kill it, which was awesome.

Some nice cloth, looks like someone learned Marvelous Designer.

Final Score – 8.5

There really isn’t much else to say about this game. Listen, if you liked the 2nd remake then you’ll dig this one. Just know it’s super short and try to go for the trophies because they really add to the fun and enjoyment you get out of this title. Isn’t that a weird thing to say? With most other games the trophies are a grind and don’t add to your overall enjoyment, this title is the complete opposite. If you don’t care about trophies, you’re going to want to wait for a deep discount on the PlayStation store before pulling the trigger. If you can understand and see how the trophies push you to enjoy the game in ways you might not naturally seek out, you might find that you get a nice challenge and some more time out of this game.

Final Fantasy VII – Lookback

Looking Back

Final Fantasy VII has a special place in my gaming history. While the game initially came out in 1997, my young self got into it a year or two later. I have clear memories of planning my trip to Toys “R” Us to buy this game with my hard earned money that I scrapped together from doing chores here and there. My parents didn’t just buy us consoles if we asked, so my brother and I had to hustle to get by. I was able to get my PS1 thanks to some sort of graduation event in my life where the extended family showered me with a few hundred dollars (if I remember correctly it was about 550$ at the time), the sudden influx of money meant it was time to buy a console.

This is a pre-rendered cinematic for the game people! How far we’ve come.

I was the type of kid that had a massive collection of video game magazine, back when that was the main way to get information on what was going on in the industry. EGM, PSM (unofficial playstation magazine), and Next Generation were a monthly staple in my reading. I would read them cover to cover, including all the captions, no matter if I cared about a game or not. I just absorbed all the information and screenshots that I could, and I would imagine what the games looked like in motion and dream about when I’d get to play them.

Role playing games weren’t really my thing back then, so seeing the praise of the Final Fantasy series over and over in all my magazines started to influence me and I thought I should give it a try. I knew that a rental would be a bad option, so running up to the video store would be a waste of three dollars for one night of gaming. So a fifty dollar donation to Toys “R” US was the call I had to make. I remember where the game was in my store, that’s how much of an impact this all had on me (whether this is normal or not I’m not going to look to deeply into). It was in a middle isle, top row, just the slip and not the game. To get the game you had to first pay the cashier and then go around to the person in the cage to give them your slip and they’ll retrieve your game. I still have my copy and the memory cards with my saves, but it might be hard going back to that version at this point in my life.

Fucking Red Dragon, kicked your ass this time.

On my initial playthrough when I first got the game, this is where I got stuck. I didn’t know about grinding out levels so when I got to this boss I was under-leveled. I stopped playing for a week or so until I realized that I can just run around outside of this boss encounter and fight monsters over and over until I was strong enough to take him down.

While I’m sure the majority of people out there know about FF VII and have perhaps played it. What I realized on this playthrough is that the story is a lot less complicated that what I remembered. I had memories of flashback sequences, slow dialogue, Shinra, and Sephiroth. In the end it all boiled down to a story of a small group of people trying to stop Sephiroth and Shinra from doing stupid shit to the planet. It was smaller that what I remembered and that feels like a good thing today. It could also be that I played the majority of the game at 3x speed, which was a great feature to have.

Look at this fucking enemy design.

Character development is a little lacking, especially for those party members that weren’t from the Midgar portion of the game, but that’s okay. I never felt a real connection to characters like Vincent, Yuffie, and Cait Sith. The character design is still spot on and iconic.

Uh oh…

The story doesn’t resonate with me as much as other games in the series, which is the biggest negative I have with this RPG. For example, I played FF VIII while in school and the setting in that game really hooked me and I was able to relate more to it. So if I play it now I’m reminded of that time in my life, and it all just clicks, add to that the card game and I’m golden. Playing it on the Switch in this updated version with the ability to 3x and power through fights, helped in getting a better sense of the story beats than how I played it in the past. I always wanted to level up and do all the side quests, so you’d go hours without story and then have to remember what the hell was happening. So this did help with my understanding and is a nice transition to playing the remake when it comes out in a few weeks.

You fight a house…enemy designers must have been high as fuck.

The music in this game is on another level. Every single track is something that was instantly recognizable. It’s amazing how the sound of this game can make you remember playing even though I haven’t touched it in a decade, and originally played it a decade before that. With no dialogue for characters in cutscenes, all you’re treated with is a wonderful musical score and text boxes. It’s a fantastical leap in technology from the transition of 16 bit Super Nintendo cartridge based system to the 32 bit Playstation and it’s CD format.

The graphics in this game are pretty astounding also, for the time that is. While the updated, upscaled, pre-rendered backgrounds and cut-scenes all look really clean, they did a great job on that, they are slightly blurry but that’s to be expected. The rendering resolution of the FMVs must have been like 320 x 240 or something. I don’t think they did some big AI based up-scaling to really improve the backgrounds, but maybe I’m okay with that. If there was an option to swap between them that’d be nice, especially for the price they’re still charging for these games. The characters and interact-able objects in the levels, like materia and item chests, are all rendered at a much higher resolution. This makes spotting those little materia balls hidden in the environments a lot easier to spot.

Come together

It’s just so impressive to see a game that was developed in about two years, from the mid-90s , look this good. The amount of work that was done on the backgrounds is breathtaking. It’s impressive that they were able to go from 2D sprite work, to learning a 3D application and modeling and rendering all the backgrounds required for this game. How well does it hold up to FF VIII and FF IX, I’ll have to report back since I’m going to start up VIII next.

Characters didn’t have textures on them. Just vertex shading and color. So interesting to see the evolution in the PS1 era games.

The animation in the FMV is a little hilarious to see, if you look closely you can tell how early in development the technology for animating characters was at the time. I’m not knocking the game at all mind you, I’m just looking at it as a person who loves computer animation and character modeling. The backgrounds and special effects were all pretty decent for the time, it was mostly the character models and the animation that really needed to be improved. I mean, just look at the difference from one of these scenes to the opening of FF VIII, it’s a generational leap in technology that’s fascinating to see. It just blows my mind that in 1997, you could load up this game and see stuff like this coming out of a console. Almost makes me want to load up Fear Effect and see how that holds up. 🙂

Spared no expense.

Playing this game on my Switch was the best decision I could have made. The ability to just pick it up while watching something and put it down whenever was a game changer. That and the ability to increase the speed of the game are so critical in enjoying these older, slower RPGs of yore. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to use the ability to heal and gain your limit breaks by pushing in a button, but I wound up using it more often that I thought. Certain times I’d be in a fight and just not want to use my heals, so I’d tap it to top everyone off easily, or if I was trying to level up my characters just leave it on. I’ve already beaten the game once or twice so I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much. Heck, back in the day I got the best chocobo, whatever that color is (black or gold?), and beat all of the ultimate weapons. So I put in my time on this title and feel no shame using the assists. The one downside, or upside perhaps, was the lack of achievements or trophies. That might have (probably would have) caused me to get all of them and spend way more time with the game, which isn’t what I want at the moment.

Slap that bitch!

I ended up finishing the game in like 16 or 17 hours by the in-game clock. A great little RPG from the PS1 era, on a modern system, with nice quality-of-life improvements. Is it the greatest RPG of all time? No. Not at all. Is it a classic that everyone should play and experience? Definitely. It’s okay that it’s not the best ever, nothing is being taken away from what it is, it was a monumental achievement in the evolution of a genre and the technology around it. It has some of the most loved and iconic characters ever in video games, as well as a slap fight that I found utterly hilarious on this playthrough. I can’t wait to reevaluate the progression of the series by going through VIII (one of my favorites) and IX (the one I only played once on PS1).

Resident Evil 2 Review

When I was a kid I played the crap out of Resident Evil Directors Cut and when it came out Resident Evil 2. My brother and I would play these games over and over again at our friend Mike’s house and when we got our PS1 we’d kick it off in our bedroom. I still have my old Versus Books strategy guide with the hand drawn images of the map. I’d sit there and pour through the book analyzing all the drawings and figuring out how I’d make it through all the rooms. It’s my first real memory of figuring out level design in a more complex manner than the Mario levels I used to draw.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The Police Station

Last year I played Resident Evil 7 and even got the platinum trophy in it. That was a game I initially thought was changing what the series was all about, it was going into a more first-person horror style game. After playing it I felt like that was the wrong assessment. It kept the puzzle aspects I wanted from the series and it retained the routing aspect, getting through the game as efficiently as possible, that I used to enjoy as a child.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Sad times in the gun shop

Resident Evil 2 remastered or remake, whatever you want to call it, or even RE 2: 2019 is just a treat. The police station setting is so iconic and wonderfully realized in a fully 3D environment. The characters are super cheesy but still somehow a bit lovable. You can run through the whole game in two hours, or even less, if you want to; and it’s still fun to do the 3rd or 4th time around.

The game is super solid, I love it and would recommend it.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The lovely (and badass) Ada Wong

The story in the game isn’t the best, it’s serviceable to the gameplay I’d say. The amazing facial animation from RE7 is back and it’s a thing of beauty, especially coming from a Japanese studio. The only real issue I had with the characters is with Claire’s eyes, she can seem a little psycho sometimes. They just needed to lower the intensity and close them a little more and I think that’d help.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – What a creepy fucking look

I love the way the game feels to control. It runs at 60fps on PS4 Pro and I never had an issue with the performance. If you look around closely you can tell where they had to make concessions to hit that frame rate but if you’re just focusing on the game it’s a stunner.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Some of the nicest facial animation today

The most welcoming change to this version is that there are no loading screens while playing, you open a door and just go into the next room. Not only does that help making the environment feel like a real space it adds to the scares as well. Zombies can now knock on doors and bust through them, no longer are you safe just from making it to the door.

What will really get your anxiety up is when Mr. X (the tyrant) finally shows up. This unstoppable enemy will search for you and listen for any gunshots to pinpoint your location. Playing this game with a nice set of headphones, you can detect where he is in the police station just from his thundering footsteps. It’s a little terrifying at first and made me dread running into him.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Shouldn’t have been talking shit

I actually enjoyed all of the boss battles in this game. They mostly gave me a reason to let loose on my weapons and spend some ammo. I spent so much time hoarding gun powders and ammo that by the end I was just using all my good shit on anyone I came across. It’s a little funny how during the first section of the game, the police station, I would try my hardest to conserve ammo on each run that I did, only to eventually have way too much handgun or shotgun ammo in the later sections.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The dude is tripping hard

This game is meant to be played over and over and that is actually an enjoyable experience. I haven’t achieved platinum status as of yet, I’m getting a little burned out on it to be honest. I do see myself taking a break on the game for a while and then going back to get the hardcore runs and complete the plat.

A stupid thing the developers did was create the best outfits for the characters and put then into a 15 dollar DLC pack, and you don’t even get that many outfits. Seems like they’re just trying to nickle and dime the customers just like every other triple-A videogame out there.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The End?

I also played through the Hunk mission, which is basically get from point A to B as quickly as you can with limited resources. It wasn’t too hard and could be beat in about 10 minutes. That unlocks playing as Tofu, a giant piece of tofu and all you have are a bunch of knifes to defend yourself with. As you take damage large chunks of your body get torn off, it’s pretty funny.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – She got those red bottom heels girls! Oh yea, she wears heels the whole time…

Some of the dialogue between Leon and Claire though…it’s like, do they know they’re in the middle of a zombie filled police station? Why are they just so nonchalant all the time?

Final score – 9.6

This game is a banger. It’s beautiful, runs great, and respects your time. You can get in, do a section and get out, or you can run through the whole thing in one sitting. The puzzles are well laid out and logical, and the combat feels fun. What a great remake of a classic game.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Hungry? Why wait?